(Sound & Light, CD)
Over the past decade, jam-rock has dominated college campuses across America. In that same time, The New Deal have proven one of the most consistently engaging acts around. From their beginnings as heady, downtempo groovesters to their reinvention as a strobe-lights-and-disco dance band, the Canadian trio comprising bassist Dan Kurtz, drummer Darren Shearer and keyboardist Jamie Shields have managed to steer clear of the dead ends that cornered other improv bands.
The group's bristling electronic music is performed within a "traditional" live context. While "organica" is often remarkable only for its kitsch value, The New Deal are not gimmicky. This is largely due to their sophisticated interplay, which allows for a remarkably fluid dynamic. Accomplished stage performers, the band members craft crystalline grooves that bounce and pop with the point-and-click perfection generated by a laptop tweaker. In fact, The New Deal are so obsessed with detail, they hardly seem human. Still, with their vibrant sound and contagious energy, this is one electronica act that isn't boring live.
TND's latest, Gone Gone Gone, presents a logical, and necessary, sonic evolution. On a superficial level, the disc offers a string of 13 sweaty dance-floor epics. Yet a closer listen reveals a layered, varied album unlike any the band has previously released. Three-minute opener "Intro" is a bleary-eyed blend of acid-jazz piano and airy harmonies paced at a deliciously stoned saunter. "I Feel Love" oozes honey-thick bass, countered by cheesy, robotic vocals. Fellow Canuck Leslie Feist of Broken Social Scene fame adds her misty vocals and irresistible charm to the future-funk shimmy "Don't Blame Yourself." "Episode 7" is James Bond music composed for the 21st century -- a high-gloss dose of electro-noir.
The band loses its footing occasionally, such as on the yawner "Homewrecker." The tune is lackluster at best; its soggy jam-jazz is akin to the work of far less talented peers. Still, the Deal redeem themselves with the spicy closing cut "Senza Te," which features vocals by Martina Sorbara. Songs like this make it damn near impossible not to be won over by The New Deal's latest space odyssey. Hear them live on Thursday, September 8, at the Higher Ground Ballroom.