Cut Chemistry

Isotope 217 are populated by many of the same characters that make up Chi-Town's molten-lava tango-prog-jazzbos Tortoise and the Chicago Underground Duo.

On the group's debut, The Unstable Molecule, Isotope guitarist Jeff Parker, trumpeter Rob Mazurek, bassist Matt Lux, trombonist Sara P. Smith and percussionists John Herndon and Dan Bitney contained themselves in a shroud of propriety. However, by the time the group recorded their follow-up, Utonian Automatic, bassist Lux's improvisational largesse and dance-inducing skills (he's a member of techno outfit Tranquility Bass) began creeping out more, mutating 217's inner sense of avant-calm and electro mood-swinging into something more abrasive.

With the cryptically titled Who Stole the I Walkman?, the funk is out of the bag. But this is Chicago, not Detroit, so the abandon is evasive, while the rococo textures are pointy without being razor-sharp. Unlike Utonian's up-front approach, Walkman sprays its sound wildly as its percussive attack ranges from stuttering to oozingly liquid to dizzyingly thwack-attacked. This gives Parker and Mazurek the right to party, to fly freely over the grandmastered flash of "(pause logo)" (RealAudio excerpt), the Bedstuy-bop of "Rewind" (RealAudio excerpt), the breakdance-boogie of "Kidtronix" and the joyous Pollock-esque freak out that is "Fast Forward" (RealAudio excerpt), on which you can literally feel the splattered paint hitting your cheek.