Following the late-winter release of his impressive “Space Is Only Noise” album (Circus Company), fans of Nicolas Jaar are likely wondering what to expect from his upcoming appearance at SmartBar. Hardly similar to previous adventures in tech-house, Jaar’s latest includes nods to jazz, blues, R&B and ambient breakbeat, resulting in compositions that place him closer to James Blake than Richie Hawtin on the electronic-music continuum. Rest assured that Jaar is also aware of the conundrum this presents, particularly as a touring artist associated with dance music. His slow-burn approach proceeds from the downtempo aesthetic, to which he adds effect-laden layers of bass, instrumentation and vocals. What results could be deep house, jazz-fueled breakbeats or defined by a lack of percussion. Jaar’s body of work is replete with elements often described as organic, ethereal and melancholy, in order to define efforts that defy traditional genre labels. Jaar’s music sits comfortably in that defiant category for his interest in and talent for composing disparate, yet sonically intriguing elements. As such, there is little need to discuss his use of Ray Charles’ samples or what his album says about the state of electronic music. (John Alex Colón)
March 25 at SmartBar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203. 10pm. $10 advance, $12-$15 door.
Sometimes settling for a DJ set isn’t so bad. When Mazi Namvar is behind the decks, the soul of his Audio Soul Project certainly shines through. His recently released album, “Hip Shake Heartache” (Fresh Meat), attempts to highlight every facet of Chicago house music and succeeds, thanks to the painstaking selection of Namvar’s recording partners. Stellar vocal work permeates the album, driven home by big-room basslines and unmistakably swinging rhythms.
Namvar confirms the nostalgic inspiration behind the album, the sound of late nineties house music, is still captivating dancefloors, from loft spaces to nightclubs. The vocals and sax may not be live, but Namvar hopes his DJ sets can open the door to a live tour in support of “Heartache.” House music’s past and future collide this weekend at Smart Bar’s monthly Dotbleep event, where Namvar is joined by two more local heroes: Justin Long and Mark Almaria. (John Alex Colon)
January 22 at Smart Bar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203. 10pm. $10-12.
Launching a new residency at Space in Ibiza and recording a mix with Marco Carola makes for a successful summer by most accounts. Nick Curly visits Chicago on the heels of such news, prepared to bring his tech-house selection to Smart Bar. Tracks on Plastic City, Cocoon and Get Physical brought Curly to the forefront of the German techno scene, particularly his “Cecille” releases. Curly is joined by Savile and Lee Jarvis on the decks. (John Alex Colon)
January 21 at Smart Bar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203. 10pm. $10-$13.
Black Devil Disco Club
Smart Bar and Red Bull Music Academy support the Sónar festival’s inaugural visit to Chicago by presenting quite possibly the show of the weekend. Out of the library and onto the stage bounds Black Devil Disco Club, the reclusive astral traveler whose compositions on early French, Italian and UK experimental labels inspired Richard D. James at Rephlex. Influencing James, aka Aphex Twin, brings a heavy dose of street cred, which explains the fervent anticipation surrounding Bernard Fevre’s visit to this Sonar Club Night. Also on the bill is Skull Disco alum Appleblim, whose work with Shackleton and Tempa Records propelled him into dubstep’s royalty. His nods to techno elements are well-known, his stark, metallic percussion often playing bad cop to Shackleton’s rhythmic, dub-inspired efforts. These two heavyweights are not alone on this special night: Space Dimension Controller offers a live set, Todd Osborn brings his spectral side to bear, and Cosmin TRG drops his signature ‘hitek-house’ dubs. Get there early, folks. At $5 all night, this show is on everyone’s radar. (John Alex Colón)
September 10 at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, (773)549-0203, 10pm. $5 all night.
Smart Bar’s farewell to Sónar juxtaposes the dark, dancefloor-minded techno style of Marcel Dettmann with the jack-inspiring tech-house skills of Chicago’s Justin Long. The dot.bleep ambassador promises a much-anticipated techno set for the occasion. Dettmann, resident DJ at the revered Berghain nightclub in Berlin, employs the long mix, blending sparse yet percussion-driven tunes to deliver his futuristic techno message to the waiting crowd. His pair of remixes for Fever Ray’s debut album were impressive and his productions for Ostgut Ton and other imprints keep the masses hungry for his monthly chart. Justin Long’s set is shrouded in mystery as most of us are used to his familiar blend of house classics and glitch-influenced tech-house. A techno showdown is indeed a fitting end to Chicago’s dance with Sónar. (John Alex Colón)
September 11 at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, (773)549-0203, 10pm. $12-$15.
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.
Photo: Eric Levin
Boston’s Soul Clap, the self-described “Great White Hope” of techno, descends upon Smart Bar for a visit with Chicago favorites Mazi and Nathan Larsen. After releasing movers on Freerange and Wolf + Lamb Music, Soul Clap founders Eli and Charlie carved a bottom-heavy, tech-house niche that leaves sweaty, cheering dancefloors in its wake. Their latest efforts include an EP with Voodeaux and Sergio Santos, and a vinyl-only offshoot with Wolf + Lamb co-founder, Gadi Mizrahi. Boasting a new website, blog and several upcoming records, Soul Clap arrives with shuffling beats, inviting horns, and nod-inducing basslines in tow, poised to leave their mark on a memorable Chicago summer night. It’s time to dance to Boston’s finest.
(John Alex Colón)
June 18 at Smart Bar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203.
A funny thing happened on the way to this decade. French duo Daft Punk, somehow rescued from “One More Time” last-dance-at-wedding status, became relevant again. And it was awesome. And then their bastard children started making noise, inseminating themselves into Ed Banger Records, evolving their sound by removing the filtered house and disco influences and replacing them with drunken, amped-up audioSparx, ready to intoxicate and sicken all who drank the chemical garbage. I shudder to think that I once wondered if Scott Bakula’s Dr. Sam Beckett was needed to jump back in time to destroy the wonderful and awesome Daft Punk to simply eliminate their nefarious Ed Banger offspring from being shat into existence. (Ziggy said there was a 89 percent chance that Ed Banger would ruin the face of the electronic music scene of the Aughts). Read the rest of this entry »
One week after the release of her new album, “Dust,” Ellen Allien visits Smart Bar in one of three exclusive U.S. tour dates. The fashion designer, remixer and BPitch Control label boss followed up 2008′s blissfully minimal “Sool” with familiar tech-house environs, this time injecting melodic synth patterns, haunting vocals and elements of pop and glitch. Currently touring in support of Dust, Ellen brings her DJ skills and a wealth of techno, electro and house gems to the prized North Side booth. This is the official afterparty for the LCD Soundsystem show at the Metro and a pre-party for the Movement festival in Detroit. Get an early start on your Memorial Day weekend and check out this special event with Ellen Allien and capable Smart Bar regulars, Blue J and Tyrell Williams. (John Alex Colon).
May 26 at Smart Bar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203.
“We’re on there with the Kaskades and the Heathers—that certainly wasn’t lost on me,” remarks Vic Holloway, better known as Chicago’s Phaded. Calling it “both exciting and humbling,” Holloway is discussing Smart Bar’s historic addition of two dubstep DJs—he and Chris Widman—to its traditionally house-heavy resident roster, a move that signals the venue’s commitment to underground sensibilities. That the term “underground” is more cliché than defining adjective is beside the point. Gone are the days when rave-goers lamented electronica’s march into nightclubs and properly administrated venues. What remains is the will to foster a range of musical experiences for new generations of club-goers and Smart Bar’s Nate Manic is happy to oblige. Read the rest of this entry »