Smooth moves Underworld and John Digweed, Bank of America Pavilion, September 15, 2007


MORE GLAM THAN RAVE: With Underworld, you heard not the trees, but the whole the forest.

It was strange to see Bank of America Pavilion only one-quarter full for last Saturday’s Underworld/John Digweed concert. True, the night was chill and raw, but the music was bright and light, and dark and dry, complex but not complicated. And it was bipolar, too. The now 50-year old Karl Hyde of Underworld vocalized (and slid his way across the stage as smoothly as any white guy I’ve seen), his smooves energized by the electronic figurines of Rick Smith and the DJ mixes of Darren Price. Occasionally Hyde added a guitar to his repertoire of moves and sounds; that and his gold sequined jacket made him look like Elton John posing as Elvis Costello. Or like Holly Johnson, of Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Playing the now infamous “Born Slippy .NUXX” and “Pearl’s Girl,” along with “Crocodile” (from the soon-to-be-released Oblivion with Bells, their fifth studio CD), Underworld sounded like (and frequently quoted snippets from) Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, the Cure, Erasure, New Order, the Neon Judgment, and, yes, Frankie. In short, they showed themselves to be more of a glam band than a rave unit despite the presence of a DJ and the absence of a drummer and a bass player. And the sum of their quotes is a sound so lush, with so much swing between Hyde’s froggy, Blood Sweat & Tears vocals and the electronic atmospherics of Price and Smith, that one heard not the individual trees but the entire forest. If their music remains rooted in 1985-’95, it also sums up the entire glam ideal — exemplified by Hyde, an art-school kid from Wales — that a poor boy can talk the talk, and walk the walk, of a rich man’s world.

The music of Underworld is almost supremely funkless. Not so that of Australian superstar DJ John Digweed, whose dry, crinkly electro-techno opening set had hips swaying and arms bobbing to his funky beats and seamless mixes.

—- Michael Freedberg / Boston Phoenix

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/47495-underworld-and-john-digweed/#ixzz2P8Y5957V

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DANCE MARATHON: VICTOR CALDERONE @ THERAPY March 1st, 2008


Victor Calderone

PROVIDENCE — A full brigade of House Nation citizens turned out for Victor Calderone’s marathon spin session at Therapy last Saturday. What was advertised as a 10-hour 10 pm–8 am dance party began not with Calderone but with Therapy resident Wil Trahan, who as one observer said “is playing terrific beats himself.” Still, when Calderone did start spinning, at 2:45 am, he took the night’s rhythms to a new level, as he’s done every time I’ve seen him DJ. At Underbar in Boston a few months ago, his music was delicate, a bit Brazilian in its touch, and fast. At Therapy, he introduced his set in an altogether deeper timbre, of thick, macho beats taken at a slower, equally macho tempo. Eventually his music evolved toward trance, of the highly embroidered type one often hears from Carl Cox or Dubfire, and then into a long passage of “electro” house (the genre of the moment), played, however, with a wry, almost obscene mouth, with vocal drop-ins like “He struck the fucking truck!” and “You fucked up!!” — this last repeated over and over and distorted in sample.

Calderone’s mixes dominated the dancers. His thick-beat-track overlays kept upping the ecstatic ante, and his quick cuts from beat tracks to vocal swoons or from beat tracks to yet more beat tracks gave the dancers no room for an opt-out. If his music got you dancing, his mixes turned you loose and beyond control.

The Therapy dance floor was by then packed — the nooks and passageways, too. This fiercely straight-appearing crowd (no muscle guys and definitely no trannys) included Calderone’s usual Hispanic fans and cadet-cap-wearing white kids, and there were a lot of women as well. Never have I seen so many gals dancing house music the way guys dance it: jumping and doing the strut, the lanky full-length body walk that house nation’s guys have imported from the breakdance world. As for the guys, they did their break walks, to be sure, but some took to dancing delicately, Miami style. Ricky Martin would love it.

 

—– Michael Freedberg / Boston Phoenix

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/57337-victor-calderone/#ixzz2P8TfdZak

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/57337-victor-calderone/#ixzz2P8TfdZak

his set in an altogether deeper timbre, of thick, macho beats taken at a slower, equally macho tempo. Eventually his music evolved toward trance, of the highly embroidered type one often hears from Carl Cox or Dubfire, and then into a long passage of “electro” house (the genre of the moment), played, however, with a wry, almost obscene mouth, with vocal drop-ins like “He struck the fucking truck!” and “You fucked up!!” — this last repeated over and over and distorted in sample.

Calderone’s mixes dominated the dancers. His thick-beat-track overlays kept upping the ecstatic ante, and his quick cuts from beat tracks to vocal swoons or from beat tracks to yet more beat tracks gave the dancers no room for an opt-out. If his music got you dancing, his mixes turned you loose and beyond control.

The Therapy dance floor was by then packed — the nooks and passageways, too. This fiercely straight-appearing crowd (no muscle guys and definitely no trannys) included Calderone’s usual Hispanic fans and cadet-cap-wearing white kids, and there were a lot of women as well. Never have I seen so many gals dancing house music the way guys dance it: jumping and doing the strut, the lanky full-length body walk that house nation’s guys have imported from the breakdance world. As for the guys, they did their break walks, to be sure, but some took to dancing delicately, Miami style. Ricky Martin would love it.

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/57337-victor-calderone/#ixzz2P8TI8tuR

SCALPEL and CLEAVER : CRAIG MITCHELL & WIL TRAHAN @ BIJOU BOSTON 03.22.13

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Having two DJs jointly play the night’s main set isn’t a common event in Boston house music. Yet that is exactly what the folks at Bijou served up last Friday, when Craig Mitchell and Wil Trahan — DJs widely dissimilar — crafted common musical ground without compromising their separate styles. So successfully did Mitchell and Trahan team that we may see more such gigs. After all, traditional jazz individualists play in band format all the time; why not the makers of DJ jazz ?

All too easily Trahan, one of the Boston area’s masters of playing the opener set, might have played the opener strategy: set up the main act’s style by playing a softer, lead-in version of what the main act then takes to higher ground. And yes, Trahan began the two-some set by playing the soulful, soft-tone house music that Mitchell signs onto. And Mitchell did sign on to Trahan’s sound, sharing one mixboard and splashing his shape-shifts all over the tweak knobs that Trahan steered clear of — splaying and slashing Trahan’s music but never crossing it up. Cymbal splash, bottom bass, and ferocious percussion drop-ins gave the two DJs more than enough rhythm to wield even on their straight-ahead groove.

Wielding it, however, did make clear how dissimilar Trahan and Mitchell play. Trahan cleavered his way through strong, stomp and roll bass -lines; Mitchell worked the fine points — percussive pim-ples, voice lines, harmonic effects — with a hand as fine as a surgeon scalpel-ing a bone. Mitchell is the Brian Blade of house music DJs : he works every edge and core of his mixes, works the material of which the mixboard is made; scratch-mixes the CD player; cuts the sound, stuttering it, making it hiss and lisp; thinning it thinly. And always to a fierce tone. As the set progressed into its second hour,. Mitchell’s sculpts and Trahan’s stomps played a kind of table tennis, ping-ponging, volleying, buzzing, whizzing, bouncing a bubble.

Trahan likes what he calls “heavy techno,” but working with the skinny-touch Mitchell he shaved his stomp sounds, complicated their shapes, filled them with small voice tool-ins like “‘scuse me” (a DJ favotite just now), “here we come,’ and, inevitably, “it is what it is.” He also played Mitchell-style tracks like Roland Clark’s “President’s House’ and Cevin Fisher’s “Brazil.” To which Mitchell answered by playing Trahan-style techno like Stefano Noferini’s “Back” and the Filterheadz’ “Space Ride.” Not that Mitchell refused his own preferences. His own work “Hells Yeah” rose to the top of a late mix like a declaration of victory.

And finally, there was Mitchell at the mike, shouting soul and working the light beams as he bent sound shapes to a scream and a whisper, riffing on his sound tweaks like a soul singer riffing an on-my-knees plea ballad at a roadhouse in the 1970s South. To this level of intensity Trahan contributed what he could: rhythmic code, as a kind of beat translation, just as rhythm sections did in 1970s soul bands. It worked; it egged Mitchell higher and crazier. Al Jackson and Duck Dunn would have liked what they heard.

 

—– Deedee Freedberg / “The Sphere”

 

SCALPEL AND CLEAVER : CRAIG MITCHELL and WIL TRAHAN in tandem @ BIJOU BOSTON 03.22.13

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Having two DJs jointly play the night’s main set isn’t a common event in Boston house music. Yet that is exactly what the folks at Bijou served up last Friday, when Craig Mitchell and Wil Trahan — DJs widely dissimilar — crafted common musical ground without compromising their separate styles. So successfully did Mitchell and Trahan team that we may see more such gigs. After all, traditional jazz individualists play in band format all the time; why not the makers of DJ jazz ?

All too easily Trahan, one of the Boston area’s masters of playing the opener set, might have played the opener strategy: set up the main act’s style by playing a softer, lead-in version of what the main act then takes to higher ground. And yes, Trahan began the two-some set by playing the soulful, soft-tone house music that Mitchell signs onto. And Mitchell did sign on to Trahan’s sound, sharing one mixboard and splashing his shape-shifts all over the tweak knobs that Trahan steered clear of — splaying and slashing Trahan’s music but never crossing it up. Cymbal splash, bottom bass, and ferocious percussion drop-ins gave the two DJs more than enough rhythm to wield even on their straight-ahead groove.
Wielding it, however, did make clear how dissimilar Trahan and Mitchell play. Trahan cleavered his way through strong, stomp and roll bass -lines; Mitchell worked the fine points — percussive pim-ples, voice lines, harmonic effects — with a hand as fine as a surgeon scalpel-ing a bone. Mitchell is the Brian Blade of house music DJs : he works every edge and core of his mixes, works the material of which the mixboard is made; scratch-mixes the CD player; cuts the sound, stuttering it, making it hiss and lisp; thinning it thinly. And always to a fierce tone. As the set progressed into its second hour,. Mitchell’s sculpts and Trahan’s stomps played a kind of table tennis, ping-ponging, volleying, buzzing, whizzing, bouncing a bubble.
Trahan likes what he calls “heavy techno,” but working with the skinny-touch Mitchell he shaved his stomp sounds, complicated their shapes, filled them with small voice tool-ins like “‘scuse me” (a DJ favotite just now), “here we come,’ and, inevitably, “it is what it is.” He also played Mitchell-style tracks like Roland Clark’s “President’s House’ and Cevin Fisher’s “Brazil.” To which Mitchell answered by playing Trahan-style techno like Stefano Noferini’s “Back” and the Filterheadz’ “Space Ride.” Not that Mitchell refused his own preferences. His own work “Hells Yeah” rose to the top of a late mix like a declaration of victory.
And finally, there was Mitchell at the mike, shouting soul and working the light beams as he bent sound shapes to a scream and a whisper, riffing on his sound tweaks like a soul singer riffing an on-my-knees plea ballad at a roadhouse in the 1970s South. To this level of intensity Trahan contributed what he could: rhythmic code, as a kind of beat translation, just as rhythm sections did in 1970s soul bands. It worked; it egged Mitchell higher and crazier. Al Jackson and Duck Dunn would have liked what they heard.

—– Deedee Freedberg / “The Sphere”

 

PARTY LIKE IT’S 1995 : HUXLEY @ MIDDLESEX LOUNGE 03.17.13

Summing up one of Boston’s most plenteous weeks ever for house music performance, the much-appreciated British DJ HUXLEY — real name Michael Dodman — dropped a 90-minute set at Cambridge’s Middlesex Lounge on the night of St Patrick’s day. This writer, having already attended sets by Solomun (on Wednesday) and Noir (on Friday), and found each fall a bit short — or more than a bit — of these track makers’ studio work, expected of Huxley a similar disappointment. Yet the purity, the classic house voicing, even, of Huxley’s deep-house recorded sound rebutted such skepticism; and there I was, when he began his set, bald-headed and tube-torso’d, attacking the mix board, dancing vigorously and mixing on the run.

No music scene honors the purity of a genre like England’s — kit has been like that at least since the John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, the Yardbirds, and Stones — and Huxley’s first 45 minutes held fast to house music truisms as if it were 1995, or even 1986. The bass line strutted on a funky back bdeat. Voices shouterd ‘jack ya body’ and “i wanna believe.” Chants and beats twirled afound one an other; the repreat button chopped and churned the beat; fade knob and echo effects trimmed and pomaded Huxley’s hair-do’s. Such is the sweetly moody, falsetto minset of Huxley’s signature work: for example his “Warehouse Dub” of Jordan Peak’s “Move With It,” thye 1986-shaded “Williams’ Trainers,” the “Dub mix” of Baunz’s “the Same Thing,” and his gospel-rapturous “Feel What You Want.” All four tracks slinked their satin doll-ery into Huxley’s throwback sound and would have aroused screaming soul dap aplenty at some street-tape nighthawk back in the day when house music’s fan base was gay men and tranny babes.

The Middlesex loungers loved Huxley’s drops. But the audience for house music today is as unlike that of 1995 as the fan base for acousgtic b lues in 1965 in no way overlapped with that of 1935; and for this writer there was something of the hothoiusw about Huxley’s preserved sound. Just what was his 2013 audience feeling, or reading into, a sound that was shaped by, and reflected the flamboyance of, gays and trannys in 1995 ? To the 1995 fans, the music that huxley6 was playing was personal statement, declaration, idealization — and a love attack. It was difficult for this writer to sense that for the Middlesexers Huxley’s sound was anything more meaningful than a flavor of hot pepper.

Almost without fans realizing it, Huxley shifted his second 45 minutes of sound to the skinnier, more intricate and streaky sounds that prevail today. Here he represebnted his best-liked tracks, “Box Clever’ and Let it Go,” all snippy talk and snide tones, skip and sliude rhythms, and slutty face-making as well as some of the orchrestral star-shine associated with the “progressive” genre. Girly chants — even some alt-rock riot snarl — and pop-dance meloies intruded upon the mix; Huxlery twisted notes as a mirror bends moonbeams; he danced torso and head as he mixed; and no sound was left to go its own way unleashed. Huxley inexhaustibly exhausted himself; so did many of the dancers, twirling across the entire room. No Middlesexer was left with any excuse for looking back or for pretending to another time and place, as this phase of Huxley was their view of the world too — a mixed bag of diversity and sick jokes, of looking to get lucky and liking it even though unluck would almost certainly decide their case.

Matt Mcneil and Randy desHaies played in tandem an opening set devoted to sultry grunts, a slow-shuffle 120 bpm rhythm, and chants — “you don’t stop,” “party people,” and “i want you”Image — true to the 1986 to 1995 ethic that Huxley made his theme. This writer has never heard a Mcneil set that wasn’t savory, lustful, and full of soulful heat. nor has she heard Randy Deshaies drop anything less than a strong, conclusive beat. It would be a shame if, with such command of what house is all about, Mcneil did not, almost immediately, become a major attraction rather than the opening DJ he unjustly continues to be. As for Deshaies, though he rules at the Phoenix Landing, he deserves a much wider provenance than the occasional major set at RISE Club.

—- Deedee Freedberg / “The Sphere”

FREE TO DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO : ROGER SANCHEZ @ BIJOU 02.26.13

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When, almost halfway through his two-hour set at Bijou on Tuesday night, ROGER SANCHEZ tooled Ultra Nate’s anthemic “Free” into his complex mix, he cycled the song’s declarative “free to do what you want to do!” over and over. It was a message — and more than a message. Given the rapid rush of his mixes, the quick changes from track to track, the hub-bub of riffs, beats, screaming noises, talk, and horns — many different voices, pathways, destinations, and purposes — Sanchez was demonstrating, musically, to the full floor of dancers at Bijou just what it sounds and looks like when everyone is free to do what he or she wants to do and doing it in the same life arena. And that it works, at least when a mix juggler as dominating as Sanchez is working it.

This was a set almost too complex — a characteristic of Sanchez’s DJing. Yet every part of it mattered. Despite the rapid fire sound shifts, clash of combinations; boom techno or gospel soprano; classic house music or edgy new “tech,” each bar of Sanchez’s sound played a singular role in the mix; many of his moves commanded the attention of fans who know his vision. He has been crafting his sound for a long time; several CD sets in his RELEASE YOURSELF series chronicle his signature. And despite the huge shift in dance music taste from the soulful and bluesy house music of Sanchez’s beginnings — 1990 and even earlier — as “Roger S” and “Underground Solution,” his rush hour traffic music still rings true, albeit to an audience very unlike those who he first gathered as an in-house producer for the Strictly Rhythm label.

Rush hour traffic can annoy those who are in it; Sanchez’s traffic sound risks complexity overkill. His set at Ocean Club in 2011 lost its way at many points; incorporating the beach tones of “progressive” that evening into his center-city textures made little sense. At Bijou he shunned beach music. Sanchez presented his many, many layers of sound uniformly raw and funky — using a pc and running three channels — and so imposed a unity on the diversity message of “freedom to so what you want to do.” It helped that his set began with a single-minded train-track of roll, rumble, and ringing — which ever since the days of R&B has beguiled those empowered by grooving to “motion with emotion.”

Having laid down his vehicle, Sanchez spread out upon it his full panoply of movement and voice: the slash and crash of “tech house”; bluesy moans in the low register; a few bars of Jaydee’s iconic 1992 hit “Plastic dreams”; bursts of sound, a rush of crush, reverb riffs at the bottom frequencies, voices crying, and — a Victor Calderone touch — petite flicks of percussive tickling. Layered rhythms almost as harmonic as a U2 track (as embroidered, too) fussed over Sanchez’s rapid cuts and edgy drop-ins. And whenever his sound verged on the overly dense he shut down the beat, let his screams and traffic rush go solo, tweaked and twisted their shapes, and unleashed upon them the beat again — usually in full techno stomp mode.

Into his techno moments he let fly, however, voices of soulful house seldom used as a partner for techno. This was where Sanchez’s Ultra Nate quite came in; and his Celeda excerpt (from “Music Is the Answer”); and his “Been a Long time” by the Murk Boys. The pairing of low techno and high soulful house music — bass and soprano, with no middle man in between; no insulation, just raw contact — sound-shocked the entire room of dancers. It sound shocked his writer too.

But techno needs to have its stallion sound corralled, tamed, ridden. It needs its muscle boy chest painted soprano red. Sanchez imposed on his techno a trio of red-hot, Wonder Woman riders — and this on the very day that Danica Patrick raced with the good ol’ boys at the Daytona 500. No wonder his message hit home and made his rush hour traffic feel more like fans at the racetrack than commuters stuck on the freeway.

Opening set was saved by the Vinyl Disciples, who this writer had not seen before. The duo’s two hours of walk rhythm and talk tool-ins felt bawdy and mischievous, and its techno segments sounded as raw as moving pig meat. Vinyl Disciples well deserve to be heard again at Bijou and elsewhere in Boston clubland.

—- Deedee Freedberg / THE SPHERE 

FREE TO DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO : ROGER SANCHEZ @ BIJOU BOSTON 02.26.13

When, almost halfway through his two-hour set at Bijou on Tuesday night, ROGER SANCHEZ tooled Ultra Nate‘s anthemic “Free” into his complex mix, he cycled the song’s declarative “free to do what you want to do!” over and over. It was a message — and more than a message. Given the rapid rush of his mixes, the quick changes from track to track, the hub-bub of riffs, beats, screaming noises, talk, and horns — many different voices, pathways, destinations, and purposes — Sanchez was demonstrating, musically, to the full floor of dancers at Bijou just what it sounds and looks like when everyone is free to do what he or she wants to do and doing it in the same life arena. And that it works, at least when a mix juggler as dominating as Sanchez is working it.

This was a set almost too complex — a characteristic of Sanchez’s DJing. Yet every part of it mattered. Despite the rapid fire sound shifts, clash of combinations; boom techno or gospel soprano; classic house music or edgy new “tech,” each bar of Sanchez’s sound played a singular role in the mix; many of his moves commanded the attention of fans who know his vision. He has been crafting his sound for a long time; several CD sets in his RELEASE YOURSELF series chronicle his signature. And despite the huge shift in dance music taste from the soulful and bluesy house music of Sanchez’s beginnings — 1990 and even earlier — as “Roger S” and “Underground Solution,” his rush hour traffic music still rings true, albeit to an audience very unlike those who he first gathered as an in-house producer for the Strictly Rhythm label.

Rush hour traffic can annoy those who are in it; Sanchez’s traffic sound risks complexity overkill. His set at Ocean Club in 2011 lost its way at many points; incorporating the beach tones of “progressive” that evening into his center-city textures made little sense. At Bijou he shunned beach music. Sanchez presented his many, many layers of sound uniformly raw and funky — using a pc and running three channels — and so imposed a unity on the diversity message of “freedom to so what you want to do.” It helped that his set began with a single-minded train-track of roll, rumble, and ringing — which ever since the days of R&B has beguiled those empowered by grooving to “motion with emotion.”

Having laid down his vehicle, Sanchez spread out upon it his full panoply of movement and voice: the slash and crash of “tech house”; bluesy moans in the low register; a few bars of Jaydee‘s iconic 1992 hit “Plastic dreams“; bursts of sound, a rush of crush, reverb riffs at the bottom frequencies, voices crying, and — a Victor Calderone touch — petite flicks of percussive tickling. Layered rhythms almost as harmonic as a U2 track (as embroidered, too) fussed over Sanchez’s rapid cuts and edgy drop-ins. And whenever his sound verged on the overly dense he shut down the beat, let his screams and traffic rush go solo, tweaked and twisted their shapes, and unleashed upon them the beat again — usually in full techno stomp mode.

Into his techno moments he let fly, however, voices of soulful house seldom used as a partner for techno. This was where Sanchez’s Ultra Nate quite came in; and his Celeda excerpt (from “Music Is the Answer”); and his “Been a Long time” by the Murk Boys. The pairing of low techno and high soulful house music — bass and soprano, with no middle man in between; no insulation, just raw contact — sound-shocked the entire room of dancers. It sound shocked his writer too.

But techno needs to have its stallion sound corralled, tamed, ridden. It needs its muscle boy chest painted soprano red. Sanchez imposed on his techno a trio of red-hot, Wonder Woman riders — and this on the very day that Danica Patrick raced with the good ol’ boys at the Daytona 500. No wonder his message hit home and made his rush hour traffic feel more like fans at the racetrack than commuters stuck on the freeway.

Opening set was saved by the Vinyl Disciples, who this writer had not seen before. The duo’s two hours of walk rhythm and talk tool-ins felt bawdy and mischievous, and its techno segments sounded as raw as moving pig meat. Vinyl Disciples well deserve to be heard again at Bijou and elsewhere in Boston clubland.

—- Deedee Freedberg / THE SPHERE