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The shape of sound

It's interesting, at the very least, to note that the Beatles are the most popular band in the world right now.


The band's remastered catalog sold millions around the world during its first five days of release last week, and no, baby boomers were not the only folks lining up to drop money they don't have on music created 40-odd years ago. I choose to interpret this as follows: People are starving for music that is adventurous, playful, ambitious, brilliant, memorable, and worth the time away from responsibilities that focusing on it demands.

From 1966 onward, the Beatles were really creating what we might now safely call "art-rock." Meaning, this was pop music treated as art, which suggests that for the first time, composition, structure, dynamics and manipulation of the recording studio were all considered colors on a palette.

Thirty years -- almost to the day -- after the Fab Four released the sonic masterpiece "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the spirit with which the Liverpool lads explored the nature of acoustic space manipulation on that album found its responding echo in Western New York.

In a recording studio outside of Fredonia, Oklahoma-bred band the Flaming Lips laid down an album called "Zaireeka!," a conceptual CD that would be the first of its kind.

The Lips already had a history of probing the outer reaches of pop possibility by that point, one that would deepen over the next decade and one that is likely to enter a new phase when the band releases the double-album "Embryonic" in October. That "Zaireeka!" was . . . well, different doesn't really begin to cover it.

Essentially, the record took the form of one large composition comprised of four separate parts. The band envisioned the album as four discs meant to be played simultaneously -- based on what singer Wayne Coyne coined "the boombox experiments," in which four free-standing CD players would spin discs 1 through 4 in real time; a conductor would offer a count-in so that all four "play" buttons would be pressed simultaneously. In 1997, more than a few dorm rooms, bachelor pads, basement jam-spaces and even parking ramps would play host to "Zaireeka!" parties.

Go ahead, laugh, but this was no mere experiment in freakish self-indulgence. (It was partly that, of course.) "Zaireeka!" is in fact a successful exploration of the manipulation of acoustic space -- an actualized attempt to get "inside" the sound itself. Musically, the album remains stunning, even if you listen to each disc separately. Together, the effect is gorgeously hallucinatory.

Not everyone has four CD players handy at any given time, and thus, appreciating "Zaireeka!" in all its intended glory can be a daunting task. Relax. Your friends at Sugar City -- 19 Wadsworth St. in Allentown -- are hosting what appears to be Buffalo's first official, public-space "Zaireeka!" party at 8 tonight.

The event is free -- though optional donations will be accepted at the door -- and attendees are encouraged to bring their own boombox along to participate in the "performance" of the album. (Stick around afterward for a free screening of the hilarious cult-classic documentary "Heavy Metal Parking Lot," beginning at 11 p.m. or so.)

This is an uber-cool happening. By its very nature, "Zaireeka!" is never the same twice. Hell, it's never the same once! Take part.


Gig picks

Garage rockers the Pillagers will return to Club Diablo, 517 Washington St., at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. This is one of the Buffalo band's last area performances before it decamps for a short tour of Europe this winter.

On Saturday, a local songwriter showcase takes place at Chow Chocolat, 731 Main St., beginning at 8 p.m. Melissa Lussier and Noa Bursie, with guitarist Ron LoCurto, will perform sets.

British electric guitar legend Robin Trower returns to Buffalo for a show inside the Tralf Music Hall, 622 Main St., at 8 p.m. Saturday. The Mick Hayes Band will open. Tickets are available through and the Tralf box office.

Next Thursday, the Tralf hosts the return of Chris Trapper, with guests Bob Fera and the Corrections, beginning at 8 p.m. See for tickets.


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