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Mystic Pizza

Candiria's genre-bending urban fusion of ambient, hardcore, rap and jazz makes for a tasty organic pie

The future of music is invariably difficult to see. Mere replication doesn't do the trick; nothing works as well the second time around. But at the same time, the "experts" -- the managers, the booking agents, the promoters and the label folks -- put forth enormous effort trying to mold an act into a smooth lozenge. Round some of the edges here, gloss the surface there, add in a fuzzy cliché or two to put everyone at ease, and with any luck at all, everybody goes away at least temporarily satisfied. And if you sell a few records, they might even call you back to do it again.

But only those who manage to keep true to themselves shatter the pattern, and if you can do that, your legacy is guaranteed. Anything else simply starts the kitchen timer ticking toward irrelevance. The countdown may be long (Guns N' Roses) or short (Honeymoon Suite), but it's as inevitable as death, taxes and another Bob Dylan comeback record.

Such is the case in the more extreme genres as well. There have been tens of thousands of death-metal, hardcore and fill-in-the-blank bands. Only a dozen of each type have made a lasting contribution.

Who can turn the switch on and make it all sound good? No matter how drunk, the Candiria band can.
Who can turn the switch on and make it all sound good? No matter how drunk, the Candiria band can.

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Count Brooklyn's Candiria among them. The ten-year-old band takes each of the popular urban music forms -- hardcore, rap, jazz and techno/ambient -- and merges them into one new musical whole. This in itself may not be particularly noteworthy. What sets Candiria apart, however, is the authenticity and purity with which each of the elements is projected.

Take the band's rap tinge, for example -- in no way is it reminiscent of nü-metal. It is, rather, pre-gangsta, pre-big money producer, East Coast-style human rhyming of a type last heard flying from Rakim's mouth in his big '80s heyday. The jazz aspect, likewise, is less John Zorn than John Coltrane; it skips all of the derivations and zeros in on the roots. Hardcore provides the foundation, and any ambient shadings lend…well, ambience.

And that simply describes Candiria in a recorded setting. Seeing the band live adds one more crucial element: natural flow. One could be forgiven for hearing a Candiria disc and presuming that the sound could never be satisfyingly pulled off live. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Songs that are impenetrably dense on record take on life and feeling on stage. Transitions that seem gratuitous on CD come across sensibly live. Performers that one may have imagined as grim automatons are personable, connected musicians.

"Playing on stage is like breathing to us," claims vocalist Carley Coma. "It comes very naturally. There are times when we mess up on stage. But the good thing about that is that we're so good at improvising that we just cover up the problem. When we go into a gig, no matter how tired we are, no matter how much drinking or smoking we did before we got up on stage, a switch goes on and the fire starts to burn."

Coma sounds peaceful and borderline mystical when he describes the moment each night when, as he puts it, Candiria "becomes an entity." The band leaves the here and now and transports to a place of pure music.

"We all feel it," he says. "And the same way you never forget how to ride a bike is what happens when Candiria steps on stage and never forgets how to perform its music in its truest form." Coma goes on to explain that the made-up word Candiria has no meaning outside of what the band invests in it. Which is, he says, "five guys making music that stands out."

The band is touring in support of The C.O.M.A. Imprint, its new double CD. But this is no typical marathon effort. First, the name doubles as the handle for Candiria's newly established label, distributed through Los Angeles's Lakeshore Records, and disc two allows the other acts on the label full rein. There's nary a Candiria tune in earshot, as rappers Kid Gambino and Chief, electronica performers Spylacopia and DJ Laptop, and jazz group Ghosts of the Canal take center stage. Disc one is dominated by reworkings of several songs from Candiria's second release, Beyond Reasonable Doubt. The original tracks were tweaked and embellished to bring the songs up to the band's current standard. Elsewhere, a classic rock-inspired instrumental, a Method Man cover and dueling flügelhorns are scattered among the band's more "standard" fare. Somewhat surprisingly, given its hodgepodge nature, The C.O.M.A. Imprint is Candiria's most naturally flowing record. The band finally found a way to capture in the studio what it has done for so long on stage.

Coma says that, even though disc one of The C.O.M.A. Imprint looks backward, it still represents evolution. Adjusting the tracks from the band's current vantage point improved both the songs and the band itself.

"Back then, we were still discovering ourselves as people," he says. "But now we're approaching 30, and we pretty much know who we are, so we can go back and explore our roots. I think that is the feeling that got captured."

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