A Dizzy Canvas
Cologne microhousers triumph over London mishmashers
Volume, a converted Williamsburg warehouse, extends a much needed lifeline to the city’s starved dance music scene. In contrast to many slick Manhattan clubs, Brooklyn’s best new venue has an appealing rawness; the ridiculously high ceilings and bright white walls of its massive main floor and grand hallway give the heady feeling of floating inside an empty canvas, a place where new ideas can run free. It’s also a playground for video artists, who on March 13 filled multiple screens with squiggly abstract projections, washing the space in dizzying fields of light and color.
The biggest problem with this smorgasbord for the senses was deciding which DJ to be dazzled by at any given moment. Headlining the packed main floor were microhouse maestros Michael Mayer and Superpitcher, representing Cologne’s excellent Kompakt label, plus last-minute surprise guest Miss Kittin, mostly known for her electroclash ties but a fine DJ despite all that.
London’s Rephlex label commanded the smaller, darker, cavern-like dancefloor, serving up a sharp, frenetic sonic mishmash in stark contrast to Kompakt’s warm, rounded grooves. DJs Mark One and Plasticman (not to be confused with Plastikman) terrified audiences with an icy blitzkrieg of grimy beats. Soundmurderer blasted through an electrifying but disappointingly brief set of enticingly manic ragga-jungle. The boredom-bogged IDM-type fare from Bogdan Raczynski was the only real letdown.
As Miss Kittin waltzed off center stage in the main room, leaving New Order’s old chestnut “Blue Monday” spinning on the decks, Superpitcher gingerly started things up with some subtle shimmer. Best known for an ace run of glammed-up singles on several Kompakt compilations, Superpitcher started slowly, leaving many onlookers wanting. But soon, with the tender sweetness of Heiko Voss’s “I Think About You,” the crowd started swaying, and his set gradually built in intensity until it hit full-on stomping mode.
This set things up well for Michael Mayer. The lanky, cute-as-a-button German confidently ascended the stage like a rock star, laying down a godlike mix of effortlessly layered, brilliantly bangin’ house, techno, and everything in between. He didn’t just man the decks; he air-guitared, shook his stuff, and got flirty with the crowd while whipping it into euphoric frenzy. “He loves us! He really loves us!” wept an (entirely sober) person next to me. “Encore!” begged fans with such fervor that you’d think it was Ziggy Stardust’s last concert. After two encores, Kompakt had won. Geeta Dayal
SoCal noir-dirge gloomsters show foxy locals how it’s done
At the Bowery Ballroom last Saturday night, Brooklyn hipster darlings Enon looked foxy in their mod threads. But not even their sexy stage presence and impeccable (ex-Brainiac, ex-Blonde Redhead) pedigree kept the generic indie pop they concentrate on from coming off anemic up against occasional new wavey dance-party numbers like “In This City.” Needed: more focus, less hocus.
Black Heart Procession’s set, though, had both. Dodging a backdropped loop of noisy squiggles and synthy ambient ruckus, a Black Hearter snuck onstage in an orange raincoat and a black hat obscuring his face, evoking the murder mystery capers on the San Diego troupe’s current DVD, Tropics of Love. As he pulled out a cell phone and played a tune into the p.a., his bandmates came aboard. Like an affable, less pretentious Nick Cave in Merle Haggard disguise, guitarist, musical saw-ist, and stellar vocalist Pall Jenkins led the Procession—who trade off instruments as if they’re playing musical chairs—through one of their most relaxed and confident NYC gigs ever.
Now numbering five for their live show, BHP have learned to alternate between wrist-slashing, bloody-bathtub dirges and more uptempo numbers. They’ve also deduced how to locate, amid the music’s film-noirish space, moments of pregnant tension where it’s possible to blow out the dynamics: Recent Latin-rhythmed numbers, for instance, got the full Zeppelin treatment. And as if that wasn’t classic rock enough, the chipper combo was only fully hitting its mark when it encored with a rendition of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.”
Black Heart’s tales have always tended toward heartbreak and homocide, but these weren’t the somber, horse-mask-wearing gents we used to know. The packed house of indie-rock couples didn’t seem to mind, though, that their favorite make-out band was shuttling them into un-spoonably bubbling soundscapes of mercurial rock hugeness. David Shawn Bosler