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Robots, vagina, and drum machines: a 440r holiday to remember

Let’s get this straight: Compound 440r is not a commune. It is, however, a loosely organized cabal of DIY rap, synthpop, sci-fi post-punk, and avant-rock bands centered on an out-of-the-way Somerville practice space. And when you combine talented freaks with the machinery to make pre-programmed beats, you get a 21st-century hippie’s wet dream: that’s right, a drum-machine circle.

Wind Cheetah, the Compound 440r drum-machine circle, made their long-awaited debut on the Thursday before Christmas at the collective’s first annual potluck Holiday Party, which also served as their one-year anniversary celebration. A slightly cramped assortment of bands, friends, and family was stuffed into a three-room suite in a building you reach by walking down an alley behind a cemetery. (Actually, it’s a four-room suite, but the last room was locked, apparently by a group of artists who are not so 440r-friendly.) In one room littered with amps, crates, suitcases, and pieces of drumkit, quilts hung from the ceiling and three strategically placed robots looked down on us from the window sills while Hilken Mancini (with Emily Arkin on violin) sang "Christmas," a Florence Dore song about a cold and lonely holiday popularized by Mancini’s old band Fuzzy. In another room, Bodies of Water Arts and Crafts honcho Dan Shea played a four-song, five-minute set with his trio Eggplant. "So I said to the girrrrl. So I said to the girrrrl," Shea growled over and over — before divulging, in a slurred throaty whine, "Why would you do that to me?"

Shortly thereafter, the rumored members of Wind Cheetah mysteriously disappeared behind a door. They emerged 20 minutes later, through a Snoop Dogg haze of smoke, cloaked in monk-like robes of solid green and white and red, faces hidden behind hoods and hats and sunglasses. (It was hard to tell who was who, but the following were suddenly missing: Aaron Bennett of Crystal Understanding, John Manson of Magic People, TD from Big Digits, Cassette’s MikL Potvin, Plunge into Death’s Mark E. Moon.) And lo, there was an apocalyptic barrage of knob tweaking, button hitting, and drumpad manipulating, and it did throb and swell for seven minutes, and it was good.

Afterward, in a third room, UV Protection’s Karen Tsiakals performed a solo rap before being joined by Potvin and Big Digits’ Mac Swell for the unveiling of a "440r Theme Song" that name-checked every band in the club. Plunge into Death’s Area D slipped into his Sleazy Santa garb, singing a ribald tune — "Santa fetish! Santa fetish! Slap you till you’re reddish!" — behind a giant wall-sized foam vagina (which, poor thing, was later violated by a keyboard). 440r’s landlord stopped by too, but not to complain: an entertainer himself, he brought a live bunny in a black top hat. And they all lived happily ever after. The end.

Tia Carioli can be reached at tiacarioli@yahoo.com

Issue Date: December 30, 2005 - January 5, 2006
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