SMART-ALECKY : JAMIE JONES @ BIJOU BOSTON 03.07.14

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The first Boston DJ performance by Wales’s Jamie Jones was a smashing success for Bijou, the techno emporium at which he made the scene. The club was full, full, full, and it stayed all full right to the last note of Jones’ last track of a two hour set.

For this observer, however, Jones’s set fell short. This was a surprise. Beatport’s list of his top ten downloads feature some of the most ticklish joke-juke funk anyone has ever heard from a dance music track maker. “Road To the Studio,” “Jealousy,” “Percolator,’ and “Hungry For the Power” all squat, shrug, and grin like the vaudeville cameos they are. Not since the joke juke rap work of 1980s acts like Newcleus, Zapp, and (aptly named) Cameo has funny funk had its grinning in your face view of life this eloquently expressed. Unhappily, at Bijou, Jones’s lithe portraits of shrug, squat, and grin gave way to hard loudness — stomp, growl, grumble and gargle — shapes all standard-issue for DJs dropping sets in Boston.

It would have been all right for Jones to play that kind of standard sound had he shown himself its master. And Jones, though still very young in a DJ world dominated by middle-aged masters, has a world-wide reputation; in 2011 he topped Resident Advisor’s reader poll of DJs. One might expect that ANY list’s Number one DJ would deliver a sound profoundly original, daringly crafted, full of message and feeling; yet Prok & Fitch, purveying a very similar sound at a Providence night club some months ago, topped every aspect of Jones’s Bijou set : daring, clarity, originality, progression.

Perhaps that’s because Prok & Fitch played what they do; whereas at Bijou, Jones clearly was playing what he figured the Boston crowd wanted to hear instead. Jones’s tracks tickle and seduce. they’re light to the touch, a peck on the cheek, a soap bubble joke. They feel as delicate as Prince in that song where he pretends to be your girlfriend. But there was nothing girl-friendly about Jones’s massive yuck-work at Bijou.

He played several of his top ten list, including its number one, “Moan and Groan,” a caricature of the now out of favor “electro” style. Here was a balloon of sound blown up almost to the bursting point. As a spoof on bad DJs, it had legs. But it was a hard act for even its maker to follow.

Jones dropped several daredevil mixes — from acappella to a big stomp, big stomp to sharp tones, wobbly voice fade ins and glitch-tone fade outs, strips of tonality — that proved his chops and had me wondering why, given his ability to leap across sonar abysses, there wasn’t more of it. What there was a lot of was gimmicky sound-shaping, much of it glaringly tacky, as if Jones were caricaturing Donald Glaude, the DJ world’s emperor of tacky.

Caricatures of tacky still sound tacky, and irony as an attitude leaves many — certainly left me — at odds with the beat and the sound. House music wants to get inside your soul; techno wants to surround you. Both genres transport the dancer — “take you on a journey,” Danny Tenaglia puts it. Jones’s smart-alecky goose waddles, however, left me at the station. As an alt-rock kind of dance music, it had a point, I guess, and Jones’s young fans seemed to get that. I still prefer Prok & Fitch.

Local house DJ Tamer Malki’s opening set featured a lush low moan taken at a sleezy 120 bpm, a set as earnest and soulful as Jones’s was voraciously comedic.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

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STOMP OF BOOT AND SMOOVE IT OVER : RAMON TAPIA AND ANTHONY ATTALLA @ BIJOU 07.26.13

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Two track-making DJs of very dissimilar voice, Ramon Tapia and Anthony Attalla, dropped 75 minute sets each at Boston’s Bijou NightClub on Friday night. It was Tapia’s first local performance since 2010, when he rocked the now-shuttered Therapy in Providence; many scenesters and house music connoisseurs came to see Tapia reshape his well-regarded hits — “Intense Idea,” “Y Not,” “Wonderland,” and “Freedom,” his number one download at Beatport.com. As for Attalla, he has played frequently in various Boston dance-music clubs; and though he too has a large repertoire of produced tracks, it is his live mix work, not the tracks, that people come to see.

It played out exactly thus at Bijou. Attalla played many of his tracks — rough, racy, abrasive and energetic things — in loud big, boot stomp mode. He shoved his entire body into his mixes, almost as if he were doing push-ups. He leaned into the board’s knobs, bobbed his head, clenched fists at them, like a boxer in the ring. Using no PC — nor did Tapia — Attalla spliced two CDs into Bijou’s fully-arrayed mixer, set the boom, clang, and bamm going, let it ride; pushed the pitch now and then. At first that was all that he did, but before long he cranked the soundboard hard, and from that point on dropped big, scary truck beats onto the dance floor, one upon another with voice grins tooled atop — and in and out, like dancers stepping and jumping from spotlight to dark mists.

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Attalla put his stomp noise into full locomotive shape and kept it there with some of dance music’s current talk drops — “there’s whores in this house” made its second appearance in as many Fridays — normalizing what was a very loud sound, an almost solid brick of it. Waving his arms in the air, punching at the music, Attalla was his own go-go dancer. But one with enough grace to feature, toward the end of his set, a Ramon Tapia track, “Intense Idea,’ which might well have been written with Attalla in mind.

Then it was Tapia’s turn. In no time at all his soft, smoove sound put melody into service, and an interplay of beat and percussion that changed Attalla’s single-minded music of rant into a music of conversation, of two people or more than two. Tapia stood supple at the mix board, fingering the knobs but not attacking them. Into the mix he ran “Wonderland” and tracks similar, and then his own version of “Intense Idea,” more complicated than Attalla’s single-minded streak. This was followed by a soulful, uprising, melodic track onto which came a vocal climax. It was the entire evening’s sublimest song.

Attalla’s set featured very few pauses or bridges made of mix twists. Tapia, however, filtered many such twist bridges into his set, and all felt just right as he sculpted them. For the first two-thirds of his 75 minutes, Tapia had Bijou’s dancers swaying and swooning.

Curiously, though, Tapia had not played “Y Not,” perhaps his most soulful track, and, as he began the last third of his set, he missed a beat cue, flubbed a segue, and lost the handle of his tuneful smoothing. Inexplicable were the next ten minutes of his performance; but, as the end point of his time grew near, he recovered himself. The sound now was purely house music, and blues that seemed to apologize to itself. Tapia ended strongly, playing his top hit “Freedom” almost as a sigh of relief that he had escaped his own misstep. The Bijou dancers cheered, and many ran to get their pictures taken embracing a sweat-browed Tapia.

Wil Trahan opened in his usually commanding manner. Like the DJs of old, Trahan chases down tracks that no one knows but which, once heard, everybody wants to have. With tracks like that in hand — best was FCL’s “It’s You” — it’s easy to dominate a statement. Trahan stated; and dominated.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music