Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bowery Ballroom, New York
'Sound of the City' column, Village Voice, February 8th, 2000

by Simon Reynolds

Acolytes acronym it IDM, short for Intelligent Dance Music---a contentious
term for electronica that refuses the dancefloor's frenzy in favor of stay-at-home contemplation. Weird, then, to see the IDM massive at the Bowery Ballroom collectively shaking booty to their dream-team double bill of Mike 'µ-ziq' Paradinas and Luke 'Wagon Christ/Plug' Vibert.

It's a so-where-now? kind of moment for IDM's first wave. With Mike and Luke's mutual friends Richard James and Squarepusher missing in action, the genre's sole contender for "that next shit" is "glitch"--snap-crackle-popping noisescapes assembled from digital distortion. Taking the scene's anti-pop impulse to its logical extension, glitch dispenses not just with the groove but with melody too. And melody--chipper, wistful, glum--has always been IDM's saving grace, what seduced the Smog and GBV fans.

Luke Vibert doesn't seem too worried about IDM's impasse, though. Trading shy smiles with his new jam buddy B. J. Cole, toking on a long spliff and sporting a beard resinous enough to keep Cypress Hill happy for a weekend, Luke looks quite the mellow muso. Stop The Panic, the first fruit of their partnership, initially feels a bit diffuse, but rapidly reveals itself to be "different and holding" (copyright: New York Times TV Guide's anonymous movies-on-telly reviewer), achieving a mood of sacred whimsy not far behind Wagon Christ's sublime Throbbing Pouch. Live, it's even more enchanting. Alternately recalling King Sunny Ade and an Hawaian Jerry Garcia, Cole's plays his steel guitar like he's embroidering with light, deftly weaving its lustrous filigree through Vibert's it's-as-if-ambient-jungle-never-died breakbeats.

Like IDM itself, Mike Paradinas's gift and curse is melody. Unlike laidback Luke, though, he's reacted violently against the prettiness of his own back catalogue. Tonight there's a few excursions into densely orchestrated synth-symphonics, but mostly Mr. Muziq rampages thrillingly across the spectrum of hardcore barbarianism: acrid Ram Trilogy-style drum'n'bass, mash-ups of 1992-style rave and turntablism (slightly disconcerting to hear with no decks onstage), even 250 bpm gabber blitzkriegs. The crowd goes apeshit, goaded by Paradinas's exhortations "all my IDM niggas, wild out!" and "tear up tha club, thugz!". If it's a suspiciously well-made insanity, a marauding monster of sound without a hair or hi-hat out of place, well, you can hardly expect a doyen of IDM to fully jettison his head.

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