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Published: 2006/04/16
by Jesse Jarnow

The Wind at Four to Fly – The Disco Biscuits

Sci Fidelity/Diamond Riggs 1031


"Wow, that looks like the Vida Blue album," Suzy Gravestone said, spying the colorful Disco Biscuits double-gatefold live set, The Wind at Four to Fly, on her friend Danielle’s bed. She plopped down and picked it up.

"Naw, man, that's Bisco," Danielle told her. She closed the door.

"What's that?" Suzy asked, turning the package over in her hands.

"You'll see," Danielle said.

"Aren't disco biscuits drugs?" Suzy inquired as Danielle clicked into iTunes.

"Shhhh," Danielle said, lighting the incense.


The origin of their name notwithstanding, and even putting aside the alleged pharmacological habits of their fans, drugs remain an apt metaphor to describe the Disco Biscuits. More accurately, a single drug, and not even a real one at that: the pill. As in, "have you swallowed it?" It looks like the dude on the front cover can answer in the affirmative. This is mostly evidenced by the fact that he has turned into a caterpillar.

Perhaps perfectly palatable to furry, multi-legged insects, the central question posed by The Wind at Four To Fly — the necessary product to accompany the Disco Biscuits’ return to the road this spring with new drummer Allen Aucoin — is how much of the pill is transubstantiated, wine-to-blood style, via the music.

There is no grand statement contained during the disc's two-and-a-half-hours, even during the half-hour centerpiece "Basis For A Day," just a reaffirmation: we are the Disco Biscuits, we jam electro. Given that the band has been invisible to all but their most devoted fans for the better part of the past three years, this isn't a bad thing to reassert.


Topic: wind at 4 basis!!!

munchkin450 Posted: 04/12/06 10:32AM ET

basis for an album!!!

corereactor Posted: 04/12/06 10:34AM ET

BASS-is for an album you mean.

munchkin450 Posted: 04/12/06 10:35AM ET

aw yeh. that solos nasty!

eduardo_dub Posted: 04/12/06 10:37AM ET

Uh, what are you guys talking about? That's the most boring Basis I've ever heard! Just because it's a half an hour doesn't mean it's good.

corereactor Posted: 04/12/06 10:39AM ET

sorry dave we havent all seen 300000 shows.

browniepoints Posted: 04/12/06 10:42AM ET


munchkin450 Posted: 04/12/06 10:44AM ET

excuse me for living! ive seen 10 shows and i think the basis is awesome. they just get into that awesome groove with sammy going nuts on the drums before the first part of the song. then the big jam is just so slow and patient. magners keys are so perfect. its like the new deal or something.

alleged_ape Posted: 04/12/06 10:46AM ET

f you wookie! your gay for trey! suck pole!!!

eduardo_dub Posted: 04/12/06 10:52AM ET

> f you wookie! your gay for trey! suck pole!!!

Thanks, Ape. Which one of us, exactly, is gay for Trey?

munchkin, thanks for the nice reply. That's what I'm talking about around here: thoughtfulness. Anyway, I'm not that into that Basis. It's from Sammy's "last" show right? I'm listening to it again right now at work, and it's better than I remembered it, but it's still sort of boring to me. I feel like the jam sort of putters along for 20 minutes or so, gets a little bit faster, and then the band decides to cum, and suddenly they start playing really fast to get to the big explosion at the end. Check it out at 25:00 and tell me they don't decide to go for it then and there.

spy_v_spy420 Posted: 04/12/06 10:54AM ET

sexy time explosion!!!

munchkin450 Posted: 04/12/06 10:56AM ET

but thats exactly what i really love about it. their just grooving along and getting into all these kinds of mellow spaces and then its like they say "f that lets rock!"

alleged_ape Posted: 04/12/06 10:59AM ET

your all still gay!! who cares about basis? none of it is as good as conpsirator. thats the real shit! u might as well be on phish tour. oh sorry they broke up. bet u still like trey.

corereactor Posted: 04/12/06 11:03AM ET

so its not the greatest basis ever. whats the big deal?


As a dispatch from Biscuits-land, a new fan could do a lot worse than The Wind at Four to Fly. In that, it accomplishes some solids for the Biscuits. It returns them to visibility (literally, even if it does look like the new Vida Blue album). A partnership with String Cheese Incident’s Sci Fidelity label probably doesn’t hurt either. It also provides a good working portrait of the band’s repertoire for the new fan eager to dive in.

Musically, the discs — recorded during one of drummer Sam Altman's numerous "farewell" runs with the band, over their 2004-2005 New Year's run — capture a number of Biscuits' favorites that have eluded official release over the years. The off-time quirk-calypso of "Little Shimmy in a Conga Line" drops into fairly nebulous improv territory, colored by Aron Magner's chiming Rhodes and sparse guitar echoes from Jon Gutwillig. Altman and bassist Marc Brownstein decelerate meticulously. Just as gradually, they build speed and head (quite stunningly) for a flawless transition into "Pat and Dex," a placeholder from 1996's Encephalous Crime without much to recommend its songwriting, but plenty of neat rhythmic tricks for the live set.

Disc one provides a handful of shorter songs for those not ready to process the full on jammy jams (or maybe just to provide a contrast). Shorter, in the Biscuits' case, means generally in the ten minute range. With the Biscuits' terminal refusal to record or release some of their best material, including most of Gutwillig's Hot Air Balloon rock opera, and their perpetual rationalization of that decision, it is the Biscuits’ more "accessible" songs that require the most metaphoric pill-swallowing. (Metaphoric, dammit.) With song structures derived from years of learning what makes a song work for jamband fans (usually a long jam followed by big solo that reprises the song’s melody at a higher speed), the band’s musical language comes off as particularly insular.

For example, Aron Magner's "Spy," which trades in indistinct lite faux-noir, is a bit tough to penetrate, especially for those used to verses and choruses. Wah-wah pedal pushing gives way to a three-part vocal finish that is less thrilling than baroque, less menacing than endearing (despite the narrator's claim of being "on the run"). "World is Spinning" (the shortest song on the two discs, at under four minutes) is daunting, too: vague guitar changes and a strangely lilting figure combine with Gutwillig's half-rapped verses to sound like the product of an unknown metal band from Indiana.

Other cuts officially introduce "new" songs written since their last proper studio album, 2002's SeBoombox, including Marc Brownstein’s blurping "Caterpillar" (again, perfect for the Biscuits, but tough to penetrate for those not used to the Biscuits’ non-melodies, and circa-1997 ideas of electronic music) and Gutwillig’s instrumental "Sweating Bullets" (whose nifty "Helicopters"-like rhythmic hooks still need some ironing-out).

The message is clear: it is a songbook that is alive, even if there's a new drummer. Not only is it a songbook that's alive, but it's one that's meant to be processed as such. It's about the journey, maaaaaan. You know, the process. These are all just clues. Even if the 30 minute "Basis For A Day" on disc two is boring as fuck (which it’s not, at least not entirely), it does the trick: it has informed the listener that there is a long, exciting song called "Basis For A Day" that she should look out for the next time the Biscuits come to town. And they will be coming to town.


Martha Gravestone was a strong woman. She knew what disco biscuits were, even if her daughter didn’t. She remembered what they felt like, too, those nights in college, as the beats had blurred into light. She remembered how dry her mouth had been the next morning, the way the sheets felt. She was sure Suzy would be doing some sort experimentation. She didn’t mind. She’d done her share. But shouldn’t the new bands be naming themselves after better drugs than that? No, she wouldn’t be giving Suzy money to buy the new Disco Biscuits album.

After school that Thursday, Suzy and Danielle wandered into Puff 'n' Stuff for their weekly visit. They ogled the tapestries, and smelled the scented candles. Suzy eyed the poster of Janis Joplin hanging out by the rotunda in San Francisco. The week before, it seemed like the coolest poster in the shop. Now, she wasn't so sure. She really wanted that Disco Biscuits album. It seemed so different.

"Fuck your mom," Danielle told her. "Just burn the album from me."

"Okay," Suzy said. "But I don't have any blank CDs."

"You can borrow one from me," Danielle promised.

That was when they saw the ad: the Disco Biscuits would be playing next month. Tickets would be on sale the following week. If Suzy didn't buy the poster, and waited for her next week's allowance, she could afford a ticket.

"Just tell your mom that you're sleeping over at my house," Danielle said. "My mom will totally let us borrow the car. It'll be awesome."

"Yeah," Suzy said, smiling. "Awesome."

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