it might be a mirage

Needless to say, I am still recovering my senses from the two (six?) amazing sets by the UR DJ Assault Squad this past weekend. Though Friday at APT had its moments, it was really the sets at Water Taxi Beach that stood out, not only because the sound was better, but because the vibe of being outdoors against the Manhattan skyline fit the sound and mood of the crowd much better. So, without further ado, here is a clip that should give those uninitiated to the sound a bit of an idea as to what it was like. (Worth mentioning, too, that nary a computer or Serato-plates were in sight throughout the evening-- real mixing from real DJs was the order of the night).

The evening started off with a pretty sweet set by Cleveland's Brothers Brothers, who definitely got the crowd ready for UR with some choice Detroit-infused deep house tracks. Only after the long-ass to get in subsided did UR begin their assault on the crowd. First up: James Pennington, aka Suburban Knight.

Pennington whipped up the crowd with his signature claustrophobic style, running through UR classics like "Stardancer," his own work ("Echo Location" was a highlight), and some more Detroit techno finery. His set was the shortest of the evening, unfortunately, but was certainly worth an early arrival to the beach. Next up was DJ Skurge, who can be seen below helping Model 500 out at this year's DEMF-- he's the only one not facing the crowd.

Skurge's set was what got people really riled up. He went through tracks like whirlwind, his mixing seamless and the beats hard-hitting. He dropped tons of great bombs on the crowd, too-- the valleys were as monumental as the peaks. Highlights included "Freedom Dancer," whose swirling, snare-fuelled revelry had the floor whooping and hollering like nothing else. The last and longest set of the night was manned by Dex, who "fucking KILLED IT," as one party-goer enthused to me the next day.

I cannot help but agree: Dex's set was the best of the evening. He went from playing hard-hitting techno to the 'hi-tech jazz' that UR are famous for, and even included some live vocals in his set courtesy of UR's booking manager/cohort, Cornelius. The highlights here are almost too numerous to mention-- so many of UR's finest tracks (along with other Detroit monsters) were played that to name them all would be a bit much. Of course, the most uplifting moment came right before the encore, when all the levels were taken down and Cornelius read the manifesto: "You will find your strength in the sound, and make your transition." The crowd was chanting the most famous initials in techno well after Dex was done for the night, and it goes to show that UR's talk of unity and transformation through techno is no bull.

Tomorrow, we'll have a great new track from Davor O., a rising star from Croatia.


Liam Jonas said...

** "Worth mentioning, too, that nary a computer or Serato-plates were in sight throughout the evening-- real mixing from real DJs was the order of the night..."

Quick question -- does the presence of a laptop or MP3 mixing software negate the authenticity of a mix?

Perhaps 5 years ago, such a statement would hold true.... but in an age when standard music format is steadily moving from analog to digital, I'm not sure that such radical statements apply.

I think it's a good time to stop and re-evaluate what we consider "real mixing", especially in a year like 2007, when digital media formats are coming to overpower traditional analog ones.

So, again, does the presence of a laptop or an MP3 mixing software negate the authenticity of a mix?

trees said...

The presence of a laptop or mp3 mixing software doesn't negate the 'authenticity' of a mix at all-- it's all about the tunes, really. What is important to realize, though, is that mixing using Serato or other programs is MUCH EASIER than using a pair of decks and a mixer. Anyone whose done this for a good amount of time will tell you that beatmatching, cueing, and cutting aren't easy to learn-- they take lots of practice and time with a good record collection. When you have a computer program do all of these things for you, it doesn't necessarily make your mix bad-- hell, Carl Craig can slam sometimes on Serato, as can others-- but what it does is take away from the humanity of a mix, at times. For example, when was the last time you heard a DJ do a fucking SICK cut? Five years ago, one could've said, 'Last week, duh,' but now, so many DJs have programs beatmatch and sync for them that the art of a good cut is slowly fading.

Live Ableton sets are a bit different, admittedly, because they require much more consistent and constant input from the DJ, but Serato? It is a great program, but a DJ can beatmatch something, get a lackey to get a drink, take a piss in a jar behind the booth, and smoke a cigarette without touching a single knob. A DJ using decks and a mixer is working his ass off, even if he's fantastic on the decks.

Thus, I understand your question, but I think that the problem is my wording, not the sentiment; that is, plenty of 'real' DJs use programs when playing out and create great mixes, but it takes more hard work and sweat to create a great mix using so-called "outmoded" analog technology.