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Stumptone not only brings the noise, it also brings the short wave radio.

By Lisa Garrett

AUGUST 31, 1998:  Theremins, organs and musical saws, or even well-played conventional instruments for that matter, can personify a solo musician's sound or style and differentiate them from the other non-folk-like acts. But the performances become multi-layered, somewhat pseudo-solo by default of subject matter (think Centro-matic and Legendary Crystal Chandelier). In the amalgam of pseudo solo acts, describing the intricacies of each can be a journey into style, personality, and - with Denton's Stumptone - short wave radio.

Recruiting members from Sub Oslo (bassist Miguel Veliz) and Mazinga Phaser (drummer Mike Thronberry), Chris Pla-vidal has assembled a team of like minded-musicians and added vocals and guitar to form his ethereal frequencies. Stumptone's sound, Plavidal agrees, is hard to describe. Moments of clarity happen with experience, just as rare moments of conversation invade the static of the short-wave radio Plavidal sets up on stage. "It's totally an instrument by itself - you can pick up the weirdest stuff," he says. "It would be impossible to recreate some of those sounds." He goes on to describe an occurrence at one show when the radio emitted atomic clock tones, beeps and ticks ("at the sound of the tone, the time will be..."). "When you get the random tones, it's really cool." Instrument of improv to Stumptone, Plavidal sometimes amplifies the sonances of the radio through his guitar pickup or a volume pedal, adding to the conflagration.

"The songs are moments in my life - or it seems like they come out that way," Plavidal says. "But the words, the feeling behind the songs - with a lot of them we're trying to do a picture." The collage this artist works on involves many styles. The Plavidal project's origin was a 4-track in the bedroom, then after expansion and contraction it changed names, finally coming together as the present lineup. What began as a buzzing in Plavidal's ear after the dissipation of his former band, MK Ultra, eventually evolved into Stumptone - a musical medium to translate the band's experiences."It's an expression of what's not just going on in my life but all the input that's happening in Denton." Plavidal goes on to explain the short life of Denton bands: just as things seem to be working out, a band disappears. "But I also think things in Denton move at a slower speed," he reassures. Indeed, by big-city standards, the release of "Circles/Jeremy Bentham's Boots" on Two Ohm Hop was a long time in coming, but then the various moultings of Stumptone might not have been exposed: working names Vernilla Stump, Young Pio-neers DTX, Marfa Lights and, with a multitude of players contributing to the band from members of Suntouched to Whitey, to Machine Elves. The permanence of the members is decided, although the name comes from nowhere. Plavidal says he was discouraged by the seemingly original appellations (MK Ultra, Young Pioneers) resulting in Stumptone, the silly, nonsensical moniker. "It's just two words, stuck together, I have no idea what they mean."

The music, having a strain of MK Ultra's spacious sound, exemplifies the texture-loving layering guitarist/vocalist. Asked what he likes from his band, he replies, "In the past I've just played by myself. It's always fun, but the dynamics of playing with other people - they can take a song somewhere you could never take it. That's real important to me."

Explaining the concept of solo acts calling themselves "we," Plavidal stresses that the band is definitely not just himself. So many people, not only musicians, have contributed to the sound through shared experiences, a fact he attempts to convey through the music. "I guess that's my style," he finally says. "I try to re-create a certain moment with music, visually."

Whether it's his trip to Spain or his grandmother's tales, Plavidal's events in life come through in the music of Stumptone.

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