The Providence music scene is a pie chart of musical wedges. There’s the hardcore community, the metal folks, the extreme crowd, the blues/R&B acts, the eclectic/avant-garde cabal, and the more commercial rockers, among others. You can add to that pie a wedge that includes electronic music. Tim O’Keefe, a deeply rooted presence in the city’s electronic scene and a principal in his own electronic trio <tfo>, sees the genre becoming more accepted by local music fans, and that’s a good thing. “The scene has come a long way over the last few years,” he says. “Electronic performance is tough because it’s based on a laptop and people are much more accustomed to seeing guitars and drums.”
Still, those with wide eyes and open minds are warming up to electronic-based noise as a viable form of live entertainment, and that’s a good thing, because there’s much growth on the horizon. Along with <tfo>, Tim’s band with Matt Everett and Ryan Rooney, O’Keefe, 32, has begun signing acts to his own digitally distributed label, Cozy Music (www.cozymusic.org). EPs by DJ Hoska, DJ C, and Joey Beats are due this summer, as well as a full-length project from Slouch, aka Ian Bradley of RISD. The digital distribution model has allowed O’Keefe to jumpstart the venture with virtually no overheard beyond marketing and promotion. “A friend of mine started a digital distribution company called Iris Distribution, and when I looked into it, it made a lot of sense,” says Tim, “so I signed a contract with him.” Iris will distribute Cozy Music acts to the various digital retailers. “If you look at what’s going on, it really looks like the direction of the future,” he says.
In his first wave of releases, O’Keefe is focusing on electronic and underground hip-hop. Especially exciting is an upcoming Roedelius compilation — Roedelius was one half of the pioneering electronic band called Cluster — which will include guest appearances by Alex Patterson of the Orb. This release alone should serve to put O’Keefe on the national map. But ultimately, it won’t be all about the laptop. “I’m open to all kinds of music as long as it’s good,” he says.
In the not so distant future, O’Keefe will be issuing his own <tfo> project, as well as tending to other Cozy Music releases. His own new stuff is “a blend of electronic styles with more commercial elements,” he says. “There are guitars, cello, violas, and vocals as well. It’s kind of like electronic rock dance with pop flavors!” All of which means you can add still another wedge to Providence’s pie.
Duke Robillard is at it again. This week he released Guitar Groove-A-Rama (Stony Plain), a salute to the many influential musicians who have informed his guitar work over the years. Drawing from a career that has spanned nearly four decades, we’re talkin’ about a lot of influences. He tackles tributes to James Burton and Steve Cropper, country blues, and even Irish folk. Best of all is the 16-minute “Blues-A-Rama,” where he cycles through 10 critical blues strains in one fell swoop, all recorded live in his Mood Room Studio in Pawtucket. In addition to Robillard on guitar and vocals, the band includes Mark Teixeira on drums/percussion, with Jesse Williams and Marty Ballou on bass, plus Doug James on baritone sax, Bruce Bears on Hammond organ, and Al Basile on cornet.