Icee Hot 3 Year Anniversary with Martyn and Jacques Green
Saturday, Jan. 19, 2012
Better than: This horrible advice.
"Miss Thing? There is no guest list tonight!" said the sample as we once again made our way onto the dancefloor at Public Works. Breaking through a temporary wormhole induced by sampling, the voice called to us from a distance of about 20 years. However, as much as it might have sounded like Lil' Louis, it was actually Icee Hot resident Ghosts on Tape, who, through clever manipulation, had contorted the classic vocal riff into something altogether more contemporary. His crashing, '90s-style high-energy house gave the room a sonic glow that compensated for the lack of light with bright stabs and busy percussion. It was still very early, and the night could potentially go anywhere from here.And it did go quite a few places. One of the interesting consequences of Icee Hot's relatively open-minded and omnivorous booking policy is that nights spent under its banner tend to defy a conventional structure. Past editions have featured some unconventional pairings, so it's only right that the first half of Icee Hot's third anniversary party would cover all the bases. That's not to say it ever got otherworldly, but it was an evening marked by occasional eccentricities, like bits of disco rubbing up against nod-inducing half-time breakdowns. Public Works has become an incredibly popular nightlife destination since its opening. Each weekend seems to see the venue more packed than the last, with some evenings getting almost uncomfortably crowded. For this reason it was a welcome experience to enjoy the dancefloor on Saturday with a few fewer people on it. There was some space to breathe, with enough pockets to even allow for a breakdance circle to form during Ghosts on Tape's set. Dancers executed complex moves, taking turns and occasionally ceding the floor to less-elegantly coordinated onlookers. Things got kind of athletic for a moment, but the shape dispersed when the music took a hard turn towards a more brutalist form. A flash in the darkness, and the strobes stuttered to life. Now it was Jacques Greene's turn behind the decks, and the Canadian DJ kept up the pace by slinging a series of '90s house and garage tunes. Animated in his actions, he punctuated his blends and EQ tweaks with dramatic gestures that had him leaning hard into the mixer. But for all his visual flourish, his set was somewhat inconsistent. He'd find a theme, win over the audience, and then duck away into something else. Nowhere was this more apparent than when he started banging out a mini-set of Berlin-influenced techno. The unmistakable overdriven drums and gritty samples of Head High's "It's a Love Thing (Piano Invasion)" rumbled through the room, building anticipation for the approaching euphoria of the song's piano riff. That moment never arrived. Instead, the rhythm looped and Greene awkwardly brought in a tumble of saccharine arpeggios. From there he changed rhythms entirely -- the drums went half-time and turned flaccid as the pumping insistence of his previous selections gave way to a meditative moment spent trying to find the beat. While I wasn't into it, there's something to be said for having the guts to make such a move. Fast forward a few hours later, and the party would take on a very different mood under the direction of Martyn. Like Greene before him, he played an erratic set that almost moved diagonally between genres. He started muted and booming, with a blast of straightforward techno establishing a solid rhythmic base. Getting loopy, he let the music cycle into trance-inducing repetition. Inexplicably, these futuristic noises and electronic pulses began to age in reverse -- the tonality of the present was replaced by the warm churn of '70s-era modular synthesis. This was the setup for something big. It came on slowly at first, with teasing glimmers peeking out from beneath the mix. Martyn moved deliberately, and the soaring arc and cooing vocals of Patrick Cowley's remix of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" began to unfold. Undoubtedly it's because I love disco, but the moment between the intro and the first crescendo almost approached a transcendent experience. But beyond my own appreciation for the song was Martyn's way of playing it, which accentuated the song's intensity with bold strokes on the filter and EQs. Maybe most impressive was how he followed it; he let the song climax and then went right back where he started with more techno. It was like he drew a complete circle through the continuum of dance music. He did this other times as well and with other forms besides disco (Slam's "Positive Education," Tears of Velva's "The Way I Feel," and Dajae's "Brigher Days" all being good examples). These non-techno selections provided bits of color that helped to define the dynamic of his larger narrative. It was really well done, and ultimately kept us (and quite a few others) on the dancefloor until we left around 3 a.m. If this sounds like fun to you, be sure to check out the second installment of the party's anniversary next Saturday.