If a rock band is going to play a gig without one of its members, it's probably best that the missing player is the sound manipulator rather than, say, the drummer. Still, the absence of samples-and-loops engineer Dale Flattum could have put the Nein at a disadvantage Friday night at the Warehouse Next Door.
Flattum wasn't a member of the North Carolina group's original lineup, so the three other musicians are practiced at playing without him. Also, guitarist Finn Cohen and drummer Robert Biggers used various samplers and keyboards, filling some of the synth gap. The resulting drones and beats didn't play as significant a role as on the Nein's recent album, "Wrath of Circuits," and were mostly audible as the songs clattered to a close. The electronics' low profile highlighted the interplay between the other instruments, which was consistently inventive.
The Nein is yet another band inspired by British fractured-groove specialists such as Gang of Four and the Fall, although the vocal melodies and Cohen's delivery sometimes recalled Pavement. Unlike many of their stylistic peers, however, these musicians are drawn to the essence rather than the outline of their models' various styles. Forgoing punk-funk's lock-step locomotion, the trio produced a barely controlled chaos, with bassist Casey Burns opposing rather than underpinning Cohen's guitar, and Biggers punctuating the beat with unexpected blows. The Nein's music would have sounded denser with its fourth member, but there was plenty going on without him.
-- Mark Jenkins