Monday, September 7, 2009

The land of milk and cookies

Travelling to North America is always a mixed blessing—it is where the biggest and worst excesses of unbridled capitalism can be seen, but it is also home to some of the most amazing cultural phenomena of our age. Just think about musical heritage of the United States... jazz, soul, funk, disco, electro, house and techno were all born within its borders.

So, off to a psychogeriatric conference in Montreal, and my cousin's wedding in Mississauga (near Toronto) before a brief trip to NYC to see world-class emergency psychiatry services in action, I decided to immerse myself in the good (and naughty) things North America has to offer.

Montreal was certainly a revelation: a modern European city located on the wrong continent. Walking the immaculate streets for hours or even exploring its amazing network of underground shopping malls, metro stations and tunnels (designed to protect you from the elements in both the heights of summer and depths of winter) this seemed such a liveable city, and without the neglect of public services and infrastructure that sadly blights Australia.

Interestingly, Montreal was reputed to be second only to NYC in its late 1970s disco scene—also a polysexual, multicultural, liberal melting pot. So when I hit the second hand record stores there were literally thousands of old 12"s waiting for me, often at stupidly low prices. I even scored a pristine, still-sealed copy of the Doobie Brothers' "What A Fool Believes" in a its rare, original dance remix 5:31 minutes version, among about a dozen other fantastic finds.

The city also seems to have an exciting electronic music scene, again very influenced by its European connections. In particular you can't help wondering if Tiga's Turbo Recordings has been so electro-influenced in part because of Quebec's connections to Gallic culture.

Sadly, Liz wasn't able to accompany me on this trip because of her work, but this city is now top of my list of places to drag her. And those wide boulevards, grid-like street network and fashionable eateries will be sure to tickle her fancy. It's like Melbourne, only much, much better!

In Mississauga for the wedding, I am once again reminded of the problems in North America. The recession has obviously struck Ontario (home to much of Canada's manufacturing base, including the auto industry... don't forget how close Detroit is to here) much harder than Quebec. There's also the size of the cars, the endless miles of freeway and the sense of all-encompassing suburbia. Mississauga itself is a rapidly-growing city—700,000 people at most recent estimate—dominated by shopping malls and towering blocks of condos (think Surfers Paradise but without the beaches or tourist trade).

Nevertheless, my family lives just 20 minutes walk from the town centre in a lovely house with a huge backyard in which they grow their own organic tomatoes and right next to extensive parkland laced with bicycle paths.

So Kris & Steph's wedding was beautiful, with the wry and witty Irish-Canadian Father Kelly on marriage duties. The reception, many hours later thanks to a photography session that by all accounts nearly killed the bridal party, was more of a mixed blessing. There were moments of sheer magic, sheer silliness and sheer torture—but has anyone ever been to a wedding reception without all three? Special shout-out must go to DJ Emporium (his name or that of his business?) who managed to bring tiny speakers for a huge hall and deafen us all. :(

But between wedding and reception was one of the highlights of my trip so far... sneaking off to the local supermarket to get a pack of Oreos and carton of milk with my cousin Anna, and then sitting on the grass by the roadside guzzling both. Spoiled for choice (see photo above) we went for the original type. The best of consumer capitalism, I say!

Off to NYC tomorrow, and to see Francois K spin at Deep Space at Cielo, with the legendary dub poet Mutabaruka on live PA! I'll keep you all posted...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sydney Design 09: Young Blood Designers Markets—Fail!

So, like, designers markets aren't my number one Friday evening pastime, but this one was apparently pretty great last year and so Liz and I trekked to deepest, darkest Ultimo to reach the imposing Powerhouse Museum. Word had obviously got around and so we stood waiting outside, with our friends, in the cold, in a gargantuan queue tonight.

And then as we snaked closer and closer to the entrance... just 10 people from the front... we were stopped.

First it was a 10 minute wait. Then 45 minutes. And then finally "sorry, it's full, we're closing".

So it was back to the Cross, to our favourite wine bar, and some amazing cocktails. Now that was a win.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lacanian chaos

Zizek! (2005)

Slavoj Zizek the man sometimes appears to be as chaotic and random as this barebones documentary, but behind the frenetically waving arms, scruffy beard and near-comical self-deprecation is a towering thinker with boundless intellectual (and physical) energy. The filmmakers capture some aspects of his thought, and accurately convey his explosive creativity, but it is he and not their film that commands attention.

2.5 stars out of 5

Now, for The Pervert's Guide To Cinema...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

'Like a Ginsu knife'

'I went to Chicago because a friend of mine said that I really need to see Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen is supposed to be the voice
of his generation. He’s a poet, he made music and he did whatever. I won’t deny the brilliance of his poetry. Leonard Cohen is about 75 years old. The cool thing I thought about Leonard Cohen was that he was getting on his knees. He’s doing his shtick. His shtick is he’s doing this poetry with people playing music. The poetry was probably cutting through like a sword, like a Ginsu knife. Just the sharpest-ass shit but the music was like karaoke. He had a tight-ass band but no one went outside the lines. It was like paint by numbers. Staying within the lines. That’s how music has become.'

Carl Craig, interviewed in Sup Magazine

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Crimes against chinstroking

My review of the very fun new Beatfanatic CD.

Beatfanatic — Vinyl Junkie Culture

Sometimes a guilty pleasure overtakes you, when you know something just isn’t that groundbreaking, meaningful or deep but you can’t help loving it. And that’s what the latest excursion by Swedish producer Beatfanatic is like: pitch-perfect euphoric nu-disco mining a largely obscure yet warmly familiar bunch of samples and themes.

Not that the man is anything less than a slick and proficient craftsman, but surely something this much fun must be bad for you.

In both this guise and a myriad of others (he’s also Beatconductor, Discoconductor and Jazzconductor—spot a pattern here?) Ture Sjöberg has produced an accomplished range of re-edits, remixes and recreations over the last half-decade, on labels like Raw Fusion, Soundscape, Spicy and G.A.M.M. And his output has certainly been varied—not scared to churn out traditional soul and funk sounds, broken beats or even slamming house rhythms.

But on this latest compilation it’s all smooth-as Balearic hedonics and he pulls it off deliciously. The CD quickly moves from the bleepy, low-slung "Automatic" to the soaring cheesiness of "Fly Away", before settling through the sweet vocal loops of mid-tempo groover "In This Life". Then it’s the funkified, hip-grinding delights of "A Soulful Mode" and the moody, John Carpenteresque cinematic chill of "In Heaven".

"Sharpskin Boogiestomp" pilfers Vangelis’ legendary "Let It Happen" (a track already brilliantly reworked by Beatfanatic a few years ago) while "Guide" is all nu-soul goodness. "Prince Of Darkness" wouldn’t be out of place in an Idjut Boys set with its combination of blaring brass section and dramatic, cosmic synths. On the other hand, "Berlin Calling" is deep, dubby, melodic tech-house and "Bombay Billie" tips its hat to the late, great Mr Jackson before veering off somewhere altogether different. Only CD closer "Nautonnier" strikes a bland note—a jazzy deep houser that runs too close its early-noughties formula.

If you’ve come to taste the latest masterwork by the likes of Lindstrom, maybe Vinyl Junkie Culture will come off a bit obvious and lacking in chinstroke potential. But an utter pleasure it still manages to be.

Guilty as charged.

Down the drain

So Dimitri didn't go down all that well...

SHE featuring Dimitri From Paris @ Piano Room & Trademark, 26.06.09

How to explain my disappointment?
You see, while never having seen him DJ before, I have been an unashamed Dimitri From Paris fan since the late 1990s when his amazing Mixmag CD was released hot on the heels of his debut artist album, Sacre Bleu. What grabbed me then was his effortless blending of disco motifs with a range of contemporary styles… trippy deep house and electronica on the mix CD and lush, experimental chill-out and trip-hop on the album.

Since then his career has climbed much higher, commercially if not always artistically. The Playboy discs have had moments of crossover genius even if they have often failed to create the same kind of jouissance as earlier efforts. And when looking further back to his underground edits of the 1990s or forward to his ability to oversee retro compilations with a keen ear for both the crowd pleasing and the obscure (that awful Cocktail Disco thing excepted), you just had to admire the guy. Right up to the latest, stunning release, Nightdubbin’, restoring faith for those who thought Dimitri is just a cash cow these days.

Finally, there were the reports of cleverly crafted DJ sets. Yes, sometimes erring on the side of just copying the tracklists of his latest mix CDs, but solid, fun and floor-grabbing performances.

So I think the letdown last Friday was particularly acute. Because, frankly, Dimitri was a bore.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t because he played “too commercial”. There were plenty of tracks I’d never heard. And he could hardly be accused of running a promotional tour for Nightdubbin’—boogie tracks were few and far between. It was that both his sets—disco in the Piano Room and a mixture of big-room disco and house in Trademark—lacked flow, relied too much on bland sounds and failed to create a mood or groove.

So here’s how the night went:

(1) Michael Jackson dies. World in shock.

(2) Get into Piano Room despite lack of collared shirt, lack of my name on their list (thanks Graham, thanks Al the door dude!).

(3) Sound in Piano Room pretty awful beyond the (miniscule) dancefloor. Rammed beyond human comprehension.

(4) Bobby Disco plays nice pitched-down house sound but then makes some mixing fuck-ups. Oops.

(5) Dimitri comes on and plays, barely getting the throng revved up until near the end. Promising start with Sharon Redd’s "Can You Handle It", but then apart from Tata Vega and a little Italo it’s all dullsville until a flurry of predictable big tunes in the last half-hour: "Lady Marmalade", the Todd Terje Bee Gees remix, Diana Ross’ "The Boss", a really awful re-edit of "Relight My Fire" and finishing on "Love Sensation". The mixing is OK, with a correct use of cutting rather than blends, but there’s no drama, no tension.

(6) Danny DeSousa takes over, straight away upping the quirkiness level with David Christie’s "Saddle Up" and Gino Soccio’s "Try It Out", making me realise that this is what Dimitri lacked in his 90 minutes.

(7) Swing into Trademark. Note that this is not the gentrified end of the venue. At least there’s more energy around.

(8) Graham Cordery playing big favourites—"Relight My Fire" (but the good, original version), SHE anthems, Fire Island’s version of "There But For The Grace Of God". Punters lapping it up.
(9) Dimitri comes on, looking more animated than in Piano Room. Crowd just as rammed and floor just as hard to navigate. Starts with piano-house version of "Keep The Fire Burning" before swinging through to Phyllis Hyman’s "You Know How To Love Me", and sending people higher with The Sunburst Band’s classic "Garden Of Love" and Ashford & Simpson’s "Found A Cure". But then he surprises with his new remix of Darryl Pandy’s "Just Came To Party"—all late 80s Chicago goodness—following up with a similarly jackin’ instrumental track and then Alcatraz’ "Give Me Luv" (when was the last time you heard that out?!?). Sure it’s not subtle, but at least there’s a buzz happening.

(10) I trudge home, pondering what went wrong.

So, how to explain my disappointment? Was he in mourning for MJ? Was he jetlagged? Was the venue the right place yet not the right place? You can hardly blame the promoters or the crowd… all reports are that last time Dimitri played SHE he was firing on all cylinders.
So, maybe next time.

Or maybe I should stick to the CDs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sacre bleu!

This Friday is looking quite the exciting night pour moi. Having been a fan for many years (since 1998 to be exact) I've managed to miss Dimitri From Paris on his many Australian jaunts. But now I not only get to see him play both a disco set and a house set, I also get to review it for and it's just doen the road from my place. Too good!

Of course, I'm not expecting this to be the late 1990s Dimitri, playing trippy deep house (but everyone should check his legendary Mixmag CD). No, I expect the mood will be overall brighter and more cheery to befit his reputation as the master of disco-house fromage. Nonetheless, lest anyone doubt his underground credentials, his latest compilation is called Nightdubbin' and features a brilliant selection of dubs, instrumentals and beat tracks from the boogie era, together with a DJ mix by re-edit pioneers The Idjut Boys.

Anyone who can milk cred from an old Wham track deserves either legend status or a good spanking, IMO.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The prodigal son returned...

Quick review of Mad Racket with Yam Who? here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


OK, sure, so I'll be on call at work on Saturday night. But a quick jaunt to the Bowl-O is unavoidable.... it's Yam Who?, after all!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

These are the voyages

Ever get in one of those scenarios where you promise to do a few things and then suddenly realise the due dates all fall in a 10-day period that will result in sleepless nights desperately trying to meet stupid deadlines? You too, huh?

Well, three major Powerpoints on psychiatric topics (one requiring outrageous amounts of stat crunching in SPSS) and one Marxist analysis of the 1992-2008 Australian economic expansion later, I finally re-emerged into the sunlight. And then plunged immediately back into the darkness by (drum-roll, please) going to the movies.

All that rushing about wasn't helped by first getting stuck on a South Pacific cruise on the P&O Pacific Dawn, swine-flu centre of Australian holiday life. Now, that's a whole other story but, suffice to say, even though we sailed prior to the outbreak it still felt like we were trapped in quarantine for 10 days. You know an adventure like that is bad when you reap untoward satisfaction from winning the disco trivia (a very useful P&O bottle-opener as the grand prize).

But onto the cinematic journey and its two Blu-Ray adjutants.

Star Trek

J.J. Abrams should really shit me much more than he does. His three highly-successful TV shows (Felicity, Alias and Lost) have all been handsomely made and displayed an increasing level of plot complexity that culminated in the incomprehensibility of his Island-based science fiction melodrama. Whereas there has been a trend in US television towards thematically mature and emotionally sophisticated drama that dissects past or contemporary social structures (think Mad Men or The Sopranos as high points), Abrams has opted to revise small screen conventions not by raising the intelligence but by packing it with so much detail that your brain spends all its time trying to untangle the knots. Alias, the best of his three efforts in my opinion, is attractive because of its outrageous resort to cross and triple-cross that keeps you firmly on the edge of your seat. But an emotionally true or socially incisive moment can't be found in its entire five seasons, despite endless high melodrama and political intrigue.

But with Mission: Impossible III and now Star Trek, Abrams has delivered somewhat different experiences. These are big-budget Hollywood actioners with surprisingly emotive centres. The Tom Cruise film is probably the more interesting, effortlessly propelling you through heart-stopping action setpieces without losing the centrality of agent Ethan Hunt's pain at the hands of a deliciously wicked villain played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

But Star Trek, a reboot of the original 1960s storyline, has plenty of delights also. Using a complex time travel ruse involving a rogue Romulan spacecraft and its unstable, vengeful commander (Eric Bana in fine form), Abrams delivers by subtly reformulating the lives of our familiar crew and throwing in some big shocks as well. With a young cast drawn largely from television, he adds new wrinkles to the pompous Kirk (now lacking focus because he lacks a father), the narcissistic Spock (busily constructing his grandiose, omnipotent self until the chinks appear in the armour), the grouchy McCoy (here even more cynical) and the ambitious Uhura (given a sensibly important role in this more modern treatment).

There's plenty to like here for a fan like me, with sly references to obscure plotlines and a general respect for the canon. Yet it's the emotionality that once again stands out: the key characters are battling inner demons and striving to get from youth to adulthood. Mostly it works well, but there's a drawback. Star Trek has always been a static and cerebral affair, keen to ponder and pontificate before breaking into requisite action. Even in the most affectively-charged episodes (like "City On The Edge Of Forever"), the drama plays out against a backdrop of analytic reason. It's talky science fiction on a foundation of liberal humanism, always political in the wider sense of asking the big questions.

Abrams is not up to that task. Instead he is interested in what makes the characters tick, and he manages to lay it out efficiently despite the size of the ensemble he has to work with. The closest he gets to the abstract philosophising so beloved by Trek fans is with the reappearance of the old Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who delivers a gravitas that the younger members of the cast are still working their way up to. 

There are many joys in the new Star Trek, but it also falls short of the best the series had to offer. Abrams is playing with a new palette here, and it will take time to see if he can construct the kinds of powerful statements Gene Roddenberry was capable of delivering at his best. 

It's Trek, Jim, but not as we knew it. That may not turn out to be such a bad thing.

4 stars out of 5


An interesting complement to my efforts to get through Ian Kershaw's brilliant but long biography of Hitler. This tight political action-thriller is undermined through lazy use of a multi-accented cast and superficial historical analysis. It's hard to see what drives Tom Cruise's rebel German officer to hatch a complex elite coup against the Fuhrer. So cut off from the mass of people are the protagonists that one gets little sense of the horrors of the Nazi regime, leaving only well-staged and often tense setpieces without a moral centre or social critique. A disappointment that squanders its potential despite superior technical direction from Bryan Singer.

2.5 stars out of 5

Revolutionary Road

Sam Mendes adapts Richard Yates' examination of the broken dreams of a 1950s aspirational middle-class couple, played in a "look at me, I'm acting" style by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The mannered performances are intended to contrast the superficial success and inner turmoil of the couple, an implicit critique of the American Dream in an age of prosperity and stability. But the theatricality also serves to undercut the potential for their plight (and the wretched social emptiness that both created and threatens to destroy their lives) becoming something more universally felt and understood. These people are too alien to relate to, and so we can imagine this is a tale of another world (not ours). Contrast the film with television's brilliant Mad Men and you can see that Mendes ends up submerging his critique of the US in period quirks, whereas the series is more uncomfortable to watch because it makes us realise we are living in a world not so different from the one portrayed.

3 stars out of 5

Friday, May 15, 2009

In a league of his own

This is the original text of my latest review for ITM, which can be found here.

The Juan Maclean - The Future Will Come

The Future Will Come, NYC denizen John Maclean reasserts the continuing strength of the city’s DFA collective, delivering a sophomore effort surpassing the not inconsiderable joys of its predecessor.

Even before his debut album as
The Juan Maclean, he had come to attention with underground electroid funk like “By The Time I Get To Venus”. But on 2005’s Less Than Human it was robotic electrohouse like “Give Me Every Little Thing” that hinted at a talent recalling both a past career as a post-punker (in Six Fingered Satellite) and a feel for groove that ranked with the best of the indie dance of its time.

But it turns out that these were mere scribblings alongside the brushwork of
The Future Will Come. While the initial reports may not have sounded convincing (a tribute-cum-pastiche of Dare-era Human League? You gotta be kidding!), the end result is strong enough to give label mates like Hercules & Love Affair and even LCD Soundsystem a run for their money.

Sure the second single, “The Simple Life”, might flip from
Nancy Whang’s exhortations to Maclean (found on lead vocals throughout the disc) belting out his take on “Love Action”, but the use of 80s synth-pop tropes is more than gimmick or even homage. Instead it’s a platform for playful exploration, both musically and lyrically.

Bookended by singles “The Simple Life” and
Dubtribe-plagiarising “Happy House”, the album is held together by the melancholic central track “Tonight”, a ten-minute epic of post-disco percussion and more modern synthetic melodies. As Whang and Maclean dance off vocally, it’s hard not to get swept up in their longing to “take you home tonight / or to the moon”.

At first glance it’s an album of contrasts. Title track “The Future Will” Come recalls an LCD-like aesthetic, all existential angst and portent. But then new single “One Day” shamelessly unites the hi-nrg sensibilities that made
Phil Oakey and crew so popular with housefied strings more befitting late 80s Chicago.

There’s also more immediate electronica like “Accusations” (shifting from a stripped back start to a Wurlitzer-driven denouement) and straight-up pop joyfulness like “The Station” (“Should I beg your forgiveness / at the top of the hour? / Does it even really matter / if the taste is so sour?”), not to mention the acidic riffing of “No Time”.

Maclean’s voice, largely subverted by studio trickery in 2005, is given full scope here, exposed but not embarrassed on the beatless piano of “Human Disaster” in particular. He skilfully straddles the fine line between noughties indie cred and the edgy end of 80s retro. Just like the album as a whole, really.

Even “Happy House”, coming out of leftfield as an ecstatic reverie completely at odds with the darker edge of Maclean’s earlier output, now makes perfect sense. It’s all cowbells and pianos and silly-as-hell sentiments, but it’s also about resolving the romantic and personal travails of the previous nine tracks in euphoric fashion.

The only drawback to Maclean’s approach is that he is drawing on a musical legacy that is less fluid and soulful, and in many ways safer, than the disco and house that inspires LCD and Hercules. It is not surprising that as a DJ he has often mined not so much Paradise Garage obscurities but late 90s disco house monsters. Occasionally it means that he is not as successful as his label mates in pushing the boundaries. But it’s a helluva exciting ride listening to him try.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Down in the basement

Looking to be May's best party, at the brilliantly sleazy La Campana venue in Sydney's Spanish Quarter. And apparently the Funktion One people will be making sure that there isn't even a peep of complaint about the sound quality.

Motorcitysoul have been behind some of the funkiest tech-house emanating from Germany in recent years--deep, shimmering and infectiously bouncy. Meanwhile, The Revenge is part of the OOFT collective who have churned out a ridiculously prolific array of chugging, houseified disco re-edits (their version of Hot Chocolate's "Heaven's In The Back Seat Of My Cadillac" landed in my mixtape late last year) and have now seen the light of day on labels like Mark E's Jiscomusic.

Bring it on!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

One from the beards

This is the original text of my latest review for ITM, which can be found here.

Future Disco: A Guide To 21st Century Disco (Azuli)

No longer the sole province of obscure, oddly named and bearded Norwegians, nu-disco and its deep house and indie-dance cousins have made a mark on the club scene that extends well beyond small sweaty cult nights and the darkened siderooms of heaving warehouse events.

And yet the scene is still small enough that you can pack many of the key tracks and artists of the year into one neatly programmed collection. This is exactly what mainstream UK house label Azuli has done in releasing
Future Disco, aptly subtitled “A Guide To 21st Century Disco”.

Starting with
Greg Wilson’s bumpy edit of “Secret Sunday Lover” the comp starts in deeper territories, milking the likes of Toby Tobias, Tensnake and Ilija Rudman to prove its taste credentials. Then, even after the misstep of the outrageously cheesy “Paris” by Friendly Fires (here unable to be saved by Aeroplane on remix duties), the mix moves in more uplifting directions, dropping the cheeky DJ Koze remix of the equally mischievous “Minimal”, and the insanely catchy Unabombers remix of Crazy P’s “Love On The Line”.

There is also tougher fare:
Runaway’s “Brooklyn Club Jam” as well as Hercules & Love Affair remixing Chaz Jankel (more old school jack than new school disco, this one). And in true Balearic fashion the collection nudges some psyche rock influences before cranking the BPMs right down for a blissful and chilled concluding section.

Despite many of the tracks being big hits, at least by nu-disco standards, it’d be churlish to complain. Quality control remains high throughout and even the fact that this is a “mixed compilation” done not by a leading scene DJ but a nameless studio boffin doesn’t detract from the fact that a reasonable effort has been made to program the set.

As a work of art or trainspotter’s paradise (the latter a seeming prerequisite for being taken seriously in the disco underground),
Future Disco falls well short of the mark. But as a useful and entertaining primer on the scene as it stands in 2008-9 it really wins out. Hopefully it will encourage listeners to dig deeper into a sound that is starting to really take off.


Ignition – Secret Sunday Lover (Greg Wilson Edit)
Panthers – Goblin city (Holy Ghost! Extended Disco Dub Mix)
Toby Tobias – The Feeling (Vinyl Version)
Tensnake – Congolal
Friendly Fires – Paris (Aeroplane Remix)
Ilija Rudman – Ocean Colour
Matias Aguayo – Minimal (DJ Koze Remix)
Wild Rumpus feat. Beardyman – Rock The Joint (Reverso 68 Remix)
Chaz Jankel – Get Myself Together (Hercules & Love Affair Herc Bump Mix)
Runaway – Brooklyn Club Jam (L.S.B. Baqueira Jam Mix)
Crazy P – Love On The Line (Unabombers Vocal Mix)
Holy Ghost! – Hold On
Franz Ferdinand – Ulysses (Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve Re-animation)
Motorcycle Boy - Motorcycle Theme (Fabrizio Mammarella Edit)
Low Motion Disco – The Low Murderer Is Out At Night
Marius Våreid – Skumle Planer

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All along the watchtower

It would, of course, be impossible to keep fans of the seminal (and genre-capping) graphic novel Watchmen completely happy. I should know because I'm one of them. 

For a kid weaned on costumed vigilantes, this was a pivotal moment in my obsession with the comic book medium. It was also one of those "final word" experiences that killed superheroes for me, as I expect creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons wanted it to. Here were heroes taken to a realistic logical conclusion--complex human beings with deep character flaws and sordid motivations, and embedded in a world of real politics, social divisions and perpetual conflict. Yet a funny world because in it, to paraphrase Karl Marx, supermen make history but not in circumstances of their own choosing.

Moore and Gibbons succeeded not just in deconstructing the given notions of heroism and evil embodied in the genre, they also created an almost impossibly complex narrative structure by milking every last technical and artistic device that a comic book could deliver: symmetrical panel arrangements, overlapping dialogue, stories within stories, dense symbolic imagery mirroring the foreground action, and the decentralisation of the heroics in favour of detailed social and character observations. While on recent re-reading the effect is sometimes too much all at once, the artistry often being pummelled into submission by the technical genius, there is little doubt that Watchmen remains one of the great comics (er, "graphic novels") of all time.

So what about Zack Snyder's long and long-anticipated filmic adaptation? Well, it is nothing if not ambitious, successfully conveying most of the comic's complex 12-issue plot in 160 minutes. And it is visually spectacular, utilising CGI to replicate the sweeping vision of the original. 

But there the praise must stop, because fidelity to source material soon becomes a dead weight for Snyder as he can only roughly sketch not just the complicated social and political commentary of the original, but the characters themselves. He allows them to remain at the level of cipher, with the notable exception of the disturbed Rorschach (Jackie Earle Hailey, a long way from The Bad News Bears here), who almost manages to hold the film together in a way he didn't need to in the comic.

Worse, Snyder's bombastic approach seems to contradict one of the central thematic drivers of both novel and film: that we are seeing real people in a weird but still recognisable world. He cannot resist making the fights so comic book that you would be forgiven for thinking the vigilantes all have superpowers. So Dr Manhattan, the only one with supernormal abilities, becomes just a more spectacular version of his comrades and his impact on geopolitics seems less plausible than the story tells us it is. And when Ozymandias pulls off an amazing feat to save himself in the final scenes it is less shocking because he already seems physically invulnerable.

Yet such changes (and the markedly altered ending) don't seem to be about a director interpreting a revered work, rather finding technical fixes for problems posed by the original. Unfortunately for Snyder the comic was a triumph of comic book technique, and no film adaptation was ever going to be able to tweak those "unfilmable" elements. Instead of taking a chance and making something that was true to his own vision as well as the comic's conceits and themes, Snyder has succumbed to the fans' anxiety that he would change too much. 

He will now go down as having succeeded very well in a superficial sketch but delivered only a minimum of artistry. By being a slave to Moore and Gibbons' product he's betrayed their drive for artistic excellence, ironically selling himself short by refusing to try to escape from under their long creative shadow.

3 stars out of 5

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Same as it ever was?

Disclaimer: Talking Heads are my favourite band. Ever. But I never saw them live (their last tour of Australia was in the early 1980s), with the closest I got being Jerry Harrison's tour in 1988. And with David Byrne's later solo work leaving me somewhat cold there wasn't much to pull me to one of his many forays to Sydney.

But in the wake of his new collaboration with Brian Eno, Byrne's current tour promised a focus on all their work together... not just the legendary trio of Talking Heads albums Eno co-produced but their seminal and ridiculously brilliant My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. So in a last-minute rush of blood I stumped up for a good seat at the Opera House's Concert Hall. And I was not disappointed.

With Byrne, uber-tight band, on-point backup singers and three bouncy, energetic contemporary dancers (!) all dressed in immaculate white, the scenario was visually enticing--although, despite all the onstage action the main man is a performance artwork on his own. Ill-served by some sound problems in the notoriously acoustically-challenged venue (for the first half the music seemed to get lost in the rafters), Byrne nevertheless settled into alternating new material with classics, the vast majority bearing the Eno imprint.

This unfortunately highlighted the limitations of the new album: its winsome folky simplicity lacking the punch of the best Heads material. But it hardly mattered because the classics were more than enough to make up for any hiccups. From when "I Zimbra" was slammed out early, the energy, complexity and drive of vintage-era Byrne were in full evidence.

This was music made for dancing and thinking at the same time--a tougher task than walking and chewing gum, but the essence of New York's early 80s post-punk/post-disco collision. A heady stew of African polyrhythms, indie guitar and jittering melodies, a bridge between CBGBs, the Paradise Garage and early bloc parties, and yet something more. Byrne played the Heads material straight out of the Stop Making Sense handbook, when the band was at the peak of its powers. And dance we did, despite the restrictive seating and overly serious Opera House ambience.

It was great to hear some post-Eno numbers, as well as a track off Byrne's underrated Catherine Wheel soundtrack. And when "Once In A Lifetime" brought the crowd to their feet it was transcendent, the interpretative dancing onstage creating a link between the familiar concert movie arrangement and the bizarreness of the original music video. Through three well-judged encores, Byrne and his crew kept the excitement going and a satisfied audience lapped it up.

There was no nostalgia on the night (Byrne seems averse to such sentiments), and so this trip down memory lane, much like Grace Jones' recent effort, seemed as relevant and immediate as back in the day. Not quite scaling the heights Grace managed (she being blessed with stronger new songs and an unparalleled performative talent) but essential stuff indeed.

Songlist @ Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, 2.2.09

Strange Overtones*
I Zimbra
One Fine Day*
Help Me Somebody
Houses In Motion
My Big Nurse*
My Big Hands (Fall Through The Cracks)??
Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
Poor Boy*
Crosseyed And Painless
Life Is Long*
Once In A Lifetime
Life During Wartime
I Feel My Stuff*

Take Me To The River
The Great Curve

Memories Can't Wait
Burning Down The House

Everything That Happens*

* Songs from the new Byrne/Eno album

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.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oppressed by the figures of beauty

The problem I've had with Leonard Cohen is that his songs were always been part of the background buzz of my life but never made it front and centre. My fault, really, for not exploring this Canadian poet-musician's oeuvre, which now spans more than four decades of recordings. So it was with more than a little naiveté about what to expect that I accompanied Liz to the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Thursday night.

What became apparent from the opening songs was that this was a "contractual obligations" show of the best kind. Cohen's financial problems may have driven him to tour for the first time in 15 years, but he and his coterie brought artistry, intelligence and emotional depth to almost three hours of a seemingly bottomless back catalogue.

His voice now a trademark growling baritone, his 75 year old frame betraying both frailty and the lightest of steps, and his selection of overachieving back-up singers and musicians each getting their own chance to shine, Cohen's performance transcended any of the diverse phases his career had passed through. The 60s folk was suffused with delicate Latin flavours, the 80s synth-pop modernised with an appropriately live disco feel and his more recent work in tandem with female singers brought to life with polite yet powerful duets.

That's not to say it all worked all of the time. The dark impact of "Everybody Knows", for example, was undermined by its transformation into an altogether too chirpy midtempo Latino-inflected country chugger. And the first half of the show had too many moments where retro musical choices were reminiscent of the cheesiest of 70s and 80s pop--in contrast to the thoughtful, impassioned and articulate vocal delivery.

The set list and arrangements, while meticulously constructed with musical director Roscoe Beck, had enough room to provide moments of surprise and spontaneity. Early on Cohen allowed his voice and hunched form to be dominated by proscenium and band, but he slowly emerged to project himself and steal attention from the mise-en-scene. And then, with grace and feeling he handed it back to them. It was fantastic to see Sharon Robinson, one of his key songwriting collaborators from the 80s on, sharing the stage and even belting out "Boogie Street" on her own. And flamenco guitarist Javier Mas delivered a series of spellbinding solos, as well as bouncing off Cohen's narrative journeys, the best of a terrific ensemble.

From the dramatic aural sweep of "The Partisan", to the hauntingly erotic spoken word of "A Thousand Kisses Deep", to the slamming kick drum of the politically-charged "First We Take Manhattan" the pieces fell into place. Appropriately, the second encore ended with "Closing Time" but only for a brief pause and then "I Tried To Leave You" really did mean it was time to shut up shop... the gracious rapture of the audience drawing real warmth from Cohen.

If any one song encapsulates the best of the night it would be the gospel-flavoured (Hammond included!) rendition of "Hallelujah". At first seemingly light in tone, the intensity of Cohen's voice rose with each chorus to the song's crescendo and a deserved mid-set standing ovation. Famously covered by a man many decades younger (though now gone) the song was teased by its owner rather than throttled, yet for an effect just as lyrical and enthralling.

I'm naive no longer.

Songlist @ Sydney Entertainment Centre, 29.1.09

Dance Me To The End Of Love
The Future
There Ain't No Cure
Bird On The Wire
Everybody Knows
In My Secret Life
(Spanish guitar solo)
Who By Fire
Chelsea Hotel #2
Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
Sisters Of Mercy

Tower Of Song
The Gypsy's Wife
The Partisan
Boogie Street
I'm Your Man
A Thousand Kisses Deep
Take This Waltz

So Long, Marianne
First We Take Manhattan

Famous Blue Raincoat
If It Be Your Will
Closing Time

I Tried To Leave You

Friday, January 30, 2009

Old disco in new bottles

Liz and I saw Leonard Cohen last night. A mixed bag but pretty amazing overall. Review up soon.

In the meantime, here's my first ever "proper" review for Inthemix, of the recent Future Classic night at the Becks Festival Bar, which is part of the Sydney Festival each year.

Disco Nouveau @ Becks Festival Bar, 23.1.09

It’s a damn good thing, the re-emergence of disco, and the best sign of its growing influence on mainstream dance music is the fact it had a night devoted to it at Beck’s Festival Bar. Full marks for putting this on must go to Future Classic, who have proven their devotion to the ‘nu’ end of the genre by touring acts like Aeroplane and Todd Terje in the last 12 months.

The evening started well enough for me when I caught the tail end of the
Canyons’ DJ set. Mixing classic house styles with DFA style punk-funk was exactly the right spirit. But the groove the boys were establishing almost immediately faltered with Theatre Of Disco taking to the main stage. I’d heard much good about this local outfit, especially their provocative theatricality. However, after an energetic opening number they fizzled into an indie-dance formula that was entertaining enough but failed to lift off, maybe also suffering from being ‘odd ones out’ music-wise on the night.

Future Classic supremo Nathan Macleay then recovered some of momentum by spinning recent nu-disco hits like Todd Terje’s remix of Dolle Jolle’s "Balearic Incarnation", Terje’s own "Eurodans" and Aeroplane’s remix of The Shortwave Set. It was a solid lead-in to Holy Ghost!, who have hit the big time with a fantastic run of remixes as well as their own tracks on DFA Records.

The two New York DJs got the energy of what had been a rather subdued crowd going. It’s a distinctive style they have, staying locked in a 120BPM groove while churning through big hits. Their selections ranged from re-edits of
Shalamar’s "Right In The Socket" and Chic’s "I Want Your Love" to original disco like Candi Staton’s "When You Wake Up Tomorrow", and from 80s classics like New Order’s "Bizarre Love Triangle" and Joe Smooth’s "Promised Land" to house remixes of oldies like Prince’s "Controversy" and Talking Heads’ "I Zimbra". It was also nice to hear their excellent production work, especially their remix of Cut Copy and their breakthrough track "Hold On". Perhaps the selections were a little obvious, but they had undeniable dancefloor impact.

When it came time for the Idjut Boys to hit the decks the audience was pumped, but the Idjuts being what they are meant they were a somewhat divisive force. With a penchant for little known track choices, they smashed straight into the bizarreness of the original version of "Hills Of Kathmandu" by Tantra, fucking with EQs and effects like there was no tomorrow. From there it was obscure vocal disco and italo, acidic monsters and weirdo dubs of tracks like Sylvester’s "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and Rare Pleasure’s "Let Me Down Easy". Energy they had in spades, but the relatively short set time they had meant there was more choppiness than they could achieve in a longer set, which is their preference (and which they had pulled off in genius fashion at a smaller gig the previous week).

Maybe if Holy Ghost! had been a little more adventurous and the Idjuts a little less, the night could have risen above the sum of its parts. There’s a tension inherent in introducing a mainstream audience to new (old) sounds while still trying to be forward thinking. Without a doubt there were many flashes of brilliance throughout the evening, and it was a very fun way to spend a Friday night under the stars. Just because it didn’t always work shouldn’t detract from Future Classic’s willingness to push boundaries. I look forward to next year’s effort.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A day in the sun, a night of cool

Notes from the fires of hell, Saturday 24th January 2009...

Part 1: Heat (von) Stroke

"I'm melting... I'm meeellllltting..."

Not a scene from The Wizard Of Oz, but the Pulse Radio Yacht Club party on Sydney Harbour on the hottest day of the summer. Not since the torturous experience of Field Day 2006 has a party been this goddamn uncomfortable to endure. At least there was a harbour breeze and air conditioning to help us survive.

Unlike the last floating event tech-house/disco melange, this one was a model of good organisation and marked by a lack of promoter-initiated violence. And musically it was at least on par if not better--certainly in the main room, where Luciano had failed to overwhelm.

In fact, it really was the obverse of the hedonistic madness of boat #1. Almost too civilised. And so Mother Nature stepped in to make sure that it would still be a day to remember.

In the main room Emerson Todd started with one of his typical "I can't be assed playing a real warm-up" sets, banging out minimalistic proggy tech-house for 90 minutes. He was followed by Christian Martin, who almost seemed a let-down as he took foot off accelerator with a mix of traditional Dirtybird fare and more acidic journeys, even pulling out brother Justin's classic "The Water Song".

But that set the stage for Claude von Stroke's three-hour extravaganza. Turning the volume down at the beginning, he managed to pull the crowd close to him and then hit them with a slew of his biggest tunes ("Who's Afraid Of Detroit" getting a rapturous reception about half-way through the set), as well as farty electrofied tech-house with trademark ridiculously heavy basslines and drums that seem to erupt from beneath audible frequencies. It was also fantastic to hear his magical remix of local boys Poxy Music's "Warpaint".

As usual for CvS there was a tendency to mash disparate sounds to crank maximum party vibe out of the whole affair--there was even a brief foray into downtempo dubby breaks. At times I thought it was too all over the shop to hang together but the enthusiasm he brought to it meant it worked OK. Not as good as his Mad Racket set a few years ago, but superior stuff. One of the world's best party DJs without a doubt, as long as you can forgive his desire to thumb his nose at the pretensions of the tech-house scene.

If the main room rocked it was partly due to the fact that only the bravest of souls would be able to cope on the disco deck for very long without expiring. Which was a huge shame because the music kept up the high standard set by Greg Wilson last time around. James and Scottie from Better Days warmed up with cool-as-fuck Balearic-tinged nu-disco and italo before it was Luke Unabomber's turn to play. Weaving together downtempo funk, classic disco and modern nu-disco sounds, he was impressing the diehard disco-heads until the 41 degree heat caught up with him and he had to hand over to Ben Rymer of Gucci Soundsystem. A far cry from the tech-house sounds he was pushing with former partner Riton a couple of years ago, Ben strung together modern DFA shizzle like Shit Robot's unreleased newie with disco oldies and even some real yacht rock (Don Henley's classic "Dirty Laundry")!

If the excesses and catastrophes of the previous cruise had been unable to live up to the massive hype and expectation surrounding Luciano's first appearance on our shores, the less stellar build for this one meant that it could deliver, and in style. Full props to Jimmy, T-Boy and Wade for making it happen, and with a minimum of injury (although all the DJs on the top deck probably needed medical care by the end of the day).

Part 2: Random brilliance

So, this guy Garry Todd, he got it goin' on. To follow from the cruise I was assigned as advance party to secure a spot at the infamous Ladylux for my friends, Dave and Joanne. What were we, snobby music types, doing heading for a club that has often been pilloried for outrageous door policies and questionable clientele?

The answer, of course, was that with the relaunch of Garry's Bread & Butter night (now filling the prime Saturday night slot) we were going to see the Canadian-now-living-in-Berlin techno genius Mathew Jonson play live.

The night started early for me, watching Jimmy Posters and T-Boy from Pulse Radio play a mixed bag of house and tech-house, followed by a brief outing from Rif-Raf, who started a bit heavy before settling into some appropriately deep, melodic techno offerings.

As the post-boat crowd thinned a little it was supplemented by people coming for Jonson or just because 'Lux was their place to go. With Garry and John Devecchis concentrating on a very deep, underground tech-house sound (think labels like Oslo, Diynamic and 8bit, with a fair bit of 20:20 thrown in for good measure) this could've been a disaster. Instead, everyone connected with the sweaty, small-club vibe. Devecchis, in particular, played the most focused set I've heard from him for ages--a sign, perhaps, that he's feeling relaxed enough to play in his own style rather than feel the pressure of conforming to whatever the dominant sounds of the party are meant to be.

By this time Dave, Joanne and I had been joined by Ant and Lisa and, finally, after a long delay because of missing cables, Jonson hit the Allan & Heath mixing desk at around 1:45 am and proceeded to knock out over two and a half hours of his noodly techno. Using a laptop with Ableton, a drum machine and a midi controller (sans keyboard because no power adapter could be found) through the mixer he was like a conductor driving his large orchestra of instruments through their paces. Sometimes blisteringly hard and at other times ethereally melodic, he was unafraid to let loops run longer than they reasonably should or to allow tracks to peter out to silence before the next movement started. What he gained in the ability to improvise, however, he sometimes lost in a messy and almost haphazard looseness to the overall set.

I had to leave, exhausted, at 4:15 with Jonson still playing. By this stage the club was still heaving with blow-up plastic palm trees, crazy hats and bottles of Jager being passed around. The randomness of the crowd was mirrored in the randomness of the whole event... yes we've all been to loose and trashy parties, but rarely with music this satisfying. Last night Bread & Butter managed to have both. With a stellar list of internatonals over coming weeks and months, this could be the new Sydney night to watch.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Drama on the high seas

With Saturday's Pulse Radio Yacht Party fast approaching I thought it was a great time to look back on the first Pulse boat party, featuring Luciano and Greg Wilson. This time around it'll be Claude von Stroke and Christian Martin of Dirtybird Records in the main room, with Ben Fat Trucker of Gucci Soundsystem and one half of the Unabombers on the deck. Support from Emerson Todd and the Better Days crew. Should be fun, but I doubt it can surpass the already legendary highs and lows of its predecessor. And maybe that's a good thing.

Here's an edited version of my review from the Inthemix forums to whet your appetites...

We live in a time when an epoch of excess is trying its best to come to a close in a very dramatic and painful fashion. But what of those who valiantly resist the tide, who carry on with their profligate ways despite the mounting evidence that the jig is up? Are they now just going through the motions, wearied and disheartened but putting on a facade of carefree hedonism?

The French have a term for it: Fin de siecle. Literally, the end of a century, but understood as the end of an era. And perhaps that's what those of us who braved the first ever Pulse Radio boat party were experiencing as the madness mounted on the not-so-high seas.

Rarely has such excitement been generated over one not-very-large party, headlined by a newcomer to our shores with a near-mythical reputation. "The Wait Is Over," the headlines screamed, and yet the weeks dragged on, the hype machine hit overdrive and another living legend was added to the bill, as if to prove this was THE EVENT OF THE YEAR.

If there was ever a metaphor for the bubble-like state of the capitalist system in the dance music world, surely the Luciano boat party was it. Expectations inflated inexorably to the point where something, somewhere, somehow had to go "pop".

I leave it to everyone else on the boat to decide when that moment of bursting occurred. For some it may have been when the bottled water ran out or the toilets were shut. For others it may be when Luciano started more than an hour late. For some it may literally have been the "pop" they heard when a punter was taken down on the dancefloor. And for many I'm sure it won't hit till at least Tuesday. But this party could never live up to all of its hype, much like the global financial system really.

Yet there was much to like about this party. The venue (boat and locale) was cool, the event wasn't oversold, the warm-up DJs on both floors were good and the weather was fantastic (if a little too hot at the start). I went with great friends, bumped into lots of people I knew and had a great time running between rooftop boogie and main room intensity.

The warm-up DJs in the main room (T-Boy and Jimmy Posters) did well, weaving nouveau tech-house like Johnny D's "Manipulation" and Ito & Starr's "Sudoko Kid" with classics like L'il Mo Yin Yang's "Reach", the latter sending the swelling crowd loopy. It was the correct tone for Luciano, whose reputation is for combing a retro sensibility with modern productions. However, as Emerson Todd slammed out the main lead-in, the waiting started and the time passed... but no Luciano.

Luckily, Greg Wilson (sans reel-to-reel because the pinch rollers had started to melt) was more than holding court on the roof with a euphoric mix of disco, boogie and early house classics as well as more re-edits than you could shake a stick at. This was altogether happier and cheesier than his selection on Thursday at Bondi, but like the archetypal British tourist he was lapping up the sunshine and good times. Starting with Imagination's "Just An Illusion" and blending it into his recent Missy Elliot re-edit was a perfect start and it only took off from there.

The peak of Wilson's willingness to let down his hair was when he dropped Hues Corporation's evergreen "Rock The Boat" to mass singalong action. Following it immediately with "Lady Marmalade" proved he had no shame but was reading clearly that we didn't either. But there was room later in his almost 5 hour set for more serious offerings--"Fool's Gold", "Voodoo Ray", "Orange Alert" and finishing with 808 State's "Pacific". There were also less well-known but completely bewitching classics like Geraldine Hunt's "Can't Fake The Feeling". And of course the hypnotic Ashley Beedle remix of "Running Up That Hill", which had me and whole bunch of others tranceing out.

Back in the main room, Luciano delivered a truncated set of big room tunes based around percussive loops, massive breakdowns and the occasional melodic riff. While I expected a retro sound, what surprised me most was that this was the sound of tribal techno, circa 2002, but slowed down for modern sensibilities. That he played perennial techno classic "Compound" not once but twice says something about the mood he created. Nice to hear Masters At Work get two workouts at a modern tech party ("Bangin'" following "Reach" earlier on) and also cool to hear the strains of Octave One's "Blackwater". I was surprised he didn't just whip out Umek & Valentino's back catalogue or some early Intec, but it was good clean fun, mixed with aplomb and, wow, the man has a charismatic and charmingly self-deprecating stage presence.

A year ago Luciano was strip-mining the late-90s Chi-town style of Sneak and Carter, now it's the Euro-tribal sound that soundtracked my introduction to proper techno. I think the recycling betrays a weariness in our scene. Here is a very talented DJ creating his own tropes on the achievements of a previous generation of jocks. Everything old is new again, but now much less altered and much more transparent. In that sense, Greg Wilson was no more a retro DJ than Luciano.

I had a fine time, avoided most of the worst debacles, and relied on fantastic people like Nataly, Dave, Joanne, Josie, Kate and Kimberley (who sold her Homebake tickets to come to this) to keep me company. And it was among an enthusiastic sea of punters who managed a high level of friendliness (but who the hell was that random girl who had her photo taken with me at the end?).

When we look back at this party, I think we may well decide that its "epic" qualities lay more in the dramas that played themselves out on board than the pinnacles of musical brilliance it promised. In some ways the problems with the party will become part and parcel of its legend. If anything the (ahem) "incident" will only serve to imprint this sunny afternoon in our minds more indelibly. And, after all, the hype promised us a spectacle so that's what we got...

Spotting Luciano's set
Spotting Wilson's set

Imagination - Just An Illusion
Young Dog Alien - Gotta Keep Workin' It (Missy Elliot Mash-Up)
Stevie Wonder - Superstition (Todd Terje Edit)
Blondie - Rapture
Chic - Good Times
Average White Band - Pick Up The Pieces
Hues Corporation - Rock The Boat
LaBelle - Lady Marmalade
Grace Jones - Pull Up To The Bumper
The Whispers - And The Beat Goes On
Raw DMX - Do It To The Funk (GW Re-Edit)
Stone Roses - Fool's Gold
Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill (Ashley Beedle Re-Edit)
Geraldine Hunt - Can't Fake The Feeling
Cheryl Lynn - Got To Be Real
A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray
Yaz - Situation
Metro Area - Dance Reaction
The Turtles - Happy Together
Teenage DJ - I Was A Teenage DJ (Pt 1)
808 State - Pacific State (Greg Wilson Mix)