One of techno's most venerable track-makers, BEHROUZ NASARI, dropped a 105-minute set at Bijou on Friday night that was not to be missed by those who appreciate visionary sound-scaping. He has been DJing for more than 20 years and producing his own works for at leeast a decade; his set at Bijou, as distinctive as it was classic, took this observer back to when DJs insisted on being distinctly themselves and when their overlay mixes, quick cuts, and blends of groove and voice gave shape to ecstasy on the dance floor and voice to dancers' desires.
Observers say that Behrouz's sound defies classification; that’s only because it is so unexpected. Who else mates the driving clang of techno to the woozy, falsetto airs of Persian soul music? Not even Behrouz's fellow Iranian DJs Dubfire or Sharam, who occasionally inject some Persia into their music of manufactured noise, blend the two genres as all-in as Behrouz did in his Bijou set. Yet there it was, and it worked, perhaps because for a Boston audience, Persian soul, almost unheard here, is as abstract a noise as the screams and streaks of techno.
Using only Bijou's three CD players but no PC program, Behrouz mixed by hand. From the very outset he blended sounds one doesn't expect to find linked in a techno set: electronic organ melody, Persian music's swirly high notes, and a prowling, low-note groove taken at a defiantly downbeat 121 to 122 bpm. His groove steady-rolled, deliriously and made more so by the most graceful long overlay mixers this observer has heard in a Boston dance club in any years. Strong overlays impart narrative force to an extended groove. Behrouz's sequencing took the dancers on a trip to faraway places and shapes -- a resolute traipse to freedom.
It's a familiar story in techno, indeed maybe the genre's fundamental story. Behrouz told it with fewer digressions than most techno DJs take and with almost no accidents along the way to kidnap one's attention. A generous supply of Behrouz's best-liked tracks was dropped: long-time favorites like "Azab" and "Beatbox" alongside his newer -- and profounder -- "Lost in Translation," "Endless Night," and, best of all, "Basic Movement."
Their familiarity to the dancers emphasized the uncommonness of the sounds inside them. (Or at least of many; because at a midway point in his set Behrouz's groove echoed the instrumental from Green Velvet's "Answering Machine," a track more than a decade old.) The reference to Green Velvet allowed Behrouz to cut to a staple of his own, full of references: his remix of Narcotic Force's "Safe From Harm," in which he uses -- quite effectively too -- both the windy breaks and Iberian beat of Chus + Ceballos and the diva voice style of David Morales. At Bijou, this side of Behrouz's art fit right in to his panoply of hallucinations.
At 1.25 A.M. he stopped the trip and started another. It proved less interesting. This was drum roll techno with a pile-driver beat. You can hear this shape of techno everywhere these nights, though rarely as deftly presented. A few strains of Persian folksong kept this second set honest. By now the dance floor was almost empty.
Even at the peak of Behrouz's first set, Bijou wasn't more than one third full. Indeed, only two of the steadies who this writer sees at Boston techno events were in the club. That was truly a shame; a magical set was missed by far too many.
Tamer Malki opened, using a Traktor program, the first time this writer has seen him do so. His set was sleazy slow, about 121 bpm, and full of various exotica, including samba dance, steadied by UK Glam-rock voices -- an almost overplayed tool-in which Malki handled with more restraint than most DJs. In many Boston clubs a set as evocative and well-imagined as Malki's -- and the same is true for all Malki's sets that I've seen -- would be a most memorable headline performance.