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Euphone



Unlike their label-mates and fellow instrumentalists Turing Machine, Euphone eschews powerful math rock territory in favor of more introspective, slippery motifs, borrowing heavily from improvisational jazz, dubby reggae, and unrealized soundtracks. And Euphone takes the "post-rock" tag beyond bands like Tortoise, moving a few steps to the left of even that band's jazzier side. But enough about what Euphone isn't.

Euphone is a two-man instrumental experiment in full bloom, a soulful and accomplished blend of rhythm and exploration, and a slippery mishmash of influences that coalesces into one entrancing whole. Drummer Ryan Rapsys began performing solo as Euphone in 1994 to explore the musical influences he wasn't able to use in his Midwestern punk band Gauge -- namely, jazz and dub. Rapsys first performed as Euphone in 1997, wowing audiences as he simultaneously played drums and keyboards. Hefty Records released Euphone's debut self-titled full-length in 1997 and an EP, Breaking Parole, in 1998.

In 1999, Rapsys recruited bassist (and fellow Heroic Doses member) Nick Macir, moved to Jade Tree Records, and released a second full-length album, The Calendar of Unlucky Days. A definite aura of experimentation hangs over the songs on this release: melodies meander over rhythmic structures, wandering through the aural landscape without losing direction. While the duo isn't afraid to improvise, they do not ignore the need for structure, balancing dapples of organ, smatterings of samples, and clever, multifaceted drumming with their smooth, bass-centric, jazzy sounds. This music is not designed to get you up and moving. In fact, its subtle nuances and many layers invite quiet and careful consideration.

The tape loops and samples are often playful, but sometimes unnerving. "Cindy You Hate to Eat" is a spacey bubble ride, interspersed with a disembodied female voice repeating weight-loss mantras ("Food means nothing to success, you are thin, you are thin, you are very thin"). After a minute of self-esteem bashing, the track gives way to "Wickedness," the most rockin' song on the record. The featured track, "As Close to Cold," is dubby and playful, with jauntily warbling keyboards and warm melodic guitars that stroll over a tight drum and bass foundation.

The games continue on Euphone's third album 2000's Hashin' It Out, which sees our boys skipping from style to style as if they were so many rocks in a backyard creek. There are some Latin-derived sounds (vibes and Congas), a little funk, some weird experimental electronic stuff, and plenty of deep freaky grooves. Oh, and even the occasional vocal (a first in Euphone history). "Press On" is one of the album's more rock and roll moments, a dexterous combination of dazzling rhythms, surf-inspired guitars, and smooth keys. Pure euphony!

Euphone can shift moods and atmospheres faster than a room full of preschoolers, but they always keep it on the nice and easy down-mellow tip. Check out the soundtrack of your unimagined dreams, Euphone style!