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^ Florence, Italy’s Stefano Noferini painting funk scapes at RISE

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Techno is the most imagistic of musical genres. In sound , techno DJs create pictures in the mind, weaving sounds abstractly in which, as in a Rohrschach test, the dancer sees what he or she imagines inside the mind, heart, body. At RISE Club on Saturday night, Stefano Noferini, one of the most forceful techno masters, playing to a dance floor fuller than full, created an entire dance music movie of images and action, a movie with a plot, even.

Whatever tracks Noferini employed for his set — and he has plenty — found themselves graphically re-shaped in the mix. Noferini hardly ever left the music alone to work its way; almost always he attacked the mix-box with both hands : knobs, buttons, sliders changing position constantly and all at once. Yet despite the aggressive edits Noferini;’s set maintained a signature sound : dark, paunchy, funky in tempo, banging in stride.

Onto his funky stride Noferini dropped samples of vocal;s, some of them explicit, some shielded, a kind of running commentary : “natty shook,” “movie star,” the ubiquitous “beats knockin'” and many more. It was fun commentary that put a light smile on otherwise ominous, sometimes scarifying, sound abstractions. And though the style of beat stride to fizz-fuzz pause and back to beat stride progressions that he played are standard issue in techno DJing, Noferini’s sounds always displayed flavors other DJs seem not to grasp. His dark boom beats had a sweet flavor, and his fizz to fuzz pauses mirrored the angst and puzzlement found in classical piano sonatas.

It was the funk of many feelings,l many perspectives, funk of power and funk of laughter, funk of fear and funk of sports victory in which one heard the cheering of crowds, saw clouds and storms overheads,endured city traffic,and savored a gloom as entertaining as ominous. One didn’t want it to end, and it did not end until after 6 A M.

RISE Club closes for good at the end of April. Noferini’s three hour set was one of RISE;’s last great evenings of DJ genius.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

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Julius Papp made a rare performing visit to Boston last night, dropping a two-hour set at machine that mixed the funkiest and most exotic disco with the bluesiest house music. There is mhch to link the two genres despite their strong dissimilarity of octave and instrumentation; Papp’ mixes emphasized the similatrities without comptomisng the differences.

Using Machine’s three Pioneer CD players and two mix-boards, Papp dropped a sound soft and sultry on bottom and wild with laughter upo top. Think Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn the Beat Around atop Gorge or Rocco beat bottoms, both of which Papp used, plus several other disco cliches (.the famous Philly Sound’s horn blast bridge, Teddy Pendergrass preaching “You can’t hide From Yourself,” slithery guitar licks, swooning soft bass lines) that did not sound cliche at all in Papp’s house music beat context.

Much of that context reminded me that in Papp’s home city of Montreal, exotic music mixed with disco voices and house music big beats has been a popular sound for many, many years. It’s a sound that blends FM radio programming with underground club cues. Papp has lived in the San francisco area for the last 20 years or more, but it’s from Montreal, starting in the late 1970s, that, as Papp’s biography says, he learned to enjoy and, pretty soon thereafter to DJ. All that was missing for his Machine set was a Montreal audience. Fewer than two dozen fans took advantage.

Papp brought a full bag of CD’s and took care picking out which ones he would play. Much time was spent rummaging thriough his CD book rather than mixing; biut when he did mix, every move hit its mark : quick cutsk, blends, overlays, sequences done with full conviction. Chants, screams, joyful processes; deep boot stomp house music; sampled emanations; big band florishes somehow all fit together like soup and spoon. Included in his selections were, of course, several of his current Gedatport top ten downlaods — “Afrique” especially, so underground Montreal — and with a 20-yrear career of remies and tracks to his credit, he definitely had plenty to choose from.

It was a et more imaginative than many i have seen this year and seamlessly done. Every Dj in Boston could have learned much from watching and listening. Wht a shame that the dance floor was so unpo;pulated.

—- Deedee Freedberg / feelin’ the Music

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We definitely felt the music in Chus & Ceballos’s April 11th Bijou Boston set.

Here and Sphere


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 work the much solider, massive structures we hear as techno. And where formerly their break pauses featured…

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For 90-plus minutes, Alix Alvarez, a DJ of recent reputation, dropped a set of slinky texture, sultry tone, chunk beat house music at Boston’s Good life, a set that at its best sounded like a tone poem. In a tone poem there are no words; the tones speak both message and feeling. So it was with the middle portion of Alavarez’s set, powered by blues beats fat and big but also sultry and warm. Using the delicacy of tribal rhythm as his lead-in, Alvarez highlighted the voluptuousness of his blues beat. Much of this effect arose from his own tracks, “Champion Sound’ and “Fayall” especially expressive.

The music gyrated, bottom to top, side to side, and, working the basics — two CDs and a two-channel Traktor program — Alvarez inflicted one quick cut mix after another upon the music, shifting it from left foot to right and from haunch to haunch. Thus nudged and shaken, all the bodies in the room found themselves dancing to the pressure.

Unhappily, the room was barely half full of bodies even at one AM.

Alvarez’s chunky, shove-shove somewhat resembles the signature gait of master house musician Steve Lawler; but where Lawler favors toying the playful, Alvarez caressed the lascivious. It worked; bawdy is, after all, truer to house music’s roots; appropriate it was that Alvarez dropped lots of Chicago house style : a Mike Dunn, the Adonis classic “No way Back,” an entire sisterhood of chants; horn blasts; and the message monologue from John Ciafone’s classic “Club Therapy.”

So far, so great. Everybody was into it. But then, at about 1.30 AM, Alvarez ended it all and took a different route to somewhere puzzlingly else..

What he had on offer was a stream of old disco; but why ? Alavarez’s taste in old disco is sharp — Gino Soccio’s “Dancer” (pitched up), George Kranz’s “Din Daa Daa,”Loose Joints’s “Is It All Over My Face” (also pitched up) — but  what possible mood or feeling could an oldies show impart to for swimming on a chunky, sultry, slinky tip ? His oldies medley sounded like a long joke : music wisp thin dangling from beats thick as plum pudding.

It was not a joke that I want to hear again attached to an edgy set — unless next time the man drops “Duke of Earl,” “Gate’s Salty Blues,” or even Bukka White’s “New ‘Frisco Train.” After all, if a house music DJ is going to go tiptoeing back, why not go way WAY back ? And not on dainty cat feet — please !

Opening DJs Randy “Bison” Deshaies and Chad Spigner set up Alvarez with two hours of funky balls beats, blues twang, and psychedelic effects : powerfully centered on the self of the music.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music




Yesterday was a sad day for everyone in house music nation. Frankie Knuckles, the man whom many fans of the genre call “The Godfather,” died at age 59, reportedly of complications from diabetes.

Knuckles played a major role in formulating house music’s unique voice : the fey, angelic tenor singing; the low-riding, tape-distorted bass voice; the psychedelic effects, the keening metallic instrumentals, sad and joyous at the same (as was the singing). Working at Chicago’s Trax label in 1986-87, with singer Jaime Principle, Knuckles created two of house music’s archtypal songs : “Baby Wants To Ride” and “Your Love.” The first was rauchy, blues and funk, a mix of Prince at his girliest and Zapp at its most beastly. “Your Love’ was soul and gospel, even doo-wop, a hymn of physical sensual joy.

There were others who forged house music out of the many genres that it reshaped — DJ Ron Hardy especailly, Larry Heard, and Marshall Jefferson — and there were voices equally inspired a Principle : Liz torres and Robert Owens. Knuckles eventially worked with both Owens and torres and went on, after houe music’s first explosive years had cooled, to remix almost every soul and funk singer’s tracks into house music’s shape and sound.

He remained true to his sound — joy and pain in one embrace — even as house music deepened, darkened, and grew gluttonously physical. His work in the early 1990s with New Jersey singer Adeva made clear that Knuckles was not going to change with the times. And the hits continued : “The Whistle Song” became a staple of DJ libraries. Remixes of it continue popular, attested by their inclusion in Beatport’s current Frankie Knuckles top ten list.

Knuckles’s major impact on the music in the early 1990s was in discovering nnew talent ” Eric Kupper and Satoshi Tomiie began their careers working Knuckles’s studio sessions.

Knuckles also continued to show the way as a DJ. In live performance, his overlay mixes of track to track were triumphs of rise and shine, of strength, of swoons. He set the standard that for over a decade defined house music DJing : soul music in all its silky trextures, celebratory singing, harmony duets a la Ashford & Simpson, deeply grounded in soul music of the 1970s.

The turn of the new c entiury saw Knuckles’s old school taste losing much, even most, of its popularity; the new generation of noise makers hardly knew Knuckles’ name, much less his music. But in the past two years or so, Knuckles’s “Director’s Cut” remixes gained him new fans — five of his current Beatport Top ten bear this rubric. And after the success of Daft Punk’s disco-rmembering RANDOM ACCESS cd, Knuckles’s 1970s sound became quite the rage among people who hadn’t realized there was a Giorgio Moroder, or that Pharrell Williams had predecessors who mattered.

Knuckles passed just as his second popularity was rising to the top. Hopefully it will continue to rise and that the new generation now aware of him will take up his innovations — the best of them till unequalled.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music


Stefano Noferini dominated RISE Club in two hours of techno first, house music second.

Here and Sphere


Performing in Boston for the first time since Spring 2012, Florence, Italy’s Stefano Noferini dropped a two hour set on a dance floor less than full but more than devoted to his sound. Using a pc program running two channels only, swiping the mixboard’s knobs up and down constantly, Noferini pumped out two separate one-hour sets : the first, clanking dark techno almost 1980s industrial in texture; the second, a brighter tone plus a peppy step done in a major key. Noferini’s first hour sounded like giant robots growling amidst various kinds of jawbone booming — fantastical and seductive; his second sounded lithe and joyous, unexpected by the dancers but convincing enough to those who gave it a chance.

But back, for the moment, to the gargantuan. No techno master sports a construct as roomy as Noferini. Big and heavy, his signature sound surrounds, from underneath and all sides. His…

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We continue to feel the music even when the music doesn’t feel itseof.

Here and Sphere


^ at least his massive overlay mixes felt strong : Butch at the Bijou mkix board

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The first Boston performance by Butch, one of the top attention-getting DJs of the past four years, should have been highly anticipated by house music adepts. Yet even at its fullest, the Bijou dance floor saw hardly 250 fans — and that number did not last long. That his big dance floor hit “:No Worries” — for a year or more, a staple of almost every DJ set — reigned almost three years ago, with follow up similarly successful, certainly hurt Butch’s numbers. That his set sounded nothing at all like his current top ten downloads at Beatport surely hurt his keeping even that small number grooving till closing time. What was he thinkling ?

Puzzling it was to hear Butch — real name Bulent Gurler, from the ancient, Roman city…

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