huge ever growing pulsating
prejudice can hold you back. case in point, my previous experience with the venue known as downtime was spotty at best. however, i wasn’t aware of its transformation into rebel by the folks at webster hall until last week when the beyond events calendar told me about rare appearances by two techno artists i like.
metope and joey beltram occupy nearly opposite ends of the techno spectrum. any more minimal than the former and you’re in basic channel or raster-noton territory. going more maximal than the latter and you’re in the overblown realms of eurodisco or hard trance. metope and the rest of the areal records roster came to my attention via excellent remixes for the last depeche mode album’s singles. i think of the label as a more fanciful belgian counterpart to ghostly, with their distinctive cartoony images and analog synth melodies flicky pulse. joey beltram, although he’s from new york city, seems to be mostly associated with german label tresor, favoring a repetitive pummeling that berliners love.
those two artists pretty much defined the two downstairs rooms open to the night put on by doojee. the front room, formerly downtime’s anemic main performance space, has been reconfigured as more of a lounge and small dancefloor, with couches and coatcheck off to the sides. a DJ only known as connie was spinning when i got there around midnight. she kept a good but chilled pace, working with the ebb and flow of deceptively simple beats, building to mini-peaks and bathing everything in a wash of synths before dropping the metronomic kicks again. in fact it was literally chilled with the entrance and two big emergency exit doors leaking cold air. definitely a good room to revisit throughout the night.
once i realized the double doors in the back actually led somewhere, i was even more amazed at rebel’s transformation. they’ve expanded deeper into the building and made the main performance space a 325-capacity venue with its own bar and a killer sound system.
punishing the large array of speakers when i walked in were atomic babies, two guys i’d never heard of before. different aspects of their sequenced music were constantly being molded live, making it live and breathe as they tweaked their array of classic and new techno gear. they pushed the envelope of their sounds to the borders of industrial/ebm without crossing over into the terrible self-parody arrived at so often by that combination. as with most techno sets, it was essentially one long track, or rather a series of seamless electronic vignettes driven by the same tempo. rather than settling into a hypnotic groove, atomic babies showed how much you could keep changing things up while still staying within a few parameters. this, and their expert use of hardware (as opposed to pure laptops/controllers), made them one of the more enjoyable live electronic acts i’ve seen in awhile.
after taking a break with more DJ connie (and thanking her for the excellent set), i was lured back into the main room by the sounds of armageddon on repeat. the thundering kick drums reverberated closer as i approached, and i knew that joey beltram was on. his style is singularly relentless, like a buildup and orgasm caught in a time-loop, constantly exploding and regenerating itself. i know he spun different records, because i saw him get them and cue them up. but unlike, say, derek plaslaiko, who is also a master at beatmatching, beltram somehow turns everything he spins into the same giant beast. i don’t say this as a criticism but as an awestruck compliment. it’s as though he’s creating a monster using the mindset of the borg (from star trek TNG); every record, and eventually you, will be assimilated. the throbbing, synthetic hooks were more like fragments of riffs. he may have some kind of sampling delay or looper in his arsenal to grab the weirdest half-measures from the coldest records and repeat them until they take over your entire being. whatever the method, the result was a floor full of ecstatic dancers, surrounded by a few onlookers and the requisite glowstick twirlers.
unfortunately i decided to call it a night at about quarter to three, so i didn’t get a chance to hear metope. a shame, because i really like his album. but i did leave there with the blood pounding in my veins and a resolve to return to future nights put on by doojee as well as shows at rebel.
the title of this post comes from a song by the orb.