Live 3.11.99 (Stereosonic)

Like a strobelight, the oscillating trip-hop beat programmed throughout this four-song, 54-minute live set provides a rhythmic backdrop against which Futura's improvised soundscaping contrasts even as it falls into perfect sync. Pulsing wave after wave after wave of shimmering, chiming, otherworldly Robert Frippian guitar, Travis Hartnett's six-string sorcery weaves in and around this steady beat, shape shifting constantly from ambient washes of whirlpool sounds to lightning-rod guitar breaks and storm-front menace. Monte McCarter's bag of spells -- loops, samples, turntables -- cast about the heartbeat breakbeats with their own ebb-and-flow synergy, playing hide 'n' seek with Hartnett's endless stream of feedback. Bubbling beneath both, bassist Craig Chin's illusive throb whispers one thing in Hartnett's ear and another in McCarter's. What results is a cauldron of sound smoother and stronger than the more thumping Futura 3 or the too-polished, see-through sheen of the local trio's Spontaneous Compositions 2: Live at Fringeware. On FuturaLive 3.11.99, "Bout," which clocks in at 9:55 and is the shortest of the four tunes herein, sets the tone with pointillistic perfectionism that goes unnoticed the moment zone-out inevitably envelopes the listener. Hartnett's rippling melodies carry the "Torch," which segues straight into the turntable-driven, chant action of "Valve." The laughing, live-wire "Lift" ends it all too abruptly, prompting one to punch up the beat again in order to try and fathom what type of ultra-subtle interplanetary play just occurred. "This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around ..."

3 stars -- Raoul Hernandez

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