Sensory Overload: Wonder Twin Powers

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Normally, Joshua Sheik and Jenny Flory, the musical partnership known as Wonder Twin Powers, perform as a duo. Flory brandishes her guitar and competent soul-songstress vocal skills while Sheik wrings enormous amounts of innovative rhythmic power from his surprisingly Spartan drum kit.

I've seen no drummer do more with less except Greg Saunier from Deerhoof, a left-of-center band whose skewed pop bombast is about as far as you can get from Wonder Twin Powers on the stylistic spectrum.

That's not to say Sheik and Flory are playing it safe. To the contrary, they've tackled one of the most ambitious Columbus music projects in recent memory. On increasingly frequent occasions, including last Thursday at Ruby Tuesday, they round up an expansive string ensemble, a backup singer and a DJ to form their Super Friends Hip Hop Orchestra.

The resulting ruckus elevates Wonder Twin Powers' music to new levels of loveliness, transforming ordinary soul-tinged pop tunes into dense, powerful works reminiscent of Kanye West's string-saturated opus Late Registration.

Thursday's show was at its best when the Twins got their entire crew into the act, matching exultant soaring string parts with jarring rhythmic jabs, slinky DJ scratches and harmonized vocals with soulful snarl.

On MySpace, the group promises "catchy, fun pop music perfect for the A.D.D. bunch." Maybe my attention span is too short, but to me, their slow jams weren't as thrilling.

One exception was the closing number, which found Flory ditching her guitar and going into diva mode. This certainly appealed to my aesthetic sensibilities more than the girl-with-guitar trope that has been poisoned by too many abysmal Lilith Fair disciples (is there any other kind?).

But it also made me realize Flory had been able to transcend those negative associations during her time with the six-string. She's casting her own shadow, not merely standing in someone else's.

Anyway, that last song's dramatic string sounds showed this crew can have success at a slower tempo even if they don't truly fulfill their potential until cutting loose and getting loud. It's good that they're getting a handle on how to move through various moods; not every track can be a plate-rattling earthquake, right?

In the end, it all comes back to Sheik. He's obviously a first-rate drummer, so the fact that he has foregone the standard oversized drum-geek setup is a breath of fresh air. I don't think he even used any toms. And he didn't need them; for every tempo and feel, he cooked up some kind of pleasant surprise.\

Wonder Twin Powers