Boom and Doom

July 21st, 2014

To follow up on my recent post about Warm Up 2014…

After a week of bad news around the world, Warm Up brought some good news: techno is here to stay. With a premium line-up of Robert Hood, Objekt, Rrose, Vatican Shadow, Container, and Young Male, the techno takeover made strong arguments for the genre’s durability and innovation.  This resilience and flexibility was reflected in the metallic silver and gold grid quilts onstage, designed by CONFETTISYSTEM, who also are included in NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial.


Darth Vader: so techno (white socks: not so much)

I missed Young Male, but Container, Vatican Shadow, and Rrose explored the darker, dystopian, and dyspeptic corners of the genre. To hear these artists was to confront hours of rumbling, blasts, drones, and unsettling sounds of conflict that seemed to push PS1’s powerful speakers to the edge, no small task:

“The speaker system has a total power rating of about 40,000 watts. The speakers are my latest design, utilizing drivers from the best manufacturers in  the world. The main cabinet houses 20 high-power devices and the curvature is critical, using technology discovered by the Navy in the 1970s! The large subwoofers are 21″ in diameter and 4000 watts each. You may have noticed that some of the speaker cabinets were not painted yet – that’s because we just built them. We are currently comparing 18″ and 21″ subwoofer designs and tweaking the tuning each week. This is what we love about Warm Up, it is a fantastic event for us to run our latest designs through their paces.” -Jim Toth, acoustics sage


Container at Warm Up 2014

Saturday’s performances, which generated a giddy and friendly vibe on the dancefloor, sounded like Detroit techno clocking in for its latest shift in a 30-year legacy, paved by industrial, electropop, and acid house (and pioneered by artists with names like Underground Resistance, who performed in ski masks and combat suits).


Vatican Shadow at Warm Up 2014

Saturday’s crushing soundscapes were initiated by Container’s live set, featuring agile and elastic collisions of distorted thumps and hammering rhythms, and embodied by the visibly agitated Vatican Shadow, who accompanied his murky doom beats with physical headbanging, writhing, grimacing, and shouting, and even hectoring the audience for not dancing. Occasionally danceable, his 4/4 beats bubbled up from a noisy, growling morass signifying decline, dissolution, and doom. Wartime techno. The military industrial complex crushing museums and hospitals. On point!  His stage aerobics distracted me from his fluid, ambitious, and militant vision, especially among the other, more ice-faced DJs. Then again, who am I to judge someone else’s catharsis, channeling everything that is wrong around us, a catharsis I also envied from Container’s live set?

Objekt instantly transformed the scene and repopulated the dance floor with fecund, full-spectrum, and crackling dance beats. His acceptably peaktime jams sent many hands upward, but artists like Robert Hood are there to take us infinitely higher and higher. Hood, a Detroit techno pioneer now living in Alabama as a DJ/Christian minister*, opened with Floorplan (his alias) – Never Grow Old, brought cheers with The Bells by fellow post-Detroiter Jeff Mills, warmed it up with Chicago – Street Player, and closed with – what else? – Blue Monday.


Objekt at Warm Up 2014


Robert Hood at Warm Up 2014

And then it was over. Back to earth. Back to Detroiters without water.  Back to South American kids stranded in Texas.  Back to Eric Garner dead in Staten Island.  Back to MH17 scattered over Ukraine.  Back to “Israel uses its missiles to protect citizens, whereas Hamas uses citizens to protect its missiles.” -Till next time.

*Robert Hood on the hope of techno: “If you picture yourself as a young Luke Skywalker, with no Jedi training, and you meet this guy Mojo, or Obi Wan Kenobi, and he’s training you to use the force—at first you’re clumsy with it, you don’t know what you’re doing, but once you learn to harness the power of the force, when an adversary is coming against you, the enemy, he don’t even know who he’s messing with. So I guess the sinister strings and the power in those Detroit techno strings, that’s the force.”  -So techno! 

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