Thursday, May 01, 2008

Chop Screwy

Lazer Sword flip the script on the boom-bap tip to forge something fresh and freaky.

By Jack Oatmon

It’s a percussive aggregate of neurotically deconstructed samples and synth hooks sprayed with a swarm of twitchy, gibbering bleeps and blasted out of the speakers, woven with artfully decayed bass thumps, and it sounds like a nightmarish prophecy about the future of hip hop production. Antaeus Roy and Bryant Rutledge, the two gentlemen behind the booth, originally met across the counter of San Francisco music shop Amoeba, where Roy regularly remarked on Rutledge’s sharp and comparable taste.

It was not long before they crossed paths socially and began crafting their sophisticated demolition derby, pitting up-to-the-second electronic production with the raw charm of the hyphy wave.

“We were both into making straight up rap, hip hop shit at the time,” recounts Rutledge, “but once we hit the studio together it became clear we were both trying to step away from doing the same formulaic boom-bap business with something a little different.”

“Started flipping the script a little,” says Roy, “adding more electronics and equipment in the game, and just grew from excessive jam sessions and new inspiration over the past couple years.”

They’ve also both done time in the electronic music press, with Rutledge presently working at the eminent XLR8R.

“Our current sound came through trial and error,” explains Roy, “experimenting with new sounds and not always restricting ourselves to sample based beats, adding more synthetic glitches, bloops, and occasional bleeps here and there. Being in the Bay at the forefront of the hyphy movement plays a big part. As well as meshing that with the fact that we both at one point worked for the same electronic music magazine, feeding off of material that was a bit new to us at the time.”

“I think it was a natural shift from what we were doing already,” says Rutledge. “In addition to our love for hip hop and ignorant rap music, we both got down to all types of strange experimental shit before we met each other, and were also buying into a ton of old psychedelic rock and early synthesizer music as well, so it was only a matter of time until everything got smushed together.”

Peep the jams at

Pop Panopticon

Midnight Juggernauts explore heavy themes from variable viewpoints.

By Jack Oatmon

In this age of retro reclamation and revisionism, scores of artists are chasing an eloquent comparison of the futuristic visions of pop culture from recent decades with the reality that has sprung from them. But few have achieved such a resonant vision as Melbourne’s Midnight Juggernauts. They’re one of a handful of Australian rock-electronic crossover groups that have wholeheartedly abandoned genre definition in favour of mood and texture that speak to both classic songwriting sensibilities and point-and-click culture. On their fabulous debut album, Dystopia, the trio gazes back to Jules Verne and mid-70’s sci-fi rock conceptualism – Rocky Horror and Ziggy Stardust – with knowing glances at New Order and Daft Punk, but without relying on gimmicky nostalgia. In fact, the outward-looking record sincerely presses forward and dreamily hints at issues largely ignored by modern groups – war, consumerism, commercialization – never mired in the self reverence or deprecation of indie rock.

“We didn’t really go in thinking this is what we want to do,” drummer Dan Stricker told me over the phone from Coachella, explaining that the flow of the album was not originally planned. “But as the songs came together and as it was unfolding, we just took it in a direction and played with that. We wrote 30 or 40% of the record in the studio. I hate to say it’s a concept record, but there’s definitely this underlying theme.”

The uncontrived direction of the album does not, however, take away from its encompassing integrity. In fact, the disc is completely engaging, making for a moody, psychedelic listen.

“One thing we have always liked is music that creates moods, otherworldly stuff,” says Stricker. “I know it sounds really cliché, but you make this other sonic world for people.”

The recent releases of some promising material from their peers in the Australian scene bode well for the often foreboding sounds of Midnight Juggernauts.

“Australia has been associated with the whole pub rock thing forever. But it seems like in the last three years, a lot of other similar bands have started up. Now our record and the Cut Copy record and the Presets are totally crossing over into the mainstream. None of us would have ever imagined that. It’s bizarre.”

Check the video for "Shadows" or hear them at