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Saturday Night: Touane at Blue

touane2.jpgTouane with Punisher, DJ Nova
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Blue, Miami Beach

Better than: your average DJ set in a favorable venue.

Minimal techno is a bit of an acquired taste, much like straight liquor. Verse and chorus are the requisite ice and soda mixer most social drinkers need in their music cocktail, chords and melody the sweet fruit juices used to cut the harsh bitter flavor of pure booze. This stuff is savored neat. The monochromatic and mostly atonal textures of minimal are too streamlined for the uninitiated listener. But like seasoned spirit connoisseurs, minimal lovers cultivate a refined taste for the subtleties and nuances of this genre's complex if somewhat obtuse sound. Let's face it, it's not the most accessible or danceable of so-called dance genres. It doesn't reference the funky basslines and soulful vocals of house, nor the epic breakdowns and melodic buildups of trance. The sounds are tinny, glitchy and layered repetitively with little variation or momentum. 

Minimal's textural flourishes however have an ambient aural quality that merits meditative listening. It's best appreciated in big ample spaces with state of the art sound systems where each distinct sonic element can breathe and reverberate on its own. It follows then that SoBe's hole-in-the-wall of a club Blue, on Española Way, is perhaps not the most adequate venue for this type of listening. The acoustically-challenged space has a mere six feet of width along the length of its bar and no proper dancefloor to speak of. Saturday night's performances by Touane and Punisher, hosted by Pornograph Events, were met by a pitifully small audience in this confined space, which nevertheless did provide the quality of a certain intimacy between performers and spectators.

Miami's own DJ Nova kicked off the night with a DJ set that set the stylistic mood for the two headlining acts. Punisher, who hails from the techno birthplace of Detroit, was quite a sight. Her live PA was technically distinguished by the labor-intensive use of numerous analog synthesizers and drum machines, notable in this age of laptop and software-aided musicianship. She expertly maneuvered her various gadgets from behind the tiny DJ booth as the small club rattled with throbbing bass. Her sound has the layered complexity of IDM with the lowdown gravity of dub and a peppy uptempo kick.

As a side note, it's very refreshing to see a woman take the reins in such a male-dominated sausage fest of a musical scene.

Touane, an Italian producer with das Berlin techno seal of approval, followed Punisher's set with his own clicky, glitchy pulsating brand of minimal. He layered and built up his beats and atmospheric textures smoothly with what, as far as I could tell, was a MIDI-controlled software setup. A fine set at any rate, but I got the feeling this club's sound system didn't do his sound engineering justice. Overall, the night could have certainly benefited from a bigger turnout, if for no better reason than to give these talented visitors a more enthusiastic welcome.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I'm a sound system elitist when it comes to music as meticulously-crafted and nuanced as minimal. Producers put alot of detailed work into sculpting their sound and deserve optimal conditions for live delivery.   

Random detail: The jarring and paranoid jump-cut sequences from the film Requiem for a Dream being projected on the club's wall and increasing my sense of claustrophobia in the club's confined space.

By the way: With more and more parties sprouting up in both downtown and the beach, minimal seems to be taking hold in Miami. Whether or not you enjoy this avant-garde sound, it's refreshing for a city more often then not characterized by the most god-awful commercial dance music.

-- Sean Levisman

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Sean Levisman

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