Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

House Rules: DJ Rashad Revitalizes Dance on “Double Cup”

Acid, Chicago Artists, DJ, Electronic/Dance, House No Comments »

By Kenneth PreskiDJ Rashad

No genre of music has done more to exploit technology than dance. Practitioners have so radically altered the sonic landscape as to render mid-range frequencies obsolete. This is the region of space traditionally reserved for a guitar. Now the sound is maximized at each end of the spectrum, producers opting for punishing squeals of noises that ratchet and reel, high-end frequencies capable of piercing through devastating low-end bass deep enough to rattle your chest. Even vocal samples are subjected to pitch shifting, as much to match tempo as to fit the mix. The music is meant to be physical, hence the overwhelming emphasis on sounds that manipulate movement. From exciting your eardrums to throbbing your torso, if you ever wanted to feel like a vibrating cell phone, you should head to a DJ Rashad show.

Rashad knows much about the impulse to dance. As a member of the House-o-Matics crew, Rashad spent his youth as a dancer immersed in Chicago’s ghetto-house scene—a faster, more aggressive, often explicit take on the post-disco rhythms preferred by the genre’s forefathers. It wouldn’t take long until he became dissatisfied with his role, “I kinda accomplished everything I wanted to do as far as dancing goes, and people wouldn’t take me seriously for doing both, me doing DJing and dancing, so I kinda just like put the shoes down and picked up the needles and took it from there.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Rephlex Records 20-Year Anniversary/Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Acid, Dubstep, Electronic/Dance, Glitch, House, IDM, Industrial No Comments »


Electric Picnics at Millennium Park have been going swimmingly this summer. Who knew that a little bit of twitch with your ham sandwich could be so enjoyable? Helping to round off the summer series is a celebration for the twentieth anniversary of Rephlex Records. Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin and the founder of the label, has been lying low for the past few years. While he hasn’t released anything personally, his label has been churning out records from other artists, including Squarepusher and Kevin Martin. Rephlex must be feeling extra celebratory, as they’re having a party for each decade that it has been around: one at Pritzker Pavilion and the other at the Empty Bottle. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Mark Farina & Audio Soul Project/The Mid

Acid, Chicago Artists, Disco, DJ, Downtempo, Electro, Electronic/Dance, House No Comments »

Mark Farina


The “Mayhem at The Mid” event series presents its “Windy City All Stars” edition on Friday night, during which both of the venue’s rooms will be overwhelmed by the sounds of Chicago house music. The artist lineup ranges from classic to cutting-edge, from Mark Farina and Specter, to Justin Long and Tyrel Williams. Farina, the force behind Mushroom Jazz, is celebrating a birthday, which would make for a sold-out show on its own. Audio Soul Project, the brainchild of Fresh Meat Records honcho, Mazi, will deliver a live performance that, following the praise of last year’s “Hip Shake Heartache” album, just might be the event’s defining moment. Farina and Mazi both specialize in the swinging rhythms and chunky beats derived from the collision of funk, deep house and jazz. Justin Long and Tyrel Williams exert some left-field influence on the affair, bringing the tech-inspired sound of their .dotbleep residency (Smart Bar) to the decks. Tetrode co-founder and loft-party veteran, Specter, adds his ambient-fused house style to the lineup, which also includes All About founder Luis Baro and Mid residents Just Joey and John Curley. (John Alex Colón)

March 25 at The Mid, 306 North Halsted, (312)2653990. 9pm. $10 advance, $20 door.

Recycled Plastic: Richie Hawtin goes back to the future with “Arkives”

Acid, DJ, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, House, Techno No Comments »

By John Alex Colón

Enter the box set. Such backward trips through past creations, recent efforts and unreleased recordings are reserved for the end of the road, the geriatric frontman’s shameless grasps at the straws of relevance. With Richie Hawtin’s Plastikman project, such relevance is not only palpable, but also possesses an inertia poised to upend the electronic music live performance.

Hawtin acknowledges his defiance of the natural order and explains that his newest project, “Arkives,” encompasses all things Plastikman in an effort to “go back to some of those ideas we wanted to do back in those early days in Detroit, back to the early Plastikman shows.” His goal is to develop the moniker and live performance, which requires an update for longtime and newfound fans.

Such progression requires a sense of history and Hawtin’s answer is this comprehensive box set, which aggregates seventeen years of Plastikman material. The limited collection must be pre-ordered before December 31, 2010, and only the number of orders placed will be manufactured. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Lady Miss Kier/Metro

Acid, Disco, DJ, Downtempo, Drum 'n' Bass, Dubstep, Electro, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, House, Microhouse, Soul, Techno, World Music No Comments »


Freakeasy’s two-year run in the underground loft scene is over but the vibe lives on in a post-Thanksgiving soiree at Metro that features Deee-lite’s former songstress, Lady Miss Kier. The Freakeasy 2nd Anniversary Freakin’ Ball celebrates the continued tenure of the fabled Freakeasy initiative and rumor has it this won’t be the last time it visits Metro. Expect the finest underground sounds from the illmeasures DJs, including Striz and Justin Reed, a live set from Brad Miner, Radiohiro and MC Zulu. Additional highlights include live art installations around the venue to complement the musical performances. Presale tickets are available at (John Alex Colón)

November 26 at Metro, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-4140. 8pm. Tickets $20-$30. 18+.

Preview: Dustin Zahn and Drumcell/Smart Bar

Acid, DJ, Electronic/Dance, Techno No Comments »



The driving basslines and menacing synths on the “Analog God EP” were only hinting at the tough techno mayhem inherent in a Dustin Zahn and Drumcell pairing. Released on Drumcell’s Droid imprint, the EP was hailed as an introduction to techno’s new breed. In the two years that followed, Drumcell and Droid supported the LA techno movement with innovative releases and massive events. He regularly takes the Droid sound on the road and provided one of the highlight performances at this year’s Movement festival in Detroit. Zahn helmed the Abiotic label and channeled its success into his current imprint, Enemy, which just released an acclaimed project with Joel Mull. His three-turntable DJ sets and highly-regarded live performances provide him with an incessant touring schedule. While both are capable of aggressive techno sets, they tend to incorporate funky, minimal tunes and house elements to keep the crowd on the dancefloor. (John Alex Colón)

August 27 at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, (773)549-0203, 10pm. $10-$12.

Preview: Bryan Zentz and Punisher/Smart Bar

Acid, DJ, Electronic/Dance, House, Techno No Comments »

Bryan Zentz


Bryan Zentz, a self-professed studio junkie, has been DJing and producing music since the early nineties. An in-demand remixer, Zentz’s sound has evolved over the years, but always has a strong techno backbone with heavy emphasis on original sounds, rather than sampling. Zentz made a name for himself with several essential acid releases as “Barada”  and his early productions were released on the legendary label Definitive. Zentz also has releases on Primate, Tronic, Richie Hawtin’s Plus 8, and many more. He has generated some brilliant releases in recent years on CMYK and Morris Audio under his stare5 alias, which showcases more stripped-down techno and house-inspired sounds. Zentz returns to Chicago to headline a techno-heavy showcase at Smart Bar. Detroit’s first lady of techno, Punisher, will also be performing. The Smart Bar event will celebrate the sixth release for Punisher’s label, Hej Records. Joining Bryan Zentz and Punisher is Chicago techno don Frankie Vega, who will be playing a birthday set. Chicago-based up-and-comer Jason Dunlap will perform his first hybrid Live PA/DJ set, while Chicago’s Matt Main will take on opening duties. (Elly Rifkin)

April 2 at Smart Bar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203, at 10pm. $12 after midnight.

Spin Control: Surviving House

Acid, Electronic/Dance, Genre, House, Techno No Comments »

A twenty-year trek through house music can throw any producer for a twist. Luckily for John Larner and Slater Hogan, the duo has been able to ride the kind of turns that have kept their sound relevant. Their secret? Balance fresh cuts from the new school with classic sounds of Chicago and Detroit. Simmer high-octane bass with jazz, funk and fluidity and there’s good reason why history repeats itself. Larner took a break from his Muzique Boutique studio in Indianapolis to sound off on his forthcoming show with Hogan.

You earned your reputation back in the day as Cyberjive. Do audiences ever want to hear you bust out some tracks from the rave days?

“Yeah. Nearly ever show, to be honest. Sometimes [what] I play that stuff just depends on my mood, really. To tell the truth though I didn’t play that much different. Back in the day I played a lot of Chicago house mixed with some techno and acid—pretty much the same thing now. So If I do play some older cuts they fit in just fine.”

One of your tracks, “2 cool to dance,” on dotbleep, just got licensed and picked up for Positiva. Is this your first pick up on a label of his caliber?

Yeah, it was the biggest label I’ve worked with thus far. It ended up being a pretty good deal for sure. I don’t think it will really change how I do things though. I’m always trying new things and new sounds. I can’t really stick to one thing, even if it’s good from a marketing standpoint.

In the past year, underground house has branched into some interesting offshoots, including the “fidget” house sound. Do you feel this movement has influenced your sound at all and if so, are you working elements into your new production work?

I like some it for sure. The remix I did for Greenskeepers (“Abracadabra”) last year had the “fidget” sound. I’d just gotten back from London and was feeling pretty influenced by what I was hearing over there. That said, it’s been pretty much run into the ground. In truth it makes me think of speed garage.

There are critics of UGH that say the genre is fading. You have been in the game for two decades, where do you see the music moving?

I do think that house will be making a big comeback in the next five years or so. People will get tired of techno and the minimal sound after a while and they’ll go looking for [a new sound]. I mean, really, five years ago techno was struggling compared to house and now look at it. Things will shift back. Plus I think the hip-hop world is starting to embrace house a little more. You’re hearing more house influence in the Chicago hip-hop artists. That will end up being very good for us down the line. (Jenn Danko)

John Larner joins Slater Hogan at Grizzled, with residents the Sound Republic and Karl Alamaria at Lava, 1270 North Milwaukee, (773)342-5282, June 7 at 9pm. No cover before 10pm, $5 after.

Preview: Jack Fridays: Justin Martin, The Sound Republic

Acid, DJ, Electronic/Dance, House No Comments »


Reppin’ the much-respected Dirtybird crew out of San Francisco, Justin Martin is set to land at Zentra for a killer dose of Jack Fridays. Martin soared to the top of the dance-music scene after his debut production, “The Sad Piano,” dropped on Ben Watt’s Buzzin’ Fly label in 2003, and a subsequent nomination for “Best Breakthrough DJ” from the International House Music Awards in 2004. Much like the club-ready tracks released by Dirtybird Records, Martin’s style leans toward the grittier side of tech and acid house, with distorted vocal samples and squelchy basslines. At the same time, he always keeps the mood fun and bouncy by focusing on melodies and delivering a touch of bright, Buzzin’ Fly soul, a sound that’s apparent in many of his own productions and remixes. While Martin makes the rounds internationally—and his Bay Area fans have the luxury of dancing to his beats at Dirtybird’s day parties in Golden Gate Park—this is a rare Chicago appearance for him, so catch him while you can. (Al de Leon)
Friday, May 16 at Zentra


Tip of the Week: Jackson: James T. Cotton, Traxx, Beau Wanzer (live)

Acid, Electronic/Dance, Techno No Comments »

The techno and left-field electronic-artist promoters at Meiotic have an appealing edge to their events, supplementing their minimal and micro-house lineups with retro-futuristic bookings that often connect the dots between current trends and past innovations (like past bookings Metro Area and Egyptian Lover). Tonight, that forward-looking-back formula is once again applied with the acid-lovers at Traxx’s Nation label. James T. Cotton and his big blotter full of acid comes from the same brilliant mind that birthed Ghostly’s hip-hop de-constructor Dabrye and synth-experimentalist Charles Manier, Tadd Mullinex. Tonight he’s joined by the dangerously unpredictable Traxx—who uses his Nation imprint to further his uncompromising mission of spreading distinctive electronic beats that eschew current trends of over-production—along with a live performance from fellow Nation of Jak member Beau Wanzer. For more on Wanzer, check out the oh-so-punk title of his Nation debut, “Fuk U Klaxons.” Prepare yourself for a serious dance floor that’s quite sinister, very electronic and comprised of the best of techno and acid from 1987-2012. (Duke Shin)

James T. Cotton, Traxx and Beau Wanzer (live) at Lava, 1270 North Milwaukee, (773)342-5282, May 9, 9pm-2am, $7 with rsvp to