- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

If it seems appropriate for an American Indian band to play the blues (a native American music), then it seems doubly appropriate to call the band Indigenous.
Indigenous, which appears on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage on Wednesday, is led by guitarist-vocalist Mato Nanji, who at 27 is already laying claim to the throne of his late idol, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The blues "was just like a really true sound for me," he says, calling from a gig on the Michigan-Ontario border. "Nothing ever really hit me like that, especially growing up in the big-pop '80s."
Mr. Nanji's husky baritone reminds one of Mr. Vaughan from the '80s and Darius Rucker from the '90s.
Mr. Nanji grew up on a Sioux reservation in Marty, S.D., listening to his father's collection of Buddy Guy and B.B. King, and learning how to play like Jimi Hendrix. Brother Pte (bass), sister Wanbdi (drums) and cousin Horse (percussion) picked up their own influences, including Metallica and Santana.
Invited on B.B. King's Blues Festival Tour in 1999 ("We just kept sending him records,") Indigenous has since played with Bob Dylan and Santana, as well as John Lee Hooker just before his death. ("He was still jamming," Mr. Nanji says.)
The themes of their latest album, "Circle," on the Pachyderm label (co-produced by former Vaughan collaborator Doyle Bramhall), seem to be subdued and organic. While Mr. Nanji is capable of remarkable chord progressions reminiscent of Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Hendrix, his guitars rarely overpower the rhythm, so that there's little showing off.
"You Were the One" has a stunning percussion intro leading to a Hendrix-style solo, but after this, the acoustic guitar, organ and drums stay clear, including through Mr. Nanji's closing jam. Even the heavy wah-wah funk of "Seven Steps Away" is balanced by amplified handclaps.
The rhythm jams and flowing sound work best on the Santana-influenced "Rest of My Days" and the conga-heavy "Can't Keep Me From You," which has an infectious rollicking sound and conventional lyrics would make it perfect for the closing credits of a Julia Roberts romantic comedy.
Mr. Nanji says the band sounds "totally different live" and is "much bluesier" on stage. Expect more "showing off" and perhaps a Jimi Hendrix or Albert King cover.

Any power outages or manhole explosions tomorrow will probably be traced to Man or Astroman, which brings its sci-fi surf sounds and EEVIAC supercomputer (short for Electronically Embedded Variably Integrated Astro-Console) to the Black Cat tomorrow night.
A cult band best compared to Devo, Man or Astroman allegedly crashed on Earth around 1992, assumed human form and quickly fell under the influence of surf music, Japanese monster movies, and the equally cultish TV show "Mystery Science Theater 3000." The band's version of the MST3K theme song from the 1994 album "Destroy All Astromen" remains a nerd-culture classic.
In the last few years the Atlanta-based band has largely dumped the Dick Dale sound and B-movie samples, and upgraded its software (i.e., replaced band members). The group also signed with Chicago's Touch and Go Records and teamed up with Chicago uber-producer Steve Albini.
Most of the songs on 2000's "A Spectrum of Infinite Scale" have computerized sound effects and seem softly distorted, as though the higher tone range were partly cut off. Most also have titles so long they can't fully be listed here.
"Pathway to the Infinite" has drummer Birdstuff (Brian Teasley) ripping off Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks," while "Song of the Two-Mile …" features rolling-thunder percussion. Guitarists Trace Reading (Erich Hubner) and Blazar the Probe Handler (Richie Edelson, who just recently left the group) then get back to surf basics on "Preparation Clont."
"Curious Constructs …" is Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard's (Rob DelBueno) moment: he gets to play theremin and electric lap steel. The intro to "Trapezoid" not the song's actual title, which in fact is a picture of a trapezoid sounds like a New Order tape that's melted in the sun. The oddest track is "A Simple Text File," in which a dot-matrix printer whirrs for two minutes.
The last track is aptly titled "Multi-Variational Stimuli …" though it also contains guitar and finally a short-circuit. Not too surprising, given EEVIAC's workload over the preceding 41 minutes.

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