It's Thursday night at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. I am standing on the railing overlooking the dance pit thronged with lollypop sucking all-agers. The LA-based self-proclaimed space-porn band Particle is chugging, swirling, looping rhythmically through one of their tunes. I had only heard of Particle up until this point in time and am chatting with the young lady standing next to me about their relative merits to other bands in the jam rock scene when she interjects, "You know, hallucinogenics are a really important part of my life."
When I was about 16 and particularly fond of 70s British hard rock (my favorite band was Jethro Tull), I bought a compilation record with a song called "Master of the Universe" by Hawkwind on it. All I knew about Hawkwind at the time was that Motorhead's bassist, Ian "Lemmy" Kilminster, had been kicked out of the band at one point. I remember hearing this track for the first time and immediately being taken by its churning rhythm and swirling textures. It really didn't sound like anything I'd ever heard before. And I thought the name "Master of the Universe" was really, really cool, too. It turns out that Hawkwind is sort of like the Grateful Dead of England. They've been around for about 40 years now and attract the same sort of devoted following over there that the boys do. Musically, they refer to themselves as a space rock band and their lyrics tend to be a cross between Dungeons and Dragons and particle physics. So if this description sounds interesting, I encourage you to check out Hawkwind. However, what they're doing in LA calling themselves Particle is a mystery to me.
Particle is a band in transition. As with any change to a beloved band's lineup and direction, the fan base was a little edgy. Vocals in Particle! Blasphemy! And quite frankly, the singing, performed mostly by the two guitarists, Ben Combe and Scott Metzger, does need a bit of work before it starts to click, but right now Particle is a band about keys, drum and bass. Especially keys. Not to take anything away from the other founding members, drummer Darren Pujalet and Bassist Eric Gould, who are human beat generators, but this is keyboardist Steve Molitz' band. Molitz has no less than 6 keyboards or synths in front of him at any given time giving him substantial leeway in choosing the one appropriate to the song. The best thing I can say about the sound is that Particle evokes so many different bands to me at so many different times in their show, that they achieve some higher level of originality. In addition to Hawkwind, I find myself drawing comparisons to moe., Pink Floyd, Beck (whose E-Pro they cover), Parliament, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Prince, Sun Ra, The Beastie Boys and any number of drum and bass bands.
What's it really all about then? Particle's music is driving and relentless, a train clacking along a track. The crowd surges forward and backward to the pounding rhythm. The beat shifts subtly, the train slows down. Swirls and textures spiral out of the groove. Occasionally a melody, a song, lyrics materialize before they drift back into the primordial funk, chaos breeding order, order breeding chaos, wave and particle superimposed upon each other. Was that one song or many? Does it even matter? I guess if I had to name it, I'd call it..."Master of the Universe."