Ever since he rolled out his new sound a few years ago -- train motion and flight take-offs -- VICTOR CALDERONE'S dance music has been a study in rhythmic romance. Playing to an almost completely full dance floor at Bijou this past Friday night, he played a love trip that moved from acceleration to cruise control and which settled into two grooves at one time: a high octave that sounded up, up, and away, and a low frequency rumble that trekked way down to the bottom of it all.
There is no mistaking Calderone's sound, one of house music's most singular. It differs greatly from that other famous house music journey-taker, Danny Tenaglia. One takes Tenaglia's journey music for the love of the music itself; Calderone's at Bijou was taken -- by a dance crowd almost two-thirds of which were gals -- for its making love: big, teddy-bear, almost salsa-band love.
He dropped one travel track after another, produced by him (and, often, with a co-producer): "Out There"... "Superflyin'"... "Pleasure Grip"..."Break It"... "Terminal B"... and his Number One current Beatport.com download, "The Journey Begins." All of these and more, by other techno and "tech house" producers (many of them too with Calderone co-producing), he mixed using a PC program and Bijou's extensive player and mixboard system.
Calderone is not an aggressive shape-shifter. His style is classic narration: long overlay mixes and blends, as one 10 minute travel groove dissolves into another. And always smooth; at Bijou there was never an abrupt move in his set, nothing to break the spell of his sound. As his set developed further, though, the wooing was broken into by orgasmic synth sounds that have been a staple of dance music since Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder: long rhythm stretches quick-cut to pressure build-ups, strokes and spurts. And after each spurt, the wooing began again -- Calderone really could go all night long.
His journeys are almost entirely instrumental. At Bijou, too, there was almost no voice in his music and very little upper register trippiness. The music felt hushed, like pillow talk, even as it filled the room at high decibel. It murmured as it thumped, and its small tones tickled and cracked up. It sounded like a sigh overlaid by a smile. The gals on the floor understood. They tickled their smiles back at Calderone, a DJ and track maker who was said, quite long ago in his career, to be Madonna's favorite. And who keeps on keeping on, musicianship at an eloquence level that only a handful of house music masters can boast of.
Calderone was opened for by Wil Trahan, who long held a residency at Providence's legendary Therapy. Trahan set Calderone's table gracefully with music big and thumping, with a soft surface, an almost soulful sound that led as seamlessly to the main sound as a runway to a take off. It was, too, a set very much reminiscent of the plushy whomping rhythms that Trahan established as Therapy's theme.
The promotion group, Futured, that has scheduled an intriguing September list of mostly young-generation but highly-rated house music DJs, opened its new line-up last Thursday night with MR. C, who is anything but young generation. Indeed, Richard West (his real name) is a survivor from the late 1980s version of UK "glam," having front-manned The Shamen during an era in which most of his current fans were hardly out of infancy. In any case, there he was, short-haired and slender and grizzled, and waiting for Tamer Malki's opening set -- sonorous and deftly progressing, as always -- to wrap up.
Even in the waiting section of Julep's DJ booth Mr. C was the object of female fan adoration. What exactly was the attraction, this writer still hasn't figured out, though: because Mr. C's set didn't begin until twenty minutes past time -- mostly because of equipment connectivity issues, and when it did finally begin, its sound bore scant resemblance to what the soulful house music that Futured is trusted for.
He used 12-inch vinyl -- and not with a Traktor program -- mixing in an occasional CD player track. He scratch-affected his sound, in the manner of a rap DJ in the early 1980s. That decade, too, was his sound: early on he dropped a choral voice track redolent of the school-kids' chorus in Pink Floyd's "Brick In the Wall"; there were melodic passages with a sing-songy air reminiscent of British music hall -- one such segment had this writer thinking of Ian Dury. It was hardly house music, even though Mr. C worked into his set -- late in it -- a track featuring the chant "for the love of house:" but his fans danced excitedly almost from start to finish of it all.
As a track producer, Mr. C has a strong repertoire, including a fierce "Keep Off" featuring a funky dark bottom beat upon which rides a sampled rendering of the anthemic chant from D Train 's iconic 1981 club hit "Keep On." Clearly Mr. C knows the tradition, loves it, and has fluency in it. Yet hardly any of that fluency was displayed at Julep. Most of the time he did not mix or edit tracks at all, allowing them to play out while he chatted with his groupies in the DJ booth. When he did a mix, he showed little care for the result. Some mixes went smoothly; one such, sublimely; but more than one of his track segues broke the music's spell; one of them crashed and burned. Even his scratch-effect work added little to the sonic message. When that afore-mentioned "for the love of house" chant did pop into his music, it almost seemed like mockery.