This was quite the weekend for the broken beat/nu-jazz sound in Toronto -- there were at least three events focusing on the emerging genre on Friday night alone.
The CD release party at Surface for Blissom and Ashen's Mr. Tran Travels In Sound wasn't exclusively oriented around chopped-up rhythms, but Blissom's set was definitely heavily influenced by the west London sound. The audience reaction was a bit tentative, but he did manage to get the dance floor moving.
The surprise of the evening was London, Ontario-based DJ Andy Capp, who threw down some tasty disco that was very well received. Very refreshing to see Eric Vani (aka Rise Ashen) tearing it up on the dance floor at his own party. Too many DJs seem to prefer standing in the corner to participating.
Unmoved by MKL
Last Saturday's guest for Shifting Gears at Una Mas was up-and-coming, soulful New York house producer MKL, spinning an ultra-deep set that included a lot of broken beat and nu-jazz rhythms.
MKL has made a name for himself with unique deep house tracks that reference roots reggae more than disco, like last year's anthem Her Song and Three Generations Walking's cover of Burning Spear's Slavery Days.
He may have been spinning a little too deep last Saturday, though. It wasn't until he went on to the more linear sounds of house that the crowd started moving, and they were restrained even then.
The jazzy, breakbeat house sound that he concentrated on for the first couple of hours has a lot of potential in a market that's suffering from an overload of 4/4 beats, but many of the producers working in this area have their sights set on the lounge environment. At some point, a record will come along that will open the collective dance floor's mind to the spastic, swinging rhythms. But until that happens, most will continue to stand and look confused.
They really should have opened the doors between Surface and Roxy Blu last Friday, where the vibe at Milk's presentation of IG Culture ran very much along the same lines as the Blissom and Ashen shindig, and many partiers hit both.
One of the main figures in the UK nu-jazz scene, IG Culture's New Sector Movements project is the album that brought this music to many people's attention over the past year.
He didn't stick exclusively to the broken beat sound, though, mixing it up with soulful house and even some techno flavours. The crowd here was more receptive to the chopped-up beats than at other events, but much of that was because they were already expecting it.
Of course, the big sound system helped give the music a bit of added oomph -- nothing like some bowel-loosening bass lines to get the feet moving.
Much of the aforementioned music has its roots in the original DJ mixes, dub reggae. The lopsided pulse has had fans in Toronto for quite some time now, but it's still an intimate little scene.
The last Saturday of every month, fans of the echo chamber gather at the Cloak and Dagger, a narrow, cozy little pub near College and Spadina, for the sounds of Dread Beat, featuring Iron Will and David Judah. It's a fun night, but if you want a booth you should get there early. It fills up pretty quickly.