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Music Preview: Advanced Calculus is a crash course on local bands

Friday, October 31, 2003

By Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend Editor

Anyone who's taken Advanced Calculus knows it's not an easy ride.



WITH: Don Caballero, Modey Lemon, Creta Bourzia and Wesafari.

WHERE: Drill Deck, Carnegie Mellon campus.

WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday. There will be an after-party at 9 p.m. at the Mattress Factory, North Side.

INFORMATION: 412-901-6837.


And neither is the record of that title, just released by a pair of DJs from Carnegie Mellon University's WRCT (88.3 FM).

"Advanced Calculus" is an intense, 28-song crash course of Pittsburgh bands recorded live (with technical precision) at the station over the past 2 1/2 years.

The collection, not the first to spring from 'RCT, uncovers a slice of the Pittsburgh music scene well below the mainstream radar.

"How many math-rock bands are there?" Doug Luce says with a laugh over the phone to his partner, Sean Cho, who replies, "Oh, probably a handful, at least."

Luce and Cho, both CMU alumni, are hosts of the Monday night show "Advanced Calculus," which features a regular live segment. The pair sifted through hour upon hour of tape to retrieve crunchy cuts by the likes of Blunderbuss, Creta Bourzia, Thee Speaking Canaries and Mihaly, along with the thrashy punk of Teddy Duchamp's Army and McCarthy Commission; the avant-rock of "(The) Alpha Control Group (C)" and IO, and the garage of The Modey Lemon and the Human Brains. There's also The Code (ska-punk), Young Steele Matula Trio (jazz), Life in Bed (indie) and Strict Flow (hip-hop), to name a few.

"There's a certain aesthetic there," Cho says. "The radio station exists to play music that wouldn't get played anywhere else, whether it be underground, hip-hop, avant-jazz. As far as narrowing down the music, we have a station full of DJs and we wanted to represent music that the DJs play."

It's all very handsomely packaged on "Advanced Calculus," which will get national distribution by Matador and will likely be reviewed in national publications.

"We'd like to think that we're introducing the world to what is happening here," Luce says. "We were looking for bands that were underexposed."

In the liner notes, Douglas P. Mosurock, a CMU grad and co-owner of Version City Records, finds a common thread among the diverse lot of bands:

"Pittsburgh's music scene," he writes, "is founded on a modesty that is just as strong as its will to create new and challenging sounds, to be poppier, catchier, more intense, more complex, weirder, heavier, more more than anything else out there -- music like WRCT's place in the world of radio."

Scott Mervis can be reached at or 412-263-2576.

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