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For almost two and a half of the three hour set dropped on Royale by DJ Boris alongside Chus + Ceballos standard stuff ruled. Tried and true sequences of beats and pause, well-worn textures, long familiar voice drop-ins combined to create an atmosphere of look-back. Revisiting house music and techno of the 1990s is in the air, to be sure, but the rewinds delivered by three of the genre’s biggest names sounded — and looked — more like an oldies show.

Were it not for the sparkle and spank of the light show going on all around them, the three masters of house music and techno craft would have been easily bested by unafraid local DJs, several of whom were in the Royale audience. Perhaps that was why Royale was not full. I have seen Chus and Ceballos, without Boris, draw so many fans to Royale that there was a line waiting to get onto a dance floor as crowded as sweat; but that was then, five years ago, when Chus and Ceballos created new soundscapes from set start to finish.

Perhaps sharing the decks with Boris inhibited them. He’s a master of sweet beats and atmospheric delights in his own right, but his preferences do not line up with the lumpy beats and streaky top notes favored these days by the two Madrilenos.

In any case, from about one AM the trio stepped into the new — tracks taken from Chus and Ceballos’s new CD, Nomadas and other packages —  and onto tones, voices, and textures new to their oeuvre. From “Back to Basico” and “Black Rock City” to “Correcaminos” and especially “They Say Nothing,” and reworking Celeda’s “The Underground” into a sound both screechy and sarcastic, they immersed Royale’s dancers in laughter and weirdness, racing beats and vocals intoxicated, quivering, goofy. And all of it cooked in a sauce of atmospheric  echo, tape delay, and reverb, a kettle of danceable silliness epitomized by”They Say Nothing”‘s title.

Drollery in house music is a common enough move, but outright silliness is rare to the genre. Where it has occurred, as in Club 69’s classic Roxy tracks or on Avenue D ‘s “Do I look Like a Slut,” it’s mere vocal cover for standard dance. Chus and Ceballos’s silliness ran the gamut : dance like a bedsheet, talk like a teacup, embrace your inner absurdity. Not a bad message to deliver to dancers in the age of terrorists on the loose.

Listen to “They Say Nothing” here :

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music




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