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Freak that bunny down


Of all the Internet bulletin boards devoted to Rabbit In The Moon the one with the most traffic is the one arguing just what sub-genre of electronica to file the band under. This board, dedicated to the spacey, mysterious electronica duo's mix of high-tech drama and high-profile remixes for precious cult faves like Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos, inspires a certain cybergeek fanaticism. It alternately tags RITM's music "jungle," "ambient" and "dub." RITM members David Christophere and Steve McClure have made a career out of being both all of and none of the above.

Since forming five years ago in Tampa, Florida -- the same region that gave the world death metal and Marilyn Manson -- RITM has operated as a bizarre anomaly on the U.S. underground rave scene. While their brethren stick to making faceless beats for a fiercely underground market, Christophere and McClure have done the exact opposite. They concentrate instead on being a spectacular live act and doing remixes for mainstream artists such as Garbage, White Zombie, and the aforementioned Lilith deities. Most of those are now compiled on The Rabbit in the Moon Remixes Vol. 1, on the Hallucination label.

Musically, RITM creates a parallel netherworld suspended blissfully between the beat-numb finality of dance music and the borrowed interest of the artists they interpolate. Their remix of Garbage's "Queer" mines just a few vocal samples from the surly original to build a sound track-worthy bit of minor epicism over an elastic bassline and glowing synthesizers. For deejays, it's unrecognizable as Garbage and ripe for club play; for the rest of the listening world it's "Name That Tune" material for the hipper public radio crowd.

Live, however, is where RITM's style-as-substance approach is its most impressive. For the American electronica scene, with its penchant for turning deejays into rock stars, it's also the most important. Their Sigfried-and-Roy-for-ravers stage show is a hybrid of the Orb's little fluffy psychedelia and German glam-metallists Rammstein's brute-force theatrics. In it, Christophere and McClure conjure up an ethereal paganism worthy of late '80s goth industrial acts Skinny Puppy or Cocteau Twins. Even their name, in true throwback modern-primitive fashion, comes from Mayan mythology. In their showy totality, there's a kind of "fuck dance, let's art" indulgence that goes beyond the raver vernacular of "dope," and "phat" and into the realm of Artaud's "Theatre of Cruelty." F'real.

Which makes the fact that RITM's Detroit debut this Saturday is at an underground party, Analogue Systems' "Freaks Believe in Beats," that much more remarkable. Just how RITM's moodscapes and industrial kabuki will go over in the keepin'-it-real Detroit scene, with its reluctance to embrace over-the-top performers (as seen earlier this month in New York shock gabberist Oliver Chessler's skeptical reception at Flavor Fools' "Summer's Lust" party) is debatable. Sam Fotias, of Detroit sound company Burst (handling the technical end of RITM's massive staging requirements Saturday) saw them perform at Miami's Winter Music Conference two years ago. "It's a total sound and light extravaganza. One guy does these routines that border on New York club kid-type stuff, with ten costume changes and masks. But musically, it's a little fluffy, hands-in-the-air type stuff," he says, "It's not your typical challenging Detroit techno."

RITM's appearance at "Freaks Believe In Beats," along with acts such as eccentric rapper Kool Keith and big beat stars Uberzone (raves make for some strange bedfellows) is further proof that Detroit's most ambitious musical programming is coming from its DIY party scene. Thankfully, the scene has the goods -- last June's abysmal "Breaks" party notwithstanding -- to pull it off. Adds Fotias, whose Burst crew provided the unprecedented 165,000 watts of sound for System's August 15th 4000-plus "Fuck The System" homeless benefit/party: "We just got Rabbit's equipment rider and it's more extensive than acts we do sound for at Pine Knob. It's a lot to pull off under one roof. But we're gonna do our part to make it happen." Believe, indeed. Hobey Echlin writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]

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