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[dance party review] Drenched, but not by sound: Alesso @ Ocean Club


Photos by Michael Freedberg

Perhaps it is unfair to downgrade the performance dropped by the very young Swedish dance music track-maker ALESSO at Ocean Club, Marina Bay, the night of July 4. Alesso -- real name Alessandro Lindblad -- turns age 21 just this week, an age more suited, one wants to think, to arena rock or indie punk than to the worldly intricacies of great dance music. Indeed, Alesso's most striking track, "Clash," features a loud, happy buzz of guitar-like noise. Yet Alesso didn't play "Clash" during the 90 minutes of his longish set as Independence Day carried on into the night.

What he did play was a large selection of his current Top Ten downloads at beatport.com; a list for the most part so seamless it's hard to tell where one track ends and the next one begins. Others of today's youthful, rockstar DJs have a samey repertoire -- think Avicii, a frequent Alesso collaborator, or Dirty South -- but make it work by aggressively shape-shifting their music in a live performance and by utilizing many levels of sound frequency besides the featured one (usually the mid-range) and making them interplay with one another.

Not so Alesso. He simply played his sound over and over again, moving from sweet-sy synth riffs to light buzz noise and back again, with an occasional voice drop-in -- almost always a girly, happy, cutie-pie.

Although he tweaked his music carefully and continuously, his edits did not add depth to the music. They seemed simply to smooth it out and thus to emphasize its surface. All the more dramatic, then, were the few moments of octaval interplay: his track "Nillionaire" in particular, with its delicate, solo synth riff telling a melodic tale, and, early in his set, a sample of Love DeLuxe's "Here Comes that Sound," a much loved 1979 disco hit, whose hook line "Here comes that sound/Again and again" Alesso most assuredly honored.

In the original Love Deluxe hit the mission statement is chanted by brazen disco dollies; they almost shriek it. And the sound does come, again and again -- with salacious obviousness, of course. At Ocean Club the daughters, stylistically, of 1970s disco dollies shrieked too, but to no bawdy purpose. They were just having fun.

Alesso too was having fun.

He raised his hands a lot, moved his fingers lightly across four CD players and an oversized mixboard, and smiled his dimply smile. As he poured his sound on, one restatement after another (including a surprisingly weak version of "Save he World," the much overused hit that he co-wrote), with hardly any mixology and very few points of change-up, the gals loved it all. And so did their guy-friends.

About an hour into Alesso's set the rains came; gals wearing bodycon dresses and sky-high heels were absolutely drenched from hair to toe -- there was giddy laughing everywhere. Sexy indeed they looked, cutely dunked; but not bawdy at all. They danced wetly, attuned not to body talk but to Alesso's music of boyish mischief.


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