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Friday, March 27, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Idaho Syndrome Hopes To Put Salt Lake City On Music Map

Idaho Syndrome at Colourbox, 219 First Ave. S. Tuesday night, $5, 340-4101. The Off Ramp, 109 Eastlake Ave. E., Wednesday night, $4, 628-0232. --------------------------------------------------------------- Martha and the Vandells' "Dancin' In The Streets" and other rock anthems list American cities where rock music thrives. Chicago, St. Louis and Philadelphia are typical mentions, but no one ever talks about Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City's Idaho Syndrome, performing at Colourbox and the Off Ramp next week, would like to change that.

"There's a preconceived notion about Salt Lake City," said Matt Taylor, Idaho Syndrome's keyboardist, in a phone interview last week. "People seem to be really surprised that people like bands and like music here."

There are obstacles, they admit. A Salt Lake City ordinance prevents live music from being played after 1 a.m. The Salt Lake City Council tends to be wary of local music clubs opening up.

But Taylor and bassist Jon Bray note that Salt Lake City has a diverse and thriving alternative music scene that ranges from hardcore punk to a jazzy, funky group reminiscent of the Village People. Provo, 45 miles from Salt Lake City and the home of Brigham Young University, has an apparently amazing ska scene and a number of spots to see live music.

For the past three years, Idaho Syndrome has added another facet to the Utah scene, a brooding mix of post-punk rock owing to British bands like Joy Division, Bauhaus and the Wolfgang Press.

Although the band has been through several incarnations, founder Ryley Fogg has kept the same basic musical formula intact.

Fogg's dedication to keeping the band intact has earned it respect in the Salt Lake City scene, but two years ago, it was in danger of becoming just another historical footnote. The band was being courted by Popular Metaphysics (formerly 415 Records), an alternative label distributed by MCA. The group set up a showcase in the summer of 1990 for a label representative, and it seemed certain that the band would be signed.

According to Fogg, the deal was contingent on MCA's final approval. "They didn't like dirge rock," said Fogg, and the deal fell through. Immediately, one member left the band and got married. Two other members followed suit two weeks later, and Fogg was left with one other guitarist.

After performing one Salt Lake show with no drummer, Fogg recruited new members to fill the vacancies. "At that time," Fogg explains, "all the creative input was mine. We did have talented members, but all I needed to do was replace the talent."

Since then, the sound has evolved from its earlier, moodier soundscapes to a more grating, driving sound. "The members all seem to have more input," said Fogg, "and the sound has evolved." He points out, however, that the sound has not changed drastically.

On their "Schemes of Angels," which Taylor calls the first compact disc release by a Salt Lake City band, the moodier side of the band is represented. Five of the album's 10 songs are drawn from the band's earliest incarnation and are dominated by Fogg's deep baritone and solid, simple bass lines.

The CD, released in December, is being distributed by two American companies and one European distributor. Although sales have been modest so far (in the low hundreds), the release is oart if the band's most ambitious project, its own record label.

The label, Siren Song, is being run by Taylor and financed by money he makes DJing at local dance clubs. The label is taking a pro-active role in the Salt Lake City scene by releasing other bands' material, but Taylor's goal is to open the label to a diverse array of bands across the country.

Recent signings include Martyr Colony, an industrial music band from Columbus, Ohio, and Doghouse, a Salt Lake City band that will release a cassette in the Throwing Muses/Pixies vein.

Siren Song is also tapping into the Seattle music scene. Faith and Disease, a band that mixes brooding melodies with tinges of folk music, will release a 7-inch single in the next few months. Mary Throwing Stones, an avant-garde group of Utah expatriates now living in Seattle, will release a 10-inch single in the near future.

"Our goal is to have the label support itself," Taylor said. "We don't see ourselves getting rich off the band, but we see the label as a stepping stone for bands to get some national and international recognition."

The Seattle shows are part of a tour designed to get regional attention. Other stops on the tour include two concerts in Idaho, Rexburg and Boise, and one is Portland, Ore.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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