60-Second Lesson On...Livetronica

Pushing Your Buttons

Sixty second lesson on Livetronica -- EW explores this new and enticing rock genre

WHAT IS IT?
Tricky question. More than simply electronica played live — hell, you could hear that at a Radiohead concert — livetronica tends toward synthy, extended dance tunes soaked up in a communal, jam-bandish atmosphere.

WHERE IT COMES FROM
Again, tough to say. In many cases, laptop musicians who were looking to put on a better show began to incorporate more traditional instrumentation. But in the case of genre leaders Sound Tribe Sector 9, the exact opposite went down. ''We started playing instruments first, and later in life got into programming and producing,'' says STS9 bassist David Murphy. ''Ultimately, we were trying to find ways that we could integrate that on stage.'' Now the group employs multiple G4 laptops and samplers.

KEY PLAYERS
The field is amorphous, with acts as diverse as Prefuse 73 and VHS or Beta intersecting at points. Murphy cites Tortoise as his scene's ''godfathers.'' ''They have such an electronic sensibility about them,'' he says, ''yet it's drum kits, a guitar, bass.'' Also, look out for up-and-comers like Lotus, Signal Path, and MFA.

ESSENTIAL ALBUMS
While peeping the phenomenon live is ideal, naturally, any recordings by STS9 or New Deal should get the point across. Midwest Product introduced a sawtooth pop edge on 2003's playful World Series of Love (Ghostly International).

NECESSARY ACCESSORY
A free membership to livetronica.net, where fans of the fledgling genre flock to discuss favorite bands, plug projects, and figure out exactly what their scene is all about.

Originally posted Feb 21, 2005 Published in issue #808 Feb 25, 2005 Order article reprints