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LCD, M.I.A. dance fest flaunts flexibility of form

May 17, 2005|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Dance music is a big category of endless possibility and too much imitation. So it was a welcome night of nonstop invention and excitement Sunday at the El Rey Theater as the combined forces of LCD Soundsystem and M.I.A. took dance music on divergent but complementary paths.

LCD mastermind James Murphy was more indie rocker onstage than dance-music technocrat, unshaven in a black T-shirt and sneering into a microphone, rocking his "discopunk" collision of live beats and sequencers, sampled sound and ragged bass-lines.

His dance music had the edge and soul of punk rock's first wave. While the panicked "Tribulations" rewired classic disco, the urgent and droll "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" (introduced as "New York Is All Right but You're Bringing Me Down") was infinitely danceable while tapping the spiky, biting minimalism of Gang of Four or Romeo Void.

LCD's set closed with a live take on his 12-inch single "Yeah," which became the setting for an open-ended workout of beats and noise, and Murphy's endlessly repeated lyrics: "Yeah yeah yeah!" Nothing else was necessary.

Earlier at the El Rey, M.I.A. (a.k.a. Maya Arulpragasam) was a playful, challenging presence, her sparkling tracksuit and ease of performance offsetting the sometimes dark content of her songs, which mingled hip-hop, grime and dancehall beats.

As raw, animated images of war and peace flashed on the big screens behind her during "Amazon," M.I.A. paced the stage and chanted, "Blindfolded under homemade lanterns / Somewhere in the Amazon, they're holding me ransom.... Could you please come and get me?"

With sounds as ready for dance-music fanatics and crossover pop listeners, M.I.A. and LCD Soundsystem were in no need of rescue.

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