"Electro and bass is Miami, whether we like it or not. You can't get away from it," says Seven, the elusive figure behind Chocolate Industries, the local record label famed for bringing experimental sounds to the world and in the process putting Miami on the map as a hotbed for avant-electronica. Alongside Schematic (home to the "machines-come-alive!" work of Phoenecia) and the newly formed Audio Electric and Beta Bodega labels, Chocolate Industries has been issuing a diverse array of cut-up grooves and deliciously tweaked beats. What unites all these artists is the subliminal soundtrack to living in Miami; no matter how abstract their music may get, you can still hear the strains of Afrika Bambatta's "Planet Rock" and vintage Luke creeping through. "We all heard that stuff when we were in the fourth grade," says Seven. "There's no escape; it just sinks in. But how can you not dig it? It's all got a nursery-rhyme feel, and you can sing along, just like The Electric Company. Nobody realized it was electro," he laughs.
Seven has corralled a veritable who's who of Miami's electronic underground for a show this Wednesday, July 21 at the Gables' Meza gallery (275 Giralda St., 305-461-2723). The turntables begin spinning at 9:00 p.m. with a cast that includes Seven himself, Phoenecia, the tripped-out breaks of Push Button Objects, hip-hop deconstructionist DJ Infamous (currently the reigning American champ in the International Turntablist Federation, and snapping at Craze's heels in the "fastest hands" category), TPM, PS 199, Patcha Kutek, Haviken Hayes, T-11, and Cookieheadz. The occasion for this gathering is the return to Miami of Germany's Funkstsrung, which headlines the bill with its unique blend of shuddering drum and bass and Chain Reaction-style dub dynamics. It's a combination that seems ill-suited for the dance floor, and yet their remixes of disparate figures such as Bjsrk and the Wu-Tang Clan remain not just engrossing in their stripped-down, echo-chamberesque form, but also head-noddingly catchy. Which is perhaps exactly what has attracted Funkstsrung to record for Chocolate Industries and make the trip back to South Florida. They may create "art music," but it's got a rhythm any fourth-grader could understand -- and bop along to.
Over in the local rock scene, things look decidedly less rosy. Just ask Miami's Muse, who slugged it out on the bar circuit, eventually inking a deal with Atlantic Records. Amid popping champagne corks, the band decamped to the more guitar-friendly environs of Atlanta, where they released their Atlantic debut, and then ... promptly went nowhere. Subsequently dropped by their label, the band is now back to square one, working in a new drummer, and cutting fresh demos. (Muse shouldn't take it personally, though. According to a Pollstar magazine report, only 225 of the more than 4500 artists signed to major labels per year will ever turn a profit; 90 percent of all major-label-signed acts will be dropped.)
In a bizarre coda to both the Miami rock scene and this sad business saga, Muse has even sold the rights to their very name. A British outfit set to receive a deep-pocketed push from Madonna's label, Maverick, is the proud new owner of the Muse moniker. Spokespersons for both the Maverick-signed Muse and the Artists Formerly Known As Muse confirmed a legal settlement was indeed reached, but declined to comment on the actual size of any payment. Let's just hope Luther Campbell's lawyers weren't involved.
If you're wondering where all the local flower children have gone, try looking in the concert parking lots of nouveau-pyschedelicists Phish. The Vermont-based outfit is currently on their annual summer crawl around the United States, though this time out, the tour only made it as far south as Atlanta for a pair of Fourth of July weekend shows. Which is where two forlorn-looking, patchwork-dress-clad waifs were heading when spotted hungry and lost on Lincoln Road this past week. With a puzzled glance at a flock of Rollerbladers whizzing by, one of the overstuffed-backpack-toting girls asked for directions to the nearest Burger King. Kulchur steered them instead toward San Loco for a much healthier, affordable bite, but didn't lose the opportunity to quiz the pair on the appeal of the band. What would make two sixteen-year-old girls try to hitchhike their way through the mean streets of South Beach? "It's all about finding your family. Your real family," answered one. "Which way is 95?" asked the other. Godspeed, little hippie girls!
The curious can check out the Phish phenomenon from the comfort of their living room, when the band performs a half-hour set on Sessions at West 54th St., which airs this Saturday, July 17 at 11:00 p.m. on WLRN-TV (Channel 17). It's a slightly restrained performance though, with little of the band's signature full-bore noodling. Another interesting introduction to what all the fuss is about is provided by The Siket Disc, a collection of late-night jams recorded by Phish during the sessions for their last album. Although intended solely for the band's die-hard fans (and thus only available from the group via their Website at www.phish.com or at 802-862-5400), its thick Krautrock-influenced grooves and invitingly ambient vibe actually make it a better primer for the curious than many of Phish's "proper" studio releases. An instrumental effort, it's also refreshingly free of the band's at-times cringeworthy lyrical content.
-- Brett Sokol
Send your music news, local releases, and general gunk to Brett Sokol at 2800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Fax to 305-571-7678 or e-mail email@example.com