Music News

The New Deal

This Canadian trio plays music it describes as "live progressive breakbeat house," but don't let this catchall phrasing confuse you: This band is a dance party waiting to happen. Drummer Darren Shearer provides a heavily thumping four-on-floor backbeat, and during a live show, he can occasionally be heard beatboxing to add a little something different to the mix. Bassist Dan Kurtz rounds out the rhythm with his intricate throbbing lines, and keyboardist Jamie Shields provides melodies and harmonies on his expansive equipment setup, using his collection of vintage keyboards and drum machines often and to great effect.

Before the release of The New Deal in 2001, sound+light released two live compilations (one, the group's first performance together); a third live effort documented a two-night run at New York's Bowery Ballroom during the spring of 2002. Gone, Gone, Gone is an eagerly anticipated follow-up to the New Deal's previous work, one that may displease old fans at the same time as it receives radio airplay.

Rather than again trying to re-create a live New Deal experience, this album is a trip in an exciting new direction. The biggest difference between Gone, Gone, Gone and the band's previous work is the addition of vocals, which are highlighted on a couple of tracks. The album's "Intro" has Kurtz singing a Beach Boys-styled six-part harmony with himself before segueing directly into a vocoder-heavy (think Frampton Comes Alive) version of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." "Don't Blame Yourself," featuring the sultry vocals of Feist, is the band's attempt at a jazzy electronic single; it sounds likes Zero 7 and has the possibility of being both a pop hit and a massive remix. A number of tracks change directions halfway through, moving from ambient to a ferocious drum 'n' bass or breakbeat pace almost instantaneously.

Despite all the experimentation and calculated variety, this is still the New Deal, and a number of tracks such as the bouncing "VL Tone" or the lush title track feature the band's trademark sound: punishing synthesizers playing ethereal tones, heavy house beats, and the buildup of aural tension to an orgasmic point of release. The New Deal provides satisfying dance music without the built-up pretentiousness usually found in DJ culture.

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Scott Medvin