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Sounding like a smorgasbord of contemporary musical styles, the male/female couple dubbed Snake River Conspiracy mix equal parts Nine Inch Nails' whiz-bang assault, Courtney Love's primal-scream-therapy vocals and Garbage's sugary melodies, to produce music as uncompromising as it is trendy. Jason Slater, a refugee from an early, less commercial version of Third Eye Blind, is the mastermind of this sonic stew, but it's trampy, black-leather-clad Tobey Torres' torrid touch as the bad grrrl vocalist that creates the most sparks.

Caught between synth pop and post-industrial rage, the duo is a two-headed monster unsure of which skull to breathe fire from. The mellower tunes click most effectively because they provide Torres room to display her strong, emotional voice. The hooky side that surfaces on "You and Your Friend," the James Bond-ready "Strangled" and the low-boil techno/funk of "More Than Love" is neither cheesy nor overly commercial, and proves the twosome can toss off tuneful and dreamy ditties that float over a hard edge with tact and restraint.

But SNC remains dedicated to their darker, less radio-friendly tendencies, and when they let loose on the angry "Vulcan" -- with Torres spitting out venomous obscenities while Slater provides a grinding, pounding backdrop -- the effect is so similar to Trent Reznor's dallyings, you'll think the NIN frontman found a female vocalist. Respectful, intermittently innovative reworkings of the Cure's "Lovesong," the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now" and the Beatles' "She Said She Said" (available on a separate EP) agreeably tweak the memory banks but don't add much to the duo's originality factor.

Even without a distinctive sound, there's talent and intensity to spare in the Conspiracy's whiplash approach, and their debut delivers a thick sample to indicate there's more lurking underneath. But first they'll need to decide what they want to be, plot a course and stick to

Snake River Conspiracy plays the Masquerade, Sat., Aug. 12.

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