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Published: 2005/03/05
by Brad Farberman

Artifact – Sound Tribe Sector 9

Here's what you want to do: invite your funky friends over, dim the lights, and throw on Sound Tribe Sector Nine's latest full-length, Artifact. Wait for a sticky summer night if you can — and have a few, sweet drinks handy — but yeah, you definitely want to do this.

Because that's what this record was made for. It's a tad too mellow to take charge of the dance floor (which is not to say that Sound Tribe can't, because they can), but it's tailor made to turn an intimate house party inside out.

Think about it: it's exactly what you want to hear while you're making new friends, catching up with old ones, or just movin' it in a crowded room. Low-enders drummer Zach Velmer, percussionist Jeff Lerner and bassist David Murphy provide propulsive, unobtrusive grooves that wrap you in their supple rhythms; keyboardist David Phipps and guitarist Hunter Brown fill out the sound with subtle, pseudo-ambient noodlings straight out of the en(o)cyclopedia.

So, in short, A Tribe Called Sector's music never invades on your privacy, nor crowds your space. It just keeps washing over you, making sure you're moving and smiling.

And it's been that way for eight years now. Stone Mountain, Georgia natives Brown, Murphy and Velmer got together in 1997 and things kind of snowballed from there. The trio expanded to a quintet with the entrance of Phipps and eventually Lerner, the gigs kept coming (including a stint as the backing group for former Stevie Ray Vaughan trumpeter El Buho) and in 1999 they dropped their first record, Interplanetary Escape Vehicle.

A lot more followed. Between 2000 and 2004 they released three more discs (Offered Schematics Suggesting Peace in 2000, Seasons 01 in 2002 and Live At Home in 2003), toured all over the United States (and as far as Japan!), and even caught the attention of one Perry Farrell (they were tapped to perform at this past summer’s Lollapalooza… the one that never happened).

Which brings us to now. 2005 is shaping up to be the Tribe's biggest year yet: they've got a full touring schedule through April and a new record that's looking to blow minds. According to STS9.com, Artifact is full of
"love and intention" and that's no lie. This record is full of wise groovecraft, dope arrangements and, well, love and intention. The boys worked hard on this one and it shows.

The funky, driving "ReEmergence" finds Brown stripping it down and Murphy fondling a fretless; the results are trancey, but not too slick (too slick=cheese). "Trinocular" sounds like The Slip's better instrumental indie-pop; "Peoples," complete with soothing female vocals credited to "Audio Angel" (seven of the twenty tracks here include vocals), could've been an outtake from RJD2's Dead Ringer sessions (think "Ghostwriter").

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The first single, "Tokyo," sits atop a simple, unchanging drum beat; the Georgians layer eerie, synthtastic keyboard lines, slide guitar and a searching bass line, all in the name of building and intensity. By the time the evil coda has rolled around and gone (seven minutes later), the drums still haven't budged (now that's intense).

Artifact is worth your time (and everyone else’s, too). It’s a mature, groovy meditation on the concept of smooth mood. And you need that.

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