Saturday at the Gladstone 's Art Bar , minimal techno producer Naw (Neil Wiernik), back from a summer in Montreal, hosted the latest in his series of Vague Terrain events. An extension of the Clonk parties Wiernik used to throw, Vague Terrain focuses on the more experimental and serious side of the genre. For this event, Naw was joined by Vancouver's Granny'Ark and local laptop twiddler Akumo , who played alongside projections by Patricia Rodriguez . The tiny Art Bar is just the right size for Toronto's experimental techno community. Akumo's opening set was pretty sleepy, full of slowly evolving abstracted beats and tones and little else. Things picked up a bit when Naw stepped up to his laptop and accelerated the tempo to house speed, coating the room in crystalline synth washes. It's still miles away from club music, but he did get a handful of techno geeks up and moving.
We took a break to check out Foxhole , a queer high-school-dance-themed party in the Gladstone's Ballroom that was the complete opposite of Vague Terrain - cheesy 80s rock, campy costumes and lots of dancing and cruising.
By the time we returned to the Art Bar, Granny'Ark, staring intently at her laptop screen, had started her set. Like Naw, she works with house and techno rhythms, but her sounds are much warmer, often evoking wooden percussion instruments rather than metallic clinks and clanks. Though she looked dead serious behind her gear, the playful quality of her tracks was welcome after an evening of academic art techno.
Every year, T. Raumschmiere (aka Marco Haas) gets a little more punk and a little less techno. For his Friday gig at the Mod Club , part of the Return To New York party, he turned in his most rock-oriented Toronto performance yet, partly because the German techno punk has assembled an actual band for this tour. While Raumschmiere threw himself around the stage, thrashed away at a guitar and pounded on his synth, his drummer and bass player played over top of programmed beats triggered by a fourth member up in the sound booth. The show's highlights happened when he also took over singing duties, providing his version of Miss Kittin's vocals on The Game Is Not Over.
The crowd seemed evenly split between jumping fans and bewildered partiers wondering when the electro-house beats were going to start again. After a short encore, the clubbers got their wish when Tommie Sunshine took over the decks, dropping a fun and party-ready mix of that electro-new-wave-dance-rock shit. Cheesy but still amusing, it worked quite effectively for this crowd. DJ Barbi also deserves mention for playing both before and after T. Raumschmiere's set. She excels at connecting the classics with the new stuff, and seems more confident playing big sound systems each time I hear her.
On the way home Saturday night, stopped in at the Social for a couple of drinks and discovered it's still quite busy on the weekends. (In the interest of objectivity, I should reveal that I play there on Mondays.) The music on Saturdays was a weird mix of underground and mainstream 80s dance music. It's really the only bar in the area where you'll regularly find people dancing on the weekend, unless you go under the bridge to the ever-evolving Dragonfly , which is still trying to find its identity.