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Considered together, they commit more than three times the crime, a cooking machine that rocks you to and fro and shakes you side to side while passing the coals for continually changing demonstrations of blister-fingered juggulation. You honestly feel that this can’t be happening in the same world as American Idol. (And it’s not.)

The fine drum exploder Cindy Blackman is called up from the audience. Reluctant at first, she settles behind El’Zabar’s kit while goalpost-thin guest mouthman Doc Sebi proclaims his proto-rap, then she locks in and whips into a high-tension solo that pulls against the beat till it damn near snaps. The roof is raised, then the walls are razed. We tiptoe out through the rubble. (Greg Burk)


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The good break appears but may never return, no matter how dearly one might wish it to: As Randm’s set segues effortlessly into Josh One’s beatmatching, weals of red light work their way across a lone b-boy doing pushups on the empty dance floor. There is a certain revelatory revelry in a DJ playing a familiar song — the thrill of goose bumps traveling the spine like the blossoms of springtime. Poet Name Life accentuates the positive with many a “Yeeuh!”; turntable and samples mix funkified “Für Elise” with dubby echoes and a bhangra shuffle. The Art of Fact’s Talent and Reason chant softly over trad orchestral flute and pants-shaking bass mantra, their affection for the crowd driving the rapport between them. (Hip-hop is, after all, the story of one man’s life as told through his heartbeat.) Rocky Rock unleashes two heavily syncopated tracks, beats flowing like mercury and equally concentrated, while Styles of Beyond bring the crowd closer via maximum NRG, a minimum of bullshit and a modicum of “Yes yes y’all!” in their revue of covers (“Gigantor,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog”).

DJ Spooky’s laptop projects images of collaboration with poet Saul Williams in the multimedia protest Not in Our Name. “Planet Rock,” test patterns and Sesame Street’s Bert blur in a flurry of warring images dissected only by blinking. The flip side of multimedia presentation is the pressure for a constant turnover of the Spectacular. Spooky’s rapid progression of images — like the 2’30” pop single — occurs so quickly that a certain amount of discourse disintegrates. Concepts are repeated because they must be. Obey. Resist. Stay asleep. (David Cotner)

THE STRATFORD 4, PEDRO THE LION at Henry Fonda Theater, May 20

A foggy night in San Francisco is as common as a sun-steeped summer morning in Los Angeles. When low clouds blanket the city’s airport, only dim lights keep planes from whizzing into each other. From this setting of mystery and hit-or-miss tension rises S.F. noise-pop quartet the Stratford 4. Equipped with an armory of interlaced guitar effects, the band navigates the wall-of-sound super runway of Spiritualized and My Bloody Valentine. Singer and guitarist Chris Streng used to play with members of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and his bandmates Andrea Caturegli (drums), Sheetal Singh (bass) and Jake Hosek (guitar) noodled around in Bay Area outfit Triplo. Amid both critical praise and indie disapproval of their new sophomore release, Love & Distortion, the Stratford 4 have begun to ascend.

Many at the Henry Fonda Theater last Tuesday showed up for headliners Pedro the Lion, whose slow-paced brand of emo-core ricocheted from melodic melancholia to pure (reviewer) boredom. The Stratford 4, however, kept up an inspired pace during their sweetly brief five-song set. The swirling framework of opener “Where the Ocean Meets the Eye” bled into Sheetal and Andrea’s catchy beat-and-bass backdrop on dark pop ditty “She Married the Birds.” Attractive and lanky, eyes cast upward, Streng reflected on Golden Gate Park and girls in his Brit-inflected twang.

The Stratford 4 sway more than smack, and “Telephone”’s 10-minute-long windstorm ended the night on a heady note. As a smoke machine blew gusts of blue fog onto the stage, Hosek fell into the loud drone of his guitar. The ultimate musician’s ode to “Mom,” the song rose into a blissed-out crescendo worthy of familial adoration and California hazy love. Streng sang, “I heard her smile at the end of the line/She said, ‘Son, you’re gonna be just fine’.” (Solvej Schou)

CALLA at Spaceland, May 25

Calla’s disorganized notes call up a heavily grunged version of the Cure — it’s not that they’re the same band, but you expect they share some posters. Pictures of earthquakes with fissures looking distinguished, like rockers that age well, all those beautiful wrinkles. But Calla doesn’t sound like the Cure. Calla sounds like a) Calla b) a storm always on the verge of breaking, granting resonance to every chance incident . . . this word . . . this discarded tin . . . right when you turn forever away . . . could be the moment Calla lets the storm loose like the sky, like the sky’s a black tomato ripe and finally smashed. Rocking out a card that could be drawn at any moment from the band’s jet deck. But drawn slow — Calla is a cruel dealer, ready to make you or break you but never ready to hurry.

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