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Rephlex Records brings four of its relentlessly irreverent "braindance" artists to town

Wednesday, May 29 2002
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Lacking the bombast of rock 'n' roll, electronic dance music has few bad boys. It does, however, have more than its share of pranksters, thanks in part to the relentlessly irreverent antics of Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin. In contrast to the studied earnestness of Moby, James' persona pokes fun at (or as he'd say, "takes the piss out of") every aspect of his own cultish stardom. He plays sandpaper discs alongside records at his DJ sets, fosters rumors that he drives around London in a tank, and encourages speculation as to which artists on his label, Rephlex Records, are really just himself in disguise.

That last question, at least, should be mostly settled this Friday, when four of Rephlex's artists -- Bogdan Raczynski, Ovuca, DMX Krew, and Cylob -- appear at the Bottom of the Hill for the label's first American tour. While their styles diverge significantly, the musicians share one constant: Their respective takes on "braindance" (Rephlex's term for quirky electronic music that skirts the dance floor) reveal an Aphex Twin­like fondness for the perverse. Raczynski first gained attention for hectic, jackhammer "drill 'n' bass" tunes like those on 1999's appropriately titled Samurai Math Beats, but he's also tackled introspective ambient tones on My Love I Love and, stranger still, ambiguously ironic rave anthems on '96 Drum 'N Bass Classics. Raczynski's colleague DMX Krew -- that is, lone performer Ed DMX (Ed Upton) -- is also in sync with kitsch, turning out rollicking electro that recalls the era of fat laces and break dancers (no coincidence that DMX's own label is called Breakin' Records). Ovuca (Aleski Perälä), despite his history in industrial-strength drum 'n' bass, is the softy of the bunch, with a discography full of cushioned beats and fuzzy synthesizer textures as velvety and worn as Björk's son's childhood teddy bear.

Reflecting -- or perhaps that should be "rephlecting" -- the current state of post-rave performance, Raczynski, Ovuca, and DMX Krew now twiddle virtual knobs, having graduated from grooveboxes to laptop computers. But Cylob (Chris Jeffs), one of Rephlex's veteran artists, plays records instead of performing his own songs. After all, even iconoclasts love a DJ every now and then.

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Philip Sherburne

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