I've seen the future of hippie music, and it's called Sound Tribe Sector 9. Moreover, this phrase isn't nearly as much of a backhanded insult as it initially appears. Sure, the Atlanta-based quintet is beloved by the I-swear-hemp-underwear-doesn't-itch crowd, which helps explain why the group has seemingly performed in Colorado every other week since its 1997 formation. But unlike acts that spend their careers trying to rewrite "Sugar Magnolia," the band supplements basic rock instrumentation with electronics, loops and modern studio techniques that are more about tomorrow than yesterday. Artifact, a 2005 chill-out opus, is a fine introduction to STS9's forward-looking style, and even though it's surpassed by the more recent Artifact: Perspectives, in which remixers from Bill Laswell to Bassnectar discover even more possibilities in the combo's work, the raw material gives listeners a lot more to chew on than the efforts of typical neo-patchouli faves. It's no wonder the band's doing so well -- and with a possible summer Red Rocks date likely to supplement the two Fillmore gigs it's sharing with Digable Planets and Cut Chemist, the Tribe's prospects look brighter still. Hippies of the world, welcome to the 21st century.
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