Making the Breaks 

The New Deal driven by progression

Who: The New Deal with Mat the Alien

Where: Garfinkel’s

When: Friday, Dec. 5 & Saturday, Dec. 6

Tickets: $15-$25

Critics of electronica dismiss it for being impersonal. They’re on shaky ground, however, when it comes to Toronto trio The New Deal, who put a face to the breaks. Three faces, to be exact. Three hearts, three brains, six eyes, 30 fingers, you get the picture.

On their latest release Gone Gone Gon e, tracks are driven forward by recurring synth riffs, glazed with ethereal vocals and punched up with the odd voice modulation. But instead of coming at the audience via a record spinning middleman, it’s all courtesy of the three musicians on stage. No samplers, no DJs, just pure, 100 per cent human-generated groove, created before your very eyes.

"It’s live dance music. It’s definitely organic," says keyboard player Jamie Shields whose dextrous claws are responsible for most of the tripped out electronic elements over bassist Dan Kurtz’s sexy grooves and drummer Darren Shearer’s beats.

"Our music’s been called ‘live, progressive, breakbeat house’, which is a little long for my liking, but we are live."

Of course, trying to pin down The New Deal is, to borrow a phrase from Mother Superior in the Sound of Music, like "trying to keep a wave upon the sand." If they had to liken the sound to an X-Men character, the easy choice is shapeshifter Mystique. Sometimes they’re more jam band than funky house, sometimes more acid jazz, sometimes more ambient. In fact the only constant that can be pinned on The New Deal is their focus on progression and their unwillingness to sink into one career-defining sound. They’re the polar opposite of the one-hit-wonder.

While fans may recognize what Shields calls "themes" from their albums, the music is constantly changing. It’s a characteristic further encouraged by the band’s complete autonomy over the production of their music, something they gained by splitting from label Jive/Zomba in 2002.

"It’s great to have that kind of control," Shields confirms. "Our stuff’s pretty esoteric. We need to be able to be pretty distinct in what we want to come out, and if we don’t have that then the whole thing gets lost.

"This latest record ( Gone Gone Gone ) that we just put out definitely shows that we’re interested in progressing with our sound and with our ideas," he adds. "It’s an incredibly different style from what we put out before, but it still has elements of New Deal style in it, so it didn’t sound like a different band, it just sounded like a band that’s taking another step."

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