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Pop goes the easel

Antipop Consortium and Plaid redraft the drawing board

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Puffy and Busta Rhymes. Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris. These collaborations don't come off as far-fetched; they're the kind that mine Billboard pop chart gold. But steer toward uncharted territory, into the realm of anti-pop -- hip-hop contortionists Antipop Consortium, the Sun Ra's of hip-hop that is -- and you're bound to run up against ideas your average Vibe reader may not vibe with.

"I want to hit Jim O'Rourke off with some raw shit," says Ball Beans, one of Antipop's three MC/producers. "He said he don't know about samples and such. But I'm with Jim O'Rourke. He's an eclectic guy. I like all his shit -- Sam Prekop shit, Bobby Conn shit. That's the one I wanna work with: Bobby Conn!"

As soon as you hear P. Diddy say something similar, head for cover, because the flying pigs are on their way, and the shit is gonna hit the fan -- and everything else, for that matter.

But it's just that "who-gives-a-shit" attitude -- i.e. name-dropping eccentric Chicago indie rockers over the likes of Timbaland -- that makes Antipop Consortium a perfect fit for their label, U.K. indie Warp Records, a forerunner in experimental electronic composition.

Named for what their sound is not, born from art schools and the New York spoken-word slam scene, Antipop Consortium -- Beans, High Priest and M. Sayyid, along with producer Earl Blaize -- are versatile in several senses of the word. The group has been self-releasing, producing and designing mix tapes, singles and EPs since the mid-'90s, signing only recently with Warp for its second full-length, Arrhythmia. It's as a good name as any for an Antipop album, because the hearts of hip-hop fans who can't fathom MCs wanting to work with Russian turntablists (DJ Vadim) or avant jazz pianists (Matthew Shipp) would probably skip a beat over Antipop's oeuvres. But when pressed on the topic of the group's identity being blurred by its association with Warp's strong IDM background, Beans stresses that, despite the stripped-down, strafed shards of beats and off-kilter paced rhymes, Antipop boils down to pure-grade hip-hop.

"I don't really see the distinction," says Beans, "because early hip-hop was electronic music. It's all an extension of early hip-hop. For real, man, Autechre is an extension of Mantronix. And half the main electronic acts out there, their influences are on Warp. Warp, for me, is a progressive label, and the artists on it are trying to expand their genres respectively, trying to be forward thinking. And we try to be forward thinking with our approach."

Not quite on the opposite end of the spectrum, but on the opposite side of the pond, fellow Warp Records artist Plaid couldn't agree more with Antipop's observations on hip-hop. First gaining a reputation as part of Black Dog Productions, Ed Handley and Andy Turner are former breakers who went from twiddling bodies to twiddling knobs.

Much in the way Antipop add static to their steez, Plaid draw the breaks from their Powerbooks. And they share with Antipop an almost-collective collaborative relationship.

With the release of last year's Double Figure, Plaid has finished its "backward trilogy." Their next personal challenge: to further manipulate and mutate the thematic "Plaid sounds" -- springy machine beats, warm fuzzy tone sweeps and spikes -- that characterized their three full-length releases.

The initial result of that challenge is the upcoming, playfully rolling P-Brane EP. The best way to experience Plaid's progression, however, is live, an arena in which Turner promises up to 60 percent new material -- material that is being shaped and reshaped constantly as the tour progresses.

Plaid recently completed a remix of Antipop's "Ghost Lawns," and though it hasn't yet been heard by all sides involved, the duo is previewing an instrumental version live.

It just goes to show that some of the future's best hip-hop really does come to life in a Warp-ed world.

Plaid plays Thurs., April 4, at the Echo Lounge, 551 Flat Shoals Ave. 9 p.m. $14. Antipop Consortium plays Sat., April 6, at the Echo Lounge. 9 p.m. $10. 404-681-3600. www.echostatic.com/echolounge/.

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