In the interest of keeping my New Year’s resolution (and indulging my inner dance gypsy), I headed to Pennsylvania last weekend for a friend’s birthday party techno contra where the recently-formed duo Phase X (Ross Harriss and Christopher Jacoby of acoustic contra dance band Last Exit, among others) were wrapping up a mini-tour of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I had heard good things from my local friends about their gigs the previous week, and so was excited to hear what could be done with a computer/synth and a saxophone.
Although the concept of live music mixed with prerecorded sounds invites comparison to Firecloud
, I would say that that is where the comparison points end. Phase X draws from a really wide variety of sources in pop culture (movie scores are particularly notable) and adds not only the saxophone but coordinates a light show to go with the music’s phrasing. While I did find that I missed the sound of a fiddle a little (which is common to a lot of contra dance bands, acoustic or electronically-infused), the saxophone playing and the innovation behind the sources of the prerecorded music was epic and very eclectic (Pirates of the Caribbean
’s theme, anyone? Eiffel 65’s “Blue?” Cascada’s “Evacuate the Dancefloor?” All in one afternoon?). Not bad for a couple of guys in tuxes and EL wire! While Phase X does still seem to be working out some rough points (the transitions between prerecorded tunes seemed a bit sudden at times at the gig I went to, and at times the saxophone got drowned out and I couldn’t tell whether that was intentional) but they do pack a rollicking good time and keep the energy in the room sky-high. They seem to have a really good hold on neat and interesting things to add to the crossover contra mix, and I am looking forward to watching them develop their sound further.