Making his first performance visit to Boston in his long and masterful career, Lisbon's DJ VIBE dropped a 105-minute set on a Bijou audience that included quite a few of the city's best-known DJs. They were there to see, at last, one of the originators of "Portuguese tribal," as distinctive a sound -- sultry and bluesy, racy, fierce and low-low down -- as any in the entire 26-year saga of house as a genre.
What they got was a set strikingly resembling those that Vibe -- real name Antonio Pereira -- has been creating since the mid-1990s, yet in no way out of date. Sharp techno rhythms -- boomy and reverberating -- drove the set's first segment, after which the flirtatious steps of "tribal" beats joined the romp. Every lick sounded crisp, every sound level clear and clean. This was itself distinctive. Some DJs of complex techno present their music "dirty" -- wrapped in echo effects and other occlusions; and plush silky scrim was essential to Portuguese tribal's seductions, including Vibe's. But at Bijou, he delivered his entire body of sound naked to the eye and ear.
He did so on four channels, operating two CD players, mixboard and a Traktor PC program. Having four channels allowed him to mix and match techno and Portuguese tribal, to tool in chants and talk, to top his low notes with stratospheric streaks and snowflake effects. Effects are something relatively new to Vibe's music -- his mid-1990s creations hug the low and low-middle frequencies. Clearly he is taking cues from recent collaborations with DJ Chus and Victor Calderone, because his high-atmosphere effects resemble Chus's, and his clinky percussive solos, isolated in the middle register like lonely dancers toe tapping on a plane of glass, work Calderone's style. He has, though, made them fully his own. Never at Bijou did Vibe's sound lose its singular crinkle.
Almost as a dare, he started his set with a Victor Calderone track (which might have been "Terminal B") letting it run on and on until eventually it dissolved, almost without the dancers realizing, into Vibe's own current work: tracks like "Hot Room" (co-produced with Lisbon colleague Carlos Fauvrelle), "Amtrak" (title self-explanatory), a collaboration with DJ Chus; and, most emblematic of all, "Solid Textures," which right now is Vibe's top download (co-made with Lisbon's Pete tha Zouk). But Vibe did not limit his set to current picks. Because his mid 1990s work often prefigured today's techno closely (and probably influenced its form), he could work back through his crate however he liked. And because collaboration has been a Lisbon house music strategy all along, he was able to input a Fauvrelle track, a Pete tha Zouk, Cytric, or Frank Maurel without reducing his music's sharp pencil to a dull nub. Indeed, collegial tracks added to the sonic complexity of his set, as the music rumbled, undulated, rode a train ride rhythm; borrowed the bassline of Green Velvet's "Answering Machine"; played an oddly disconnected synthesizer ditty; and screeched like Alvin's chipmunks.
The only Vibe signature missing was his famous "So Get Up," an anthem of optimism arising; of party celebration. Unhappily, such optimism ill comports with the dark moods that grip us all in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre and, just this week, the brutal rape, disemboweling, and murder in India of the gal they call "Damini"...
As Boston's depressing 2 AM shut-down time approached, Vibe's music had opened up several lines of improvisation and many themes to vary upon. His set cried out for another four hours, six, even 12; and in Europe, that is what he could have done. At Bijou, fans were left guessing what could have been.
Sergio Santos, with some brief tandem work by Scot Cox and Sal Lograsso, dropped an opening set well attuned to Vibe's tribalized techno. Indeed, at 119 bpm for much of his set, Santos sounded an even darker, more body-conscious note than Vibe, for whom face has as pungent a presence as haunch.