OCTOPUS TECHNO : CHUS & CEBALLOS @ BIJOU 04.11.14

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Friday night the dance floor at Bijou Boston was as full as can be, shoulder to shoulder with people who expected to be upraised, stupefied, taken on a journey. They were not disappointed. The two Madrilenos, who often DJ for Boston fans, dropped one of the most adventuresome sets I have ever heard them do.

For two hours Chus Esteban and Pablo Ceballos sculpted techno to octopus shape : a bulbous heart, soft but deep, extending eight separate tentacles of texture, talk, and tone — ear candy sweet and salty. within this underwater-ish world  screamy high voices buoyed dancers upward; boomy bottoms had them strutting.

The two DJs are known for their “Iberican” sound, a kind of psychedelic-effected tribal rhythm, but that phase of their work has ended, and today Chus and Ceballos ply the much solider, massive structures we hear as techno. Where formerly their break pauses featured long jets of wind noise, today they favor edgier streaks — flashes of meteoric. All of this pinged and immersed the Bijou dancers, and all of it they loved.

We are accustomed to see Chus playing solo, then Ceballos, and only a few minutes of duet; but on Friday they played duet almost all night long. Thus they were able constantly to inject crazy voices into complex beat progressions, top them with sound effects, and mix humor with boot stomp, or sarcasm with reverb; and to cover emcee monologues with layers of this and that. Especially catchy was their re-mix of the Get Along Gang’s “This Is My Bassline” — a punky monologue reminiscent of Ya kid K almost 25 years ago, but set in an entirely new ring of rhythm and atmosphere.

Somehow their sound, despite its size and heft, felt as sultry and lush as did their slinky Iberican of ten years ago. Credit the quickness of their mix cuts, catapulting through glimmer effects first, across screams next, underlining a quote from old house music. They took the music from rolling thunder to stomp and whisper, and the dancers went with them. Stroll strong, bounce big.

Like every DJ in sight, they sampled Ramon Tapia’s “Beats Knockin.”; but unlike any other DJ, they shapeshifted it to say “boots lickin’.” Everybody loved it. Their own “Lambestic,” “Reflections,” “Check Tech,” “Partenza”, and “Shakewerk” confirmed their move — begun three years ago — into the heart of techno; they also dropped a couple minutes of  “Addicted To Drums” — though nothing else from their Iberican past. Only in the finale of their set did they display a Chus & Ceballos signature : the fireworks finish, in which everything dropped during the body of their set reappeared all at once in a complexity more like ten octopuses than one. The dancers loved it.

Providence-born, but now world-wide, DJ Gino Santos opened strongly in the new Chus & Ceballos style, playing a bluesy 122 bpm and featuring many tracks that fans will want to grab onto. Best of these was Gel Abril’s “Changing steps” — techno as it should be.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

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GROUNDED AND SKY-HIGH : CHUS & CEBALLOS @ BIJOU 11.27.13

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^ severely programmed at first, almost free form later : Chus & Ceballos at Bijou Boston

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The dance floors that DJ duo Chus & Ceballos fill these nights are smaller  than they used to be — the part time fans prefer flavors of the moment — but in no way have these two Madrilenos lost even a nick of their sonic imagination, their rhythmic force, or their powerful blends of boom and boomier. At Bijou, on Thanksgiving Eve, a Boston performance date that has now become a Chus & Ceballos tradition, they played a full three hours  of music expressive, in two modes.

The first mode came severely programmed; Chus made few edits, Ceballos fewer. Yet the program was a strong bodied blues, and blues is, fundamentally, a strict form. Sure enough, strict led to loose, as an overlaid voice cried “dance away the blues, you say” over and over till the people on the club floor got to it.

The blues dance lasted 90 minutes. It was an earthy, gravelly ground beat, and the voices that tooled onto it came in costume disembodied, like 1979-85 space disco: soaring, hyperbolic, woozy. Seductive was the flattened pitch thereof, ramped up deliciously as Chus pumped the “repeat” button, crafting lines that felt like tiny kisses pecked onto the music’s neck and jaw.

These effects arose from Chus and Pablo mixing single tracks, then two, and sometimes two into two more : the shift from one line to many lines gave the rhythm syntax and narrative — all of it handled deftly,  and seamless, as they famously know how. Seduction on several levels flowed like lip drool and breast sweat. (Both the grounded earthy beat and the flat affect chants were new to the Chus & Ceballos sound. have they been listening to Prok & Fitch ?)

After a flattish segment — heard in a Chus and Ceballos set only during a change of tone — the second 90 minutes started with a statement : “it’s a party, it’s a party, check the body check the body.” Nothing bluest there.

The chant reminded those old enough of how dance music talked 20, even 30 years ago, and there was more, as throughout the second mode, the DJs tooled acappellas from Celeda, Inner City, and two by the Murk Boys into the mix, and — less good — the season’s cliche track, “Bigger than Prince.” A joke ? The grin on Chus’s stubbly jaw said, yes, it’s a joke. Fortunately the “joke’ was not repeated.

Thereafter all felt ferociously serious as each man mixed the other’s PC program, then his own — and so forth. Chus especially. Lots of their top current downloads linked in — “Sweet Love,” “The Break,” “Nobody Freaks Like Us,” the ethereal “Reflections,”though not in the form written down, of course. Their present tour de force, “Partenza,” also jumped aboard the choogle — peaking at Adonis’s steamy”Boys Noize.” Chus and his sidekick like to end their sets with house music fireworks — a burst of all shapes, colors, and textures; and their last 30 minutes at Bijou was no exception. Chants, boom beats tribal delicacy, chug and choogle, monologue talk, the soft thump of house and the big bumps of techno: all could be heard, felt, tasted, and the dancers — room full, maybe 200 people including many of Boston house music connoisseurs — gave themselves up to wild strides, outstretched hands, wide mouths, twisted torsos. And screams.

This was music you had to shake off because it is inside you and demanding to break free of you. Those who dance a Chus & Ceballos set know what I mean. It’s why they still come to see house music’s most revered duo no matter what the partially involved trend to.

Wil Trahan opened the night’s sound with a ground-level blues set of his own, very different from what I usually hear him do but handled with his usual clever taste for tracks that gran your attention, even your love, for example Viviana Alvarez’s “Coldly” and Martin Accorsi & Brett Sylvia’s “No.”

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

SIMPLE TO COMPLEX, LIKE LIFE ITSELF : CHUS + CEBALLOS @ BIJOU BOSTON 06.14.13

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At Bijou on Friday night the Madrid-based DJ team of Chus and Ceballos dropped a masterly, three and a half hour set on a dance floor as crowded as always happens when this duo comes to town. They did not disappoint. Their set moved straight ahead, a long train ride as metaphor for the long ride that is life itself. We grow up from the simplicities of childhood to the ever more quizzical disputations and demands that pressure us as we come of age. At Bijou, Chus and Ceballos worked just that sort of narrative and message.

The music advanced from basic blues, bottom rhythms to overlay blends, then to overlays with streaks added and conversations; then to rhythms themselves more streaky and complicated, alongside top-octave sound effects intensely varied. The duo’s mixes, too, progressed from simple to not at all simple. DJ Chus, as inspired a shape-maker as any, bent and twisted the music, stuttered it, fade-knobbed it, and bounced it from one mode to another with intensifying aggressiveness.

His mixes touched skin and bit deep. From one-two-three on the fingers, the rhythm and scream of Chus’s work inexorably pulled the dancers beyond control into its vortices of ambition, doubt, wants, needs, dreams, and siren calls variously lovely or fatal. It was a sweet sound at first, then sparkly, cool as a crush.

As always, they worked two mix boards and two PCs; and, as always, it was Ceballos who cued up tempos and tracks — and mixed the basics — and Chus who crafted the complication. Ceballos mixed his stuff using headphones, Chus shape-shifted almost always without them.

Because Chus and Ceballos have been doing their work for a long time;  because as house music has grown up, so they too have grown, with and by way of the music. And thus their life narrative was theirs as well as one for the Bijou fans. To make the point quite clear, they tooled into their set a great many tracks from their personal journey, including Todd Terry’s “Can You Feel It,” 1972’s disco classic “Soul Makossa,” and a drastic re-work of The Fog’s 1994 “Fired Up.” Also in their flashback mix were the venerable house track “Preacher,” samplings of Danny Tenaglia’s “Elements,” the monologue from Victor Calderone’s “Let Me Set You Free,” Queen’s scream from 1980’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” and — a staple of Chus and Ceballos sets — portions of two Celeda sides, “Music Is the Answer” and “The Underground.”

In addition, they slid all sorts of throwback voices into their mix, plus some segments of 1978-ish reggae toasting. And of course their basic choogle recalls that of Creedence Clearwater doing the Bayou slop. Their past is, as one expects, 40 years, at least, extensive and wide-ranging. They used all of it at Bijou.

None of these memory sweeps dominated their rhythmic progress. Their own more recent tracks, including the dreamy “Partenza” and the samba-fierce “Quimera.” (co-produced with Marcello Castelli), assured as much.

Rhythm dominated, persuaded, tossed the dancers . Choogle became  rumble, strut, sizzle and stutter. Upper register screams jazzed the beat; screeches lit it up. And then — in the final forty minutes or so, Chus and Pablo blew samba beats past talk which lifted the samba onto a babble of many percussions running across each other’s path.

This sounds like a heap of blues, and for Pablo and Chus, the blues it was. But it also sounds like an exciting adventure; Chus and Pablo’s long set was an exciting sonic adventure for sure. One that the Bijou crowd could not get enough of or adequately respond to except by yelling and dancing and raising their hands in stunned astonishing.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feeling the Music”

RATING : sublime