Perhaps it was the season or the evening itself, but Carl Craig’s Demon Days party at Studio B in Greenpoint, Brooklyn last Saturday was poorly-attended. The last New York installment of Demon Days in January, also held at Studio B, was a jam-packed, sweaty synth throwdown inside the club, but a brittle and snowy evening out of doors—the disconnect made what was happening inside that much more of a fantastic experience. People were dripping in perspiration, losing themselves in nearly five hours of Carl Craig’s lush yet slamming sounds while the streets were still and almost without sound.
The air was temperate this past Saturday, though, and roof parties as well as other shows seemed much more the night’s agenda. Too bad in some ways, but not too bad—Craig and his openers were not in top form.
Opener Co-headliner Mirko, one half of Yugoslavia’s Switzerland’s Lazy Fat People, seemed like he was a bit overwhelmed at first; his mixing a bit unimaginative and without proper peaks and valleys. As much as I love Ricardo Villalobos, to play two of his most popular recent works seemed a bit without merit; in other words, DJs of the world, please stop playing the “Sinner in Me” remix; it’s over-played and appears a bit lazy to a crowd, at this point. Other than certain missteps here and there, though, Mirko was doing really well by the end, playing more banging takes on the Border Community style and getting the crowd frothed up for Carl Craig.
It seemed like Craig was running on automatic. Sure, I’d rather dance to Carl Craig on automatic than a lot of DJs when they’re truly tearing it up, but it was hard not to notice the lackadaisical nature of Craig’s set.
Here is where things get complicated: Craig played his usual pulsing, elegantly swirling set of Detroit techno, but like Mirko, it seemed like he was a bit lazy with his mixes; there were few beatless moments of hand-raising synth heaven, and a bit too much bias towards summer hits like Audion’s “Noiser” and Craig’s own current remixes. I want to be careful to point out that this is not an entirely bad thing: the Faze Action “In the Trees” remix and Siobhan Donaghy “Don’t Give it Up” dub are slamming, hypnotic pieces of techno mastery. What was disappointing was that all of these great tracks were just shoved together and weren’t allowed any room to percolate, which was a bit strange given Craig’s propensity for a more expansive sonic palate in his sets.
Craig’s set at the previous Demon Days was a cornucopia of sound, ranging from new minimal tracks to the most soulful diva house to pure moments of vocal bliss. On Saturday, however, it seemed like Craig was running on automatic. Sure, I’d rather dance to Carl Craig on automatic than a lot of DJs when they’re truly tearing it up, but it was hard not to notice the lackadaisical nature of Craig’s set.
A really wonderful DJ set needs many different things, and I believe that one of those is variety. I can get down to non-stop banging techno as much as the next clubgoer, but I like some palpable drama and surprise as well. I adore good kills and fades, and believe that long stretches without explicit beats are some of what help build the mountains that techno tracks can become in a club setting. Additionally, I like hearing astounding tracks that I don’t know as much as those that I do know. While Craig and Mirko certainly brought some great beats with them to Studio B, their arrangement was a bit sleepy and unsubtle. Mirko’s work with Ripperton in Lazy Fat People is quality stuff, and I would jump at the chance to see Craig do a set again, but next time, I hope that he can make me sweat to a more flavorful sound.
words & image: Thomas Rees
Clarification: Demon Days co-founder Gamall was the opening DJ for the night.