RISE Club, of late, has booked many long-time DJs who, to our knowledge, had not dropped even one set on a Boston house music crowd. Among these was DJ MES, from Oakland, California, who, after almost two decades as a mixologist and nearly that long as a track maker, bestowed upon RISE about two hours of his more or less uniquely gamey sound.
I say “more or less uniquely” bscause there was, in his catchy, somewhat absurdist mixes and mismatches more than touch of the goofery that has made DJ Donald Glaude famous — or infamous. The difference is that Glaude’s goofing comes across consciously stupid, even cynicval, a kind of nasty Fred Flinstone of dance music. Whereas DJ MES’ sound games had wit and subtlety, surprise and, at times, progression. Though his set conveyed no deeper message, it did commit to the dependency of each sound upon its follow-ups; teamwork was thius the set’s theme, one that his quick-cuts and sound blends did not embarrass.
When I arrived at RISE, at about 3 AM, MES was already playing. He may well have played “No Jet Lag” before — it’s his signature track — before then, because it did not turn up in the two hours that I heard of him. Surely nhe would not have neglected to drop a track in which he strings “Back Back Train,” an acoustic guitar blues by Fred McDowell, onto a marching beat percussion bottom ?
That MES even knows of McDowell’s 1950-1968 era, bottleneck guitar work is impressive by itself; that he would pair it with a strut of house music shows how far he is willing to go to pair sounds unpredicted. On the other hand, that Mcdowell’s “Back Back Train’ is a dirge song, and its train a hearse, rather upends the joy in dance music; MES sure does test a fan’s tolerance. House music almost immediately, after its inception, became a dark sound in the wake of AIDS (as writer Barry Walters has pointed out); but that was long ago. It’s unlikely that fans hear “No Jet Lag” as MES’s song of joy and pain.
That said, in the two hours that I heard, “No Jet Lag” did not turn up. In fact, the sound games that MES played never wafted dark or mouthed mournful. Lots of talk he did tool in, hut standard club cant — “beats knockin.” “fuck it fuckin’ hip hop,” “go like this,” and such like. MES shifted his texture from grumble and glitch to stride and glide. He played “nu-disco,” as fans call it : the bossa nova bass line that disco overwoo’ed to death but which, in complex new contexts, is having a second club life. There were passages of Michael Jackson-ism — pop dance and melodic harmony — and a segment of sampled Diana Ross,” the “ooo ooo ooo’s” of Prelude-label, 1978 disco (Musique, anyone ?), and, constantly, he rewound some first of house music’s principles: plaintive reverbs, jazzy sentiment (“The Look of Love”), and tipsy sonic whirlpools (his own track “Hangover”).
Body pumping, head bobbing, the stocky veteran MES put sonic somersaults onto the menu of a club not quiter two-thirds full until, a few minutes after five A.M., he tooled in a vocal “you’re time’s up” and — was done for the night.
—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music
> the house of blue lights at A,.M. >