POP MUSIC REVIEW : Genius Treads on Rocky Ground With Grace

Ever since Brian Eno melded dissonance and fuzzy guitar into washes of textural weirdness in the early '70s, bands such as R.E.M., Sonic Youth and, most recently, Pavement have adopted and fattened up the genre by pumping in everything from folk to FM pop to dusty blues. The newest addition to the tradition of sparse, reverberating rock is Ashland, Ore.'s, Red Footed Genius.

Al's Bar proved the perfect setting on Tuesday for the small-town trio, which possesses the same kind of fringe appeal as the offbeat downtown club. The tiny audience--about a dozen people--swayed as the low-key band churned out rich, lulling melodies with enough moving shapes and textures to avoid stagnation--the main problem in the genre.

The collegiate-looking musicians strung one song into the next with a fine line of high-tone feedback, avoiding chatter between numbers. Shy singer-guitarist Sean Haffner fixed his gaze into the distance, but was still able to engage the listeners with rushes of desperation and sadness in his crooning vocals. The enveloping melodies felt as comfortable as a feather pillow, while the underlying discordance kept the more primal senses buzzing.

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