Conspirator/Break Science, The Top Hat, Missoula, MT – 2/8
Photo by Matt Riley
When Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein of the Disco Biscuits formed Conspirator as a drum and bass electronica duo they did so to create a platform in which they could produce long jammed out tracks with a full electronic sound, without singing, just Brownie on bass and synths and Magner on keys as well as producing. This didn’t last too long as over the years they have had a number of notable drummers and guitarists sit in with them making it a livetronic quartet, and for this tour they have put together Conspirator as a true quartet with the viciously talented Chris Michetti of RAQ on guitar and the whip-fast drumming of Lane Shaw of Pnuma Trio. The results are fantastic.
Opening up for the quartet on this blistery 5 degree night in Missoula was the Dub / Electro / Hip Hop duo from New York- Break Science – featuring the machine like drumming of Adam Deitch of Pretty Lights and the samples of Borahm Lee also on keyboards and programming. Lee also busted out a melodica for a few tracks adding somewhat of a livetronic sound yet always retaining an electro feel. After just releasing the EP Further Than Our Eyes Can See on January 25th the duo had a plethora of danceable and moving tracks to perform. And the drumming of Deitch while sometimes overshadowed in Pretty Lights was nothing less than remarkable with Break Science. One could stand a few feet from him and his kit, in the mix of the moving crowd and just stare in awe at his rhythm, timing and leadership that reverberated from his drum-work. The opening act did not disappoint and set a high bar for what would be a remarkable show to follow.
After a brief break Conspirator had their time on stage to headline a noteworthy performance. Brownie and Michetti split center stage with Shaw on his acoustic kit on stage right and Magner with his keys and all his tools of the trade surrounding him on stage left. They opened the show with a very drum and bass heavy version of the Disco Biscuits track “Flash Mob.” As the song progressed and built, the band noticeably worked with the sound engineer to tweak their instruments until getting the exact balance they wanted. Michetti didn’t take long to show his skills as his subtle yet impactful guitar work complemented the talent of the other three, creating a driving and and totally out of this world trance-fusion feel. The keyboard work of Magner then opened the next song, a full instrumental version of yet another Biscuits fan favorite, “Mirrors.” It was one highlight in a show full of them as the crowd cheered loudly at the first notes and danced through the last. During the Conspirator original “Oneme Wa,” Shaw started to fall into a groove that was nothing short of nuts, hitting the hi-hat and cymbals with the quickness and discipline of a drum machine. He wasn’t even phased when his headphone monitors came off, keeping his timing to near perfection.
All the while Brownie orchestrated what could only be described as a very tight quartet that had found a playground for all to share. “Liquid Handcuffs” from the Conspirator album The Key, was the beginning of a sequence that included “What They Want,” and “Park Ave.” Another shared Biscuits track also on The Key, “Commercial Amen” was the apex of the show. With Magner moving from keyboard to his laptop and back, raising his hands in the air, the band took use of the negative space stopping on a dime to create complete silence and then dropping back into the tranced out version of this fan favorite. As they continued onward, Marc and Aron bobbed their heads to the beats coming from the synths, bass and the drumming of Shaw, while Michetti gave more meaning to his name by slicing through the complex structures, adding just enough guitar to make this a jam-rock-band.
After playing for almost two hours they set into the closer, an immensely powerful and intricate “Portal To An Empty Head.” The encore which came in the form of “Trans-Continental” a RAQ song brought to the band from Michetti, was a fury of space-fusion with all members taking their time to showcase their abilities one by one and then coming together at the end as a single unit, leaving the crowd eyes wide open, mouths agape. All in all, it was a solid showing of what chemistry and love of ones craft can create on any given evening.