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New Waves

By Mike Breen · October 24th, 2007 · Spill It
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One would think that aficionados of instrumental Surf music would be at least a little reluctant to anyone coming along and messing with the formula. Like Blues, there are expected features of Surf -- reverb being the main one, I suppose -- and, while there have been groups that play the music in funny costumes or with some kind of gimmick (like, "It's Surf music ... but about spaceships!"), very few have strayed from the blueprint. Sure, there is a charming purity to simple Blues and Surf music, but I want to hear what people can do without the constraints of expectation.

That's why I was excited to get a copy of the debut CD from Cincinnati's Flux Capacitors, John Q. Brains-For-Arms. The Capacitors perhaps don't reinvent the Surf music wheel, but they certainly have deflated all of the air, painted some avant ornamentation on it and refilled it with laughing gas. If Sonic Youth would have been inspired by Dick Dale instead of, say, Glen Branca, this is what they would have sounded like.

That's not to say the Surf music puzzle-pieces aren't all there, nor that fans of the genre (well, open-minded ones) will be turned off by the band. The Flux Capacitors' members all have a clear knowledge of classic Surf and their chops reflect that. Lead guitarist Erik Stoll can whip out a wiry, reverb-drenched lick as good as anyone I've heard. And the rhythm section is more than adept at re-creating that big-wave rumble.

But it's when the band gets "weird" that things start getting really good. On "Better Get Used to These Bars, Kid," the guitars are downright jazzy, with a circular figure serving as the spine of the song. But from there the structure wanders like a boat lost at sea. As they explore different territory (harmonics, almost Prog-like licks, stop-start beats), they pull into a harbor of delicious guitar-noise, as feedback swells and swirls, sounding at times like an all-out air attack. To start from this sublime little jazzy riff and end up with something that sounds like it could have been left over from the Daydream Nation sessions is a remarkable feat.

It's these little surprises that make John Q. Brains-For-Arms an instrumental album to which you need to pay attention as you listen. On "The Flight of the Cat-Faced Bag" (seems having no lyrics gives license for deliriously surrealistic song titles), the band injects impulsive shots of over-driven fuzz, seemingly from out of nowhere, before breaking down into a softer section that really shows the tight interplay between the musicians. "Just 2001" is totally left field and one of the record's more engaging tracks, with spacey synth noise sprinkled throughout. I can safely say it is the best "cover" of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" you will ever hear. Well, at least the most creative. The band meditates on the theme (best known from being featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey) like a group of Jazz musicians, doing to it what Coltrane did with "My Favorite Things" (that is, making it all their own and changing how you'll look at that song forever).

I've run out of cheesy Surf metaphors, so let me just end by saying that Flux Capacitors have taken a musical genre seemingly set in stone and made it a Technicolor detonation of adventurous ideas, creative and deft chops and more than the occasional dose of humor.

The Capacitors host a CD release party for the new album on Friday at the Southgate House. Towhee and Southeast Engine also perform at the 10 p.m. show. (

That's why I was excited to get a copy of the debut CD from Cincinnati's Flux Capacitors, John Q. Brains-For-Arms. The Capacitors perhaps don't reinvent the Surf music wheel, but they certainly have deflated all of the air, painted some avant ornamentation on it and refilled it with laughing gas. If Sonic Youth would have been inspired by Dick Dale instead of, say, Glen Branca, this is what they would have sounded like.

That's not to say the Surf music puzzle-pieces aren't all there, nor that fans of the genre (well, open-minded ones) will be turned off by the band. The Flux Capacitors' members all have a clear knowledge of classic Surf and their chops reflect that. Lead guitarist Erik Stoll can whip out a wiry, reverb-drenched lick as good as anyone I've heard. And the rhythm section is more than adept at re-creating that big-wave rumble.

But it's when the band gets "weird" that things start getting really good. On "Better Get Used to These Bars, Kid," the guitars are downright jazzy, with a circular figure serving as the spine of the song. But from there the structure wanders like a boat lost at sea. As they explore different territory (harmonics, almost Prog-like licks, stop-start beats), they pull into a harbor of delicious guitar-noise, as feedback swells and swirls, sounding at times like an all-out air attack. To start from this sublime little jazzy riff and end up with something that sounds like it could have been left over from the Daydream Nation sessions is a remarkable feat.

It's these little surprises that make John Q. Brains-For-Arms an instrumental album to which you need to pay attention as you listen. On "The Flight of the Cat-Faced Bag" (seems having no lyrics gives license for deliriously surrealistic song titles), the band injects impulsive shots of over-driven fuzz, seemingly from out of nowhere, before breaking down into a softer section that really shows the tight interplay between the musicians. "Just 2001" is totally left field and one of the record's more engaging tracks, with spacey synth noise sprinkled throughout. I can safely say it is the best "cover" of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" you will ever hear. Well, at least the most creative. The band meditates on the theme (best known from being featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey) like a group of Jazz musicians, doing to it what Coltrane did with "My Favorite Things" (that is, making it all their own and changing how you'll look at that song forever).

I've run out of cheesy Surf metaphors, so let me just end by saying that Flux Capacitors have taken a musical genre seemingly set in stone and made it a Technicolor detonation of adventurous ideas, creative and deft chops and more than the occasional dose of humor.

The Capacitors host a CD release party for the new album on Friday at the Southgate House. Towhee and Southeast Engine also perform at the 10 p.m. show. (myspace.com/surfthefluxcapacitors)

More Local Notes
· There will be some hot '80s action at the Gypsy Hut this Friday, but don't come with your Flock of Seagulls 'do and expect to dance to some old Yaz. Dementia Precox, an influential experimental band (they were "Industrial" before that even had a meaning in music) from Dayton, is reuniting for a "once in a lifetime" show (members are now scattered across the country). The group used pieces of Metal (trash-can lids, etc.) for percussion and were frequent, popular visitors to the underground scene of Cincinnati back in the day. Longtime brothers-in-noise BPA also perform. The show is free and starts at 10 p.m.

· Thursday afternoon on Fountain Square there will be another benefit for local bassist Chris Walker (of IsWhat?!, Big Whiskey, The Whitney Barricklow Band and several other groups), who is in the hospital recovering from a serious car accident last month. Thursday's 11:30 a.m. show features Patrick Ewing, Elliott Ruther, Marvin Hawkins, Ed Cunningham, Larry Harris, Ryan Adcock and John Redell. "Tips" will be collected to help Walker, a professional musician who is unable to work.

· Ace local MC/producer Ill Poetic will present his deft Hip Hop music in "full band" form this Thursday at Baba Budan's in Clifton. The Ill Poetic Live Band features local musicians Chris Lee (guitar), Brian Day (lead guitar) and Todd Drake (drums). The band plays at 11 p.m. and there is no cover charge.



CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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