MATTHEW DEAR with DABRYE, SOLVENT and Dykehouse at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Wednesday (July 21). $13 advance. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
Every couple of years a new big hope emerges for the techno scene - a face and name marketable and accessible enough to cross over. Texas-born, Detroit-based rising star Matthew Dear is being saddled with that peculiar burden this time around. His timing definitely helps. He combines the swinging avant-garde funk of micro-house with the glamour and lightheartedness of 80s revisionist vocal techno just at the moment when they're essential to any self-respecting hipster's collection.
Add a bit of that techno blues "schaffel" and songs that actually have hooks and you've got a very contemporary sound. Dear encompasses the most fashionable elements of dance music's left-field underground into one package, and when you do that, you become a hot commodity.
His performances are pretty extroverted for a laptop performance. Plus, he's young, cute and willing to show his face - qualities the brainier side of techno has usually lacked.
The sounds are pure Cologne techno: beeps, pops and scratchy white noise. The beats, on the other hand, pump and sway with a swagger that betrays his debt to the American post-disco bump that became house.
After a smattering of singles, Dear released his debut full-length album, Leave Luck To Heaven, in late 2003 to rapturous praise from both the underground techno scene and the aboveground rock scene.
The electro-pop fluffiness is still a bit of a hard sell for purists, but so what? He attracts music aficionados from way outside the electronic scene, not to mention a healthy crowd of cool girls and artsy fags, a demographic often alienated by the nerdy machismo of the hard 'n' banging segment of the techno scene.
He followed up his breakthrough album with a mini-LP, a banging floor-shaking single under the alias Audion, and a funky instrumental single called Anger Management. That's a pretty prolific output for one season. You know the critics are waiting with their knives drawn for the first sign of weakness, but the temptation to release everything you've got when you're this hot must be strong.
These days the focus seems to be on refining the live show, becoming a more confident singer and building a name for himself as a fun but intelligent DJ as well.
The last time he played live in Toronto, he completely destroyed the crowd at Fukhouse in one of the most memorable live electronic performances in recent years.
If he does as well mid-week at a rock club, he might just fulfill some of those unrealistic expectations.