HALO , ALVARO GONZALEZ , ADAM KHAN KEVIN JAZZY J and more at Toika Lounge (471 Richmond West), Friday (November 16). 416-868-6452. Rating: NNNNN
Considering that Brian Varga (better known as Halo) was playing a birthday gig the night before in San Francisco, he sounds surprisingly well rested, chilling at home in Las Vegas. Of course, that might be because his DJ career is moving along at a more manageable pace than when he first rocketed to fame as half of H-Foundation alongside Hipp-e.
For better or worse, that now-defunct partnership is still what most people think of when his name comes up. But in recent years, Varga's sound has evolved from that dubby West Coast tech-house flavour to something smooth, organic, soulful and more reflective of his origins.
"We came from very different places -- he grew up in Denver, I grew up in Chicago -- so we each had our own vision of the music we combined into H-Foundation. We became really successful really fast, but there was a point when I felt we needed to take a break and reinvent ourselves, build ourselves outside of that. I didn't want to just be known as a duo, and I wanted to get back to my roots. Hipp-e and I are still really close friends; if anything, we're closer since we stopped working together."
One of Varga's first moves as a solo artist was to start his own label, City Deep, which has enjoyed a strong run of releases drawn mainly from the extended network of house music friends he built up over years of DJing.
Like many indie label owners, he's seeing the effect of the digital revolution, though he's not ready to panic.
"You can't fight it. It's only going to get bigger, so you have to go with it. Our first releases four years ago were around 4,000 records. But so many DJs don't even play vinyl any more, so these days it's more like 1,500 copies, plus downloads."
Those numbers are tiny compared to those a rock band hopes for, but you have to remember that dance singles are mainly aimed at DJs, and big-name DJs rarely play (never mind pay for) vinyl any more. It's hard to travel with and invariably gets lost or stolen in transit. On the bright side, this market seems more willing to actually pay for downloads, especially because of how bad low-quality MP3s sound over a loud sound system.
Much like the rumoured demise of house music, vinyl's death has also been greatly exaggerated, and many now believe it may outlast CDs, just as it did cassettes.