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ON THE BACKSTAGE: IQU, SELECT LEVEL, NULL STATE

Saturday, April 1, 2023
ON THE BACKSTAGE:
IQU, SELECT LEVEL, NULL STATE

$12 GA / $10 OFS
7:00PM Doors / 8:00PM Show

IQU (formerly icu, more on that in a second) began in DJ KO’s (aka Kento Oiwa) Olympia, WA basement in 1996. While in Olympia, he found a kinship with Michiko Swiggs and a bass player in Aaron Hartman. The three musicians shared a love of musical styles ranging from jazz, fusion, indie rock, soul, and hip hop, to emerging electronic artists of that time, like Squarepusher and Luke Vibert. Living in Oly, and not adhering to the main genre of the city’s music scene, they were driven to take their music making to another level, experimenting with as many styles and sounds as possible. There was only one hitch: the name needed a change. At their highly lauded CMJ performance, a member of a neo hard rock outfit from NYC of the same name, served them with papers (on stage!) and demanded a name change. Hence the “c” to a “Q”, and the transfer from lowercase to a life in caps lock setting. IQU carried on.

After the self-released single Despite the Smell of Colors Vol. i, K Records released their first album in the fall of 1998, the well received Chotto Matte a Moment!.

It has been said that the IQU way was to translate electronic music as a live performance. Along with the usual electronic music equipment, they play live instruments such as theremin (KO plays it like no one else), guitar, turntables, organs, vintage synths, talk box, and whatever else they can get their hands on. As Johnny Ray Huston of the Bay Guardian said a few years ago, “At the moment (IQU) are best represented in concert. But in time the studio will be just one more gadget that they bring to life.” And it has.

With the releases on K, and the local buzz that grew around this energizing live act, the stage was set for a constant touring schedule. IQU went on a number of U.S. tours with bands such as Unwound, Looper and Hovercraft, and were invited to join the infamous “Music Against Brain Degeneration Revue” tour by Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. The MABDR featured the Flaming Lips,Sebadoh, Robyn Hitchcock, Sonic Boom, Cornelius and IQU. They followed that up with 2 west-coast tours with Mouse On Mars and Chicks On Speed. All the touring and hundreds of shows fueled the machine. It would be safe to say that the IQU idea definitely caught on, as they were asked to perform in the first installment of the Coachella festival and alongside acts such as Modest Mouse, Built To Spill, Cibo Matto, Coldcut, Freaky Chakra, Imperial Teen, and Stereo Total. Of their 1998 CMJ performance, Douglas Wolk wrote in the Village Voice, “the biggest splash of CMJ…a studious but thrilling instrumental trio of upright bass, keyboards and sequencer/turntable/guitar/theremin, who recalled New Order in attitude and methodology, and used high-speed breakbeats like they’d come up with the idea themselves”.

The uniqueness of the duo’s recorded material and the energy of the live act struck chords with the minds of performance and visual artists such as Miranda July (with whom they recorded the Girls on Dates EP) and the flash animation sensation, Mumbleboy (whose visuals they have incorporated into their live performances). Then came the release of a remix EP, Teenage Dream, which their single was remixed by the artists they befriended on tour: Sonic Boom, Looper, Tim Green of the Fucking Champs, amongst others.

After a two-year hiatus from the relentless touring in support of Chotto… and Teenage Dream, and the departure of the bass player, IQU emerged with their follow up album, Sun Q.

After a little detour doing solo projects (KO toured the west-coast with the Japanese avant electronic maestro, Nobukazu Takemura) and hundreds of DJ gigs, KO and Michiko established IQU as a duo. True to the IQU spirit, they took the playful side of electronic music, and were not shy in embracing a more pop feel on record with beautiful melodies, all the while maintaining their DIY aesthetic. Its feel is the French disco of Daft Punk, Air and Mirwais, the talk-box funk of Zapp, the ambience of Eno, and even the eighties break beat experiments of acts like Meat Beat Manifesto or Renegade Soundwave. It’s a mish mash of sounds and styles, a little more beat heavy, but what you’d expect a follow up from IQU would be like, a continuance in a sound that’s all their own and a breath of fresh air with every listen.

Sun Q is now re-released digitally on K Records (KLP286)


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