[dance party review] Free to do what you want to do: Roger Sanchez @ Bijou 02.26.13

When, almost halfway through his two-hour set at Bijou on Tuesday night, ROGER SANCHEZ tooled Ultra Nate's anthemic "Free" into his complex mix, he cycled the song's declarative "free to do what you want to do!" over and over. It was a message -- and more than a message. Given the rapid rush of his mixes, the quick changes from track to track, the hub-bub of riffs, beats, screaming noises, talk, and horns -- many different voices, pathways, destinations, and purposes -- Sanchez was demonstrating, musically, to the full floor of dancers at Bijou just what it sounds and looks like when everyone is free to do what he or she wants to do and doing it in the same life arena. And that it works, at least when a mix juggler as dominating as Sanchez is working it.

This was a set almost too complex -- a characteristic of Sanchez's DJing. Yet every part of it mattered. Despite the rapid fire sound shifts, clash of combinations; boom techno or gospel soprano; classic house music or edgy new "tech," each bar of Sanchez's sound played a singular role in the mix; many of his moves commanded the attention of fans who know his vision. He has been crafting his sound for a long time; several CD sets in his RELEASE YOURSELF series chronicle his signature. And despite the huge shift in dance music taste from the soulful and bluesy house music of Sanchez's beginnings -- 1990 and even earlier -- as "Roger S" and "Underground Solution," his rush hour traffic music still rings true, albeit to an audience very unlike those who he first gathered as an in-house producer for the Strictly Rhythm label.

Rush hour traffic can annoy those who are in it; Sanchez's traffic sound risks complexity overkill. His set at Ocean Club in 2011 lost its way at many points; incorporating the beach tones of "progressive" that evening into his center-city textures made little sense. At Bijou he shunned beach music. Sanchez presented his many, many layers of sound uniformly raw and funky -- using a pc and running three channels -- and so imposed a unity on the diversity message of "freedom to so what you want to do." It helped that his set began with a single-minded train-track of roll, rumble, and ringing -- which ever since the days of R&B has beguiled those empowered by grooving to "motion with emotion."

Having laid down his vehicle, Sanchez spread out upon it his full panoply of movement and voice: the slash and crash of "tech house"; bluesy moans in the low register; a few bars of Jaydee's iconic 1992 hit "Plastic dreams"; bursts of sound, a rush of crush, reverb riffs at the bottom frequencies, voices crying, and -- a Victor Calderone touch -- petite flicks of percussive tickling. Layered rhythms almost as harmonic as a U2 track (as embroidered, too) fussed over Sanchez's rapid cuts and edgy drop-ins. And whenever his sound verged on the overly dense he shut down the beat, let his screams and traffic rush go solo, tweaked and twisted their shapes, and unleashed upon them the beat again -- usually in full techno stomp mode.

Into his techno moments he let fly, however, voices of soulful house seldom used as a partner for techno. This was where Sanchez's Ultra Nate quite came in; and his Celeda excerpt (from "Music Is the Answer"); and his "Been a Long time" by the Murk Boys. The pairing of low techno and high soulful house music -- bass and soprano, with no middle man in between; no insulation, just raw contact -- sound-shocked the entire room of dancers. It sound shocked his writer too.

But techno needs to have its stallion sound corralled, tamed, ridden. It needs its muscle boy chest painted soprano red. Sanchez imposed on his techno a trio of red-hot, Wonder Woman riders -- and this on the very day that Danica Patrick raced with the good ol' boys at the Daytona 500. No wonder his message hit home and made his rush hour traffic feel more like fans at the racetrack than commuters stuck on the freeway.

Opening set was saved by the Vinyl Disciples, who this writer had not seen before. The duo's two hours of walk rhythm and talk tool-ins felt bawdy and mischievous, and its techno segments sounded as raw as moving pig meat. Vinyl Disciples well deserve to be heard again at Bijou and elsewhere in Boston clubland.

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