by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & t's like this: Stage names exude power. Slash, for example, was the perfect nom de rock for an axe-wielder who was responsible for navigating Guns N' Roses' seemingly oxymoronic truce between punk and hair metal. It suggests both economy [punk] and wanton destruction [as in "Appetite for"]. The stage name, further, adds palpable mystery to a person, especially when he or she is never out of character. Without that stupendous myth-creating name, homeboy would have just been some chain-smoking douche bag with a leather fetish and a nightmare perm.

Like Slash (and Prince, Ghostface et al.), the Mathematicians understand the importance of a solid stage name. As math is their thing, it's fitting that they would name themselves after the people and processes that shaped it. Trouble is, though, their sound is better than their monikers suggest. A brief introduction to the Mathematicians, now, by way of debunking their stage names:

Pete Pythagoras (Bass): While Pythagoras discovered the theorem that allows elementary school kids to easily find the length of the sides of right triangles (something the Mathematicians would applaud), he also founded his own bizarre mystery religion that gave numbers god-like status (and required vegetarianism, for some reason). The Mathematicians' steez, though, is new wavy, a form born in the bowels of the functionally atheist (and highly carnivorous) '80s. We thinks they'd scoff at the idea of a math-based religion (and, probably, at vegetarianism).

Dewey Decimal (Keys, Vocoder): Referring both to a man and to his system of library classification, this an odd choice because the Mathematicians' sound, an erratic mix of drone, singing, electrical sounds, beat flourishes, live drums and nerd-rap, confounds all attempts at categorization (other than to call it "nerd wave," which has no Dewey classification). The real Dewey, it should be noted, was a huge racist, anti-Semite and misogynist -- a direct contradiction to the Mathematicians' inclusive, dancey vibe.

Al Gorithm (Drums, Sampler): Not a man but a process, algorithms are a set of finite, well-defined steps for achieving a task, and another poorly chosen name. While the Mathematicians' sound is informed by the kinds of looping structures often found in algorithms, the overall goal isn't at all algorithmic. Algorithms prescribe a certain end function, both the destination to be reached and the means to get there. The Mathematicians, though, are content to ride Nerd Wave's undulating (frequency- and amplitude-independent) crest wherever it'll take them. Be it gigging in rural schoolhouses in upstate New York, at South by Southwest or here in Spokane, they live blithely in the country-crossing moment, confounding all attempts to restrain them with, like, flowcharts or whatever.

The Mathematicians play at Rock Coffee on Tuesday, April 4, at 7 pm with Flee the Century, the Randies and the Rainman Suite. Tickets: $5. Call 838-1864.

Witness to Wartime: The Painted Diary of Takuichi Fujii @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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