GROWL, STRUT, ROLL AND RUB : SANTE’ @ ARC NIGHT-CLUB 08.31.13

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Sante’ — no real name given in his bio — had played Boston but once before last night’s two-hour set dropped by him on about 150 fans at Arc Night-Club. It’s likely, however, given the lascivious power of his music at Arc, that he won’t have to wait two years for a next visit.

Sante’ is no grizzled veteran of house music — he’s made his bones only in the past six years, based in Berlin, Germany — but he plays like one. The shape of hil set harked back to that of jazz bands back when jazz was dance music played live. Like those bands — Count Basie especially, and his legion of imitators — Sante’ laid down a deep, knees to the floor bass line, extended it, mercilessly until everyone surrendered to it, then complicated it with voice tools, a familiar tune or two, breaks and repeats. Always revisiting the basic groove so that his dancers wouldn’t lose their hold, Sante’ played Noir and Haze’s stomp-and-white-boy “Around,” and — much more usefully — several of his own, girl-and-guy hits — “Bad decision,” “411,” “Make Me,” and “Do You wanna 808” featured prominently — back and forth.

Using two CD players and two mixers, with no pc program, was enough for Sante’ to make his point. He played “for the love of house, for the love of beats, for the love of dance” — quoted the lines — in full sentimental cry. You could almost feel his texture, smell his fruit, rub thigh against the music and be groped by it in return. His bottom was low-note and big-bodied. his middle register varied from percussion to tweetie noises to growly voices — and combinations thereof. His upper octaves pouted and cooed, cried, screamed. Trippy effects and spacey atmospherics put everything, the low notes included, into a kind of perfumed fuzz box. this was music to grind to. Music to run up against, to make oneself horny with. And on and on it went, no stopping, a slow (120 bpm) grumble, sweaty, sleezy.

Sante’ danced as he mixed, as well he might. The great jazz bands’ horn sections danced, too, as they swayed, shuffled, swung. All of that could be felt in Sante’s set too — though, of course, re-phrased for today’s tastes by those fat big boom machines that sneeze the music onto you. But jazz trumpets and trombones had their mutes, to be inserted, or not, or stuttered into, out of, into the horn bell. Consider Sante’s paunchy speakers his DJ mutes. Because, again like a jazz band, Sante’ took his groove and complications well beyond standard progressions into a bewilderment of improvisation, a sandstorm of talk — bits of guy voice here, peeps of girl talk there — that kept on swerving into Sante’s groove line and out again. This was particularly the case with “Do You wanna 808,” his number one Beatport download, a track in which he over-tops frequent mix mate Ramon Tapia’s “Beats Knockin'” with girlies and guys, trippy breezes, glimmer, and melodic drollery. At Arc, he played it as seduction for seduction’s sake — an undertow into which every noise Sante’ could dream up got pulled. The dancers too. They loved all of it.

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At its most persuasive, Sante’s sound loomed translucent. It felt blue and looked blue. There was less magic to his pause breaks or to his breaks — twisting and squeezing the sound. A break making genius he is not. Still, there was always enough groove at hand to turn a dancer’s head and bring his or her body back to some of the strongest growl, grumble, roll, and rub that this writer has ever heard a young-generation house music DJ deliver.

Peru’s Ki Ke Mayor opened very much in Sante’ style : a two-hour set of growl anf grumble. There wa less roll and not much rub in Mayor’s blues beat, but that was to be expected. The opening DJ only teases the fans. Mayor teased most effectively.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

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