KINDER ATOM with ERIC DOWNER and DJ Shine at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West), Saturday (November 25). $10. 416-531-4635. Rating: NNNNN
In the 13 years that Kinder Atom have been making electronic music, the dance scene has gone through numerous shifts, as have they.
Their initial sound was a reaction to the wave of techno and house of the mid-90s, but as drum 'n' bass exploded onto the scene they quickly found themselves obsessed with chopping up breakbeats as well.
As the years went by, they mellowed out and started families, and they've ended up at a point where they've synthesized their various influences into a decidedly warm and organic chilled-out gumbo of melodic and pretty electronica.
You see those overlapping histories in the way they work together at their downtown studio. A handful of battered and well-loved vintage synths are set up on stands facing each other, and cables stretch across the room to the decidedly modern computer-based studio they rely on to assemble it all.
On the one hand, they talk excitedly about how much freedom the software revolution has afforded them to pursue the sounds in their heads, but on the other, it's abundantly clear that they still thrive on the real-time group interaction that comes with playing actual instruments, which has made them one of the more highly rated Canadian live electronic acts.
"There was one point when we might play three parties in one night. Now we mainly do the occasional festival, which seems to work fairly well for what we do," Heiki Sillaste says while also admitting that there just aren't many rave-style events for them to play at any more.
"In the old days, a lot of the time we'd have to run most of the backing tracks off tape and play our instruments over top of that, but with the way that software has progressed, we have a lot more freedom when we play live. The computer is running all the sequenced bits, but we can rearrange the various loops on the fly, basically doing live remixes," Chris Drost continues.
"I also think having Kristian Helstrom playing electronic percussion brings a lot more live energy to it, as opposed to if we were just programming drums all the time," Gerald Belanger interjects.
Their Saturday gig at the Gladstone is not only a rare club appearance but also the release party for their fourth full-length album, Soft Hand Feel. Combining house, techno, drum 'n' bass, ambient, dub and downtempo textures, it somehow manages to avoid sounding like a random collection of genres, maintaining a mood and feel that are totally their own.
It also contains a DVD of videos (as well as a few bonus remixes by other artists), should you need some visual help getting into the chill-out frame of mind.