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Sunday, Nov. 14, 2004



James Baluyut and +/-

Several years ago, James Baluyut decided to name -- or, more precisely, label -- his new band +/- (plus minus), a statistical term used in hockey to denote a player's effectiveness on the ice. Baluyut, who grew up near Detroit, was for most of the '90s a "sideman" in his brother's New York-based indie rock outfit, Versus, and when he decided to make his own indie rock outfit he recruited other sidemen. As well as a lot of electronics.

Though +/- has a drummer, it also employs loops and rhythm machines, which make it easier to reproduce the unusual time signatures that Baluyut favors. Weird meters are nothing new in pop, but most indie guitar bands stay away from them since they tend to scare the kids. He often tells interviewers that he forces himself to play odd time signatures because that way interesting melodies just emerge by themselves.

Obviously, Baluyut, who sings and plays guitar, has a utilitarian approach to music (the title of the group's debut long-player is "Self-Titled Long-Playing Debut"), which may be why his songs are so user-friendly. Warm and melodic at times, loud and boisterous at others, his tunes are, in Baluyut's words, "futuristic folk songs" -- they may not sound timeless now, but they will in 2040. Ultimately, they're just great pop songs. Most people who see +/- live don't even consciously register the odd meters, they just hop on the groove and ride it to the end. Isn't that was songs are for?

+/-: Nov. 14, 7 p.m., Shibuya O-Nest, Tokyo, 2,800 yen (03-3496-1070); Nov. 15, 6:30 p.m., Club Junk Box, Niigata, 3,500 yen (025-229-1494); Nov. 17, 6:30 p.m., Pepperland, Okayama, 3,500 yen (086-253-9758); Nov. 18, 6 p.m., Osaka Big Cat, 4,000 yen (06-6535-5569); Nov 20, 5 p.m., HMV Shinjuku South, free; Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m., Shimokitazawa Shelter, Tokyo, 3,300 yen (03-3466-7430); Nov. 23, 5:30 p.m., Shibuya Duo Music Exchange, Tokyo, 3,200 yen (03-5436-9600).

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