The Black Math Experiment
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The Black Math Experiment

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Greetings Cornerstoners!

As I am writing this column the week before Thanksgiving, I am truly grateful that my last column of the years is made up of such a bounty of truly worthy releases. In their second release, "Last Transmission from the Blue Room," The Black Math Experiment has created a work of humor, scope, and theatricality. Standout tracks include "Science Fiction Double Feature," a song from Rocky Horror delivered in a B-52s meet The Aquabats style, the They Might Be Giants-ish intelligentsia pop canon, "Ology," the DEVO-flavored "Ohio," and the rather oddly titled "Steps," which features superbly sultry vocals from Christi Lain, proving that she can hold her won with the finest female vocalists of the last forty years. Sadly, this effort is mired in a production in which the vocals are buried and the overall mix is bass heavy and muffled. It is also somewhat disappointing that rarely do the remainder of the compositions rise above the level of novelties to actual songs. For example, the confusing "Interstellar Flotsam" and the computer voiced spoken word vignette, "Lost Collective Memories" serve only to add a futuristic negative utopian context for the more "straight ahead" musical material. However, even a few of the novelties manage to remain entertaining and satisfying, such as "Every Five Minutes," the humorous quirky send up of rock and roll luminaries underscored by the existential backing vocals from Christi, and the ridiculous and indescribably superb "Super You Cannot Kill David Arquette." Ultimately, this is easily the most intriguing and just downright weird act to emerge in this town since Beans Barton's Biped Revue crash landed their mothership here. These brave warriors joust with what historians may one day refer to as the "anti-intellectual backlash at the dawn of the twenty-first century." Ask yourself whether the track "Alcohol" is a celebration or a satirical jab? The answer requires thought, and who's gonna spend the time or the energy finding out? And while we're on the subject, how many people are really even equipped for that kind of challenge these days?

We at The Cornerstone always like to root for the underdog. Therefore, I hereby officially proclaim this band to be the Cornerstone underdogs of the years. I wish them all good fortune and pledge my support in any and all of their future efforts. Their music's real or perceived inability to sell hooch or get people laid will put them at a severe disadvantage in the oft-times less than adventurous musical waters of the Bayou City
- Music News


For one night, the immortal rock chant of the Black Math Experiment -- "You cannot kill David Arquette! -- proved weirdly, wildly true.

It was a meeting of macabre minds Tuesday night at the Proletariat, its modest red-and-black/exposed-insulation motif the perfect setting for such a definitive moment in Houston music.

Arquette was in town to promote his expectedly zany, political horror flick The Tripper. The BME hookup was pure bonus.

For the uninformed (shame on you, after all we've reported in previous posts), the Arquette odyssey started in 2005. The "sarcas-hymn" You Cannot Kill David Arquette was featured on BME's Fake Words and Signs From Space disc, and reappeared on last year's Last Transmission from the Blue Room.

BME vocalist Jef With One F (local guys can have stage names, too) managed to get a copy of the song to Arquette.

"It's flattering, plus it states that I'm immortal, which I had no idea about," Arquette said. "We started talking through MySpace."

There were friendly exchanges, a box of gourmet cupcakes (from Arquette to the band), and a too-cool MTV shout-out. Finally, the stars aligned for an in-person meeting.

The crowd was healthy and hyper for a Tuesday night, full of girls with Bettie Page bangs, gruff guys in black and the odd suburban sweetheart with a camera.

"Every single person who is here tonight is a raving lunatic who should probably be sedated," Jef With One F mused. "And I am happy to be among their number."

After some nervous pacing and an almost-palpable sense of expectation ("I bet he's not even going to show up," one girl offered coolly amid cigarette puffs), Arquette appeared just after 9 p.m. Take that, cigarette chick.

No fanfare, no announcement. He simply walked in through the front door and began shaking hands.

"We're going city to city; meeting people, shaking hands, kissing babies. It's kind of like a presidential campaign," Arquette said of his tactic. Houston was the third stop on the Tripper tour, with a dozen more cities to follow until the film's April 20 opening.

Arquette was big pimpin' in a white-sequined suit. Even his stubble looked stylish amid the flutter of camera phones and requests for autographs.

"I've got to live up to the myth," he offered.

The Scream actor took the stage for a quick hello and introduced the trailer for his film, which played on a flimsy screen. It drew loud cheers from the crowd -- especially when the Ronald Reagan-masked killer wielded an axe.

The brief scenes were a canny mix of horror and comedy, but they masked (pun intended) a pointed political statement.

"It's not just Ronald Reagan," Arquette said during an interview earlier in the day. "It's more like the leaders of the world, the presidents, the people in charge of these major superpowers. When they sign a piece of paper that says kids can go off to war, blow each other's brains out, blow up innocent casualties of war -- they're really the mass murderers. They're really the psychopaths of our time. We should be at a point as human beings where we're beyond violence as a solution. It's barbaric.

"I hope I get people's feathers ruffled, because what's really important is what's going on overseas."

But enough with the serious stuff. BME was all smiles: Jef With One F fidgeted like a schoolboy, vocalist Christi Lain was positively glowing, and guitarist Bill Curtner looked jollier than usual. It's no wonder; Arquette says he's considering using BME music for future projects.

The band benefited from the healthy dose of Arquette love in attendance. But BME's energetic set was enough to convert even the stodgiest non-believers. Dressed in its trademark nerd/Mormon chic -- red ties, white button-downs and black pants -- BME careened between genres. Rock riffs collided against pop hooks and made out with bogus rap rhymes. It was a thrilling display of mash-up messiness.

Ology was an irresistible, grade-school sing-along, inciting the crowd to throw up triangle signs with their hands. Robots was sheer, laugh-out-loud brilliance with its riff on hip-hop cliches, from Kelis to Kris Kross. It was obvious why Arquette's screwball persona gelled so perfectly with the group.

There was a so-wrong-it's-right cover of Nine Inch Nails' Closer (part rockabilly, part Sonny and Cher), then Arquette jumped onstage to bask in the greatness of his own personal ode. He shouted along with the chorus, acted out some of the lyrics and, near the end, looked as if he might explode from sheer ecstasy.

"It was really never written with the intention that we'd be able to talk to him or do anything with him," Jef With One F said of the Arquette tune. "He's been such a good guy. I'm convinced it was some kind of karmic destiny that made it happen.

"It made him happy, so it made us happy. There's just a feeling of euphoria that I've never felt before."

You, too, can feel the BME love even without Arquette. The group promises an all - The Houston Chronicle


Discography

2005 - What We Do... Is Secret EP
2005 - Fake Words and Signs From Space
2006 - Last Transmission from the Blue Room
2007 - Test Results: Anthology 2004 - 2006
2007 - All You Need is Blood

Various tracks have played on KPFT, KTRU, KTBZ, KACC, and several alternative radio showcases in Wisconsin, California, and New York.

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Bio

The Black Math Experiment is a band of questionable taxonomy from Houston, TX. Known for their dark, bizarre, and humorous music, they’ve grown slowly into an underground sensation since their inception in 2004. Their first album, Fake Words and Signs From Space, became infamous for it’s offbeat sarcas-hymn “You Cannot Kill David Arquette”. The song’s subject thought highly enough of the track to thank BME with a box of cupcakes, a 1965 Ford Econoline van, and a visit to Houston while on tour promoting his film The Tripper. He was subsequently made an honorary member, is always represented at shows by a framed photograph surrounded by candles.

Their second album, 2005’s Last Transmission from the Blue Room, also yielded a number of tracks that managed to become well known in bizarre ways. “Ology” entered the kindergarten curriculum in a pre-school in Hsinchu, Taiwan, while the Western Epic, “Evil Wizard Jesus” almost resulted in the band’s bodily removal from a festival at The University of Saint Thomas. The album marked the end of the band’s original line up, as keyboardist Chris Soliz left upon its completion to pursue other projects.

The next album, All You Need is Blood, was both shorter and more somber to reflect the remaining members troubled lives in 2007. It’s final track, “Suit of Lights” became one of their most powerful pieces, and currently serves as the finale at shows, with Christmas presents being thrown to the audience during it’s extended guitar solo.

Wishing to add to their collection of strange artist to share the stage with, a collection that includes Peelander-Z, The Billy Nayer Show, and Psychostick, BME entered an essay contest to open for The Misfits on their 2007 30th Anniverscary Tour, beating out hundreds of applicants. Once the curtain closed, however, bassist Captain Mongo Nelson left the band to return to Minnesota. He was replaced with Justin Nemeti. The Black Math Experiment still resides in Houston, and is currently at work on their fourth studio album.