Podcast #069: Bisco Bliss Mix
Since I recently started posting again, it was only a matter of time before I had to post a new podcast. Although I definitely have some newer mixes in the works, I decided to finally put the finishing touches on a older mix that has literally been years in the making: my Disco Biscuits “Bisco Bliss” mix.
I think I originally started putting some tracks into a “starter playlist” back in late 2007 or early 2008. Then I completely forgot about it until recently rediscovering the playlist while re-vamping my music libe. Rather than selfishly continue to hang onto it for my own ears, I decided it was finally time to complete the original idea as a full-fledged podcast.
So, I present to you Podcast #069, the Bisco Bliss Mix.
Description (short version):
The Disco Biscuits have always been well-known for their dark, dance-oriented electronic improv. And while the four-on-the-floor untz was always a staple of their live shows, I think it often overshadowed a lighter, more mellow style of jamming that a lot of fans have grown to love. For years, fans have described this major chord, happier improv as “Blissful” and some have even dubbed it “blissco.” This mix is dedicated entirely to this style of Biscuits improvisation and includes some of my favorite moments of happy, blissful jamming from the 1st incarnation of the band (i.e. Bisco 1.0).
A Couple Quick Notes:
Not Quite a “Hippie Workout Mix”
While I’m not giving this mix the official “Hippie Workout mix” designation, it could certainly be used for that purpose. In fact, I’ve already taken this on a few nice runs. It’s not bad for the longer, more mellow kind of jog, and it definitely picks up a bit towards the end.
A “Bisco Mix for Phish Fans”
I almost titled this one a “Bisco Mix for Phish fans” because I think it might surprise a few fans who never got into the band’s darker, dancier style and have typically shunned their music as a candy-raver bullshit. There’s some seriously stellar improv in this mix, so for those that dig the more guitar-driven, major-chord jams of Phish, Umphrey’s or even moe, be sure to give this a listen. You might be surprised how much you dig it.
1. 8/7/02 M.E.M.P.H.I.S. (2nd jam)
2. 10/5/02 Hot Air Balloon
3. 7/26/03 Little Shimmy in a Conga Line (jam into Aceetobee)
4. 4/4/03 Aceetobee (1st jam)
5. 4/6/03 Basis for a Day (middle jam)
6. 7/25/03 Down to the Bottom
7. 7/26/03 42 (2nd jam/outro)
8. 10/4/02 Triumph (jam into Crystal Ball)
9. 12/30/01 King of the World
10. 12/28/01 Mr. Don jam > Story of the World ending
Description (the long version):
When I first mentioned this mix to Justin, he thought it was good but could use a bit more context and explanation. So, what did I do? I went nuts and did a full play-by-play on each track that’s included in the mix (note: all links below go to the Live Music Archive page for each show).
Read on for the full, track-by-track description…
8/7/02 M.E.M.P.H.I.S. (2nd jam)
(Tussey Mountain Amphitheatre, Boalsburg, PA)
This is probably one of my favorite personal moments of Bisco here. I doubt too many other fans would flag this jam on a “best-of” list, but it was one of those moments where everything just seemed to lock in the right place….A perfect summer evening on a mountain side in the middle of nowhere, with the band ending a rockin’ show with this mellow and uber happy, major chord jam coming out of MEMPHIS. Barber starts off with this perfect little finger-tapping riff, Magner jumps in with these liquidy synth lines, and then they just lock into a slow-tempo groove to close the night. Pure Bisco Bliss.
10/5/02 Hot Air Balloon
(Haymaker Festival, Spotsylvania, VA)
Unfortunately this track always got over-shadowed by the “Astronaut” that followed it (which was some of the most evil, downright amazing space-Bisco ever). But the jam that precedes the evil darkness is pure light. I love the open space that they create with this type of improv. It’s rhythmic, but not at all the untz-untz techno that characterizes a normal bisco jam. A lot of Biscuits improv involves layers and atmospheres, but here it’s really down to the basic elements with nary a washed-out sound or ultrasonic blip. Plus, there’s also something magical about the different notes and riffs that Barber puts together during this track…all with this clean, almost shimmering tone that I have rarely ever heard him play since the 2002-2003 era. The entire two-night run at Haymaker is worth numerous listens, but this jam is a one of the more underrated of the bunch.
7/26/03 Little Shimmy in a Conga Line (jam into Aceetobee)
(Mishawaka Ampitheatre, Bellvue, CO)
This is one of the more epic happy jams I’ve been lucky enough to witness in person. There was something about the air in Colorado and the atmosphere at the Mish that allowed the Biscuits to stretch things out and really play to the natural setting around them. The Mishawaka Amphitheatre is kind of like a mini Red Rocks but more secluded and enclosed. Steep canyon walls are on both sides and provide a cool backdrop for the concert lighting. The stage — made out of large wooden poles — is nearly within jumping distance from the Poudre river, and there’s really nothing else around you except canyon walls and trees. Check out some photos to get a better idea.
But, I digress. Back to the music….I believe this is the first time they’d ever given this treatment to “Little Shimmy in a Conga Line.” They took the happier, major chord guitar part from the song’s second segment and kept repeating and vamping on it to create a new jam section. This is another one where I just love the open space that they created. So many Biscuits jams bring out these washes of sound and loud atmospherics, but this — like the HAB track above — shows how open the band’s sound can get when they’re patient and mellow.
The first part described above is basically “bliss jam, part 1.” After that, they start moving into different territory to hit on a bunch of different tones and approaches. At one point, they lock into a new groove which sounds to my ears like the intro to “Spectacle.” I wouldn’t call it a tease, but they definitely are in the right key and nearly in the right time signature. At this point, we’re clearly in “bliss jam, part 2.” Then, they start to settle into a more rhythmic playfulness before eventually changing keys and bringing us into part 3, which is all about the build-up. Seriously, it’s as if Barber has had some girl promise him sexual favors before heading on stage but ONLY if he played the most happy, amazing solo ever. He nails it, fluttering, hammering, bending notes, and absolutely raging until finally they drop into the middle section of “Aceetobee.” If you only listen to a small half of this mix, I implore you to make it this far. This is the bread & butter jam.
4/4/03 Aceetobee (1st jam)
(Fox Theater, Boulder, CO)
You’ll notice the tone switches during the little Aceetobee jam providing the bridge between the two. If you know the song at all, you’ll hear how this change matches the song precisely. If not, bare with my little transitional change-up, because this one eventually turns into pure happiness. There’s a perfect rhythmic playfulness to this improv section that always makes me grin. I think it’s the Barber riff that starts about a minute into the track that is what truly sets this one apart. What’s interesting is this comes from a completely different tour than the other show above, but yet again it’s from Colorado. There’s just something about touring Colorado that brought out the patient, happy Bisco jams (more on that later).
4/6/03 Basis for a Day (middle jam)
(Gothic Theater, Denver, CO)
This is yet another underrated selection. It’s the middle section of a long version of “Basis for a Day” and when I say “long,” this version literally served as half of an entire 1st set at the Gothic Theatre in Denver. It is definitely the only two-song set I’ve ever witnessed at a concert. I remember making sure to yell “one-song set” at the band as they came out for set II, and I distinctly recall getting a nice little chuckle from Barber as a he walked onstage (set II included more than one song. heh).
7/25/03 Down to the Bottom
(Mishawaka Ampitheatre, Bellvue, CO)
Again, this is another happy gem from the Mishawaka Amphitheatre. The great part about this one is that it’s from one of their more dark & evil songs, “Down to the Bottom.” But, given the natural setting, it’s almost like they needed to go a completely separate way during the song’s outro. Good times.
7/26/03 42 (2nd jam/outro)
(Mishawaka Ampitheatre, Bellvue, CO)
Seeing a trend? Something about those fucking Rocky Mountains just brings out the Blissco. I love this one. Lots of open space, cool atmospheric guitar and synth lines from Barber and Magner at the start. Then Brownstein settles into this prefect little bass progression. This one really made my night.
10/4/02 Triumph (jam into Crystal Ball)
(Haymaker Festival, Spotsylvania, VA)
Another trend you might notices is that it’s difficult to make any “best of” Biscuits mix without including tracks from their 2002 sets at the Haymaker Festival (10/4 & 10/5/02). This track served as the perfect raging guitar jam to come out of the Mishawaka bliss. Plus, it includes another one of those “Barber riffs.” Do you know these? Barber manages to find some perfect sequence of notes and then proceeds to the play the ever-loving shit out of the same riff, over and over, until they hit a huge peak. I know that some fans might get bummed that I didn’t include the final drop into the “Crystal Ball” that follows this, but for me this one is about the journey, not the destination….
12/30/01 King of the World
(Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA)
This is where things pick up in terms of tempo. The transition is a bit longer on this one, but the band eventually slips into happy territory and hits the lighter style of improv. Although Barber is the one to lock into the major chord riff on guitar, this one is all about Aaron Magner’s backdrop of keyboard atmospherics. He plays these heavenly washes of sound but also includes this strange, almost industrial rhythmic part for the first minute or so. I can’t find the specific reference, but I distinctly remember someone on PT describing Magner’s sound here as something akin to “being flown around by mechanical fairies.” Hehe, f-ing Bisco kids….but hey, it is a pretty good description of that sound.
12/28/01 Mr. Don jam > Story of the World ending
(Worcester Palladium, Worcester, MA)
So I decided to end things with a bang and throw in this bouncy jam out of Mr. Don from 2001, which is basically some of the happiest, bumpin’ Bisco from the 1.0 era. Although many “Mr. Don” outros have a similar major-chord jam, this one is especially jumpin’ and it’s all about the Brownstein bass pop. About a minute into this track, they all lock into a driving groove, and Marc Brownstein starts throwin’ out these punchy bass licks, complete with the extra bubbly pop from his Electro-Harmonix Bassballs pedal. They then gradually build the momentum and add layers until the energy pretty much hits the ceiling of the Worcester Palladium. They absolutely nail the peak back into the ending of “Story of the World,” and provide a nice way to end the mix on a high note.
A couple final notes about this mix:
WHITperson -- aka Marc Whitman or simply "Whit" -- is a long-time LMB contributor known for his in-depth posting style and his knack for crafting interesting podcasts. Whit currently resides in Brooklyn, where he's building up his web development chops and hoping to put his technical skills towards something interesting in the music world. Follow his updates over at whitperson.com and on twitter @whitperson.
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