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Pure Energy

Particle, L.A.'s newbie jam band, charges up for a journey.

Indeed, there seems to be a willing suspension of disbelief on behalf of the fans who love Particle so dearly. Despite the band's assertion that the styles employed in a live setting range from "high-energy funk" to "ambient psychedelic," there's really not much of musical interest there, no new ground broken. (Maybe this explains the "space porn funk" designation?) While the quartet is definitely funkier than, say, Sting, the music they're playing can't really be considered "funk" in the technical sense: "Funk" music has very precise dimensions and contours that few contemporary acts attempt to replicate (for example, the "on the one" signature, in which the heavy beat is the first beat). Based on today's predominant definition of funk, anyone who employs a certain time signature and syncopation accented with fat bass-guitar licks is playing funk music. So how does Particle stack up to Parliament or Bootsy Collins?

"You can definitely come to a Particle show and get a pure dose of funk," Molitz states confidently. "Pretty much anytime you hear a sound or a song that has that down-and-dirty, gritty 'Let's get it on' kind of feeling, call it funk, regardless of the style it is. It makes you want to dance, makes you want to get down."

After hearing Particle's music, one local funk expert has a lot to say. "I'm thinking using the term 'funk' is primarily music critics' fault. In a pinch to categorize the often uncategorizable, they throw this term, which has come to mean a stylistic mishmash more than a recognizable genre of music," says Mr. Wiggles the Worm, host of Radio 1190's funk show, Music on the One(which airs Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.). "Plus, it's a term that is so much more user-friendly than 'fusion'" -- very clinical, who wants to party to that? -- "or 'avant-garde,'" scary and unmarketable. "'Funky' does not equal 'the Funk.' Lots of very funky things have nothing to do with funk."

Chemistry set: The members of Particle stick together.
Chemistry set: The members of Particle stick together.

But innocent misuse of a highly abused musical term is forgivable enough when it comes to an excited, if somewhat naive, group that is passionate about its music. And as everyone's grandmother used to say, there's a lid for every pot, and Particle does not seem to be wanting for lids. In the short span the band has existed, the venues hosting it have evolved from late-night boats to the esteemed Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee, a three-day jamfest featuring headliners Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio, String Cheese Incident and Ben Harper, to name a few.

In addition to the current tour, Particle is looking forward to logging some studio time and putting together a live record. "We all care a lot about making records, because they're just that: They're records of history, recording those moments in time," says Molitz. "We've just been focusing on the live shows so that we can really feel the music out and explore our own instruments as individuals so that when it comes time to record, we know exactly what we want. After a year and a half, we all have a lot cooking and a lot on our minds, and we're definitely ready to put something down."

For the time being, it's more of the same: touring, touring and more touring. Word has it on the ParticleFlux mailing list that the band is incorporating new songs with new influences (including gospel) into the set list, which means that Particle is poised to do some exciting things, musically, which will make the fans' -- and the band's -- journey that much more interesting.

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