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

FREEDOM AND CONTROL : VICTOR CALDERONE MASTERFUL @ BIJOU BOSTON 11.15.13

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^ full tilt train trip into the mystic : Victor Calderone at Bijou last night

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There were two distinct parts to Victor Calderone’s masterful set dropped on a full dance floor at Bijou last night : the absolute certainty of classic train-trip R & B, and the limitless fantastical of an escapist movie soundtrack. Calderone laid down the law of train trip sure enough to carry an entire matrix of escapist sounds. Everybody got on board — his train-trip beats sounded huge, magnetic, commanding — and once on board, found all their imaginables piqued, tickled, salivated, gravy-ed.

Rarely have I seen a DJ dominate a mix board as relentlessly as Calderone last night. Deploying one channel or two, even three at a time, he left hardly any bars of sound as-is. He whittled, blended, jumped, stuttered, progressed all of his tracks — including such feasts of abstraction as “into the Void,” “Shame Cube,’ “Break It,’ and the ultimate “The Journey Begins,” inviting the dancers to conceive all manner of spirit-physical selfies. Bottom rhythms purred gigantically; streak-ies of all sorts arose; tickle percussion — his signature — made a few appearances; and echo effects painted it all in a  glow and a shimmer that made one want to sing.

The music delivered all of it to the dancers, clothed their bodies from head to toe in space beckoning dream-scapes, with such force and conviction that every person in the room delivered body and soul to Calderone, to whatever chug, choogle, boom, and bomp, prickle and whimsy he had ready. And he had plenty.

We do not live in a vacuum but in heavy air — the gas of history afoot — and that Calderone’s mix-board work and sound progressions balanced freedom and control — opposites in the world we move in — mirrored what is going on, politically, in the arena of events. There, freedom bitterly fights against control freaks, and control robots push back against freedoms. Only if the center holds does it meld rather than fracture as anarchy. In the policy ring that center is our government; at Bijou it was the DJ. Few dancers may have noticed the analogy between government and Calderone, but by consenting to his DJ rigor and dominance, they reaped the fruits of emotional and, dare I say, spiritual liberty.

Calderone’s sound this time was quite different from the sexy-sensual, magic carpet rides of vroom and tickle, reverb and murmur that were his signature for many years. I found myself surprised — but not disappointed at all. If no longer the “Superflyin’,” “Boarding Pass”  love maker, Calderone was yet a very effective suitor. It proved impossible to resist his consensual imagination inviting a room full of digital people to a feast of danced innovation.

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^ opening the door : Brunno Santos

The opening two-hour set was delivered by one of Boston’s most accomplished DJs, Brunno Santos, himself an avatar of sonic abstraction riding prerequisite train tracks. His set had all the hugeness and blue funk of Calderone’s, graciously leading to the Master’s huge up-steps.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

GOTH — AND SOME MIKE MAREEN : OLIVER HUNTEMANN @ MACHINE 09.26.13

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^ Oliver Huntemann : a monster movie’s Mike Mareen ?

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From Hamburg, Germany came DJ Oliver Huntemann on Thursday night to Machine for what, to the best of my knowledge, was his first Boston performance. His two hour set was much heralded by local connoisseurs, but few actually showed up. Even at peak hour no more than 100 fans graced the dance floor, and by 1.30 AM hardly any were still on point. Given that local maestro Jeff LeClair played a short but strong opening set, it isn’t unlikely that he is whom they came to dance with. DJ Melee also played a useful set of grungy grumble house music.

Huntemann gave it his best shot : his own tracks, segued and blended, dark and foreboding and, occasionally, coolly Moroder-istic. His sound was a sound effect : streaks and cello-like strums atop stroll and stride beats and moan-ful rumbles. His textures felt thick, his tempo turgid, his tones a mix of growl and groan. The mood was horror movie; the backdrop, monstrous; the totality, almost Goth — of the overblown, German variety in which fake Shakespearean elocution serves a grotesquely comic rubber-face. It’s been done before, though doubtless few of Hunhtemann’s Boston fans recognized it; German hi-energy disco of the mid-1980s had the same Goth moodiness — think Mike Mareen’s 1985 “Dancing in the Dark” — serving up the disco room as a spaceship moving through a midnight void. Then, it was fun, even giddy, and tempoed faster. Huntemann’s version sounded damaged, dull, defeated.

He used two red Traktor vinyl 12s and pc program and edited his sound sparingly. Many of his own tracks displayed their wares and lived up to their imagistic titles : the Goth-y “Melbourne”; a most Mike Mareen-ish “Decks and the City” ; the airs of “Aire” ; a bit of traipse and Polynesia beat in “Tasmanian Tiger” ; and the self-explanatory Cocoon’ and “Dark Passenger.” Given the ominous tone of his set, Huntemann’s “Hope,” in which the great Robert Owens voices soulfully, was not on the dance card. That was too bad. In that track Huntemann compromises his black vision just enough to win house music fans to his side.

At machine there was not winning but defeat. On and on went the monster mash, the ghostly groans, the B-movie brooding, the painful beat. Off and off went the dancers. Huntemann made no changes to his program;. He played what he plays, what he makes. imaginative it was; masterfully sculpted, brutally painted, a sound quite unusual in today’s track making and certainly more thematic than the sketchy rips of electro skrilling. Huntemann’s almost murderous moods may even portend, as experimental music often does — (Though for those who have heard the German “industrial” music, of 30 years ago, that stands behind what he does, his music may sound as much a reclamation as portentous) — but of such portents Boston dance music fans were having little and none. It would be shrewder, henceforth, to book Huntemann at a festival of experimental new music than at a mainstream dance club.

— Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

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