Hot Chip adds humanity to electronic pop

Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

U.K.-based electronic ensemble Hot Chip may have named its latest album "In Our Heads," but the music on the album was far from planned.

Of course an electronic band such as Hot Chip relies on programmed beats and sounds that are quite challenging to sequence. But what sets the Grammy Award-nominated band apart is the random human element the bandmates bring to their music. In the case of Hot Chip, that comes from the members both playing instruments and also allowing their very human feelings to wrap around the electronic parts of their music.

"There's no real album overview, no real agenda. Over time, each album has its own [personality]. It depends on what we're feeling," said band member and multi-instrumentalist Owen Clarke. "The last record was more about monogamy. Now we're thinking about relationships with children, parents and those sorts of things. That's how we are feeling and [likely why the music] sounds upbeat and joyful."

And humorous. And soulful. Liken all of the moods reflected on the various songs to colorful personal experiences. A prison near the band's London studio, from which a prisoner escaped the day before the band arrived, inspired part of the mood on this album. A "Mr. T" ring (fan memorabilia from the 1980s television series "The A Team") found in the studio provided other inspiration.

Hot Chip with Sleigh Bells
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
Info: $35 to $45; 877-4FLY-TIX (4359849);

But don't expect Hot Chip to re-create the recorded sounds, no matter how pleasing, when it's onstage. That element of surprise is also what sets the band apart.

And such creativity doesn't come without a tangible price.

That includes hauling what Clarke said is about 2 1/2 tons of gear and multiple players and crew among shows. It'd be easy to significantly cut costs by chopping some of the equipment and leaving members out of the tour equation, but those are sacrifices the bandmates are unwilling to make, he said.

"It's fun to have it come alive again," said Clarke of the onstage tweaks that are often made during concerts. "That makes it all feel new again. We could go out and just do a similar sound [to what is on the album]. But once you have made that decision to play live, you might as well do it to the best of your capabilities."

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