Going for Broke

Broker/Dealer scores a tidy windfall with its minimalist brand of techno

Indeed, Broker/Dealer's creations gleefully plunders Top 40 hits. The duo's first effort, "Haulin' Oats," released on a split 12-inch for Los Angeles' Sentrall Records, reconfigures a riff from Hall & Oates, patching a tightly gaited drumbeat to sunny wisps of flanged guitar and keyboard. A move straight from the so-cheesy-it's-cool playbook, the theft points to Broker/Dealer's greatest strength: the underhanded wit that makes its music so delightful.

At a time when more and more "live" sets feature laptop-only displays of button-punching, Broker/Dealer distinguishes itself by actually making its music in real time. Armed with an array of samplers, sequencers, synthesizers, and "a whole banquet table of gear," as Fitzgerald puts it, the two run through carefully rehearsed sets, working off visual cues and handwritten notes, blending elements into one long, twisting amalgamation. "We just remix ourselves live, basically," says Bishop. "It's almost like DJing," agrees Fitzgerald, "in that we'll mix parts of one song into parts of the next, and they'll overlap in the middle. A DJ couldn't actually play our songs the way we do, because we've got complete control over every element."

The method -- often augmented by Matt Biederman's live visuals, which sync to Broker/Dealer's interlocking beats and phrases -- helps avoid making people stare at a glowing Apple logo all night. "We hope that what you see translates into what you're hearing," explains Fitzgerald. "We watched the video that was made at a gig at the DNA, and there are actually times where you can see Ryan do something, and you can hear the sound change. You'll see me click something and you'll hear that drop out, and then we'll both do something together, and it all comes back, and it's like, 'OK, I see who's doing what.' It's such a hard thing to tackle, the performance aspect of this music." But it's crucial, they suggest, if the audience is going to feel invested in the process.

Naomi O'Connell


Saturday, Dec. 7, at 10 p.m.

Tickets are $3


The duo also performs at the Paradise Boys record release party that same night, which starts at 10 p.m. at Arrow Bar, 10 Sixth St. (at Market), S.F. Tickets are $3; call 255-7920.

Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F.

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Even more striking is the fact that Broker/Dealer's records, up until this point, have essentially been live recordings, cut in the group's home studio in one take, with no overdubs. Still, the off-the-cuff product was good enough to draw the attention of Riley Reinhold of Germany's well-regarded Traum label, whom the two Ryans met while attending Montreal's MUTEK music festival two years ago. After hearing the duo's demo CD-R, Reinhold put out two Broker/Dealer 12-inches and a compilation track -- thus bringing the act full circle to the Teutonic sound that had initially inspired it.

The Traum deal had an effect on the home front as well. At a label showcase in S.F. earlier this year, Asphodel's Naut Humon signed up Broker/Dealer for a full-length. Working in Pro Tools, Bishop and Fitzgerald are now painstakingly placing their material into a software environment, where every element can be edited on computer. Once again, the two Ryans -- self-taught as DJs, promoters, and recording artists -- find themselves making it up as they go along. "With Pro Tools, it's just endless shots in the dark," laughs Fitzgerald. "Just last night we were working on a new song we've never sequenced out, so we recorded all the pieces into Pro Tools. Now we have them all laid out, just this mass of shit just sitting there. And it's like, 'Why don't we try it like this?'" He pushes at an invisible button. "Um, no. 'Why don't we try it like this?' Um, no. It's like, 'How fucking long is this going to take us?'"

Fitzgerald's gripe sounds more like autodidactic wonderment than dabbler-ish complaint. Whatever the rate of progress, Broker/Dealer's career is moving quickly: The two Ryans are already booking a European tour for early 2003, during which they plan to hook up with their German colleagues. Who knows what developments that exchange might bring -- or how it might forever alter the San Francisco electronic music landscape.

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