JEREMY P. CAULFIELD (live) with PANTY-TEC (LIVE) and DJs ZIP and DAVE LEE as part of BUILDING BLOCKS Saturday (March 16) at 457 Richmond West (back door). $15 advance, $20 at the door. www.dumb-unit.com Rating: NNNNN
Toronto's forward-thinking techno scene is changing.
On the one hand, the days of Fukhouse parties filling Industry every month are long gone. The scene has shrunk back to its core following, and many of the key players have relocated to Montreal.
On the other hand, many of the groundbreaking locals have moved on to start respected labels, and Canadian minimal techno producers are receiving more attention in Europe then ever before. That's what Jeremy P. Caulfield wants for his label, and he could get it.
"About two years ago, Jeff Milligan, Mike Shannon, Adam Marshall and I were feeling a bit stepped on," Caulfield (aka DJ Lotus) explains in his Toronto studio.
"Not by our crowds -- they've always been great -- but by the lack of attention this music was getting from the media. We were a little sick of seeing people with not even half the history of someone like Jeff move up to the next level really fast. We thought if we sank our time and hearts into it, we could do it, too."
Out of this frustration, Caulfield's Dumb-Unit label was founded as an outlet for intelligent but accessible dance music, and it also serves as a forum for his design work.
The first single was by a relatively unknown producer named Jacob Fairley, who grabbed the attention of the European techno scene with the stripped-bare electro-techno of his Cossack EP.
"When I heard Jake's music, it was much more the aesthetic of what I wanted the label to be than what I think I could have done at that time. When I talked to Jake, it was almost as if he was bluffing me -- he was really insecure about his music, too. But when we started getting the calls from Europe, we knew we had the sound. It paid homage to Cologne, but was independent and unique."
Fairley went on to produce three more EPs for Dumb-Unit as well as material for German labels Traum and Sender. Caulfield also released a dirty tech house 12-inch by Adam Marshall as well as a melodic minimal house disc by Mark and Matt Thibideau.
He has yet to release any of his own productions, however. Not that that's been hurting his DJ career -- 2001 saw him play three European tours in eight months -- but the bookings have been keeping him away from the studio.
To appease fans wondering when they'll finally hear something from him, he's performing his first-ever live set this Saturday at Building Blocks.
It's true that the tech house tag is somewhat played out and meaningless at this point, but there isn't really a better way of describing what Caulfield has in store. Hard and minimal, but melodic and bouncy, too, Caulfield's precise loops have much in common with the older Detroit techno and Chicago house, but his sonic palette is more German.
"I don't want this gig to be looked at as a live act; it's much more just an extension of my DJ performance. My home is behind the booth, and I want this to be the same. I'm just trying to be a lot more seamless and dynamic than I could be as a DJ."