The popular notion of a rock band--forged by the depiction of the Beatles in "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" and given a harder edge by punkers like the Ramones and the Clash--is of a self-contained unit, a fiercely loyal gang that faces its adversaries with guitars rather than fists. But that's not the way things work in electronic music, where performers often borrow singers or even songs to complete their vision. Take, for example, the latest albums by two local electro duos, Deep Dish and Thievery Corporation. Both these discs were recorded in the groups' local studios, but draw on such far-flung collaborators as David Byrne and British dance-pop duo Everything but the Girl.
Most of the music on Deep Dish's "Junk Science" (Deconstruction/Arista) was synthesized by two local studio virtuosos who call themselves Dubfire and Sharam. But this Iranian American twosome is savvy enough to realize that a full album of machine-generated thump and burble doesn't play as well in the bedroom as it does on the dance floor. So they added vocals by cohorts like local singer-songwriter Richard Morel and Tracey Thorn of Everything but the Girl, who with the help of her partner Ben Watt transformed Deep Dish's dance-club hit, "Stay Gold," into "The Future of the Future."
Watt's lyric keeps the celebratory spirit of the original--"It's so bright tonight," Thorn warbles--but other tracks address issues trickier than the cosmic elation of partying; "Mohammed Is Jesus . . . " is a jazz-funk declaration of spiritual ecumenism. Elsewhere, Deep Dish tempers the house rhythms with saxophone and guitar, but even the folk-rockish "Stranded" doesn't entirely lose the beat. The album is ambitiously diverse, but it's most assured when it sticks closest to the group's neo-disco roots.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8181.)
A prime example of the recent vogue for languidly jazzy styles, Thievery Corporation's recordings are based on lounge music, light Latin rhythms and the sultrier side of reggae. Although little known outside the dance club demimonde, the duo has gotten commissions for numerous high-profile remixes, some of which are featured on the new "Abductions and Reconstructions" (ESL). The disc collects the Corporation's treatments of tracks by David Byrne, Stereolab, Pizzicato 5, Baaba Maal and other acts, yet the overall effect is cohesive to a fault.
As a change-of-pace track, a Thievery Corporation reconstruction might serve Byrne or Maal well. Rob Garza and Eric Hilton's style is too similar to Stereolab's and Pizzicato 5's, however, to make for an interesting juxtaposition, and 15 Thievery remixes in a row produce a synth-samba groove that's altogether too uniformly laid-back. The album's reggae-rooted mixes (notably Rockers Hi-Fi's "Transmission Central") and a version of local electro troupe Thunderball's "Hijack" add some needed swagger, but overall, "Abductions and Reconstructions" is like being becalmed in some cyber-Caribbean lagoon where the wind never stirs.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8182.)
CAPTION: Deep Dish's "Junk Science" is synthesized in the lab; the result is a danceable mix that works best when showcasing the group's neo-disco roots.