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Published: 2006/11/19
by Joe Doherty

Rocket 3 – The Disco Biscuits

Sci Fidelty/Diamond Riggs 1055

Although beloved ex-Disco Biscuits drummer Sam Altman officially bowed out at the band’s fourth annual summer gathering, Camp Bisco, in 2005, a big piece of the group’s heart went out to its fans nine months earlier. Honoring its reputation as elite New Year’s Eve performers and perhaps as a love letter to New York City, its unofficial home-away-from-home for almost a decade, the Biscuits’ mighty wave of electronic trance-fusion left a nearly palpable watermark on the Hammerstein Ballroom’s upper deck. In the months that followed, the band continued on, playing a loose smattering of dates leading up to Altman’s emotional farewell in August.

The Hammerstein show had already left a considerable footprint in Biscuits lore, however. It marked not only the group’s last significant New York gig, but developed a reputation as a performance pinnacle, recognized by band and fans alike. Earlier this year, the night’s first two sets became the neatly-packaged the double-disc, The Wind at Four to Fly. The third set fell to the cutting room floor.

Enter Rocket 3, an album bubbling over with Altman’s distinct rhythmic contribution. While most drummers rarely stray from the beat his replacement, Allen Aucoin, included Altman braids various percussive textures into his playing, coercing his bandmates into different time signatures at moments when many of his peers slog into the bland realm of predictability. He leaves his mark throughout Rocket 3, just as fluidly providing color to his off-beats with perfectly-placed timbale swells as he upholds the Biscuits’ energy with flawless tempo, allowing the other three members ample room for exploration.

And explore they do. The Biscuits, as a unit at that place and time, manifested the visceral sync all bands strive for, but few actually achieve. With this in mind, the Biscuits achieve nirvana within the lofty space of “Magellan.” Stretched to capacity the jam clocks in at around 30 minutes it encompasses the group’s entire musical orbit in one sitting, often times sounding like a Grateful Dead tribute band from Jupiter. Keyboardist Aron Magner adds the most texture, shifting from dual-synthesizer rhythms, to fluttering xylophone effects, to soft piano lines, to outer space bleeps and blurps. Elsewhere, the Biscuits apply their signature formula of rearranging songs. Playing them backwards on some nights “inverted” or “dyslexic” work too or simply breaking them apart into separate pieces on others, the music is permitted more room to unfold. “Crickets,” which moves quite fast from a “Frog Legs” jam, is a direct continuation of Four to Fly’s latter disc and makes a lot more sense having listened to its first half.

Always considerate of the thematic, the band chooses the encore of “Hope,” a brave nod to its then-uncertain future without Altman. Pushing forward almost two years later, it seems that somewhere in between they must have followed their own advice: “And hope fuels generations/And hope can start your car/And hope is the root of fantasy/It’s nothing but a star.”

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