This Tuesday, Olympians Space Ballerinas and Tracy & the Plastics will be utilizing the aforementioned noggins (and slide projectors, televisions, etc.) to transport us to a place where the future is the present and past ("cuz it's all the same, eh?" says Wynne Ryan of Tracy & the Plastics). Sprouting from the same lo-fi, dark, challenge-me soil as Julie Ruin/Le Tigre, these bands are the future (and present and past) of DIY performance art and keyboard-based music.
Space Ballerinas, whose first 10-inch on yoyo Records will be released the VERY SAME DAY they play Portland, use drums (Kanako Wynkoop), bass (Kelly Chambers) and keyboards, vocals, and storytelling (Anna Huff). The sound of their instruments is pared down and trashy-sparse, but it's their vocals that get really space-like. Wynkoop's and Huff's operatic, galactic interchange materializes like glittery Kate Bush. Or, as Chambers says, "The first time I saw Anna play, her set seemed fractional. But her voice intrigued me. I think her style is analogous to Nina Hagen or Lene Lovich. Very haunting."
When they play live, Wynkoop and Chambers keep mischievous rhythms as Huff tells stories illustrated with slides. "They are a good way to satisfy a multimedia brain," Huff says. "Sometimes they may be the distinguishing factor between a 'show' and a 'performance.' They definitely add dimensions, if done effectively."
In a way, Space Ballerinas combine the music of the recent past with a futuristic sensibility. And what is futuristic about Benicio Del Toro? Chambers says, "His squinchy face."
If the Space Ballerinas' performance is about light air and atmosphere, Tracy & the Plastics (who say, "Benicio Del Toro is hot, but Gloria Anzaldua is hotter") are the underbelly of robotics and new wave. If they had a mission statement that described their sound, Ryan says, it might be "some slogans, like: 'LESBO-FOR-DISCO + KICK'EM IN THE TEETH!' or: 'ALL THE MODERNISTS! DROP A BEAT' and then: 'DROP THE BED, BREAK A BEAT: SO I ASKED MYSELF, WHAT'S A REAL WOMEN'S LIBBER?' You know, to get 'em rowdy."
Most intriguing is singer Ryan's delivery and how she enunciates vowels, making each word smack like a kiss or a scold. And with a tough stage presence, a keyboard, and two TVs, Tracy & the Plastics are part of the ever-increasing visionaries in the mysterious future (and past and present) of lady-centric, keyboard-based music. When asked if she sees this as a trend, Ryan answered, "YES! YES! YES ! It seems like how artists in the '70s came to video (when it first started to become accessible and portable) from other mediums, girls are starting to come to electronic music."
Tracy & the Plastics' first album, Muscler's Guide to Videonics (recorded by the ever-venerable Joe Preston), will be out May 14 on Chainsaw Records, and you should be excited, because it's entertainment on many levels--about being lo-fi yet still revolutionary. These are the ladies of the future (and present and past). And it's not all the same--not by a long shot.