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I Am Spoonbender

I Am Spoonbender's newest release is one step further out into a mystic world of its own creation, wherein future, past, and present collide amid the flashing neon lights of the anarchist disco. Each track is painstakingly detailed in the colors and sounds of communication-obsessed '80s pop, and while the record menacingly teeters on the edge of electro-pop revisionism, its low-slung guitars and jittery, forceful production are too smart to let it be that and only that.

Since its inception in '97, the San Francisco group has managed to eke out its own detached persona through frenetic live shows, especially its most recent touring stint with Nebraska indie new-wave faves the Faint. The group has created a sound that lurks on the darker side of the electro-pop canon while throwing in mekanikal drum patterns and sound layering that clue you in that these kids know their Krautrock just as well as they know their glitch-tronics. This new three-song EP comes at a time when white belts and skinny-tie sightings seem to be at an all-time high, so if there's any justice in the world (and this is debatable), Spoonbender should be flooring the punk/electro neophytes from here to Brooklyn.

Shown Actual Size builds on the records before it, injecting disjointed, familiar sounds with a Technicolor clarity that is almost too bright. You can talk about Visage or Gary Numan all you want, but those are just touchstones in a sound that -- as married as it is to the past -- remains unto itself. Probably the best example of this is the track "Remove Installer," which uses a familiar rhythm and some sparkling synth lines in a way that could just as easily be your typical dead-eyed dance-floor filler but instead builds it up with oddly soothing, more often menacing vocals and all manner of fluttering blips. It's cold as ice, but it's also coiled and ready to strike.

Sure, the idea of the man-machine is nothing new, but that's the thing: I Am Spoonbender manages to make the idea of pop music performed as an automated human response seem like the most original idea in decades.

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Jon Pruett

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