STS9: Peaceblaster

By: Eric Liebetrau

The members of Sound Tribe Sector 9 have always proudly proclaimed their political, social and cultural consciousness and activism, but their newest album is probably their most direct embodiment of that philosophy. A natural extension of Artifact, the band's mercurial 2005 album, Peaceblaster echoes and expands upon the darker moments of the former, creating a mood of introspective cynicism that reflects our current political and cultural atmosphere.

"America is this beautiful, incredible place, but it has a dark underbelly," says bassist David Murphy on the STS9 website. "And even on Peaceblaster's most ethereal songs, there's a darkness that reflects what's going on in society - it ain't all bad, but it ain't all good." It's those moments of ethereal beauty, the well-placed flourishes of optimism, that lend Peaceblaster (released July 8 on 1320 Records) a sense of equilibrium that Artifact - though an arresting album in its own right - lacked.

Along with Murphy, guitarist Hunter Brown, drummer Zach Velmer, percussionist Jeffree Lerner and keyboardist David Phipps have assembled a rangy but coherent collection of post-rock–influenced electronica (Tortoise fans should enjoy this album, especially the second half). The companion pieces "Peaceblaster '68" and "Peaceblaster '08" open the album, setting an explosively foreboding tone similar to MMW's End of the World Party (Just in Case). "Music measures the temperature of the people," says Brown, echoing Murphy's statement. "Consumerism and the corporate media have taken us all down the path of cynicism, apathy and nihilism. If the message on the new record is anything, it's to blast that shit." The twin opening tracks do just that, pulsing with the barely contained energy of a DJ Harry track featuring ragged tuba accents that perfectly complement the beat.

"Metameme," one of the album's highlights, opens with a slurred, hazy loop below the melody - a favorite tool of STS9 - and the song cycles through a few separate sections before resolving into "Shock Doctrine," a good fit for a horror or alien sci-fi soundtrack. Laced with a variety of veiled echo effects in the background, the song seemingly ends around the three-minute mark, but quickly changes directions as the final two minutes reverberate with some truly ghostly, disembodied human voices.

After the intense first four tracks, "The Spectacle" is a refreshing dawn, lightening the previously heavy mood and ushering in the next movement. "Regeneration," two broadcast samples looped over each other, is a short, stark denunciation of consumerism and media saturation, and "Beyond Right Now" is driven by a simple, repeating guitar figure, displaying elements of Radiohead's electronics-augmented rock.

"Hidden Hand, Hidden Fast" is probably the most intriguing song on Peaceblaster. If STS9 had been around to contribute to the soundtrack for The NeverEnding Story, this may have been the result. The opening synth swell bears a striking resemblance to the accompaniment to Atreyu's journey through the Swamps of Sadness, and the bulk of the track, ripe for sampling by any number of avant-garde rappers, would have been the perfect musical backing for Bastian's climactic ride on Falkor across Fantasia.

Sandwiched by two minutes of lackluster material on either side, the middle section of "Empires" reflects the initial energy of the "Peaceblaster" tracks, tying the second half of the album back to the first. The last few songs - "The New Soma," "Oh Little Brain," "Late for Work," "Squishface" - are somewhat unremarkable, noteworthy mainly for their indebtedness to post-rockers like Tortoise, Mogwai and late-era Talk Talk. As such, they should appeal to a specific brand of electronic-music fan.

Though top-heavy, Peaceblaster is a timely instrumental statement in mood and tone, a treat for STS9 fans and a suitable entrée to the band for more open-minded, experimental indie fans. In conjunction with the album's release, the band has launched www.peaceblaster.com, which they describe as "an informational website where fans will find copies of the Bill of Rights, speeches by Dwight Eisenhower and Martin Luther King, and links to alternative media outlets."

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[Published on: 7/13/08]

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Comments

dustinthewind7 starstarstarstarstar Sun 7/13/2008 02:11PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

dustinthewind7

yaaaa sound tribe!

Dicky79 starstarstarstar Sun 7/13/2008 04:19PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

decent review. i think it's a great ALBUM although seems alot of folks are stuck on the fact that sts9 is changing. the production quality is incredible and once again sts9 nails their time in the studio.

why is dj harry referenced though? i mean... MMW, tortiose, talk talk and.... DJ HARRY? the guy remixes bluegrass people.

otherwise, solid look at this great album by sts9. thanks.

soitgoes Sun 7/13/2008 05:13PM
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check out Harry's "Collision"- almost all original tracks, very little bluegrass:

theRabble Sun 7/13/2008 09:18PM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
snappy Mon 7/14/2008 04:42AM
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snappy

The offending "s" has been removed from the previous album's title. Thanks for catching that, Rabble.

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Mon 7/14/2008 06:53AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Hey Snappy, you missed a second "Artifacts" in the second paragraph, last sentence. Good review though. Open Tribe's myspace page in another window and listen to tracks while reading the review. Personally, I think STS9 is a band that should release "new" music via concert (live) recordings. Most of us fans know that a "studio" CD doesn't come close to the explosive energy of a tribe show.

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Mon 7/14/2008 06:55AM
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P.S. See all you freaks at B.O.A. for the Ump Tribe.

jalew starstarstarstarstar Mon 7/14/2008 07:55AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

jalew

It seems there is some serious debate over this album. Why are people afraid of change? I think this album is a tremendous studio effort from the Nine. I will admit their Rothbury set was a bit rough around the edges but there were still some great moments. I know the boys are working it out on stage every night and CAN NOT WAIT for the Indy>Greek weekend! They will be nice and warmed up for us West Coasters. Kudos to the Nine for continuing to explore, grow and for sharing their art with us.

jalew Mon 7/14/2008 08:01AM
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jalew

..also, I'm looking forward to ReGeneration: The Movie. The site was to launch on the 10th but we're still waiting to get a real peak into the Documentary.

mreezal Mon 7/14/2008 01:23PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

mreezal

hidden hand, hidden FIST. this album rules. if u like late 4 work and that kind of vibe, check out The Lymbyc Systym. hey Rabble what up sucker!?

stoney2183 Mon 7/14/2008 02:03PM
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I wish they had left the extended version of "Stick Like Marimba" on the album.... but no

theRabble Mon 7/14/2008 02:18PM
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theRabble

sup loin...see you at stums9 this saturday biatch....call me

n-1 starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/15/2008 07:39AM
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was this album as good as Artifact?

n-1 Tue 7/15/2008 07:41AM
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its hard to say when an STS9 set is rough around the edges, cause loose jamming is their style, they have a few good shows which are like golden, but a lot of them are looser and heavier improv/space jams

jalew Tue 7/15/2008 08:20AM
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jalew

Well actually, if you were to listen to/watch their Rothbury performance, you will notice they didn't improvise much at all. Their live performance has changed. That, I thought, was a huge part of the discussion surrounding STS9's new direction.

groovatronics Tue 7/15/2008 10:26AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

after reluctantly waiting to hear what this new work sounds like, i can honestly say it's better than expected. the problem is that it's just not my tribe. and i'm surprised that more people aren't diggin where they are going with their sound - and attitude.

before thumbing me down, think on this, what if this was the first or second album they released? what if this is what it sounded like when people first got introduced to when their friends took them to their first "sound tribe sector 9" show over in georgia 10 years ago? do you think they would be nearly as big as they are now? maybe not.

the problem is, the band has gained the right to be cocky over the years, and have some of the most devoted fans out there. like watch, i bet people like theRabble will see this and condemn me to hell for forsaking his blessed soundtribe. the fact that murph gets to ask "how y'all feeling right now?" at every single show, and know that NO ONE (atleast the vast majority) will leave saying it sucked gives them this right to think that they are 'just so fucking hip,' like they own the scene and can do whatever they want. and don't say that's not true because they are in fact human, and things like raw and unconditional love from thousands of passionate people WILL go to anyone's head.

you see, i live in colorado, and in the past couple of years it has been overwhelming to see the amount of stupid little high school friends of mine saying they have to go to sts9 this year just because they recently found out that going to parking lots at red rocks is 'the cool thing to do', and that sound tribe is the show with ALL the drugs and ALL the kids. because face it, the real, actually kind of mature hippies are going to gov't mule and ratdog, while the little kids doing it to say they did it are going to sound tribe and monolith. all i'm saying is that if kids start to follow each other to do something they think others will think is cool, then i'm sorry to admit it, but someONE has sold out.

helloskinny starstarstar Tue 7/15/2008 10:43PM
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The album isn't even so much not as good as old sts9 because its different, i just don't quite dig the sound, its seems like when their not doing what tribe does best(not this album, in my opinion) they take alot of other sounds or cues from other bands, which lets be honest tribes a plenty unique band with their own sound, as for the live show, always good but my only complaint is tribe's song catalague ain't really too super broad, but i'll see ya in chicago regardless because you can't possibly have a bad time at a live tribe show

helloskinny Tue 7/15/2008 10:50PM
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Damn, shoulda read the article before mine first before posting, cause couldn't agree more though, tribe's awesome but kids go to the shows from hearsay that their so fuckin' "crazy" and to be honest that craziness is just the fact that tribe shows are dirty as fuck no way round it, and the kids fresh on the scene do eat the raver bullshit up, but forawhile i liked to think of tribe as different but now it has become exactly what groovetronics is talkin about, the time for someone to really wanna see a ligit tribe show has passed, but i do stick by what i said earlier can't not have fun, but i am goin to be very apprenhensive on this next show

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Wed 7/16/2008 06:13AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

I miss the old school sts9. the new stuff is too sterile.

granola Wed 7/16/2008 08:57AM
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well as soon as they announced they were doing a tour with umphreys i knew it was never going to be the same. And i mean that in a bad way nothing positive for the tribe scene will come from this tour

CSchneids929 starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 09:21AM
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^^^ true. but they are gaining a nice lil fanbase out of the UM peeps. Marketing my friend, Marketing. And they are doing quite a good job of doing it by touring with umph

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Wed 7/16/2008 09:26AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

well last year was Bisco Umph, I am at least glad for the change-up, and I will still go see these bands.. got to do something YO.

granola Wed 7/16/2008 02:16PM
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I wouldnt call it a nice lil fanbase CSchneids just a larger and more obnoxious annoying fanbase

pottad Wed 7/16/2008 03:27PM
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^Yeah like for sure dude! They don't even bring those super heady vibes from their magical crystals in the UM scene. So lame!

JaphyTaphy starstarstar Wed 7/16/2008 03:52PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

JaphyTaphy

the tribe is, always has been, and always will be moving in a new and different direction. it's in their chemical makeup as a band: it's what they strive for, focus on and work relentlessly towards in everything that they do. that said, i feel the new album is a more than solid piece of music, with plenty of potential for some songs to rise in their repertoire, and a steady, streaming concept. but it's no doubt new and different, and encompasses many of the sounds they've been working to integrate into their music recently. may take some time for ears to adjust for certain peoples. i'm down with where the tribe's going-by no means would i say i agree with all the changes they're making or the lack of variation in many of their shows-but more importantly, i have faith in their decisions and route they believe they need to take.

zenbedouin starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/17/2008 01:46AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

zenbedouin

THANK YOU JaphyTaphy. The number one negative comment I've heard on this thread so far is that STS9 is attracting too many obnoxious young fans now. Well that's what happens to EVERY successful artist that reaches a huge audience. They're undeniably a great band, with amazing musical skill, no matter what they play, and they're not just something that only "mature hippies" can appreciate, so of course lots of different kinds of people, even stupid ones, are going to like them. They deserve to get this kind of fame, they've been touring non-stop for 10 years. And lets face it, unless in the unlikely event that some of you are Tribe fans that are 40 years old now, still livin the jamtronica scene, we were all stupid young high school kids when old STS9 got started jamming.

That said, the album was great. Yeah, its different, that's why they released a new album instead of touring forever. They're not going to make another Kamuy or Wika Chikana or Equinox, and it would be a failure if they tried to replicate an old song, because it would lack the spirit of fresh creativity. Besides, times have changed, and so have they. Did nobody actually read what they said about this album? It's not just spacy feel good jam music anymore! Now that they have your attention, they don't want you to ignore the political atmosphere that's constantly developing around us, so they're instilling the music with a message.

I know it was so much cooler when Sector 9 was an obscure jazzy jam band in Santa Cruz that only you and your friends new about, and that the music was all improvised and different every time and all that. But I've been around and I've seen many bands change and grow successful, and you just have to deal with it, this is what happens to bands. And even though they don't improv non-stop in tiny venues anymore, as a musician I tell you they're still good! Sooo much better in fact. Zach constantly amazes me on the drums and I feel like there's no way I can ever catch up to his skill. Besides, their philosophy is to hold back.

And lets take a look at their early albums. I'm sure none of you really still listen to Offered Schematics or Interplanetary Escape any more when you can hear a great live version of Kamuy or Moon Socket that's so much better. Honestly guys, we all know Tribe is better live. But they know it too, and that's why they're making their albums actually mean something. They're meant to be different from the live experience so they can actually be worth making. And for the most part, Peaceblaster is just a lot better put together than Offered Schematics. So please, don't let that indie-for-the-sake-of-indie vibe get to you, and just ENJOY THE MUSIC.

theRabble Thu 7/17/2008 11:42AM
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theRabble

well said japhy and bedouin....well said

iwantstogetfunkedup Thu 7/17/2008 03:40PM
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I remember seeing STS9 around '02 and I seem to remember them playing more and being on their computers less. This is my only problem with their live show is it seems to be evolving into less playing and more programming. If I wanted to see people punch buttons on their computer I could go watch any modern DJ that doesn't even bring turntables to a show anymore. All you need is a laptop. I know I'm a bit of a purist, but I don't enjoy the human element starting to leave the live music.

Lord-K. Sat 7/19/2008 12:12PM
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Lord-K.

I agree after seeing STS9 at Rothbury I think Murph spent more time on the laptop than actually playing his bass.....save the robots!

tbek starstarstar Sat 7/19/2008 02:18PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I find this album disappointing, although it's pretty much what I expected, based on the direction they have been heading for a few years. I don't have a problem with change, per se, but I just wish they would put down their damn laptops and pick up their instruments again. In my opinion, they have gotten way too enamored with the capabilities of their computers. Screw that, play your instruments and JAM.

groovatronics Sat 7/19/2008 10:46PM
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yes good comment zenbedouin,

point after point, well said.

zenbedouin Mon 7/21/2008 12:53PM
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zenbedouin

Tbek, you're right that they use a whole lot more electronics now, and considering how good they are on they're instruments its a shame. But hey, at least Velmer, Phipps, and Lerner keep getting better at what they do best. And hey, Murph plays that keypad like a Bass without strings.

pheelalrights starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/22/2008 05:58AM
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pheelalrights

As a 'more mature' hippie, I have to say that I enjoy the hell out of STS9. With that said, I also like BISCO, UM, Lotus, pnuma, etc. Now don't get me started on RatDog. He's gone and nothing's gonna bring him back. Mule is as Warren does. He seems iconic now, but he's no Jerry. All of you who complain need to start enjoying life and music. Don't take it for granted. Life moves by very fast, sometimes you just gotta stop and take a look around. If you know where that's from you're a 'mature hippie' too.

Peace and grace be with all of you!

pheelalrights starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/22/2008 06:13AM
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pheelalrights

Oh and BTW, saw Madtown and late night as well as St. Louis. Kidos to UM for Madtown, haven't felt like that in along time. Tribe was good, but UM wow! On the o/hand, St. Louis Tribe out did the shortened UM set. UM was in the sun for the first part and then looked like TGD at Woodstock i.e. about ready to get electrocuted. You all enjoy yourselves on the rest of the tour.

Pranamm.

curtbraski star Sat 7/26/2008 09:35AM
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curtbraski

the saint louis show was really really lame nail in the coffin for me... they will sizzle out playing these off the wall festies that attract a bunch of burnt out custies... umphrey's makes me laugh

Cj Sickel.