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December 7th, 2005 Amy Mccullough | Album Reviews
 

Boy Eats Drum Machine Dec. 3 at Doug Fir

Portland one-man band proves to be more than two turntables and a microphone.

     
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Boy Eats Drum Machine
[ELECTRO-POP] When a band starts its first show by sheepishly telling the crowd there's extra equipment on stage because some of it might not work, it doesn't fill listeners with high hopes. Add to that the fact that this Saturday appearance at the Doug Fir was Boy Eats Drum Machine's first live performance and the crowd would be forgiven to expect a disaster. But when the local one-man band cum three-piece broke into its dance-heavy pop with opener, "Eunuch," BEDM proved that it has more to offer than just, as the song claims, "A turntable and a Casio."

That's pretty much where BEDM started. On record, BEDM is the voice and instrumentation of Portlander Jonny Ragel combined with a number of borrowed beats, many from Bridgetown Breaks, an album of drum tracks created by some of PDX's most talented drummers, including Talkdemonic's Kevin O'Connor and Menomena's Danny Seim. Ragel's eclectic self-released full-length Pleasure is speckled with these drum tracks manipulated to suit his own sonic preferences, intriguing vocals and clever, if sometimes silly, lyrics that result in an infectious bass-heavy dance-pop.

Attempting to translate that album into a live show, Ragel could have simply employed an iBook, singing over premixed tracks and coming up with a live show without much life. Instead, Ragel relied on his DJing skills to re-create the complexities of his recording, and brought on two more players to turn the project into a three-piece band. Between his vocals, two turntables, keys, drums and guitar, BEDM not only re-created Pleasure but made it interesting to watch.

BEDM's "Pleasure Theme Song" was all it took to get the relatively small Doug Fir audience—waiting to see headliner Princess Superstar—up and bouncing, while the Snuggle Ups-like, ridiculously danceable "The Taste of Your Mouth" kept it going. And it wasn't just Ragel's adroit mixing abilities and his band's energy and confidence that sold the songs. Ragel also possesses a unique voice, transitioning easily from a shaky falsetto to deep, soulful crooning and adding yet another layer to his complex compositions.

It all seemed so simple when Ragel delivered his charming white-boy-with-soul panache on BEDM's synth-heavy singalong "Let's Get Lost Sometime." But behind the guise of this pristine pop, BEDM is creating a sound that's unique and mesmerizing, whether it comes from three people or its original source: the heart and soul of one boy who ate the drum machine.

 
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