By Kenneth Preski
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 »
On their sixth musical foray, the duo formed by Garry Hughes and Andrew T. Mackay emerge with their trademark mix of electronica, orchestra and Indian sounds. During their career they have collaborated with luminaries like percussionist/composer Karsh Kale (who co-produced one of their earlier efforts) and sitarist Anoushka Shankar, all the while maintaining a tendency to focus on a dance-floor-friendly format.
This time around, they lean toward a more diverse direction by incorporating Asian-centric grooves. For instance, “Blue Mosaic” features wordless vocals and the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument, while “City of Amber” contains a fierce drum ‘n’ bass groove, much to the delight of DJs and remixers. Read the rest of this entry »
Purity Ring/Photo: Kate Garner
Rap votaries who have not found themselves yet adequately sated by the glut of performances which comprise Chicago’s festival season need only look to the Green Line to fill their needs. The North Coast Music Festival features a healthy dose of hip-hop, with acts spanning the breadth of the gloriously fracturing rap spectrum. The traditionalists can find comfort and nourishment in New York City stalwarts Nas, producer Just Blaze and The Wu-Tang Clan, who will be performing “36 Chambers.” Younger cats are represented by the vastly improved Mac Miller and the druggy, raw stylings of Detroit emcee Danny Brown and Brooklyn’s Flatbush Zombies, both of which etch tracks like acid with sybaritic bars, and K. Flay and Psalm One provide a taste of the non-drill side of the Chicago scene.
Beyond rap, North Coast boasts a rather multifarious lineup, including electropop acts Passion Pit, AlunaGeorge and Purity Ring, the last of which laces the paroxysmal clicks, lumbering low ends, and funeral-shroud aesthetic of trap music with ethereal poetry. Fans of the other kind of trap music, the accusations-of-cultural-tourism-engendering dance-focused kind, can tick and stomp with A-Trak and label mate RL Grime, while Datsik and Afrojack add dubstep and house to the dance card, respectively. Read the rest of this entry »
Phto: Aatish Puniani
Every Sunday, DJs Esteban La Groue and Dave Mata lug a sizable chunk of their record collection, packed in a dozen or so crates and backpacks, to The Owl in Logan Square. They are the Impala Sound Champions, spinning six hours of vinyl, including soul, boogie, rap classics, reggae and rock ‘n’ roll. On a Friday or Saturday night, their selection would have any dance floor packed and sweaty. Sundays bring a more relaxed atmosphere, but not without a healthy dance floor.
Last month marked the first night in a new monthly mixtape series wherein Impala Sound Champions is featuring DJs from other cities. Prior to their guest appearance, each DJ compiles a two-sided mixtape cassette to be duplicated and given away to twenty early attendees. DJ Akalepse made the voyage from Brooklyn for the premiere of his mixtape “Stop the World/Truth and Soul,” which featured cover art by Chicago graffiti artist Slang. While the tape granted some lucky patrons a little piece of DJ Akalepse to keep here in Chicago, they also copped a small original illustration by the artist famed for his El train mural honoring the life of Mayor Harold Washington when he passed back in 1987. Read the rest of this entry »
So late in the year, the frequency of quality festivals tapers off. But setting off that autumnal awe is the tenth installment of Adventures in Modern Music, a joint venture between the Empty Bottle and The Wire, to bring together a sizable selection of out-sounds from different genres. One of the better-known acts to be fitted into this sprawling look at contemporary music is R. Stevie Moore, who’s been given credit for presaging the slew of home-recording projects clogging up the internet nowadays. His work’s something like Daniel Johnston’s in that there’re clearly some ghosts being worked out in each affectional composition. He performs Wednesday. To highlight Adventures’ desire to strip genre of meaning, Rob Mazurek’s São Paulo Underground takes a spot on stage during the same evening, raving up experiments that use jazzy frameworks birthed from south of the equator. Read the rest of this entry »
There was a moment in the late nineties, heading into the aughties, when Pharoahe Monch was featured on major-motion-picture soundtracks. Jurassic 5 was in the charts, and a generation of MCs weaned on The Pharcyde and A Tribe Called Quest landed major-label record deals. It’s not only because of these cultural occurrences that SoCal’s DJ Babu has been able to hit the road with nothing more than a few crates of records and two turntables, but it obviously didn’t hurt. Read the rest of this entry »
There’ve been a few reissued producer-focused instrumental albums during the digital age. A huge percentage of those sport Lee Perry’s name. Dilla’s become a more sought-after commodity since his death, but Pete Rock’s “PeteStrumentals” may be the pinnacle of hip-hop production, Beatminerz be damned. Despite being best known for “T.R.O.Y.,” a New York corollary to Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” Rock’s spent more time estranged from C.L. Smooth, the partner he rose to fame with in the early nineties. Read the rest of this entry »
Bobbito/Photo: Joe Conzo
“Kool Keith asked me to rhyme and so I kicked it,” Bobbito Garcia says on the 1993 eponymous Cenobites album. Granting Kool Keith, one half of the Cenobites along with Godfather Don, a platform during the waning days of his affiliation with Ultramagnetic MCs, wasn’t a move based solely on being a fan. Bobbito, who’d been a part of a well-received hip-hop radio show as well as a live fixture on the NYC scene, saw an opportunity to raise up the reasonably obscure and tout it as industry standard. Underground rap stuffs, especially during the early nineties, functioned as incubation for various approaches to the music which would eventually wind up making radio-ready acts a boatload of loot. Read the rest of this entry »
Cut Chemist/Photo: Mr. Mass
Deciding whether Cut Chemist is better known for his association with Jurassic 5, DJ Shadow or Ozomatli is a difficult proposition. Regardless of the answer, being at the forefront of beats for more than a decade’s allowed the L.A.-based performer a huge and wildly variegated audience. Instead of focusing on continued production of work for others to use, Cut Chemist’s endeavored to mix a wealth of disparate, funky cuts into sundry mixes. Read the rest of this entry »
Artistically, it might be inconsequential that Columbus-bred, Philly-based producer and DJ RJD2 composed the theme for AMC’s “Mad Men.” But that’s a much easier reference for folks to grasp than saying he was in Soul Position. What writing that piece of music for television has done, though, is to move RJ from music’s periphery into its relative mainstream.
Coinciding with the strings and bombast now beamed into all those homes on Sunday evenings was a stylistic departure from beats and samples. Over the course of 2007’s “The Third Hand” and its 2010 follow-up, “The Colossus,” RJ dumped most of his hip-hop-related focus and transformed his act into something more palatable for folks who favor guitars and soul music. He caught some flak, didn’t seem to care, toured each album with a band and was able to come out on the other side unscathed.
It’s curious he then recorded a DJ set for “Live at the Rave,” which was issued during April as an audio set as well as being packaged in DVD form, eschewing most of his latest works. Granted, the boom-bap-related fare is included. Off “Hand,” “Get It” finds inclusion as it recalls his earlier rap-related efforts. “Let There Be Horns” is all acrobatic cuts and MPC bearing no resemblance to the pop stuff it was surrounded by on RJ’s latest studio disc. But “The Glow” sneaks in there, including RJ’s crooned chorus. With the cherry-picking approach to the DVD, it’ll be interesting to see how the DJ is able to assimilate the wildly different compositions into a set finding him planted behind two turntables as opposed to being supported by a handful of musicians. (Dave Cantor)
May 20 at The Mid, 306 North Halsted, (312)265-3990, 10pm. $15.