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Monday, February 16, 2009

Off balance


Oops, no posts in a couple of weeks, because I've been too busy going out (as well as getting hooked on True Blood, the brilliant new US cable series created by Alan Ball). Among the acts I've seen have been David Byrne at the Opera House (review up soon), Joris Voorn, Pete Herbert (of LSB and Reverso 68 fame), the ever-brilliant Ewan Pearson and deep house DJ Manuel Tur.

While you're waiting, here's a review of Joris, whose new Balance CD is now out. As you will see, I was pretty disappointed, but it was nice to meet up with (Dave & Joanne), bump into (Ange, Dave C, the newly bearded Matt, Wowky) and meet (James) fellow music enthusiasts. Thanks also to Dave for help with the 'spotting. And it's great seeing Scott putting his money where his mouth is with a night dedicated to serious tech-house.


Joris Voorn @ Kink, Nevermind, 7.2.09 

Dutch producer/DJ Joris Voorn is something of a tech house hero. Weaving together the warm, melodic vibe of classic Detroit techno with modern production techniques and more than a hint of trance (in a positive sense), his productions and DJ sets have charted an accessible yet also intelligent direction for the genre. 

At last year’s memorable Bread & Butter boat cruise, he slammed through three hours of house and techno sounds, skittling between sub-genres and styles while at the same time producing a set that worked as much more than the sum of its parts. And his new Balance CD, a complex arrangement of some 100 tracks over 2 discs, is by all accounts a minor masterpiece. So there was never any question I was going to front up to his return performance at the revamped Kink, especially the promise of his new Traktor Pro setup which allows him to layer up to four tracks at once, approximating the cut and paste approach of the CD in a live setting. 

But a quick word about the Kink franchise to start: from its initial runaway success as an mainroom house night, it has evolved in a techier and somewhat more credible direction, also shifting from its original home at the Arthouse. It’s testimony to the promoters’ enthusiasm for the new direction that they have fitted wehat was once Byblos/Tantra with a modern yet distinctly urban style, complete with giant TV screen behind the decks and street-arty paintings oddly reminiscent of Keith Haring’s wall art at the Paradise Garage. They have stuck to their tech house guns, pulling an impressive array of international and local DJs since opening late last year. It’s a fantastic space (my only gripe the intentional lack of mirror balls, but you can’t have it all!) with a well-tuned Funktion One system. 

When I arrived soon after midnight, resident Ben Morris was delivering a restrained set, thankfully avoiding the Sydney disease of overly pumping warmups. His style married stripped back tribal beats with forays into proggier territory, such as Gregor Tresher’s "Break New Soil", although I think his set lacked direction in spite of solid track choices. 

When Voorn hit the stage, his laptop connected to two controllers (one touchscreen and one Allan & Heath) and mixer, my expectations were high. But there are always risks in using new technology, and in my opinion the following three hours lacked the inspiration of his performance last year. Weirdly, despite no longer needing to beat match, he held tracks almost intro to outro rather than the rapidfire assault he’d previously delivered on CDJs. Instead he chose to add subtle layers and effects that may have improved the music from moment to moment, but also seemed to distract him from constructing the set as a whole. 

Starting in deep house territory with tracks like Kreon’s "Jauce", he soon began to jerk between classic house styles and techier shizzle, before moving closer to his trademark melodic techno sound and straight up bangers in the latter part of the three hours. It would be hard to criticise many of the track choices: Tigerskin’s "Peter’s Secret Weapon", Dosum’s "Beach Kisses (Rework)" and Sebbo’s "Watamu Beach", as well as classics like the District One remix of his own "Let’s Go Juno" and Plastikman’s "Spastik", and a smattering of his own remixes and productions (his mix of "Dark Flower" garnering one of the biggest reactions of the night). 

But these were all interspersed with a large number of quite featureless (and forgettable) tools, and there was a jarring lack of flow that made finding a groove in which to dance difficult. Voorn himself was clearly into it, bouncing madly around the booth, but I felt distanced from what he was doing, almost as if the needs of the dancefloor were now secondary to his sophisticated command of the musical elements. 

Don’t get me wrong: this was quality music played by a very good DJ. But I suspect the new technology was responsible for inhibiting what made Voorn so special behind the CDJs: energetic, and driven by the groove. And an approach that sounds great on a mix CD at home doesn’t always translate into the club setting. That’s not to say that he can’t move forward with the new setup – he is nothing if not a successful innovator. But on Saturday I left disappointed that he hadn’t scaled the heights I’d seen him climb before.

2 comments:

  1. awesome review man, thanks for the mention btw great finally meeting you!

    Totally agree on your review, even though it was musically a great set it didnt lock me into a groove as I had expected. First time I saw him so I have nothing previous to compare except what everyone tells me, that his set last year was a killer! Always next time

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  2. one of my favourite dj sets i've ever danced to was from dutch producer aardvarck. he was using nothing but two copies of winamp on his laptop and werking the eq's/x-fader on a dj mixer to add a bit of spark. Nothing complex is needed to dj. Just the right music and a rapport with the dancefloor.

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