TEKNOSTEP with SKYLA J and TREVOR ALMAN and guests ARIA and DJ SHINE Wednesday (May 15) at Gypsy Co-op (817 Queen West). Free before 11:30 pm, $3 after, $10 with CD. 416-703-5069. www.nicesmooth.com Rating: NNNNN
Stéphane "Teknostep" Vera's debut full-length album, Music For Short Attention Spans, jumps all over the electronic map but makes it sound easy.
His eclectic, shape-shifting techno-jazz defies categorization. Some of it's on the verge of banging techno, while at other moments a smooth deep house feel emerges. In places an avant-garde drum 'n' bass sensibility lurks, but in others conscious R&B is the more overt reference.
Amid the chaos, a strangely compelling vision shines through. Opposing tendencies don't fight each other but work together to form a picture of an artist in love with music as a whole.
"The techno scene got really specialized," Vera explains at his apartment in the Beaches, "and now you've got people who say, 'I only like Cologne minimal techno, these three labels, these five artists, and I don't like my snares gated.'
"To me, techno was all about getting away from these kinds of limitations. It was the total absence of rules that made it so refreshing.
"I don't listen to techno a lot of the time -- I listen to a lot of jazz. I also listen to a lot of Stevie Wonder."
Born in Geneva, Vera spent his early childhood in France before moving to New York. This multinational background helped him adjust when his family moved to Ottawa. He's a classically trained pianist and former Royal Conservatory of Music teacher, but has also been DJing for 12 years. In addition, Vera's played keys in the improv live house band Galactica Blast since 1996.
Notorious for his ridiculously prolific output, he currently has over 5,000 songs on his hard drive and has appeared on nearly 40 singles and compilations. He's also well known as a frequent collaborator of soulful Chicago house producer Roy Davis Jr. since 1996.
"It's a friendship that turned into a business relationship. He's a family man as well. He's got two kids," Vera tells me as his own toddler, Cloë, babbles happily in the background.
"I started working with him just as he was moving away from the whole Phuture and DJ Pierre thing, just before he started his label, Underground Therapy, and developed his current sound. Because of my keyboard ability, he would fly me out semi-regularly to do sessions and also hooked me up with most of the Chicago labels I'm on.
"Coming from Europe, it was important for me to go to Chicago and Detroit. Those are the birthplaces of my favourite music."