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

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