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BAND PROFILE: Noise-art-rock band dials in its own muse

BY JOHN MYERS NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER And now for something completely different. A band name like I Am The Slow Dancing Umbrella will get your attention, but can its music hold you, move you, make you want to listen? The Umbrella's music defie...

BY JOHN MYERS

NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

And now for something completely different.

A band name like I Am The Slow Dancing Umbrella will get your attention, but can its music hold you, move you, make you want to listen?

The Umbrella's music defies labels and genres: Noise rock. Experimental. Even a bit industrial.

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The Duluth band produces sounds that either make people walk up, shut up and tune-in -- or walk away screaming "turn off that damn noise!''

"I usually just hand people one of our CDs and let them figure it out. It's too hard to describe,'' said Brian Ring of Duluth. "We get two reactions: Either they love it and stay or they hate it and leave. There's not much in between.''

At last year's Homegrown Music Festival, the Umbrella's show was described by former News Tribune arts and enter-tainment writer Sarah Henning as sounding at first like a "pack of howling wolves'' and later as "howling, industrial Nine Inch Nails sorts of sounds. Very Walker Art Center.''

For this year's Homegrown, the Umbrella caps the four-band Experimental Tuesday at Carmody's Irish Pub.

Ring, Jesse Aaron Porter of Duluth and occasionally Ring's wife, Mirisa, make up the band.

Ring said the sound evolves from guitar, drums, the occasional voice and a lot of work on synthesizer, mostly gear from the 1980s. The band eschews modern computer recording gear.

"I call it art rock, because that's sort of where the influence comes from,'' Ring said. "I think of it as making something for artistic reasons, instead of making a pop song ... That's not saying I don't like pop. That's mostly what I listen to. I just can't write it.''

Ring, whose day job is a stay-at-home dad, says his influences include Wire and even the Talking Heads. He said most of his band's MP3 downloads are by European fans. "A lot from Germany, parts of the U.K., even Poland. I don't think we'll ever be that big in the U.S.,'' Ring noted.

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While the Umbrella has been around long enough to stop experimenting, it's that constant tinkering with its sound that makes the band fascinating, said Paul Connolly, a local musician and member of the Homegrown organizing committee.

The band has been slow dancing for seven years, toying with drum machines and synthesizers and pushing for more sound out of more music. Much of their work is compilations of many, many sets recorded over many days and then synthe-sized into one interconnected mix, Ring said. They even worked on Low's new album, "Drums and Guns.''

"They never do the same thing twice. They are constantly evolving,'' Connolly said of I Am The Slow Dancing Umbrella. "They don't play that many shows. They are kind of a studio band. But when they do play, it always grabs my attention. At first you wonder where it's going, then you can' stop listening.''

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