Sharps & flats

Low-fi electronic indie duo Sukpatch release the fall's best summer record.

By Andy Battaglia
September 13, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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As a post-indie rock outfit borrowing sheepishly from electronic music's aesthetic cues, Sukpatch occupy an interesting space. Through a bit of cultural gerrymandering, the group's members translate a certain switched-on sound to an audience that reacts with suspicious minds to the endlessly debatable theory that the guitar and 4-track have gone the way of the guitar and 4-track. For musical culture movers molded more by Pavement's rock than by Derrick May's techno, Sukpatch make good electronic music. For electronic music fans whose sense of earthiness goes only as far as Kraftwerk, Sukpatch make good indie rock.

From either direction, Sukpatch's "Tie Down That Shiny Wave" -- the band's first for the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label -- is a boundless pleasure thanks to its allegiance to both camps. Breezy as only an 18-minute EP can be, it may be this fall's best summer record.


Tape-loop and beat literate, Chris Heidman and Steve Cruze know their way around trip-hop's lethargic come-hither nature. But their sounds have a kitchen sink-type charm that recasts that style's darkly suggestive pull as a playfully innocuous tug. Sukpatch is more concerned with pop music's ephemeral levity than with electronic music's tendency toward purposeful precision.

The EP's first track, "Stuck on Me," moves into its chorus in no less than 10 seconds. And what a chorus it is -- a casual, whistling-ready melody that wouldn't sound alien on a Hanson album. "One Sign Divine" follows, floating in the thick wake of an analog synthesizer. The simple four-chord synth progression is intercut with breakbeats, but not the eerily scattered breakbeats of drum 'n' bass. Instead, Sukpatch's rhythms are delightfully jaunty, tossed off casually like fingers drumming on a notebook.

A looped soul-guitar rhythm on "Burnt Buy" moves Sukpatch directly into the Beck territory they lurk around throughout the record. And it's a nice fit, as they share a similar willful goofiness, or at least a similar wink-and-nod of knowing irreverence. Witness the lead guitar line on "Darline Hay," evoking Paul Young's campily sap-drenched '80s tune "Every Time You Go Away." Intentional or not, the allusion's giddy sensibility, like Sukpatch's, is unmistakable.

Andy Battaglia

Andy Battaglia is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is a frequent contributor to Salon.

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