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Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Soft batch

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2001 at 12:00 AM

The Disco Biscuits have gone soft. This is not a criticism. It is simply an observation of a new direction, an expansion of an idea. They Missed the Perfume is an unconventional album, which might be due to the unconventional method in which it was recorded, among the vast turbines and generators of an abandoned electrical power equipment factory. Sonic textures are layered on top of one another like sweaters. At points, you will swear that the band is an orchestra rather than a quartet. The trance and jungle feel has been toned down, while a more harmonic, almost New Age feeling has emerged. The bass is a little more subdued, the drumbeats are a little more mechanical and the guitar appears and disappears sporadically, like an inquisitive neighbor in a network sitcom. Where in previous albums the Disco Biscuits allowed John Gutwillig’s guitar playing to soar, snarl and bite, here it floats on a current of air, feathery light, unforced. Keyboards, synthesizers and electronic currents dominate. Like a mosaic assembled with stones, sand, glue, cotton balls, Play-Doh, chewing gum and Skittles, there is a little bit of everything in They Missed the Perfume. It is all over the place.

Each song is ripe with sonic synthesis. “Spacebirdmatingcall” begins with a spacey synth-jam, then expands and undulates with harmonized vocals and loopy, hovering guitar. “Haleakala Crater,” at more than 13 minutes, truly breathes. It encourages you to turn off your mind for a few minutes and relax, enclosed by the sounds of lapping waves and chirping tropical birds. Like an orchestration, it changes seamlessly from one melody to the next — bubbling rock to playful improvisation, techno doodling to fuzzy feedback. “Mindless Dribble” starts out like a muddled Talking Heads imitation, wavering between a playful, piano-driven groove and a more raucous punk edge.

The Disco Biscuits will always experiment, always shift shapes. With every song, the band rages against staleness and the torpidity of repetition. Although the sound might fluctuate radically, the euphoric waterfall that has enraptured so many fans is still very much alive in They Missed the Perfume.

Disco Biscuits perform Saturday at the Majestic Theatre, 4140 Woodward, Detroit. Call 313-833-9700.

E-mail Joshua Gross at letters@metrotimes.com.

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