It is a given that a set by Madrid's DJ CHUS + PABLO CEBALLOS will feature their special, "Iberican" take on "tribal" house music. In their two-hour drop at Bijou on Friday night, low octave statements in the shape of samba and batucada rhythm -- the duo's bottom line for a decade and more -- powered the action from start to close. Newer to the duo's sound, but today their strong left hand, is the grin and stomp of techno; at Bijou, as at their pre-Thanksgiving, November set at Royale, their techno undulated low beneath the dainty flirting of "tribal." Chus and Ceballos's dance music fans have embraced and savored the duo’s techno tribal, and the very full dance floor at Bijou was filled with lovers of it.
Less expected was the abundance of talk that the pair tooled into their Bijou drops. There were chants, come-ons, one-liners; exhortations; conversations; glitch distortion and guys talking to themselves in scanty sweet tones. Familiar talk-masters of dance popped into the mix -- Celeda ("The Underground" and "Amazing"), Green Velvet (the ubiquitous "Flash"), Victor Calderone ("Let Me Set You Free"), Cevin Fisher (on the duo's new track "Can You Feel It") -- and Chus himself with voice splayed. Indeed the entire set was spiced with conversations coming and going, fading away or moving to the foreground, talk from every direction; chatter even in the breaks between beat trips. It excited the Bijou crowd.
Talk, tribal, and techno -- and "gotcha" sound effects such as the ship's horn that DJ Chus blasted into the last half hour of his set -- require multiple channels cued. They used four. Chus's PC program wielded two, Ceballos's Traktor two more. Chus mixed on his PC's mix console and Bijou's master mixer at the same time; Ceballos too. Occasionally, each soloed the music; often they mixed together, in fractious harmony, like two conversers talking at the same time. Their standard tactic, though, was for one to cue up a selection for the other to mix.
Complex was the sound, because even as talk sputtered, slithered, and smiled (accompanied here and there by sound effects tiny or vast, like a movie soundtrack paired with jazz-boure whispers), the rhythms and the percussion kept on chugging, choogling, drumming, bursting, and choogling some more, funking and smashing everyones' inhibitions. Several Chus + Ceballos top-downloads kicked into the mix -- "Partenza" especially, with its boisterous bass-octave reverb. Also on hand was almost every track in current Top 10 chart at Traxsource(some were previewed at their November Royale set). Clearly they have set aside the slinky textures and the wind-effect breaks that made them famous. And it works, because DJ Chus plays fade knobs, repeat buttons, pitch alter switches -- and sometimes all three on the same quick-cut mix or dissolving segue -- to the outer limits of danceable contortion. At Bijou, Chus's mixes verged on free form -- and the dancers moved likewise -- as the set's end drew nigh.
That Chus has no superior as a DJ soundshaper or mix inventor is a given. At Bijou, however, Ceballos -- often regarded as second man -- laid down mixes every bit as acrobatic as Chus', though less troubled or fussy. The sweep and detailing of their current sound requires it of him. Without Ceballos's smooth focus, Chus's talk might babble instead of effervesce. At Bijou Ceballos provided vital certainty to what was the most teamwork statement of dance music liberation -- of control to lose control -- that this writer has, over seven years, ever seen them make.
Given the difficult task of opening for Chus + Ceballos, local DJ master Wil Trahan dropped a set of swirly, funky, luscious and muscular techno full of interest. There wasn't one lazy moment in his two hours of music, not a flat spot nor any resort to the usual suspects -- overplayed bubblies -- that disfigure opening sets so frequently settled for at even the biggest local clubs. Saeed Younan, Joi Cardwell, Roland Clark tracks all added their lust and soul to a set as embraceable as any of the dozens of sets this writer has seen Trahan drop.