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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Rapture: Punk, funk and noise

The New York band has versatility and energy, but some vocals take a little getting used to.

May 17, 2003|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

The Rapture is yet another young band making an interesting hybrid of minimal punk and electronic dance music, and the New Yorkers' angular, post-postmodern groove wowed the youthful hipsters who packed the El Rey Theatre on Thursday. The group's raw energy was fetching, but its music wasn't that distinctive, and the shrill vocals were definitely an acquired taste.

Formed five years ago in San Francisco by reedy-voiced singer-guitarist Luke Jenner and drummer Vito Roccoforte, the Rapture eventually relocated to Manhattan, where it added bassist-vocalist Matt Safer.

After releasing EPs on such indie labels as Sub Pop and Gravity Records, Rapture recently completed a full-length album, which hasn't yet received a release date from DFA Records, the label started by the NYC underground production team of James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy.

On Thursday the trio sported an additional keyboardist, who also artfully banged a cowbell and played alto sax, giving some numbers the feel of '70s English punk band X-Ray Spex. The hourlong set favored punchier numbers, eschewing the band's nerve-grating ballads. Good decision.

Underscoring the band's mixed sonic heritage, the musicians shifted smoothly from traditional instruments to an all-synth lineup and back, and veered from jagged punk a la Wire or Television to taut, Gang of Four-like mutant funk. The songs had a vague, almost gothic sense of desperate romantic need, but Jenner's piercing yelps tended to get lost in the noisy mix, making it hard to understand or care about what he was saying.

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