Back Ted N-Ted
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Back Ted N-Ted

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The best kept secret in music


"Enter The Machines"

Enter the Machines

Back Ted N-Ted puts laptop rock on the local radar screen

Brendan Kelley

Published: Thursday, February 12, 2004

Ryan Breen is best known locally as the guitarist for Chronic Future, the young, progressive rap-rock band whose first Interscope album is scheduled to drop in April.

But in his latest musical endeavor, Back Ted N-Ted, Breen doesn't touch a guitar. If you hit up a Back Ted N-Ted show, you'll see Breen sitting down, playing little more than an iMac laptop and a small MIDI keyboard, forcing out dissonant bleeps over staggered rhythms and loops.

While the phenomenon of live on-the-fly laptop rockers is nothing new nationally, it's definitely a fresh experience for the Valley.

And around here, we tend to have a shortage of fresh experiences. Keeping a close eye on our music scene can be depressing. If you're looking for something completely new and innovative, you'd have just as much luck scouring Payson for a good jungle MC.

But if you can rein in your cynicism long enough to catch Back Ted N-Ted next Thursday night, February 19, at Fat Cats in Phoenix, your faith just might be restored.

At a live Back Ted N-Ted show, Breen's aesthetic is all about sensory overload, played out in a variety of mediums. While he mostly sits calmly programming sounds on the fly, he often has friends dressed in costumes dancing or playing chess onstage, or has an artist painting behind him. Breen says he's looking to incorporate visual projections into his live shows, as well as more ambitious ideas, like having live cooking onstage to get your olfactory senses involved.

Breen's uncanny genius behind the laptop hasn't gone unnoticed outside of Phoenix. Los Angeles' glitchy alt-hip-hop Plug Research label, home to Dntel amongst others, is releasing Back Ted N-Ted's jazzy Sort Sor and Orie EP in the spring. Additionally, Breen has been recording tracks with formerly local electronica auteur Copp for an upcoming album on her Mango Sweet Rice label.

Breen began fooling around with electronic music when he played in local electro-rock band Digital Free Loner Boy several years ago, and his fascination blossomed from there.

"I started messing with sequencers and MIDI sequencing and immediately fell in love with it," he explained to me at his small, neat Tempe apartment. "It's like the only thing I could do for hours on end and not get bored, just get really lost in it." Breen subsequently attended the Conservatory of Recording Arts in Tempe and learned the technical aspects of recording and multi-tracking using programs like ProTools and Reason.

Breen honed his skills by producing tracks with Copp and her various collaborators before striking out on his own. "I needed a new name and a new persona to put it under," he says. "That's where the Back Ted N-Ted came in." Breen saw the cut-up words on the side of a cardboard box (half of the phrase "send back sorted and oriented") and discovered his new identity.

Back Ted N-Ted takes its cues from electronic artists like Autechre, Squarepusher, Four-Tet, and Dntel, making beats that reside somewhere between trip-hop and glitch. At times, Back Ted N-Ted tracks sound like outtakes from Radiohead's Kid A sessions. "Insects," the first track from the Send Sor and Orie EP, features Chronic Future MC Mike Busse rapping in a sinister whisper over an audio overload of clicks, squelches and microscopically intricate bleeps and blips.

"I wanna do more melodic, organic stuff, minimal, not so busy, but really kind of hone in on precise beats, clear ideas, really try to make it more coherent," Breen explains. The remainder of the songs on the EP reflect a more subdued, jazzy perspective, playful and warm on tracks like "Brologic" and "Fun."

"Some of the older stuff I've done, there's so much sound involved and so many sounds involved, that's what I was going for, the sensory overload, it's hard to pay attention to every single sound that's going on because it's so busy," he adds.

"As I go on, I want to do less of that and just make statements, rhythmical and sonic statements, with vocals, make really potent statements. Have a beat alone that's interesting enough to keep your attention for a while. Just a few little twists in it to make it stand out. I'd like to always be able to go back to the sensory-overload, ADD-type feel, when I need to, but not depend on that all the time." - Phoenix New Times

"Review of "Eight""

From the outer reaches of electronica comes Coppé, engaged in a furious mission to save pop music from utter blandness. In just five years and no less than eight albums, Coppé has scattered her impressively original and unique music across the globe, from Arizona where she spent a few years, to Honolulu and finally back to Tokyo.
Since releasing her self-titled debut album in 1999, on her own imprint, Mango & Sweet Rice, Coppé has developed into one of the most interesting and underrated artists of her generations, producing records evoking in turn the sheer beauty of Björk’s contrasted sonic terrains, the sense for oblique melodies of Nicolette or the dark emotions of Portishead combined with stark electronic textures. From the beautiful atmospheric moments found on Papa My Buddha, an album she recorded while her father was in hospital, or last year’s superb Nauru, to the resolutely more upfront drum’n’bass-fueled Mercury, recorded with London duo The Program, Coppé has the capacity to constantly transform her sound, yet retain its very essence. Despite remaining until now pretty unknown, she has worked with an incredibly diverse array of people, from DJ Vadim to Plaid and one-time Orb member Kris Weston, aka Thrash.
For her eighth album, Coppé teams up once again with Bryan Breen, who has recently been signed to Plug Research with his Back Ted ‘n Ted project. The pair previously worked together on Papa My Buddha, one of Coppé’s most accessible records to date, and her most emotionally charged, and Nauru. If some of the pop sensibilities of Papa My Buddha can still be felt here (I Lick My Brain In Silence, Zojoji, Queen Of The Sea), there is an element of perversion running throughout this record as the pair explore far less conventional grounds. Decidedly in experimental mood, Coppé and Breen dissect melodies and sonic ambiences to reveal their core nature, exposing each element in its purest form. Here, the subtle rhythmic structures of Pomegranate Tears or Blue have been replaced with knife-sharp beats and the delicate swathes of warm sounds of Humu Humu Picasso Fish or Paper Soap have been swapped for earthy, often grainy atmospheric waves. Yet it is Coppé’s deliciously acid voice that emerges loud and clear out of these sonic shards, highlighting the highly human aspect of the music and its intense emotional impact. In turn soft-spoken Björk, Beth Gibbons with attitude or spaced-out Billie Holiday, Coppé has long defined her own environment, happily putting her voice through a variety of electronic devices to transform it at will, or exposing it in its barest form, sometimes both at once, in order to create something totally unique. But Coppé doesn’t rely entirely on her voice. Ryski’s Instu’mental Trip is, as its title suggests, entirely instrumental. Built around an ambient melody and a slumbering hip-hop beat, the track morphs into a Casio-lead waltz evoking some of Jimi Tenor’s cheesiest moment. But the real treat on this album is to be found in the epic thirty-minute long Ryski’s Hidden Treasure, which closes the album. This slow-moving piece presents beautiful organic drones wrapped around metallic percussions, found sounds, voice samples and, in the last section of the track, live drums. These drones continuously evolve, develop and die to create one of Coppé’s most accomplished moments.
With this eighth album, Coppé continues to develop her fascinating musical persona with aplomb, asserting once again her unique position on the electronic scene. This album demonstrates, if it was still necessary, why she has over the years worked with so many high profile musicians, and one can only hope to one day see her receive the attention she deserves. -


Coppe' with Back Ted N-Ted-"Eight"
2004 mango and sweet rice
Coppe' with R. Breen-"Pappa My Buddha"
2000 mango and sweet rice
Back Ted N-Ted "the Send Sor and Orie e.p."
2002 limited release


Feeling a bit camera shy


Back Ted N-Ted is the bastard child of Bryan Reen. Lost at birth, Back Ted wandered the streets aimlessly looking for meaning in his awkward existence. It was one day when Back Ted saw his own reflection in a circus mirror, that back ted realized the potential of his unique talents. He quickly packed his things and wandered into the night with the high hopes of revealing the truth to everyone. Little did he know that his journey would take him to the places it did. Kentucky, Shibuya, Globe, and yes, even Tempe Arizona... the place where grown men cry. Now temporarily settled there in the cactus woods, back ted sits and contemplates the meaning of toast. If you listen very carefully, you just might hear the spin of his little 10,000 rpm firewire drive..humming along the vast emptiness of the desert. I've heard that when it rains in the desert, sometimes you can see him floating around with his nightmares, fighting the witches with ovens. Sleep well, until the sirens break my chest against the stove.