DANIEL WANG with WILL MUNRO and JAIME SIN at Crosstown (178 Bathurst), Saturday (June 9). $10 before midnight, more after. 416-362-7677. Rating: NNNNN
In certain circles of music lovers, Daniel Wang is a cult hero. Since launching Balihu Records in 1993 -- a good decade before the hipsters fell in love with the cowbell -- he's become known for pushing a peculiar sort of revisionist outsider disco aesthetic.
At the moment, Wang is back in America for the first time in almost two years, after leaving NYC for a new life in Berlin four years ago. It's only for a short tour, though; he has no intention of trading in the fertile artistic community he's found overseas.
"It feels a lot like my happiest days in New York, before everything got too expensive and no one had time for anyone else any more," says Wang about the scene in Germany.
Some might associate Berlin with techno, but that side hasn't impressed Wang much. Instead, he's rediscovered classic American pop, devouring a box set of the Carpenters. That might not be the first thing you think of in relation to the quirky, spaced-out electronic disco Wang makes. But what comes across when you talk to Wang is his love for melody and the tradition of the song more than his attachment to any particular production style.
"I love Cole Porter songs from the 30s, I love anything that's melodic. After the 80s and 90s, you don't have that much melody or even proper harmonic changes in pop production, so I think people tend to associate me correctly with a lot of disco and pop from the 70s and 80s. That seems like the golden period to me."
Wang says going into production was partly motivated by a desire to make dance music sound like music again. He was frustrated and dismayed by the club trends in the early 90s. Never shy about naming names, he comes right out and says what few in the industry would dare.
"Masters at Work, who were so big in the 90s... I remember as soon as I heard the records I thought, 'God, these guys must be tone deaf, because the harmonies are all wrong. They're playing bass lines that are literally out of tune with the song. How could these guys possibly be world superstars?'"