[Sprawl of Sound] Hommes & Femmes Vitales

Hommes & Femmes Vitales
Assembly of Mazes, DJ Oldboy, the Blank Tapes

FEMMES VITALES
A friend tipped me off about Assembly of Mazes after she had a chance meeting in Long Beach with the LBC/LA trio's vocalist/trombonist/percussionist, Elle M. Thus informed, I made a beeline for AOM's MySpace page and became enchanted with their skewed take on jazz-inflected electronic music—decidedly not what I expect when I encounter an all-female group in 2008 (nor, for that matter, an all-male band).

AOM currently have three tracks up at www.myspace.com/assemblyofmazes, and they've sparked my desire to see them live. "Distraction" features what sounds like a pitch-shifted Tuvan throat singer's busted-synthesizer voice and a woozy trombone line wavering over drummer LaDawn Best's skewed disco beats. "Stitched" casts a mesmerizing spell with its unobvious machine-funk beats; noir-jazz trombone sighs; Elle's foreboding, drama-queen crooning; and Tracy Jupiter's spine-chilling keyboards. "Mazes" combines loping funk with an ominous lurch, buttressed with a trombone repetitively moaning counterpoint to Elle's impassioned Siouxsie Sioux-like warble. It's hypnotic and compelling in that archetypal early-'80s post-punk way of many New York and British groups.

There can't be many bands around here doing what AOM are doing, and for that sort of maverick spirit, I salute them.

DJ OLDBOY: UPLIFTED BY THE BLUES
I've never seen (or heard) a cat like DJ Oldboy (Chris Lynch), and I've been going to clubs since 1980. For one thing, the skinny, white music obsessive from Long Beach plays harmonica and tambourine and sings along with many of the records he spins, all while dancing like a man possessed. Oldboy kind of reminds me of certain charismatic Christian preachers, the type who convulse while speaking in tongues. Only Oldboy's animated by the spirit of music rather than some phantasmagorical figure about whom some ancient nutcases wrote a book to keep people from following their ids and to rationalize their fear of death.

Oldboy mans the decks every Tuesday at the Crosby, and that's where I recently caught him for the first time. To put it lightly, Oldboy restored this old man's faith in the noble art of deejaying. Like many great DJs, he's sonically omnivorous, touching on blues, soul, garage rock, Indonesian psychedelia, folk, ambient and post-rock, while selecting the most ripping cuts from many eras. Oldboy also hosts a show Wednesdays from 9 to 11 p.m. on the Net station Kbeach Radio (www.kbeach.org), In the Garage, that maintains the keen quality control of his club sets.

When I arrived at the Crosby, Oldboy was in the middle of a blues phase, to which he added his own harmonica riffs. When the music increased in tempo and wildness, Oldboy leaped, scissor kicked and shouted in accompaniment. He also pounded his tambourine against the wall and his femur with a ferocity that made me think he would shatter both. I've never witnessed a DJ get so into the material he plays—so much so that Oldboy sometimes flubs transitions. Well, when you move out to the dance floor to spin on your back to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme, it's hard to cue up your next track, right? But his sense of rhythm is tight, so you cut Oldboy—who's only been deejaying for a little more than a year—some slack if the segues get sloppy.

His zeal is purely altruistic and untainted by hunger for monetary gain. "I dig music like Indiana Jones digs for artifacts," Oldboy asserts. "I am a promoter and musician, as well as a DJ. I look to get as much involved with music as humanly possible. [The] blues enables me to release my soul and infiltrate the hearts and minds of others, so I just try and combine everything I can, get as crazy as I can."

As for his radio program, he says it's "hard to describe," but promises you will "find out something unique and genuine from the heart about the art of music."

Waxing poetic, Oldboy muses, "Music has an endless, alternating core, always instilling our souls with thirst reminding us of directions, and a belief that is inexplicable."

If only our region had a dozen more like him . . .

If you want your music played on In the Garage, you can send it to: Kbeach Radio/DJ Oldboy, 1212 Bellflower Blvd., Ste. 110, Long Beach, CA 90815; myspace.com/kbeachconcertseries.

REELING IN THE CHEERS WITH THE BLANK TAPES
The Blank Tapes
' Matt Adams shuttles between Costa Mesa and the Bay Area, making his Southland performances seem that much more special.

With assistance from a rotating crew of players (something of a necessity due to his itinerant lifestyle), Adams writes winsome pop tunes that snuggle up to you on the sofa and put a rosy glow in your cheeks. He's a traditional pop-rock craftsman, paying homage to such masters as Ray Davies, Steven Malkmus, Emitt Rhodes, Gram Parsons and early Neil Diamond (don't hate; Neil was awesome in the '60s and early '70s). Adams also has pronounced folk proclivities, with many songs exuding a delicate, campfire aura. They go down easy, like the sun. Adams and his Blank Tapes traveling circus have a grip of shows coming up in late July/early August, so try to catch 'em before he heads north again.

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