BLAUBAC at C'est What (19 Church), Tuesday (June 8), 9:30 pm. Free. 416-867-9499. Rating: NNNNN
Blaubac (aka Chris Smith) has a bit of a split personality. Sure, the mild mannered Brit turned Canuck can cheerfully geek out for days about modular synthesis and MAX/MSP programming, but this is also the Chris Smith who raves about his love of drum 'n' bass and Detroit techno.
It makes sense, then, that his first gigs since moving to Toronto a year ago have been at the electro-funk-themed Scene Machine party, while his upcoming show is at the decidedly more serious and academic Ambient Ping weekly.
"There are two sides of me, the full-on partying, clubbing punk guy and the academic side," he admits.
"Drum 'n' bass was probably the most exciting thing in electronic music that happened to me. I mean, I love Detroit obviously, and the "summer of love" (not the hippy one, but the explosion of the British acid house scene in 1988), but there was something about drum 'n' bass that was so monumental, such a huge thing, such an alien sound. It was like nothing I'd ever heard. It was dark and wasn't about clubbing and having a good time - there was something mean. That's when I stopped playing guitar, and haven't since."
His first two LPs reflect that infatuation with d'n'b, in particular the genre's slinky jazz-inspired tangents. They definitely weren't rave albums, though. Moody IDM like Autechre was at least as important a reference point. In the two years since Perdurance, Smith has reworked his approach and settled into a sparser, pure electronic sound and a less precise way of working.
"I get in a certain mood and do a certain experiment, and that's what makes the album - each one is different. Wind Chill was very dark and a bit jazzy. Perdurance was much more complex. It was bigger-sounding, and I was really into the production stuff. There was a singer and even some sax. Now it's kind of the opposite, back into pure electronics, electro and Detroit. Every single sound is something that is made there and then - it's not a set of samples. On the last album, I would spend hundreds of hours moving a snare around, and I don't think I ever want to do that again."
"It's a lot of fun doing it like this, because a lot of the sounds are sort of self-playing systems. Sometimes they have good nights and bad nights as well, kind of like a band. It feels more live, and it's more fun. It's forced me to be much simpler. Now there's more solidity and space, which has led me back to things like Larry Heard, Detroit - even Kraftwerk."
So what made a British IDM artist move overseas to the colonies?
"Because of Venetian Snares and Akufen I figured it was a good place to be. I've got to be honest, though. I expected a little more of Toronto - those guys are so big overseas with people who are into this."
Turns out the "grass is greener" thing doesn't only apply to Toronto techno producers moving to Germany.