Here's one way to think about Deepsleep Narcotics Co., a Seattle-based trip-hop outfit. Imagine you're out to dinner, and you've ordered a glass of water with your meal. After a few bites of food, you reach for the water, take a big gulp, only to realize that the waiter brought you some lemon-lime soda -- let's say Sierra Mist -- instead.
The experience is startling: You weren't expecting that fizzy citrus taste. But after a second to two, you regain your composure and decide that, hey, Sierra Mist is pretty good. And then you drink some more.
played Chop Suey Tuesday night, and I wasn't expecting to be impressed, mostly because I'd heard Deepsleep sounded like Portishead. On the one hand, I'm of the opinion that if you'd heard one Portishead song, you've probably heard them all. Dummy was a decent album, but basically, it all just sounded like the song "Sour Times" on repeat.
On the other hand, it's possible that I live in some kind of musical bubble. Standing in the crowd at Chop Suey last night -- as a woman in a glittery shirt twirled a hula hoop three feet from my face -- I realized I'd never seen a trip-hop, trance or electronica band of any kind live. (Unless you count Portland's self-defined folktronica duo talkdemonic).
So, I decided I'd drink the Sierra Mist. And after a few sips -- I mean, songs -- Deepsleep started to grow on me. Lead singer Lena Baisden reminded me of Fiona Apple -- if Fiona Apple had attended UW. Plus, the band boasts both a keyboardist and bassist on stage together playing complementary parts, which I feel like is a rarity among live acts.
And yes, most of the songs do sound like Portishead. "Lost Cat," a song on Deepsleep's soon-to-be-released and yet-unnamed album just reminded me of "Glory Box" remixed. (You can download three songs from the new album free here.)
But the performance itself carried one unique aspect: Projections of original art behind the band, timed and themed to the each songs. Cross processed black-and-white photos of mannequins faded across the screen during a slower song, for example, and images zoomed in on a park bench during a faster tune.
So, yes, I drank the proverbial Sierra Mist. But I couldn't really finish my drink: Deepsleep opened for another trance-y band, Miss Solar System. The lead singer resembled a woman dressed like a space alien at her senior prom and sounded no better. That was my cue to leave.