VENUE: Smik-Smak Theater
DATE: April 22
PERFORMANCE: Professional

The general public seems to have a reverential attitude toward the
technological advances that have permanently altered the consumer
market. But just as the corporations that produce the ever
smaller, ever lighter, ever cheaper electrotoys cannot exist in some
profitable bubble within a rotten economy, so it is unwise to
assume that anyone can trot down to their favorite synth shop
(K-Mart? Roger Dodger?), pick up the latest in electromuse hardware
and achieve instant musicianship at the press of a button.
Microprocessors are only tools after all, and it's just as easy to be
a hack electronic band as a hack guitar band. While we who dwell
in the Domeland are subjected to an endless stream of the latter, the
former is (increasingly) conspicuous in its absence.
On the other hand, we have Insoc -- aka Information Society --
a group that works hard at producing the best possible sound
from relatively inexpensive gear. Young enough (average age: 20)
and smart enough to realize that guitars and drums can be done
without, Insoc constructs its sound around a Roland drum
computer that produces a most insistent beat replete with a
"kickdrum" with frequencies approximating chest cavity resonance.
Far from the minimalist concepts of some electronic bands, Insoc
layers on synth parts almost to excess; pop cliches, themes from
half-forgotten movies, rockin' distorto bass lines from this portable
rectangular construction, cracking snare sounds, noise icing,
etc. The tempo does not vary much; the overall sound is
frenetic, commercial, dancable. Most compositions are original,
but Insoc's version of James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing"
and the obligatory Residents cover ("Santa Dog") should be
mentioned. Insoc's high-tech schtick spares
nothing save expense: headset mikes, a Vocoder, pastel-colored
clothing, Mattel syndrums, rather Kraftwerk-type robotic
choreography, armbands with the ubiquitous Insoc logo (which
looks like the MTC logo with an I instead of a T), as well as some
polite beating on junkyard parts to roughen out the edges. Insoc's
performance last Friday at the Smik-Smak Theater in south
Minneapolis (a temporary venue for some Czech theater people
who are being zoned out of the now-residential-only neighborhood
by the powers-that-be) allowed the group the time to arrange
the space more to their liking: blinding lights for the audience,
six television sets playing cut-up commercials and song titles
via computer graphics, a slide projector loaded with horrifying
images -- liquor and cigarette ads. If this is "Information
Society," the message is overload. It's the subtle manipulations
packed into those ads that best exemplify the interests of a group
whose long-range plans include establishment of an advertising
agency. Jingles, slogans, suspicion of the past and an eye on the
future -- it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

-- Stefan Hammond