Words & Images by: Jesse Borrell
Conspirator :: 10.31.08 :: Highline Ballroom :: New York, NY
New York City owned the electronica scene in the final days of October. Located on the Lower West Side, Highline Ballroom featured two related acts one night after another. As online rumors spread into the physical realm on the evening of October 30, it was the eclectic Disco Biscuits side project Electron that may have packed the most punch by playing an assortment of songs from both the Bisco and Phish catalogues.
Eventually the dust settled and on the following evening, similar suspicious individuals faithfully made their way towards the Highline once again in hopes of seeing more of the unknown. With the help of Telepath and Orchard Lounge, Conspirator did indeed conjure the Halloween spirit for the diverse group of musical freaks in attendance.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Telepath's unique, down-tempo infused beats can make one feel as if they are floating high above the clouds. During "India Haze" many found themselves cruising across the dance floor in an easygoing manner to a sound that ranged from Indian to reggae-influenced veins. Orchard Lounge cranked the volume knob ever closer towards eleven while dressed fittingly as a set of airline attendants, whose sole flight plan was taking us higher. Pulling from a wide range of both original and non-original material, Orchard Lounge embodied the word 'endurance' during an early morning set that wowed attendees until 4 a.m., well after the Conspirator set had come to a close.
After getting warmed up by the relentless nature of Orchard Lounge's opening set, Conspirator started the night with an energetic and lyric-less version of "Step Inside." This night featured the Disco Biscuits' Allen Aucoin on a full drum kit, taking the place of an absent DJ Omen, who is the original third member of Conspirator. The Highline Ballroom burst to life as this song, led by keyboardist Aron Magner's impressionistic harmonies and Marc Brownstein's deep thumping on a midi bass synth, the trio extending within the special realms of improvisation.
Before starting "Oname Wa," Brownstein gave a shout out to the song's writer and former Disco Biscuit drummer Sam Altman before striking the beginning chords into what became a short venture into the well-known theme. Aucoin's well-honed break beats held the structure mischievously as the trio built momentum towards an ultimately swift exit. It was great, in a sense, to see Aucoin rightfully paying some heavy hitting homage to the drummer who pioneered his current throne.
|Telepath :: 10.31 :: NYC|
Flipping the tempo, Aucoin began a thunderously slow beat resembling a hoard of minions on a warpath. Coming to its initial crescendo, a particularly evil version of "Orch Theme" began and picked up steam as the crowd trudged in step with their fists pumped in the air. Brownstein, ever imitating his caricature bobblehead doll, held the song's core with the relentlessly dirty bassline. Aucoin accentuated deeper, off beat fills over the song's usually repetitive synthesized rhythm. Magner playfully expanded the main tonal themes and led the band into an extended jam that definitely could have been the highlight of the night.
The slow building exploits of "Tamarin Alley" hinged upon the squeaks and tweaks of Magner's synth, while an energized Brownstein would routinely throw his hand in the air in an effort to pump up the crowd on this possibly unfamiliar song. While the boys of Conspirator took some risks by playing relatively unknown tunes, on "Boomshanker" and "What They Want," staple tracks off the 2005 Conspirator release The Key, the exertion seemed to flatten as the cuts turned routinely as if nothing was at stake. Sensing a possible lull, the momentum quickly turned as Magner led into the celebratory panpipe opening notes of "Liquid Handcuffs" to the satisfaction of the crowd, who familiarly danced to the staggered rhythm.
The previous night's triumphant probe into a (almost) risky Phish catalogue proved all too well that any given night can be hit or miss depending on many variables. Although the Conspirator experience was greatly heightened with the addition of the human drum machine Allen Aucoin, the repetitive nature of their catalogue can sometimes come off as almost too easy for these veteran transfusion musicians. Part of the fun of seeing their full time band is whether or not their attempts to "bring the heat" will succeed or fail. For that reason alone, Conspirator holds the niche of being consistently just raw enough to keep the avid Disco Biscuit fan coming back for more.
|Conspirator :: 10.31 :: NYC|
Conspirator's next show is on 11/21 in Philly. Dates available here.
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