RISE ASHEN with DENISE BENSON and ANDREW ALLSGOOD at Gypsy Co-op (817 Queen West), Wednesday (March 26). $7. 416-703-5069.
There's a disorienting sweep to the jazz-driven broken beats of Eric Vani.
Under the name Rise Ashen, the Ottawa DJ/producer/percussionist has created globally inspired club music that sounds more like it was created in Tokyo, Vienna or Berlin than Canada.
A casual, effortless flow runs through Rise Ashen's new Earth Dragon disc, mixing organic soul and languid lounge with raucous, beat-heavy floor-fillers. It should come as no surprise that trend-setters like Gilles Peterson and UFO are spinning his tracks, and labels like Six Degrees and the mighty Jazzanova massive actually considered releasing the record themselves before Vani took back control of the project.
"All the interest was really flattering," Vani explains from home. "It kind of took over the project, though, and I actually began to tailor the sound to fit what, say, a Jazzanova or Six Degrees record might sound like. I had to step back and basically detach myself from the record for a while.
"The commitments the people wanted from me were also ridiculous. Six Degrees wanted five records and 10 years of work, and I got disillusioned by the whole thing. Sure, it would have helped if Jazzanova had put the record out; they sell 300,000 records worldwide, and I'll be lucky to sell 3,000 in Canada. But I think it will all work out."
What Vani has in his favour is the ascent from smart, jazzy beats and breaks from the underground into the mainstream, both in Europe and here.
"We live in a time of terrible pop music, but this music is more popular than ever," he insists. "The idea that all car commercials use the type of music I make is hilarious. They're not going to use Britney Spears to sell a Volvo; they'll use Kruder & Dorfmeister."
Vani's also smart enough to see beyond short-term, trend-friendly appeal. His background as a proper musician, in particular four years as a tabla student, has given him an uncommon appreciation for the long term.
"I'm trying to find that line between musicianship and technology. The whole thing for me is that I like to be able to write the groove out on tabla and then build on top of it. There's a real satisfaction in building that groove organically.
"The struggle for me is to build in something more substantial. The music I've always loved dancing to has transcended those trends. So much of those flavour-of-the-day sounds are just cop-outs. It's the effects box speaking, not the music, and I've always wanted to avoid that."