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Much as Dischord uses its resources to spotlight homegrown talent, Washington City Paper’s “Artifacts” column is dedicated to exploring the local arts scene. But sometimes an artist forces our coverage area to expand. Just as Dischord welcomed upper Marylanders Lungfish into its family, I willingly took I-95 North for Baltimore’s the Candy Machine, whose third album, Tune International, is worthy of such a land grab. The record’s influences point to some of my favorite artists…

“You’re a big Erasure fan, then?” deadpans guitarist Daniel Papkin. Ah, sure. I also like the Fall, Gang of Four, and Wire, and it’s obvious the Candy Machine does, too. Tune International’s 13 tracks touch upon disjointed funk (“The Plastic Lens”), new-wave drone (“Air Station to Al Green”), and sharp-edged pop (“Animal Suit”). Cutting a swath through the band’s din is vocalist Peter Quinn, whose abstract proclamations are delivered in a voice that flits between melodic singing and an appealingly declarative bark.

“I think this album is more open-ended and has much more air in it compared to the last album, [which] was a lot more forceful and claustrophobic, and full of sound,” Quinn says. “[On the other albums,] sounds compete with each other. [On] this one, I feel like the sounds are playing off of each other and leaving space.”

Papkin and Quinn have worked together for seven years as the Candy Machine, which is a long time to still be on the periphery of the indie radar.

“[We’re] in the nether regions. Beyond the pale,” admits Papkin. “I don’t really know what to say about that. It’s probably a good thing that we’ve stuck it out so long.”

Tune International is the Candy Machine’s first record with deSoto, the label run by former Jawboxers (that band broke up last month) Kim Coletta and J. Robbins, after a tense split from its previous home, Skene! Records. Skene!’s promotion and distribution deal with EastWest deposited the Candy Machine’s albums in Tower’s bins but not those in the mom-and-pops across the country, which probably contributed to the band’s lower profile. Skene! also did dorky promotions, like giving away candy at the New Music Seminar, and meddled with some record-sleeve designs.

But the Bawlmer quartet can’t have a problem with Tune’s unique die-cut CD cover, or its orange coloring. A tribute to Cal and the boys?

“The CD color’s orange, and we’re O’s fans,” laughs Papkin.

“We did talk about making orange T-shirts,” Quinn says, “but then we decided, oh no, that wouldn’t be so good.”

—Christopher Porter

Tune International is available for $12 ppd. from deSoto Records, P.O. Box 60335, Washington, DC 20039.