House music and techno's most senior DJs continue to deliver the strongest sets, as true to the music's roots in blues, funk, soul, and psychedelics as they are adventurous. Ali Shirazinia, who as DEBFIRE has mixed and produced, as boldly as anyone, for more than 20 years -- first as half of Deep Dish (with Sharam), and now solo -- dropped a set at Bijou Friday night both abstract and passionate.
His set boomed strong in the low frequencies and luminously up top. Every octave of it uttered a passion: a soul cry, a funk rumble, screams and streaks, a babble of talk both tipsy and bemused. The breadth and complexity of Dubfire's sound astonished this writer. I have seen several Dubfire sets over an 11-year time frame: none had the booming explosiveness of this one (although his set at RISE about 18 months ago surpassed it as improvisational mixing). His set amazed the fans as well. Though the club wasn't quite full, the crowd numbered sufficiently -- mostly of guys; noticeably fewer gals than at most house and techno sets -- to pack the front of the room with arms raised in the air as bodies abandoned their posture to music as heated as their reception of it.
His instrumentation included a Mac book, a program running three channels of music, and a drum machine with which he live-produced selected tracks into new shapes evoked by the noise and frenzy of the dancers. His groove stomped and rumbled; and, in European DJ fashion, he stayed on groove course all set long even while reshaping contours, textures, combinations. Overlay mixes of tracks -- two always, three together at peak times -- as long as leaps of faith, created the illusion of sound suspended in the air, like an arc of light. Behind him there was a light show to prove the point. It sparkled blue, then red; it flashed orange on yellow. It made star points and comet flares, and, most idyllic of all, projected the glow of Planet Earth enveloped in sun-fires as seen from dark azure space.
Light shows are standard at the vast dance arenas of Ibiza and such like; less common are they in Boston night clubs. No less common to Boston are sets that test the limits of loudness and rhythmic bombast as fully as Dubfire's, doing so with no loss of command over the forward constancy of the groove. Dubfire's rhythm takes a shape of a travel that never resolves itself, as do pop songs, but instead simply loops and loops. It's travel for travel's sake, a suspension of time -- an excursion to the forever. All techno, and much house music, aspires to this effect; few DJs manage it as irresistibly as Dubfire did.
Talk of many sorts guided his rhythm’s forward flavor. Tooling in what DJs call "DJ tools" or "a cappellas" has become much more evident in techno and tech-house sets the past couple years. Where entire evenings of sounds as abstractly impassioned as Dubfire's were until recently naked of anything vocal -- except a disembodied sample or two, today -- as in Dubfire's second hour -- voices chatter, chant, mumble, babble, and lower to the bluesy, bass hoarseness of "glitch." Dubfire's voices stamped his groove flavor with all kinds of spice and color, mood and portent. "Get your funky boot stomp," said one such. "Day and night." "Big discussion." And -- of course -- "take me to your fire."
Was there any doubt of that? Were there any, a redoubling of the groove decibels tamped a mercilessly funky boot stomp down on it. As did a selection of his current tracks -- though not by any means as many as he has on hand. "Octavs" and "Plex" were used, and his remix of Oliver Huntemann’s vividly expressionistic "Dios." Dubfire played as if he had to prove front-rank DJ status. He rested not even for a moment. If he wasn’t mixing -- on three mix boards, sometimes at once -- he was carefully cueing a next track. An assistant brought a drinks bucket; Dubfire barely touched any. Only twice did fans interrupt him. Not until his more than two-hour set had ended did he relax for a smile.
No local DJ opens more often for major masters of the genre than Wil Trahan. Powerful sets of a luscious texture are a Trahan signature, and even prowling a low frequency such as Dubfire's, Trahan elicited succulence in rhythm. Bullseye track selection always seems to illuminate a Trahan set, and so it was at his Dubfire opening, as he introduced this writer (and probably many others) to the visionary funkiness of Spain's German Brigante, whose "Syndrome James" and "Look, It's Me" climaxed Trahan's set dropped on a club filling up even in the opening hour with dancers applauding his work.