Category Archives: reviews

Review: Derrick Carter at the Black Box 12/01/2018

I think a slight, yet significant, modification to the lyrics of the enigmatic My House by Rhythm Control does the best job explaining exactly what transpired at The Black Box December 1st, 2018, where Supernova, and Seifhaus hosted the Chicago house music legend Derrick Carter for a night of classic four to the floor mayhem, supported by local  Foreign Roots. crew Groove_Werk, Mr. Frick, and EERIE. Brett Starr was also in support.

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Photo courtesy of Mido Noufal and Seifhaus 

“And, you see, no one man owns house because house music is a universal language, spoken and understood by all.

You see, house is a feeling that no one can understand really unless you’re deep into the vibe of house.

House is an uncontrollable desire to jack your body.

And, as I told you before, this is our house and our house music.

And in every house, you understand, there is a keeper.

And, in this house, the keeper is Derrick.

Now some of you who might wonder,

‘Who is Derrick, and what is it that Derrick does?’

Derrick is the one who gives you the power to jack your body!

Derrick is the one who gives you the power to do the snake.

Derrick is the one who gives you the key to the wiggly worm.

Derrick is the one who learns you how to walk your body.

Derrick is the one that can bring nations and nations of Derricks together under one house.

You may be black, you may be white; you may be Jew or Gentile. It don’t make a difference in our house.

And this is fresh!”

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Foreign Roots. Photo courtesy of Seifhaus, and Mido Noufal

Review: Satori (live) and Ramona Wouters

At the behest of the promoter, Below Radar, I was asked to not reveal the name of the venue that this event took place at, since the meta of this place is to remain invisible; a hidden temple to Dionysian pleasures, and ritual, where it invites its de facto followers to participate only if they know to seek it out. Nobody is excluded, you just have to know. And it was in this place that the forces of Ramona Wouters of Belgium and Satori of The Netherlands, wound us to their command, among an uncannily snowy evening on November 11th in Denver.

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First, to explain the scenario here. When we think of the archetypes of dance, it is usually conceived as taking place in a dark club, with LEDs, a disco ball, Red Bull signs, and questionable pleather seating defining the atmosphere. And that’s not far off. Most clubs do that to some extent. However, this location, which reveals itself behind architecture that is somewhere between a Tuscan Villa and a terracotta tomb, is hardly that. Instead of roped off areas and easy clean upholstery, the space is entirely open, with Persian and Chat Noir inspired decor. Tasteful crimson and purple lights illuminated the area, which was surrounded by 4 separate stacks of speakers, allowing for an immersive experience. Aerial silks hung delicately from the ceilings, fastened tastefully to the wall behind it, adjacent to pod shaped, geometrically lathed lanterns that spot the walls every few feet; while weaving through the gyrating masses, wait staff who dressed as though they just stepped out of a cabaret, adorned samples of homemade novelties such as chocolate covered marshmallows. Needless to say this wasn’t your typical party, especially since this was on a Sunday. So unless you have a sweet pocket full of daddy cash, or you’re a waiter, you probably had to work the next day. Normally, Mondays after raves doesn’t bode well for dance music enthusiasts, however this went from 4 until 10PM, which allows anyone to get an okay amount of rest before resuming life outside this palace of revelry.

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I arrived for the last hour or so of Ramona Wouters, who DJ’d 100 to 115 BPM, tribal influenced house music; where swinging, synthetic upright bass tones and hi hats shuffled the crowd into a limber groove. As the rhythm rolled, the refracted lights from the disco ball danced miniature spotlights onto the backdrop of a projected fireplace that psychologically warmed the venue on a decisively cold, dark night. Psychedelic, ethnic chants reverberated off the angles of the venue, while the crowd moved well in sync with the affairs happening before their senses.


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After some time of this, Satori took the stage, not to do a DJ set, but to rather perform his material live. Using a combination of hardware and software synthesis, keyboards, drum machines, and samplers, ran through Ableton, Satori was able to construct and deconstruct his tracks, and others, into new versions of themselves, allowing a lot to chance and improv. Besides being a one man auteur, the aspect that impressed me the most about Satori was the breadth of his genres that fit among the signature downtempo cadence of his house inspired sets. There was aspects swing music, middle eastern influenced riffs, dub, big band, and a health dose of rock music to create an accessible, unpretentious, worldly concoction of dance music; merging the past with the present, and in a way, his and our own future.

Needless to say, this was a unique, fun party, that really sold me on the idea of day parties, since it’s an untapped time filled with souls who don’t necessarily want to go to bed at 6AM, as well as people who do, yet want to start partying at 4 instead, which in the eyes of our Lord Bacchus, I assume is favorable.

 

Review – Pantha Du Prince: Presented by Below Radar & The Black Box

Pantha Du Prince is one of those rare musicians who gets two opposite sides of the musical spectrum to agree on something; a realm where both dirty ravers, and sophisticant classical music snobs can get along,  where they either dance, or rub their chin in approval to the contemporary brilliance that emotes from Pantha Du Prince’s ethereal grooves. Taking influence from both the minimal techno scene, and minimalist classical composers, such as Terry Riley, and Steve Reich, Pantha Du Prince weaves a pallet of bells, chimes, and delay, over low, rumbling sine wave bass lines and percussive elements inspired by techno, house, and a litany of world music. In his compositions you are just as likely to hear marimbas, clavs, steel drums, hi hats, and ride, along with a well placed, EQ’d 909 sample. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the breadth of it. He’s played pinnacle, extreme locations in both scenes, from Berghain for the naked techno freaks to the high cultured Barbican Centre in London. However, this time he wasn’t in London or Berlin, he was here in Colorado for the first time, giving credit to the sound system of The Black Box, with Seth Nichols and Jessica Lyn providing opening support.

While I missed Jessica Lyn, I was able to catch a good amount of The Underground founder Seth Nichols laying down a certain brand of smoothly mixed, lo-fi, dubby techno/house music to set the mood for Pantha’s set, as you can see by the video I posted. What was impressive is how many people were already in the crowd long before Pantha came on. Compared to the last show I saw at the Black Box — Pinch and Peverelist — the crowd during the opener on a Thursday, with a new promoter, was probably twice the size of the headliner’s crowd on a Saturday for a Submission event (for all who don’t know, Sub.mission is the crown jewel of The Black Box). It’s only been within the last year or so that I have started to see house and techno start to compete with dubstep, the reigning champion around Colorado.  Maybe compete isn’t the right word, maybe it’s more cultural coalescence, as I will touch on later.

Around midnight, Seth Nichols bowed out, and his mix was smoothly transitioned into Pantha’s live set, where he used synths, trigger banks, effects pedals, mixers, and occasionally his voice, to build live renditions of his songs. During his set, the contorting masses were exposed to a wide range of songs off of both of his albums, Black Noise and The Triad, including Satellite Snyper, Bohemian Forest off the Black Noise, and Dream Yourself Awake, off of The Triad (all of which you can see videos of below). This is not to say that the show was perfect by any means. While Pantha Du Prince is a brilliant composer, being in a new city might have made him a little nervous, since whenever he would sing or do something he wasn’t sure of, it was slightly awkward. However that did not stop the crowd from moving for nearly 2 hours, even on a work night for many. It’s no wonder his music has received high praise from places like The Guardian, Resident Advisor, and Pitchfork.

 

 

Probably my favorite part of the night is when this dude in his early 20’s came up to me and struck up a conversation, where he likened Pantha Du Prince’s music to Tipper. While I don’t think they sound much alike, it makes me happy to see a crossover between the more mainstream aspects of Colorado electronica, and the parts few know about. It gives me hope that one day, we will see artists like Pantha, Stimming, or Jon Hopkins headlining places like Red Rocks and having thousands of screaming fans worshiping them here too. I don’t think this is unreasonable, considering that in Europe (where both Tipper and Shpongle are from), they have amassed followings equal in scope to the electronic music demi-gods around here. I can only hope though. I can only hope.

 

 

Update: Added some references to who cite Pantha as a brilliant artist. Also wanted to soften some of the words. 

Pinch & Peverelist + newnumbertwo at The Black Box

Infrasound is a frequency lower than 20hz, the theoretical limit of human hearing. Anything below this threshold is no longer a “sound” but rather a feeling, where it ceases to be audible noise, and simply becomes air pressure. Psychologist Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire suggests that people who sense the presence of ghosts are actually perceiving infrasound, rather than a manifestation of a deceased individual (so that ghost you saw while on two hits was probably just your refrigerator hum, mannn). Additionally, infrasound is used in nuclear detection, where an array of sensors detect these frequencies, filtering out more common noises, in order to detect if atoms have fissioned somewhere on the planet (we are looking at you, Kim). Yet when Pinch and Peverelist came to The Black Box, we can only assume that somewhere in the world a paranormal investigator got a text message, and a general had a sleepless night wondering if a flurry of nukes just collided with Denver, Colorado. No worries General. That wasn’t The Dirty D being glassed, that was another type of collision, one that comes from Bristol (UK) boys Pinch and Peverelist. 

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Newnumbertwo. Photo Credit: Gwendolyn Ross https://www.facebook.com/photoagogo.55/

I wish I was able to arrive earlier to see newnumbertwo, the brainchild of Wallace Winfrey — co-founder of the local outfit Sorted — but alas, that did not happen. By the way, this is not to be confused with the more popular TheNewNo2, which consists of George Harrison’s son. George Harrison’s son does not play dark, beat driven electronic music… unfortunately.

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Peverelist. Photo Credit: Gwendolyn Ross https://www.facebook.com/photoagogo.55/

Arriving as Peverelist graced the Bass Couch soundsystem in the main room of The Black Box, I was treated to a rarity in that room: techno-breakbeats. Sitting between 125 – 150 BPM, Peverelist’s set felt more like something for the hallowed halls of Berghain, Berlin, than Denver, Colorado. Jacking kick drums, with tribal laden percussive elements laid the foundation for washing pads, and jabbing synths, creating a scandalous, sexy wall of sound that certainly possessed my legs (maybe sub frequencies are ghosts?).


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Pinch. Photo Credit: Gwendolyn Ross https://www.facebook.com/photoagogo.55/

Next up was Pinch, who archetypically looks somewhere between a mortician, and a Bond villain, with his tall, lanky stature and shaved head. Based on appearance alone, I speculate that he plays dubstep in order to counteract his desires for acquiring weapons grade plutonium and ghost hunting, as a sort of research backed catharsis.  Now, the dubstep that Pinch played isn’t the type of dubstep that is normally found around these parts. No woo boosting, or sex grunts. No Skrillex buildups. No 16 year old girls with fake IDs, sucking on pacifiers, and dosed to the eyeballs on bath salts. Instead, just low, oscillating frequencies, with the occasional UK grime MC or Rasta ramble. No buildups, more breakdowns. The crowd was mature, and visibly not on bath salts. Note: I only saw one set of dreadlocks.


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Pinch B2B Peverelist. Photo Credit: Gwendolyn Ross https://www.facebook.com/photoagogo.55/

Then came the finale, where Pinch and Peverelist played B2B from 12:30 until close. Now, I was hoping they’d play one of their more techno infused sets, however, this is Denver, the dubstep capital of the United States, so the set was more akin to Pinch’s earlier set, with dub influences, livity sounds and punishing infrasound enveloping the walls of The Black Box’s main room. Because for this night Denver was Bristol and Bristol was Denver, and somewhere the gods of dub smile down upon us, and grace us with their grimey presence.  


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Speaking of The Black Box, this week on 10/04 and 10/05 are two amazing acts. First, is Pantha Du Prince from Norway, and Tin Man from Austria. I am really looking forward to hearing these on The Black Box’s stellar sound. Expect a review of each as well.

About the author: fckdsko is a producer and DJ originally from NY, but residing in Colorado for 8 years. On top of making his own brand of psychedelic electronic music, he also likes to attend shows and write about them! You can check out his music on SoundCloud.

Stimming at Club Vinyl

Oh man, where do I even begin with this one. For one, I am bias. Stimming, is by admission, one of my favorite producers. Since I was introduced to his song “Una Pena” years ago, which samples the eternal Violetta Perra — a Chilean revolutionary folk singer who ultimately took her life during the totalitarian Pincochet era — I was hooked. His lush productions, mixed with his intricate understanding of the entire sonic field (which can be seen with his work with 4D Sound), has sent ripples throughout extroverted club kids and introverted headphone listeners alike. Minimalist piano, bells, subtle glitches, and hauntingly emotional vocals accent a style of house and techno that is wholly Stimming’s, where unconventional song structure and syncopated percussive styles have a way of surprising listeners with an unexpected snare on the downbeat of a phrase, or a hi-hat that leads where a kick normally would. In other words, every note in Stimming’s architecture seems deliberate, while never feeling stale. And he brought no shortage of this to Club Vinyl on Saturday, September 22nd, 2018, where he performed a set of exclusively his own production.

While Stimming’s set only lasted about an hour and a half, over that course — to a backdrop of high definition, symmetric, organic visuals by the venue’s video jockey — we were treated to a set of unconventional minimal dance music. I wish I had a more intimate detail of song names, so I could give you a tracklist, however the show was good enough that I felt the desire to not Shazam anything (the songs that were played were somehow one’s I was not familiar with. No Una Pena, no Bright Star, no Close These Curtains. I believe there was a Ferdinand, and a Die Luft, however).

I only took one video of the performance since I was so preoccupied by it, which I posted, not to immerse readers in the show, but to comment on the quality of sound at Vinyl. Last week, I posted a recording of what a good quality sound phone recording is, capturing a minute or so of Jon Hopkins’ Open Eye Signal. This is because Grandoozy hired a professional sound engineer to do it. It was crisp, and you could absolutely tell what song was playing, with little lost to the medium it was recorded on (with concessions to the fact it’s a phone). Vinyl’s sound though? Not so much. Stimming, while a great sound engineer — due to the fact that he was listening to monitors backstage — could not have known that the sound pumping onto the floor was a maesthma of displeasure, considering by all measures, that their Funktion 1 sound-system is world class. What is not world class is that they thought that they could buy a 30+ thousand dollar audio system, and it would somehow sound good on its own. That is not how this works, Vinyl. A tool is only as good as its operator, and it appears you have none, at least while the show is in progress (that or their main resume qualifier was that they have stuck their head in hundreds of speakers in their lifetime and killed their ears). And this is not an isolated incident; it’s pervasive. I have been to upwards of 20 shows there in my life, and every time — save for Max Cooper — it has sounded like it was playing low quality, Youtube mp3 rips, with key frequencies being abused by a lack of care. And this doesn’t just apply to the speakers downstairs, the speakers up on the rooftop are embarrassing as well. Vinyl, I’m sorry I have to be so harsh on you in a public setting, as I love who you book (plus other aspects I will mention later), and have given you close to a thousand dollars in my lifetime. However, enough is enough.


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@clubvinyl needs to hire a sound guy. Woof.

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I have been to dozens of clubs in developing countries, with a fraction of your budget — and no Funktion 1’s — that sound multitudes better. Even at these venues, the highs and mids come in clear, the bass is not overwhelming, and yet nobody would say the music is quiet. You know the remedy for this? Hire someone, or find an intern to monitor the levels. If it is sounding harsh, adjust. You charge the same for tickets as a venue that has to actually set up a multi-piece band on a timbre by timbre basis, rather than make sure the .wav file outputted from the CDJ’s/mixer don’t distort, so I’d speculate that you can afford it, or at least can afford to find someone passionate enough about it to do it for experience.

Now, I don’t want this to be a Dave Matthews’ tour bus sized dump on Vinyl, because, besides sound, you are an excellent club. For one, your staff — from the doormen to the managers — are kind and accommodating. You truly believe in customer service, and it shows. Two, your drink prices are not unreasonable by any means, and there is almost never a line at the bar, which means you staff well. Three, the decor of your place is trendy, and the upgraded visual system is a gem to behold (your video jokey is also solid as well). And finally, you book stellar talent that we won’t see anywhere else in Colorado, due to the niche you have. And for these, I do thank you. However, fix your sound… holy god damn bat shit Batman, fix your sound, because the reason why these artists are so good is because they are innovative musicians who aren’t just instrumentalists, they are world class audio engineers.

Don’t believe me that your sound is unfulfilled? Compare the video recording posted to the video recording posted of Jon Hopkins’ set, where the speakers were set up outdoors on a golf course, surrounded by 3 other stages with booming sound. If you want more examples of good sound recorded with my phone, I am happy to post that too, including clubs in those developing countries I told you about, in order to show it’s not my equipment, it’s yours. Just send me a message, and I will.

To Stimming, you’re spectacular, and I can see why you are considered one of the most innovative, forward thinking electronic musicians of this era. Praise be, Martin Stimming, praise be.