Relix - Music for the Mind
Artists Too New To Know 

1. THE CAT EMPIRE: Melbourne, Australia
The Cat Empire may be the biggest thing to hit from Down Under since Men at Work. Formed in 1999, the band has fine-tuned its mix of funk, hip-hop and jazz, creating an infectious sound which owes more to classic soul and world beat dance music than Australia's native sounds. The group's 2005 release, Two Shoes, was even recorded in the same Cuban studio which brought the Buena Vista Social Club to fame. The Cat Empire has spent the past seven years barnstorming clubs and festivals, touching down on four continents and scoring a multi-platinum hit in Australia. And, while the sextet hasn't quite hit stadiums stateside, the group has scored choice spots at important summer festivals like Bonnaroo and Wakarusa. Just don't confuse them with that other group in the litter. "Every so often someone will come up to us and say, 'I just love Cat Power,'" singer Felix Riebl jokes. "We say 'thanks,' but remind them that's the band with the female singer." Mike Greenhaus

Somewhere in a mix of jazz, classical and rock you'll find The Jason Seed Elixir Ensemble. As the composer of the group, Jason Seed set out to combine these styles in a unique way. "Classical was the popular music of its time, then jazz," he explains. "wanted to bring them together and incorporate the emotional immediacy of rock." The Elixir Ensemble released its first album, Delusions, in July and after playing a spot at this year's South By Southwest, the band found itself embraced by a whole new audience. "Our crowds are eclectic... the freaks come out of the woodwork for our shows," says Seed. "The jam scene is very embracing and more accepting than most audiences." It's not surprising that jamband folks have caught on—Seed credits early Phish and Frank Zappa as being a few of his biggest influences. "Like Zappa and Phish, our music has an odd time signature and is intensely structured but mixed with improvisation," he explains. "I don't sit down and say 'I need to write a song with a bitching guitar solo.' I don't try to make the music do anything it doesn't want to." Rebecca Carter

3. DUB IS A WEAPON: Brooklyn, NY
After serving as a part-time member of NYC ska faves The Stubborn Allstars and The Slackers—and while doing a two-year residency in Antibalas— guitarist Dave Hahn got the itch to do something that he could call his own. So he drafted the rhythm section of the Allstars and the Antibalas horn section and cut a batch of recordings that birthed the mighty Dub Is a Weapon, which now claims Jamaican percussion legend Larry McDonald (Peter Tosh, Gil Scott-Heron, Taj Mahal) among its core members (along with Hahn, guitarist Ben Rogerson, bassist Dan Jeselsohn, trombonist Buford O'Sullivan and drummer David Butler). Recently serving as both opener and backing band for dub pioneer Lee "Scratch"Perry, the group recalls the grittier, hard-hitting sounds of Britain's Dub Syndicate. "I realize that most people's idea of dub is something that you sit on your couch and listen to while doing bong hits," chuckles Hahn, 32. "But I wanted to do something that would make people get up and dance—and something that was a little more confrontational." Mission accomplished. Wes Orshoski

4. DEVOTCHKA: Denver, CO
A quartet of far-flung musicians whose collective background bisects a dizzying number of cultures, Devotchka transports you to an Eastern European bar that's ended up in Mexico, where stoic charges of vaudevillian circus music ameliorate hazes of heartbreak that hang in the air like cigarette smoke. "It's definitely visually-inspired music," says frontman Nick Urata. "I always know we are onto something good when it inspires imagery in my head." Weaving through the sway of upright bass and rat-a-tat-tat drums are instruments like accordions, bouzoukis, sousaphones and, just for good measure, a theremin. Whether it's tearing at your heart or encouraging reverie, it's undeniably cathartic, thanks in large part to the lacerating vocals of Urata. "There is an inherent sadness that we can't seem to avoid," says the singer. "It gives the music more resonance. We are not trying to bum everybody out, though. In fact, it's a sort of joyous release that makes you feel a little more alive. Like when your heart gets broken you finally wake up and realize how short life is." Josh Baron

5. GRETA GAINES: Jackson Hole, WY
"I've had to really scrap and use every single medium available tome to promote myself,"Greta Gaines says matter-of-factly. Her scrap pile includes being the first women's Extreme Snowboard Champion, hosting Freeride with Greta Gaines on the Oxygen network and continuing to host ESPN2 shows like Bass Center and American Sportsman. Picking up the guitar and finding her voice in her early 20s, Gaines began to get her music exposed through her adept ability at finagling her songs into programs and events she was already being featured in. With two albums of smoldering but rocking singer/songwriter material, Gaines shifted gears for her recent Can't Kill the Flavor EP, which employs beat-based atmospherics around slightly darker tales of love and drugs. Gaines is also being featured in Ethan Hawke's upcoming film The Hottest State and will likely add a track to the soundtrack alongside Norah Jones, Willie Nelson and Cat Power. "All the physical stuff that I've tackled is, in a way, a confidence-boosting precursor to having the balls to really follow my dream to be an artist." Josh Baron

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Relix Magazine - WideSpread Panic
September/October 2006
(on newsstands 9/5)

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Also in this issue:
Mindful music from around the globe: The Beat, Soundcheck and Fragments

The Brazilian Girls

Soul legend Sam Moore

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