What to do with techno is the question for DJs who employ the genre. To complicate it with effects, render it dramatic with a voice or two, or leave it be as a pile-driving stomp: these are the usual. At NAGA on Thursday night, Munich, Germany's tINI experimented with all three routes. As might be expected, some of her ways worked; and some did not. Her two hour set gave plenty of room for her sound to bang the target, or miss; to develop -- if she wanted to; mostly she didn't -- or to move on, for good or ill. She took the bait.
Most effective of her moves was to pair techno with voice. At about the 20-minute point of her set, having opened in a mode both delicate and plaintive -- not techno at all; that her set became wholly techno after such a beginning surprised this writer -- she muzzled the beat, filtered a bass line underneath, and covered it with a female voice sleazy and sultry, as shameless as the bassline and as ready as the bass to go lip to hip. No move in dance music is more tried and true than the rhythm-and-voice sex duet. It recognizes, even reworks, antecedents back to 1920s whorehouse blues (and probably much before that). The raw blue tone of tINI's techno grooved her peep show -- the track is "Room 305" -- as low down as its ancestors, seducing everyone on the Naga dance floor, this writer included.
She ought to have held to the blue. Ought to have developed, extended, and improvised it into an entire set. After all, if you've got your groove on, isn't that the "it"? Instead, tINI changed course, to pursue abstractions. Techno DJs love abstraction; which does not mean that they work in all contexts.
None of tINI's abstracts measured up to magic of her sex dance. Again, some techno makers create entire universes of abstraction, and the bigger the universe, the more beguiling, haunting, vivid. But tINI's abstracts felt small like gossip. It might have worked had tINI built her set, from its outset, around tracks like "Shmooh's Raisin Theory" and her remix of Miss Kittin's "Girlz"; because micro moments, details and fussing are as danceable a part of life's intrigues as sex. In the context of sex, however, tINI's details had no chance. The music lacked flavor; and her mix moves -- wrought excitedly via a three channel Traktor program upon two 12-inch vinyl discs -- could not overcome the lack of drama.
She seemed to sense that she had made a segue mistake; because about 30 minutes before set's end she went back to bawdy and tipsy voice atop techno stomp. And this time she expanded upon the rhythm, shaping it as "tribal" both Brazilian and African. She fade-knobbed the drum beat on and off, tooled in vocal moans, shifted her rhythm from percussion to roll and rumble. And ending on a high line, she left no one in doubt as to her chops as a mixboard DJ. If only she had set aside, in stead of aggravating, our doubts about her artistry on course.
Opening DJ Juan M gave tINI exactly what she could have wanted: a set dark and techno including a selection of tINI's own tracks, best of all a segment of her irresistible "Room 305."