The New Deal driven by progression
Who: The New Deal with Mat the Alien
When: Friday, Dec. 5 & Saturday, Dec. 6
Critics of electronica dismiss it for being impersonal. Theyre on shaky ground, however, when it comes to Toronto trio The New Deal, who put a face to the breaks. Three faces, to be exact. Three hearts, three brains, six eyes, 30 fingers, you get the picture.
On their latest release Gone Gone Gon e, tracks are driven forward by recurring synth riffs, glazed with ethereal vocals and punched up with the odd voice modulation. But instead of coming at the audience via a record spinning middleman, its all courtesy of the three musicians on stage. No samplers, no DJs, just pure, 100 per cent human-generated groove, created before your very eyes.
"Its live dance music. Its definitely organic," says keyboard player Jamie Shields whose dextrous claws are responsible for most of the tripped out electronic elements over bassist Dan Kurtzs sexy grooves and drummer Darren Shearers beats.
"Our musics been called live, progressive, breakbeat house, which is a little long for my liking, but we are live."
Of course, trying to pin down The New Deal is, to borrow a phrase from Mother Superior in the Sound of Music, like "trying to keep a wave upon the sand." If they had to liken the sound to an X-Men character, the easy choice is shapeshifter Mystique. Sometimes theyre more jam band than funky house, sometimes more acid jazz, sometimes more ambient. In fact the only constant that can be pinned on The New Deal is their focus on progression and their unwillingness to sink into one career-defining sound. Theyre the polar opposite of the one-hit-wonder.
While fans may recognize what Shields calls "themes" from their albums, the music is constantly changing. Its a characteristic further encouraged by the bands complete autonomy over the production of their music, something they gained by splitting from label Jive/Zomba in 2002.
"Its great to have that kind of control," Shields confirms. "Our stuffs pretty esoteric. We need to be able to be pretty distinct in what we want to come out, and if we dont have that then the whole thing gets lost.
"This latest record ( Gone Gone Gone ) that we just put out definitely shows that were interested in progressing with our sound and with our ideas," he adds. "Its an incredibly different style from what we put out before, but it still has elements of New Deal style in it, so it didnt sound like a different band, it just sounded like a band thats taking another step."
True to form, the instrumental collective wasnt against adding vocal elements on several tracks either.
"Its not because were bored or tired of what were doing," Shields is quick to point out, "but we just want to try and progress a bit, you know?"
Their cyborgesque combination of live performers turning out mixable electronic-sounding grooves allows the band to integrate easily with DJs. Its something Whistlerites can check out for themselves since local DJ Mat the Alien is slated to spin funk and soul sets to open both shows. The band often plays alongside turntablists says Shields, since New Deal sets actually unfold more like DJ sets.
"Part of the concept of our live shows is to kind of have a smooth flow like a DJ and not have too many breaks," confirms Shields. "Our sets are about 70 minutes long and usually well only take two or three stops."
Its not surprising that The New Deal has toured in the past with the legendary Herbie Hancock, another musician whose jazz-funk-electronic vre defies classification. Bands like the New Deal are the spiritual offspring of the man whose career has turned out everything from traditional jazz to the robotic beats behind the 80s breakdance craze.
Progression, innovation, unpredictability, its the New Deal credo.
"Were not interested in maintaining the status quo, for sure," Shields emphasizes. "We always want to try to make it different. Thats why we improvise every night. We cant really sit in one place too long."
His rapid-fire delivery drives the point home he doesnt sound like he could play the same song twice in his lifetime, let alone night after soul-sucking night on a multi-date tour.
"One of the biggest pleasures in playing music is getting to play what you want," he emphasizes. "So many bands go out there and are hemmed in to a style; theyve got to play the same thing night after night after night. With The New Deal were able to not do that. We can go and change it up every night."
The New Deal plays the GLC tonight and Saturday. Tickets for tonights show are $15 in advance from Blueballs Boutique, The Electric Daisy Internet Café and the GLC, $20 at the door. Saturdays show is a part of the Whistler Film Festivals Passion Party. Tickets are $25, available through the Film Festival box office in the Blackcomb Lodge or by calling 604-938-3323.
Whistler DJ Mat the Alien opens on both nights spinning funk and soul sets.