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February 6th, 2008 NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL | Music Stories
 

Atole Friday, Feb. 8

How one solo act-cum-dance party proved a self-fulfilling prophecy.

     
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Dance, Dance, Evolution: Manny Reyes (second from left) and Atole.
IMAGE: nilina mason-campell

[EXPERIMENTAL DANCE] “Everything’s going to change,” says Atole frontman Manny Reyes. His declaration could’ve been Atole’s motto for its entire decade-plus existence, but he’s in fact referring to what’s on the horizon for the capricious electro-experimental outfit.

Having diligently saved for the better part of a year, Atole now has top-of-the-line equipment to take its sound to the next level. Reyes’ vocals, though part of the live show, have rarely found their way onto Atole’s recorded output; now, they’re about to become just as much a part of the band as the physical instruments. And practices that were once a month will now take place twice a week. In essence, the band’s four members, all in their 20s, are taking the project seriously. And they expect it to evolve into something completely different from both its origins and many subsequent forms.

Atole began as a solo effort employing found sounds, or field recordings. But after Reyes’ initial move to Portland in 2000, the project developed into something splicing a one-man band and a performance-art outfit. Among a bevy of boomboxes forming a semi-circle and playing out of sync, Reyes would surround himself and sing—occasionally winding up in prerecorded arguments with the stereo systems. The tempestuous man-vs.-machine relationship came to a head in 2005 when the boomboxes, uh, kicked Reyes out of the Towne Lounge during a show. After retaliating by smashing them to pieces, Reyes considered Atole a closed book—until beat-master Tim Ferrell asked to join, marking a new chapter. Atole has further expanded to include synth and effects specialist Howard Gilliam and, as of August, live percussionist Mike Conroy.

When selecting the project’s moniker, Reyes couldn’t have imagined the title would end up suiting his ambient dance act so well: Its namesake is a Latino drink mix that holds the iconic status of Kool-Aid in Mexico and Central America, and it comes in as many flavors as the band has taken on guises. Of the cornstarch-based drink, 29-year-old Reyes says, “It’s something you can make in bulk and share.... It’s weird, it’s sweet, it’s warm, it’s ambiguous. [Atole] is all these things, and it represents family.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.


SEE IT: Atole plays Friday, Feb. 8, with DJs Koolaid, Pocketrock-It&Tre Slim at Roturre. 10 pm. $5. 21+.
 
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