Soul Coughing Deliver Serious Jungle Beats

Band's Hollywood show conjures a New York underground-club/warehouse vibe.

LOS ANGELES -- Green, cobweb-like images twirled at the back of the

stage as Soul Coughing leader M. (Michael) Doughty sang their new single,

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Soul_Coughing/Circles.ram">"Circles"

(RealAudio excerpt), in his signature pseudo-rap style.

"I don't need to walk around in circles," he chanted, the crowd framing his

vocals with rhythmic shouts.

Behind Doughty, upright-bassist Sebastian Steinberg delivered his jazz

grooves with fluent strokes, while M'ark de Gli Antoni plunked away

emphatically at his keyboards, his nose no more than a few inches from the

keys. In the back, drummer Yuval Gabay had his head cocked to the side as

he hit the skins.

It may have been a Monday night in Hollywood, but Soul Coughing's show

managed to conjure the feel of a New York underground-club or warehouse,

even in the elegant confines of the Palace. An alternating mix of strobe-

and brightly hued lights -- scattered at different levels about the stage

rather than shining from above -- never detracted from the stage's overall

dark look. Meanwhile, videos ranging from artsy images to cartoon clips

were projected at the back of the stage.

As Soul Coughing celebrated the release of their third LP, El Oso,

on the night before the album hit stores, the visual hodgepodge of their

stageset was complemented by the complexity of the foursome's sound.

Creating an undeniably futuristic mix of art-rock, poetry and hip-hop, Soul

Coughing -- who sprouted from New York's downtown avant/hip-hop scene --

are an intrinsically experimental band, with or without added effects.

El Oso's emphasis on jungle beats translated well live and

heightened the danceable aspects of the show. Still, some songs fell victim

to the foursome's embracing of the drum & bass genre, which gave way to

repetitive patterns that often stalled the group's momentum.

The set was weighted heavily with the band's new material -- including such

standout tunes as the sample-enhanced "$300," with its mantra,

"rollerboogie motherf---er," and the slack, jazzy "Maybe I'll Come Down."

But one of Soul Coughing's earlier hits, 1994's "Bus to Beelzebub," had the

most riling effect on the crowd. "This is the part of the show we call 'low

time,' " Doughty said with a sly drawl before the band launched into the

funkified number.

The long and lanky, glasses-wearing Doughty -- who was dressed in a gray,

button-down shirt untucked over jeans -- made for a geeky-looking frontman.

But when he abandoned his guitar on songs such as "Beelzebub" and assumed a

classic MC stance, his dork factor immediately receded. He paced about the

stage, clutching the mic in his right hand and

perching his left hand level with his head, jolting it at the audience.

"Everybody, for the sake of us, please make a high-pitched squealing

noise," he ordered at one point.

When Doughty let go and moved about, the typically stiff L.A. crowd also

loosened up. Waving their hands wildly, the crammed-tight fans on the

Palace's floor-level danced as extravagantly as the limited space would allow.

"I danced my ass off," said 22-year-old Liliana Somma, who was getting down

on the venue's balcony during the show. "I'd never seen them before tonight

and I thought they were incredible -- funky enough to dance to, that's for

sure."

"Super Bon Bon," Soul Coughing's radio-friendly single from their sophomore

effort, Irresistable Bliss (1996), also proved to be a

crowd-pleaser, while the new number "$300" made some headway of its own.

Another new tune, "Blame," featured Doughty thumb-strumming his guitar over

a backdrop of vibrant beats and wandering bass-notes while pink lights

flickered in the background.

Doughty ended the show by inviting the crowd to Tower Records across town,

where the band made a midnight in-store appearance to commemorate El

Oso's release.

"We promise everybody who shows up at least two free beers," he said.

He could have promised them anything right about then.