Seeing Theo Parrish spin last week and then Erlend Øye last night made for a real study in contrasts. The first is a cool professional with an idiosyncratic but unbelievably intuitive knowledge of how to build a vibe. You can't necessarily dance to everything Parrish plays, but you will be psyched for it. I wasn't feeling so hot when I saw Parrish, but I couldn't help but get really, really into it. His set was all over the place genre- and tempo- and rhythm-wise, but it also felt remarkably tight and cohesive. Everything made instant 'oh wow that's perfect!' sense in a way that few sets that are that eclectic do.
Wasn't really planning on seeing Erlend Øye spin last night, but sometimes you just need to get out of the house, especially when your cranky downstairs neighbor is breathing down your neck for playing Speicher tracks really loud at night. Strangely nothing seems to irk said neighbor--hip-hop, rock, jazz, Superpitcher's new one, that new Grime comp on Rephlex, etc have all been played at top volume in this household with no complaints. What causes problems, it seems, are things with a really hard, insistent 4/4 thump, like Chicago house or, as I found out recently, Speicher tracks. But there's no good way to listen to hard, bangin Speicher stuff except really loud. Naturally our interaction turns into a passive-aggressive ratcheting-upwards kind of game, culminating in me playing Reinhard Voigt's 'How We Rock' five times and then claiming it was the washing machine. It does kind of sound like a washing machine doesn't it! The best washing machine in the world! So anyway, I decided to go to APT where I could hear people play stuff loud at 3 am without cranky neighbors.
So let's go back to that study in contrasts. I was trying to figure out the best way to explain the difference between Parrish and Øye DJ-wise, and I came up with this analogy. Imagine the electromagnetic spectrum except for DJs. Somewhere all the way on the gamma-radiation end of the spectrum is Theo Parrish. Short wavelength, high frequency, high energy, radioactive, glowing. All the way on the other end of the spectrum is "amateur but lovable" Erlend Øye--long wavelength, low frequency, low energy. Think AM radio waves and stuff like that, stuff that's easy to sense and measure using ordinary methods. Not much magic there. The dude's a bespectacled white-as-a-sheet Norwegian best known for being in an indie band known as the Kings of Convenience, but who recently came out with a DJ Kicks mix.
Erlend loves to dance, and was dancing all around the DJ booth while spinning. He's really into very poptastic dance music, which is cool--aren't we all?--but it seems hard for him to transfer his obvious enthusiasm into a set that's more than the sum of its parts. Some people get really caught up in the technical aspects of DJing--beatmatching, mixing, etc--to the point where it gets annoyingly danceist. Almost prog-rock in its emphasis on chops and technical wizardry. But mixing's more something you notice when it isn't there. Which brings us back to young Erlend. He was charming as can be, smiling and trying to get people into it ("You're gonna love this one! Just wait, the track gets better soon!"), but his grip on the decks was about as firm as tofu. Not that it really mattered, with this adoring crowd--strangely, many more people turned up to see him than to see Theo Parrish last week--but he could have really used some help at some points in the evening. Some parts of his set were absolutely great--fun, bouncy French house tracks ("I was just in Paris three days ago," he told us)--but there were parts of the night where it seemed more like the kind of stuff you'd hear on the CD player at someone's house. One particularly cringeworthy segment was when he played Jaxx 'Just 1 kiss' followed by Daft Punk's 'One More Time.' Now I love those songs and always will, but really, in a DJ set in 2004? Oh yeah, then he sang along off-key to 'One More Time' in a way that only someone who is really drunk on free-drink-ticket vodka can do. Yeah, I forgot to mention that he sings. Most of the time it's kind of nice and soft and almost imperceptible. Ladies love Øye--he pushes all the right I-am-a-tortured-indie-rocker buttons, I think. There was a cluster of girls around the DJ booth, all trying to catch his eye (which was masked in giant coke-bottle-thick plastic-framed nerd glasses, of course.) He was more than happy to oblige them, and decided he was too tired to DJ anymore, instead putting on a Prince mix and joining the crowd. At which point I decided I was too tired for Erlend. Not a bad night for five bucks, but not a particularly good one either.