Monday, October 29, 2007

Interlude: Beautiful Burnout

Faeries, cops, gladiators and nurses alike made it out to Roseland Ballroom on Friday for Paul Van Dyk's Halloween Ball. Although the often outlandish costumes were a visual spectacle, the most impressive element was the brilliant lighting system. It began the night relatively subdued, adding a detached ambience, but eventually became a firestorm of lasers and strobes, creating incredible effects. Despite the rain pouring outside, the raving continued strong into the morning.

Jason Jollins

NYC's own Jason Jollins opened the night with minimal, regular beats, more suitable for head nodding than full blown dancing. The tranquil spotlights washed over the DJ booth, giving the audience only brief glimpses of the man behind the decks. Those that were moving did so in measured, restrained motions, often being more noticeable for their regalia than their moves. But as the night progressed, the music and audience both became livelier, the percussion smacking the crowd to a series of climaxes. The lighting, although tame compared to its later forms, became more focused and intense, flicking from one color to the next. Although a definite warm-up to the main act, Jason's set was interesting in its own right.

Jason Jollins spins at Pacha NYC on November 2nd.

MySpace: Jason Jollins
Official Site: Jason Jollins

Paul van Dyk

With the crowd chanting "Paul! Van! Dyke!" the man himself emerged shortly before midnight. Although I was initially worried that the switch had already occurred and I just hadn't picked up on it, the dramatic change that occurred made the notion seem ridiculous. Immediately, the lighting was amped to massive proportions, courtesy of Stellar Designs. Each beat boomed with authority, and the bass reverberated throughout the entire venue. While leaning against the stage-left platform (with a mob of costumed dancers on top), I could feel every note's aftermath as it vibrating into the walls. It wasn't just the massive sound system in place, but also the characteristics of trance that dictated such an epic style. For better or worse, it's a genre that embraces the massive, every moment a grand emotional gesture designed to fill the room - and ensnare the audience.

Despite the grandiose sound, Paul's samples embraced the singularity of the singer-songwriter, consistent with his recent album In Between, which features a number of guest vocalists. Aside from providing a clear hook, the practice adds a distinctly human element, which floats above the churning percussion in the mix. The crowd's first taste was through In Between's setting-appropriate "New York City," with Ashley Tomberlin's ethereal voice providing the drama. Electro-pop veteran Tracey Thorn's "Grand Canyon" followed, her "everybody loves you here" refrain buffeted by drumming. iiO's enduring hit "Rapture" was a more relaxed take, every "la" demanding the audience's attention.

Ultimately, it was a pretty unique experience. Trance fuses the egalitarian appeal of melody and percussion, and the big crowd in attendance was a testament to its widespread appeal. However, there's a clear divide between those than play instruments and those that spin records (or tweak knobs, as the case may be), and the big budget DJs are still a world away from the more austere electronic artists out there. It'd be unthinkable for the publications that we read to champion the DJs that have already risen to the top, especially when the pursuit of the next big thing is mainly what drives them. Nonetheless, that doesn't mean they don't have anything to offer.

(Yes, that is a sword.)

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