Bentley Rhythm Ace Go Slightly Offbeat

Songs on LP are danceable beats mixed with campy, James Bondish sampling, surf music and techno.

NEW YORK -- Bentley Rhythm Ace members Richard March and Mike

Stokes are sitting in a cramped office, trying to answer questions in a serious

and professional way. At the moment, that's no easy task.

Even though their 1997 debut album, Bentley Rhythm Ace (Caroline

Records), has produced a top-20 single in Britain, "Bentley's Gonna Sort You

Out" (register at

TARGET="_new">Streamland to see the video), as well as spawned

an extensive world tour, the boys from Birmingham, England, have few serious

things to say about their music. They are tired, punchy and anything but honest

at the moment.

ATN: What are your musical influences?

Stokes: Karen Carpenter, Chicago.

March: We really like bands named after American places: Boston,

Chicago, Kansas.

ATN: How did you meet?

March: I was [Stokes'] baby sitter.

Stokes: But he had girls over. And drank. My mum and dad found out

and banned him from the house.

ATN: Do people ask you for your autograph?

Stokes: Banks do. When I get money out.

The truth of it is that March and Stokes -- both roughly 30 years old (they

refused to give their exact age) -- met in Birmingham in '95, at a party where

Stokes was DJing. "I was playing records and he really loved them," Stokes

said. "Then we nearly kissed ... But we didn't, so we made music instead. We

were lonely."

Bentley Rhythm Ace were born soon after and the two spent months rifling

through yard sales and record stores to find vinyl records for their signature

sampling style, music they cheerily coin as "carbootechnodisco."

Whatever

the boys' label, the songs on Bentley Rhythm Ace are cool: danceable beats mixed with campy, James Bondish sounding

samples, surf music mixed with techno.

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Bentley_Rhythm_Ace/Let_There_Be_Flute

s.ram">"Let There Be Flutes" (RealAudio excerpt) is a multiple assault

of bass, beats and flutes; the popular, chart-hitting "Bentley's Gonna Sort You

Out" combines thumping trip-hop with sultry feminine sighs. For their video to

"Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out," the boys risked death: parachuting out of an

airplane over a field in Nottinghamshire, England, where a rough landing

resulted in a fractured tailbone for March.

Apparently, March has healed enough to get back to work, albeit in a less-than-serious way.

Continuing on their press tour, March and Stokes are whisked from this

cozy interview at the SonicNet office to mid-Manhattan, where they find

themselves perched in the glass-enclosed DJ booth at HMV Records as

guest DJs at the 35th Street store. March -- formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself,

and the older and taller of the two Aces -- plays the part of older brother to

Stokes' sleepy goofiness. Rifling through a bag, March busily picks out vinyl

records, while Stokes yawns and thumbs through a recent issue of Rolling

Stone magazine.

Instead of playing their own music, March chooses to spin old French

electronica mixed with rare swing, lounge and trip-hop. Bentley's DJing causes

problems, explains DJ Magic, the full-time DJ at HMV in New York.

"We're not supposed to play stuff we don't sell," says Magic after

the DJ party that night at HMV. "But people kept coming up to the managers and

asking where they could buy what they were hearing."

"They were really nice guys," Magic adds.

Three days later, the DJs arrive at New York City's El Flamingo Club.

Taking the stage two hours

after their scheduled 11 p.m. performance, Stokes and March appear wearing

full afro wigs, sequined bellbottoms and Hawaiian shirts. Costume and

humor are an integral part of their performance. At a stint at London's

Rocket club, they sported policemen's helmets. In Iceland for a New

Year's Eve show, they dressed up as Vikings. "Some people didn't like

that," they admit.

And at El Flamingo, dressed like hipster '70s-throwbacks, Bentley Rhythm Ace

are accompanied by a full band, as well as the front end of the car -- which

holds their turntable.

As raccoon-eyed hipsters dance or simply nod to the beats, Bentley Rhythm Ace

play most of the songs off their new album: "Spacehopper," "Let There Be

Flutes," "Why is Frog Too?" and "Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out." Dancing and

wiggling onstage, March and Stokes exhibit sheer pleasure in their artistry

-- an

adolescent dream come true for any DJ.

If anything is certain, they're having a good time with their success.

Color="#720418">[Wed., Jan. 14, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]