Home / Concert Reviews / Rio Turbo w/ Alex Body and Goldendust @ Quarter’s Rock ’n’ Roll Palace
Monday, May 13, 2013

Rio Turbo w/ Alex Body and Goldendust @ Quarter’s Rock ’n’ Roll Palace

May 10, 2013

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It’s become an integral, familiar part of the culture, of course, but when you step back, it’s still amazing to consider the ways that advancements in technology have transformed music in the last few decades. I’m not talking about the music industry, though that’s usually where the conversation veers, but how people create it, how they perform and connect with it. The best way for musicians to make a buck off their talents in the 21st century remains a pertinent question, but it’s more fascinating to ponder how the rise of affordable, powerful electronics have shaped how we approach the process of making music, how artists, like those playing here tonight, are putting that technology to work to create new sounds and to reinvigorate old ones.

Two-thirds of the bill at Quarter’s Rock ’n’ Roll Palace Friday was made up of visiting touring acts from Iowa City, Iowa (they’re not tricky like that Kansas City, Missouri) beginning with Goldendust, a duo who trade in a sound as vintage as their synthesizers, namely classic ’80s-style synth-pop. The moodier end of New Order is an obvious influence here, in fact the cover art for their 2012 self-titled release even looks like something that would have a Factory Records catalogue number, but it exists alongside plenty of darkly minimal, almost coldwave, elements which, along with some lo-fi, processed vocals, give it all a very (retro)futuristic appeal. Some of their best songs were low or mid-tempo, but this being a Friday night, they got the biggest response whenever the BPM ramped up.

Next up was Alex Body, a solo artist who, especially compared to Goldendust’s at-times-sparse arrangements, generates an awfully big sound for just one guy, coaxing a full, enveloping presence from a table full of synths, samplers and esoteric gadgets, all working together amid a morass of wires and patch cables. His style is hard to describe, an uneasy but mostly entrancing mix of washed-out comedown techno and woozy, psychedelic experimentalism, which pulls off the difficult feat of being haunting without being morose or overly self-serious. The vocals really tie it all together, though. Body, a sort of portly fellow with a mustache and denim jacket, looks more like a party animal type, but sings with some real emotional depth.

Finishing out the night was Milwaukee’s Rio Turbo, who’s been building quite the local following of late, thanks in part to the new Kiss FM, but mostly to live shows which have become one of the most dependable good times around. Maybe a little too dependable though; the new material is his best, perfecting his particular brand of sleazy, thumping party-pop, but its live presentation, previously boastful, daring and unpredictable, now seems worryingly codified, set in stone. Between the big beats and bodacious backup dancers, it’s still a killer party nevertheless, but while modern electronics made all the music tonight possible, for Turbo, whose entire set basically runs off a laptop, it’s also created the opportunity for more mischief. It would be wrong not make the most of it.
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