As a solo artist, SHARAM TAYEBI has had less success than former Deep Dish partner Dubfire at embracing a sound to call his own. His top-ten downloads at Beatport -- not to mention his prior solo work -- swing between genres of dance music that do not relate easily. There's "progressive" -- which was Deep Dish's hallmark during their decade of glory, 1995 to 2004 -- and there's techno, progressive's polar opposite; and there's some "elektro," a touch of "tribal," and some girly dance-pop. At Bijou on Friday night, Sharam brought almost all of the above to a 105-minute set that, almost inevitably, had stretches of wonderful and others of not so much.
But what do you do when Bijou's 400- to 500-capacity dance floor is barely half full, after you've become accustomed to playing to 1500, as Deep Dish did at Avalon nine years ago? Some veteran DJs of dance music respond to a smaller fan base by delving into the house music underground, where they can rule with dark beats, glitch vocals, and trippy improvisations. Dubfire has embraced techno, and at RISE Club last year he played a four-hour techno set ecstatic in its rhythmic soaring and transcendent in its visionary soundcapes. Not so Sharam.
Using a PC program and Bijou's mixboard with all the bells and whistles, Sharam started with a lush, liquid synthy sound that soon unfolded all of its embroidery. The bottom was big with reverb vibe; streaky effects pervaded the middle register; and girls' voices chanted on top -- very '80s, redolent of Italo-disco of that decade, and pleasingly presented in beat wave format. It was a sound as sexy as the Rubiyat and as luxe as a Persian rug, and one could almost feel the walking on it of a very lithe, fashionably whiskered cat.
And so the first 45 minutes of Sharam's set went -- silk in color, catwalk, the pounding of an excited heart and the pout of an exuberant kiss. Tall, long legged gals danced and seemed joyously satisfied.
Then, unaccountably, Sharam changed the groove to a looser, tribal sound. There is a tribal in his Beatport top ten, "Que Cubano," as remixed by the remix star of the moment, Nicole Moudaber. As dropped by Sharam at Bijou, however, "Que Cubano" felt almost unrecognizably thinner in sound, and drier, than the sultry siren's dance one hears at Beatport. Was he playing the original version rather than Moudaber's blossomy remix? It seemed so.
Possibly Sharam was using that version of "Que Cubano" to free his set of the heavy embroidery that began it, because his "Que Cubano" was followed by about 30 minutes of very generic "elektro" music -- lots of scraping, chalk on a blackboard effects, peppy beats, loosey goosey synthy licks -- that lost this writer's interest except as an extended intermission or a skeptic's joke.
There was little improvisation in the mix, only in the track sequencing. My friend showed that if you wanted Sharam's set list, it was right there at his website. That's OK. Weak sequencing is not OK.
But just at that moment, Sharam took control again. He kicked the music high and heated, onto the exalted luxe plane that began it, as he brought a sound rich with Middle Eastern wails, stomping techno, and a reverie of screamy strange sound trips. He dropped both "Radio G," perhaps his most intense rhythm, and "Our Love," his top download at Beatport, in which he and singer Anousheh do their Persian nights, futuristic equivalent of Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder circa 1977. Waves of sound weaves washed upon the dancers. Bells chimed. The rhythm rolled and rumbled. And there was blithe, Europop girl talk, and yes, it worked. Bijou's dancers -- now less than half capacity -- found the feeling. Reluctant girls found their shimmy, shake and their ko-ko bop.
It was a satisfying if not triumphant finish to a set that even at its most imaginative felt like a missed opportunity.
Sal LoGrasso, one of Boston's most accomplished DJs, played a funky and bluesy opening set, much more consistent in its message than Sharam's, though never as strange or as exuberantly dream-scaped.