Monday, March 05, 2007


As my mock drug scene (of flour and Excedrin) conveys, MSTRKRFT is a walking party machine. Side note, there's nothing like cutting lines of flour with you drivers license at 10am on a Sunday morning - really gets you ready for the day.

Walking into the Vanguard is always a bizarre, drugged out experience, but when it's Saturday night and people are there to dance, the whole scene jumps one step closer to an anti-drug advertisement. The crowd captured a wide-spectrum sprinkling of Hollywood veterans, lost indie kids and computeristas in baseball caps. The result was a good amount of dancing, some wandering and a few cross-armed statues. I'd say Natalie and I fell somewhere in the middle, with our modest, beat swaying stance. As you may have guessed, the DJ duo MSTRKRFT wants nothing to do with concerts. Jesse Keller and Al-P want to be the Paul Oakenfold of the indie music scene, and for the most part they pulled it off.

Techno music suffers from both deep, public misunderstanding, and a metric-ton of terrible musicians. With every mechanically based, potentially simple art form (be it photography or film) comes a lot of impostors and a few geniuses. When photography was first developed into an artist expression, people sneered at the possible merit of pushing a button. Where's the talent or human touch? However, eventually the public discovered that the art of photography is in the timing and framing of the image. The ability to capture a moment. To create an image saturated in the smell, touch and taste of that sliver in time. Techno falls int
o the same category of criticism, but finds it's merit through a different criteria.

While most computer literate kids can make a looping, bomp-bomp-bomp-indss dance beat, the challenge of any great DJ/producer is to carve an emotional narrative out of the beats. Absorbing the MSTRKRFT experience on Saturday gave me some thoughts on what makes for a great DJ set.

Much like the creation of a mixtape, the music must have a proper emotional trajectory. Any skilled DJ (which includes MSTRKRFT) avoids firing at too steep a trajectory, which resu
lts in a set that will soar high, but is doomed to fall short. Conversely, taking a shallow approach risks the set never getting off the ground. MSTRKRFT created a near perfect musical arc, by holding their cards close and sporadically revealing them as the night progressed. This ties into another key element of techno (and noise): builds and releases.

Since MSTRKRFT has more structure to their songs than most house music, they used simple beats and loops between songs to build tension before the next track. It's in their use of Korg melodies and vocoder that MSTRKRFT build their indie audience. Each song sounds like an 80's workout video, and what's more fun to dance to than an 80's workout video? These terribly awesome melody lines kept the sleaze levels high, and avoided a sterile House beats vibe.

If DJing is about controlling the pulse of an audience, then MSTRKRFT had their stethoscopes out all night. Warning: that is a Trademarked phrase of Rewriteable Content.

[www] MSTRKRFT - Community Revolution in Progress
[www] MSTRKRFT - Easy Love (Casanova Remix)


Blogger the_KING said...

Oooooh boyeeee! Where's the patent? Here's the patent!

12:50 PM  
Blogger AM said...

You know what's funny is that I came up to LA with some friends, and they decided to go to Vanguard. When we got there they said that MSTRKRFT was playing, and I was like 'Ohhhh - this is Vanguard!'. I tried to pull my Filter card but didn't work - saw your name on there though at the bottom of the list - glad you guys enjoyed it!

11:16 AM  

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