Where Murat’s at
Murat had quite the Toronto following back in the rave days for his furious mixing of mind-fuck banging techno, so his first Toronto gig in eight years was big news for local party veterans.
AFE Society brought him into Footwork last Saturday, but instead of working the turntables, he brought out a laptop and a drum machine for a live performance. His sound is often described as hard techno, but there's always been more going on than just mind-numbing pounding. In this case, he used the laptop to infuse the relentless thump with fragments of house classics and even some Afro-Latin vocals. It kept feeling like he was teasing us; as soon as you recognized a reference, he'd switch it up and be off on another tangent.
You don't often hear banging techno with old disco loops on top, and it's the kind of thing that could easily sound awful, but Murat made it work, and the crowd loved it. He's still really aggressive with the mixer, which kept the energy level up, but some of his tweaking was off time enough to mess with the dancers' rhythm, in some cases even making them stumble.
Occasional shakiness aside, he was still much more entertaining than the average laptop-based show. Undoubtedly, some would prefer him to work vinyl instead of bits and bytes, but the creative possibilities of this kind of software are too great to overlook and totally expand what DJing can be.
Syntonics tighten up
Syntonics , originally an electronic improv four-piece band, has since become the duo of Barbi Castelvi and Mitchell Gomes (yes, yet another couple band) and shed the trippy jams for tight and focused Miami bass-inflected electro-pop. Friday's gig as part of Diamond Life in the Drake Hotel Underground was the first real showcase of the new material, and the pair was blessed by a good turnout of receptive listeners.
The tunes are pretty catchy, although you need to be able to tolerate a certain amount of goofy 80s references and have at least some affection for old freestyle tunes.
Beforehand, they warned me that this was the simplified version of the live show. Instead of bringing out the whole studio, Castelvi concentrated on the vocals while Gomes handled scratching and some vocoder robot rapping. They might have preferred to create more of the sounds live, but singing and scratching are more entertaining to watch, and most listeners don't really care if the drum machine is onstage or on CD.
Caught the tail end of two worthwhile ongoing events last week, the first being Thursday nights at Bird , which feature Dirty Dale Arsenault playing deep soulful house to a small room of dedicated dancers. Originally, I was just going to sneak in to use the bathroom, but somehow I got seduced onto the dance floor until the lights came on. The second was the monthly No TO party at Thymeless , where Will Munro was spinning no-wave, new wave, punk funk and weirdo disco for an eclectic open-minded crowd Friday night. This particular edition wasn't crazy busy, but it's still a fun little night and will likely draw bigger crowds once Vazaleen withdrawal sets in among Munro's faithful.