Weird and wired

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  June 3, 2009

“People say to me, ‘This isn’t one big, sarcastic scam like it used to be,’ ” he said.

And there may be some wisdom behind the move.

Denizens of the electronic scene say a tassle of artists who have placed a premium on fun might go a little further with a touch of the serious.

That’s not to say the electronic scene is lacking in ambition.

“Our goal is to gain a following on an international scale, not just playing shows around here forever and pressing our own CDs,” said Alexander Laorenza, bassist with makeupbreakup, in an interview with the Phoenix last year.

But there are some barriers to thinking big here.

O’Connor, 25, of Llove said a small city like Providence is “comfortable” and does not force the innovation of a place like New York City. “The pressure just isn’t there,” he said.

And Morgan Louis, a DJ who has mixed local live acts into his events, said the city does not have an electronic-friendly venue of the right size or ambition to push the local scene to the brink.

Still, with some concerted effort, O’Connor said, a band like MAHIMAHI could find some real success. “They strike me as the band, if they pushed harder, they’d be huge,” he said.

Kemp, of MAHIMAHI, seems itching to make that push. The duo, he said, has been sitting on its third full-length recording for months but has been unable to find a suitable label and get a tour going.

Of course, even if the band finds a label, it may be too late to catch fire: MAHIMAHI does not have the sheen of the new anymore and Kemp acknowledges that the band does not draw the crowds it once did.

But he argues that the thinning has more to do with the decline of the larger Providence music scene than with anything the band has done.

And Kemp and other electronica mainstays say there is reason to believe in a breakthrough: the scene, they say, has a collective strength it did not have before — an energy to build upon.

The city’s digital vanguard is doing what it can to exploit that energy.

Local artists are remixing each others’ work. Voknine is working on the creation of a collaborative space for electronic musicians. And O’Keefe, of Cozy Music, says he is poised to extend the reach of his label.

Cozy has put out 22 releases over the last three years — including local offerings from Spanish Dancer, Ted James, and Mike Hoska — through San Francisco-based Iris Distribution, which has deals in place with 450 digital outlets, including iTunes.

And with a solid collection of recordings in place, O’Keefe says, he is intent on building the label’s public relations and marketing capabilities in the coming year.

Electronic music has gained a foothold in Rock City. Now it is time, O’Keefe suggests, to step out.   ^

David Scharfenberg can be reached  

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