Music » Livewire

John Arnold

Thursday, December 11, at the Mercury Lounge and Saturday, December 13, at Abbasso.

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Some people think that if you can spell "rhythm," you must not have any. Detroit's John Arnold would handily reject that observation. His brainy, broken-beat tracks have won praises from Detroit techno elites like Derrick May and Carl Craig, though his music doesn't come off the same assembly line as those legends' productions. Broken beat -- a fairly new style that came out of West London in the late '90s -- fuses elements of U.K. garage, drum & bass, R&B, house, and big-Afro'd jazz-funk into a dynamic soundtrack for sophistos who find downtempo too torpid.

On his strong debut full-length, Neighborhood Science (Ubiquity), Arnold -- who has classical-guitar training -- tips his plectrum to Manuel Göttsching's pioneering, ambient-house prototype, E2-E4 (which actually preceded house proper by a few years), while infusing mucho Latin percussive heat into his music. Arnold departs from broken-beat orthodoxy in yet another way, deploying male soul crooners cut from the Marvin Gaye mold within his intricate arrangements and flamboyant polyrhythms. Sometimes these Rust Belt Romeos lay on the schmaltz too thickly, but Arnold's instrumental and programming prowess usually overcomes these ill effects. With timbales, triangles, and cowbells a-bangin', Arnold proves that funkiness doesn't lose its tang when it's run through complex time signatures.

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