At Home With the Groovebox (Grand Royal)

At Home With the Groovebox (Grand Royal)

Record Reviews

At Home With the Groovebox

(Grand Royal)

Graphic design/rock merchandise mavens Tannis Root and the gang at Grand Royal do the put-a-dozen-monkeys-in-a-room-for-100-years concept one better, offering this compilation of electronic meanderings by artists using a Roland MC-505 Groovebox, an eight-track synthesizer housing all the vintage tweets and chirps of the noble 808 and 909 drum- and 303 bass-machines. And just like evolution, the humans kick some monkey butt. The standouts come from synth godfathers Jean Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley, the team behind the legendary "Baroque Hoedown" electronic standard, which served as the musical bed for three decades of Disneyland and Walt Disney World Main Street Electrical Parade themes. Perrey lends a line from his elegant hootenanny about halfway through the disc's first track, a Norman Cook-y butt-shaker called "Groovy Leprechauns," while Kingsley morphs Seventies electro-techno classic "Popcorn" into an Afro-desiatic slow-groove R&B bedroom number. Some acts, like Buffalo Daughter and Cibo Matto throb within their comfort zones, offering songs that would sound right at home on any of their great albums. Beck's "Boyz" is so early-Eighties that it earns its "Z," while Sonic Youth's "Campfire," sounds like a virtual campfire. Air, likewise, sounds just like Air on the interplanetary "Planet Vega," but so does John (from Tortoise) McEntire's "J.I.H.A.D.," for that matter. Will Oldham gives Robert Wyatt a tonk in the gorgeous, almost listless hymnal "Today I Started Celebrating Again," while Pavement's smart-ass ode to slackers and karaoke, "Robyn Turns 26," wouldn't be a bad direction should the indie standard-bearers ever want to go light rail on their asphalt. The ultimate ode to the circuit age, however, is Bis' piss-smart "Oh My," which borders on cheesy product placement with its exclamation, "Oh my! An MC-505!" while humped up on a "Me So Horny" 2 Live backbeat. The mishmash works well as a unit, not surprisingly, since the one-machine limit allows the necessary hegemony to make even such disparate elements seem part of a whole.


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