The RISE dance floor wasn’t completely packed, but those who were present for Popof’s two-hour set dove full-body onto every beat of his strut and rumble, shrug and ramble. based in Paris, Popof, whose real name is Alexandre Paounov, has been making beat funk for almost 20 years; and at RISE his well constructed progressions exhibited every characteristic of a sound crafted, refined, and imagined over a long period of time. Using only two channels and wielding a sound as simple as it gets — yet never boring or cliche, Popof laid down the very essence of funk: a beat persistent, purposeful, low-noted but upbeat in texture.
Funk is the rhythm of hard work, of chants in work-gang songs. It’s the sound of stomp and oomph, of John Henry driving that steel that the song in his name praises him doing. It’s also the sound of take-your-time, work that progresses coolly — intellectual funk, lets’ call it. Popof’s funk beats offered both : beats with bodily heft and mental cool; work music for the technology generation.
Working two CDs and a pc program, Popof strung simgle tracks together like freight-train car couplings, mostly. Quick cuts snapped into place one-two-three. His few overlays did not extend; the connection was made and moved on from. His few voice tool-ins barely nicked the beat. Orchestration ? there was none. This was a set of coolly droll, wry, analytic tone progressions — as long as a work session in a skyscraper office — broken from time to time by squeeze-box knot tangles and stutter-knob wave work — sounds that felt like the breeze and glare of an outdoor smoking break from a long day’s carpel-tunneling.
He played much of his own work and remixes of other DJs stuff — tracks from “Bitchy groove,” “Wash It,” and “Blue dream” to “Sunglasses at Night,” a truly delicious “Coming to Pumping,” and the even more delightful “Alcoolic.” And the tracks that he dropped that were not his own might as well have been; that rigorously did he impose his own voice, gait, and constructioon upon every selection. It was a simple imposition, too, free of digressions, distractions, or differing points of sonic view. Popof’s sparse sound proved that less can indeed be more, as long as you can stroke every hammer, render every detail distinct, dig tidbits of sound out of the tight rope and make them seductive. Sometimes his beat thickened, sometimes it thinned so thin you could hear a counter beat in back of it. From strut to stride he went; from beats that murmured to those that wallowed. The rhythm chunked and chomped. Fades and cuts moved the action down or forward, and always simply — no dancer had any doubt what move he or she was being called to make. Of such instant teamwork is an effective work project brought to bear.
The set sounded far from exhausted when, at about 5.20 AM, the RISE sound system blew up. A few seconds before, this writer noticed Popof pick up his pc and move it about atwo feet back. had water or a soda spilled ? Certainly something major shorted the electricity, because that was the end of a set that had much more left to say.
RISE resident Mike Swells opened, as he often does at RISE, dropping a set of metallic big funk far from his signature house sound but shaped softly , as Swells prefers, almost to a pillow purr. His sound prefaced what Popof proceeded to shave, whittle, and devolve to basic fours.
—- Deedee Freedberg / “the Sphere”