By random chance, the soundman at the Comfort Zone -- a Toronto club -- recorded the New Deal's first ever live show, preserved on their debut release entitled This Is Live. Entirely improvised, This Is Live captured the trio's raw electronic jamming, which ranges from hard-driving house music to ethereal ambient spaces. Despite never having played in that configuration, each band member exercised a hugely tasteful control over his respective instrument, producing an elegantly minimalist tapestry which stands up with time. Though some pieces, such as the Jamie Shields-driven "Back to the Middle" are nearly perfect in their spontaneity, the disc does have its moments of unexciting mid-tempo water-treading. All in all, it is an interesting historical document, recorded during a period in which many of the band's contemporaries -- such as the Disco Biscuits, Lake Trout, and Sound Tribe Sector 9 -- were exploring intelligently repetitive improvised landscapes. By contrast, the New Deal, beginning with their very first show, always relied on improvisation over song form to keep their audiences dancing.
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AllMusic Review by Jesse Jarnow