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Thom Yorke, Flea, Godrich, Waronker, Refosco at the Echoplex: Strictly Rhythm

Click here for photos from the Echoplex and of Thom Yorke at the Orpheum.

So. There was a lot of hype surrounding this show. That's inevitable when you toss Los Angeles, Thom Yorke, Flea, Nigel Godrich, and two percussionists into a 600-capacity club in the middle of Echo Park. The Internets get crazy, the frenzy of envy and desire created from a love of someone's music yields hope and desperation -- a digital manifestation of the frantic neural shit going on in peoples' heads. Pleading phone calls zipping up to satellites, passing unreturned texts in the air. The called-in favors granted. Promises of make-out sessions.

The dudes we were waiting with in line got lucky. One of them was on the web and dropped by by ticketweb at the right time, and, no muss/fuss, clicked at 12:03 and got a pair tickets. He thought he did something wrong when the payment page went up. He was supposed to go to the Dodgers game, but he and his friend hit Thom Yorke at the Echoplex instead. Weird.

Weird, sure, as was this whole Flea and Thom Yorke thing, the musical equivalent of Mickey Rourke doing a buddy comedy with Jude Law. Where did that come from? And where did it go? You can see for yourself courtesy of the great footage of Colette at Rock is a Girl's Best Friend, who captured nearly the whole set, which partially removes us from having to explain to you what the thing sounded like. Hear for yourself in this new song, "Skirting on the Surface."

On paper, odd, to say the least. Live, it was a beautiful thing, and made a lot of sense, given the super-human basslines Yorke programmed for The Eraser. It'd take a bass master, part ball hog, part tugboat, to pull this thing off. Flea pulled it off, and only had to do slap-bass stuff once. The rest of the time he moved around the low end like a shark in an aquarium. He was supported down there by two percussionists: the great Joey Waronker and Forro in the Dark multi-instrumentalist Mauro Refosco. Combined with Godrich on keyboards and guitar, the five men up there knew their instruments, and how to adapt -- and improve upon -- virtually any fake computer sound on The Eraser.

To us, the most frantic pieces recalled the post-rave sounds of 1990s England, who drew their inspiration from a few sources. One particular strain of that vibe found a home at the Too Pure label, a London-based concern best known for releasing the first recordings by both PJ Harvey and Stereolab. On the roster, as well, were a handful of beautiful live rhythm bands. Bands like Laika, Moonshake, and Stereolab reacted to the digital beats by replicating the complexity of proto-drum & bass and early breakbeat on human percussion, harnessed the artificial drum patterns and rhythms with analog instruments and Autobahn funk to make some beautiful convergence. As a springboard, they drew from the tribal percussion of early 70s German bands like Guru Guru, Faust and Can. Godrich, Waronker, Yorke, Flea and Refosco did the same.

One thing is for sure. This isn't any sort of vanity project. These guys are for real, and made music on Friday night that was both a logical extension of The Eraser -- some sort of advance -- and something very removed.