samedi, janvier 31, 2009

Jeff Mills and Chloé at the Rex, 2 Buddies at Jett Afterparty

My daytime activities were a bit truncated, since I had slept in rather late (14h00) and then spent a large portion of the day blogging the past few days and dealing with some correspondence. I had found out last night that a friend of mine was going to be spinning at an afterparty around 7h00, so I had a rather quiet evening to preserve my energies for later partying.

Jeff Mills, Chloé and Timid Boy @ Le Rex

I headed over to Le Rex around 1h00, thinking that that would be early enough to avoid an obnoxiously long lineup. I hadn’t managed to get on the list for that night, but I was prepared to just get in the cash line like everyone else. As I was walking over to the front door, I realized that I hadn’t waited in the “regular” line at Le Rex since I first returned to Paris in September.

Alas, the line was still massive and messy, running almost to the street corner, so I got in line and started to wait. The people in line ahead of me started to despair, saying that by the time they got to the front of the line, the club would be at capacity—so some of them left for other bars, which made the line move faster than expected. Nonetheless, a few minutes later, I saw my friends S. and D. show up, along with another friend of ours, L.

I hadn’t seen L. in ages, so we greeted each other enthusiastically. In the process, I had managed to lose my place in line, but all was not lost: my friends had a place on the guestlist. So my five-month record of not waiting in the “regular” line at Le Rex continues!

By the time we got into the club and checked our coats, Timid Boy’s set was about to finish, so we only heard a few tracks before he was replaced by Jeff Mills.

2h00-4h00: Jeff Mills

Mills’s set was oddly interesting, in that his style remains completely unchanged from what I heard from him in the late 90s, but at the same time he would occasionally incorporate tracks that were more in line with European tastes for minimal techno. There was pretty much no house influences of any sort to be heard in the set, and his overall style was still the Detroit Second-Wave definition of “minimal,” which involves a reduced set of musical elements and very slow rates of change, but also a high-intensity and high-impact sound. If you were to make a caricature of it, the sound would involve a pounding, unchanging 4/4 beat, a few synthesized tom-toms or claves on off-beats, and a single undulating synth line that slowly and slowly changes tone or shape over the course of 10 minutes; nothing more, sometimes less.

Anyway, the set was good for what it was; that is, if you liked what Jeff Mills was doing 10 years ago you probably loved this set, but if you weren’t a fan of him then, this set wasn’t going to convert you.

The four of us made an amusing quartet throughout the night. S. and D. are a couple, so they would occasionally kiss but otherwise they didn’t engage in any heavy petting or intense touching. L. and I, on the other hand, were no couple but spent the whole evening pawing at each other like we were at a cuddle party.

L. is generally very tactile for Parisian norms (and I think it’s not insignificant that she’s from Mauritius, rather than mainland France) and I’m naturally very tactile (I had to learn to tone it down while in France), so whenever we’re together, it’s like a non-stop caress-fest. When we saw each other outside the club, we immediately hugged each other (generally considered a way too intimate gesture here) and then linked arms while we waited to get in. On the dance floor, we would take turns giving backrubs, occasionally rub shoulders, hold hands, and otherwise find ways to entwine ourselves around each other. Good times.

4h00-7h00: Chloé

Chloé’s set was good. This is maybe a bit obvious, but it’s worth saying; Chloé has both impressed me and disappointed me in the past, so I never know if I’m going to enjoy or dislike her set. I’ve found that her live sets tend to bore me (especially the one she did at Mutek ’08 in Montreal!), but her DJ sets can be pretty good. This set was a bit heavy in its overall sound, but I guess that made sense as a continuation of Mills’s set. Her sound remains much more electro and even a bit psychedelic, tending toward a much thicker and busier texture than Mills. Nonetheless, the set seemed to go over well.

By about 6h30, we decided to start heading out to the afterparty. Franck Valat is L.’s boyfriend, so we wanted to be sure to get to the afterparty destination before 7h30, when he and his partner were scheduled to start. We had some trouble herding the quartet together—and in the process, we gathered another two people—but eventually we made our way outside and caught a pair of taxis.

Jett Afterparty @ Les Quatre Vents

The afterparty was at the same location as last week, so I was able to give the taxi driver directions to the place and we got there pretty quickly. There was the same bullshit with the mandatory coat check and 10€ drinks, but at least I was on the list this time. I got inside with L., grabbed a bottle of water while she went off to find Franck, and then we all settled in to wait until their set started. The DJ currently spinning was DJ HAK, I think, who I’m pretty sure is also the promoter of this series of afterparties. What I heard of his set was fine, but I’ll admit that I only heard a bit of it and I was sort of distracted talking with my friends.

7h30 -9h00: 2 buddies

Franck and Loulou gave a great set (I think that, when they perform as a duo, they go by “Madonna” and “Britney”), which I think worked really well as an afterparty set. The overall level of intensity was much lower than what we had heard at Le Rex, but it still had some forward motion. It also leaned much more towards miminal-house styles, so everything felt a bit looser and smother and generally funkier.

I had a good time, but I was running out of steam by the end of it. And so, as soon as they finished their set, I waited for an opportunity to congratulate Franck, said goodbye to everyone else, and then headed home.

For some reason (possibly insanity), I decided to bike home from the location, which meant leaving from the area near Odéon in the 6th arrondissement, crossing the river, crossing Les Halles and Le Marais, and finally ending up at my place at Parmentier in the 11th. It was sunny, so it didn’t feel too cold…

When I got home, the weather widget on my laptop said that it was -2°C outside.

vendredi, janvier 30, 2009

How to Have a Homoerotic Straight Night

Well, the title refers to yet more man-on-man rubbing and a bit bared flesh at the Cadenza / Circus Company label night at Le Rex tonight (more below).

I got up painfully early this morning to take a group of students down to Versailles for a field trip. As usual, I’m not blogging in detail about work, but there was amusing thing worth mentioning. We arrived at the palace at around 9h10, ready for our tour scheduled at 9h30. Instead, we found a sign on the door to the group entrance, saying that the palace’s security guards might be on strike today. When we found our tour guide (who was part of the Tourism Board, so not in on the strike), she went into the building and asked around for us; she reported back that the guards were holding a union meeting and voting on the strike, so there would be a decision in an hour or two. Great.

In the meanwhile, we took a break for a coffee at the café in the palace (which, ironically, was open) and then our tour guide offered a tour of the gardens while we waited for the meeting to finish. We came back and found that they had opened the doors—so I guess they decided not to strike—and we were able to have our tour at around 11h00.

From there, I went home and took a nap, ate lunch, and then got to work reading a dense book that I had been struggling to finish over the last week or so. I spent most of the evening dealing with that, then ate dinner and got ready to go out for a night out on the town.

Colors — Violet @ Yono

I biked my way over to Yono in Le Marais, where Fantômette and her girlfriend (along with others) had organized a soirée of minimal techno with the color violet as its theme (the idea is to continue in the future with other colors). Of course, I came wearing violet.

The DJ lineup was simple: just an ongoing back-to-back set between Fantômette and Franck Valat, which made for some very pleasant listening. Fantômette even treated us to a preview of one of her upcoming tracks!

The rest of my Frenchy Krew was there, so I spent most of the evening catching up with everyone and milling around with a small but potent mojito in my hand. But by 1h00, two of my friends were getting restless; S. and D. were planning to go to Le Rex with me for the birthday of Molly, a friend of ours who also does publicity for Le Rex. It was also a combined label night for Cadenza and Circus Company, and I was excited to hear Reboot’s live set. He recently came out with a track that was an ongoing hit last summer and this fall.

So we headed over to Le Rex on foot, trying our best to hurry, since I wasn’t on the guest list and the reduced-entry pass that I had was only good until 2h00. We got there just before 2h00, and I again had a stroke of good luck at the door. The doorman recognized me, saw that I was with two friends that were already on Molly’s list, and he just let me in as another guest. Yay! Those 10€ saved were spent on a well-deserved drink.

Cadenza / Circus Company night @ Le Rex

0h00-2h30: Thomas Melchior

We only caught the last half-hour of his set, most of which we spent waiting for the coat check and then the bathroom, but what we heard was pretty good. It was pretty standard “minimal” techno, with the occasional ‘classic’ house track thrown in for contrast, which seems to be the trend this year.

We found Molly and wished her a happy birthday, and she took us back to the area behind the live-set setup, where she had set aside a few tables for her friends. However, ahead of the upcoming live sets, the bouncers started this cycle of kicking everyone out of the ‘backstage’ area, then letting them trickle back in as Molly invited them back, and then kicking them all out, and so on.

2h30-3h30: DOP live

Well this live set was just…well…wretched. I was really disappointed, and I can’t think of a nicer way to put it. The beats were generally good, if unexceptional minimal house, but the vocalist / MC was totally unhelpful. His mixture of shouting and singing was distracting at best, and he didn’t seem to contribute anything other than noise and his slightly flabby, hairy torso (he took off his shirt). As a gay guy who normally bemoans the lack of balance in bodily display and nudity between the genders, I totally didn’t want to see that.

He also liked to tell the other two performers to cut the music so that he could try to whip up the crowd, which was annoying. At one point, he had them cut the music completely, and then he made some vapid comment about “teaching” the crowd, and then insisted that everyone sit down (on a floor covered in broken glass and spilled drinks) so that the group could play a track that everyone was supposed to be very excited about. I took the opportunity to run to the bar and grab a stiff drink.

Also, amusingly enough, there was a group of “bogosse” (preppy) guys next to me, alternately throwing themselves on two girls that were there with them and grinding on each other in various pairings and groupings. At the same time, another member of DOP took off his shirt, so 2 out of 3 of them were half-naked. So, for most of this set, I was surrounded by straight guys that were either engaging in striptease or homoerotic groping and grinding. It’s queer night at the straight club!

I dunno if they brought the crowd with them or if they were reacting to the vocalist’s style, but there were a lot of assholes (of both genders) in the crowd, spilling drinks and shoving and stepping on me. A few guys decided to start a mosh pit for a while, which was a new development for Le Rex.

Anyway, S. and D. couldn’t stand it any longer and fled before the end of the set. I stuck around, and was rewarded with Reboot’s live set.

3h00-4h30: Reboot live

Reboot’s set started off really well, with punchy bass (i.e., hard attack, low-register, little to no decay) and delicate layers of high-register click-patterns that gave the whole texture a feeling of being both spacious and solid at the same time. Unfortunately, his set was more of a “here’s all of the tracks I’ve worked on in a row” set, rather than a live set where new music is improvised out of one’s compositional materials.

When he dropped his famous track, “Vandong” (on the Sidekick EP on Below records), I realized that it’s not that powerful a track all on its own. It’s main attraction is a rhythmically-wobbly and sinuous melodic line played on a distorted synth, but the remaining texture is actually a bit lightweight, lacking the sort of percussive impact that you usually hear in Berlin-style minimal techno. So on its own, it was nice but not overwhelming. But when I’ve heard it mixed into a set with other tracks to support the bass end of the sound, this track can be amazing.

Anyway, the tracks that he worked out after that one were less and less interesting to me, so I decided to save my energy for the next night (Frank Valat will be spinning with another friend at an afterparty at 7h00 in the morning) and headed home.

jeudi, janvier 29, 2009


Strike! Apparently, there’s a general strike going on today in France to protest the government’s handling of the economic crisis (among other things; the French go on strike for almost anything). It wasn’t clear how much of the transit network would be working, since Sarkozy’s attempt to pass “minimum service” laws during strikes never amounted to anything. In the end, it wasn’t so bad, and the strike was surprisingly festive—like a labour-oriented Techno Parade.

I took a vélib bike, which was a bit difficult to find, since everyone else had apparently had the same idea. Nonetheless, once I found a bike that wasn’t broken, I headed towards work.

My usual route to work passes through Bastille (I still can’t believe that I do that by bike twice a day), where the strike march was going to start later that day. There was very little traffic on the plaza, and the place was already looking like an outdoor music festival. The three main workers’ unions and the Socialist Party all had their pavilions set up on the main square, along with bright floating balloons with their logos and upbeat music.

On the way home later that night, all of the streets leading to and from Bastille were closed to traffic. This was actually kind of nice, since I was able to bike along the streets unperturbed by cars. However, once I got to Bastille proper, it was an endless mess of humanity. To their credit, the organizers had put a cluster of youth workers at the borders of the crowd to intercept cyclists and give them instructions on how to go around the crowd. In a country that answers bureaucratic disarray with more bureaucracy, this was surprisingly efficient and well-planned.

Anyway, as I was circling the crowd to get to my street, I noticed that the organizers had also arranged for food stands, music floats, bathrooms and crowd control. If you just changed the dress and age-range of the crowd, this could’ve been last September’s Techno-Parade.

mercredi, janvier 28, 2009


Well, my life was pretty unexciting today: bike to work, work, bike to classes, teach, bike home, eat, blog, fret about upcoming deadlines and try to read a bit more theory.

Nonetheless, I did have an amusing moment when I made dinner. For the first time in a few months, I made quinoa, and what I forgot was that quinoa is filling. Quinoa misleads you by looking like rice, but what it isn’t telling you is that it is much more fibrous, and it has a rather high content of protein. So, after a couple of bowls of quinoa topped with roasted winter vegetables, mustard and roasted pineapples, I was feeling painfully full. Phew.

mardi, janvier 27, 2009

One more day of the sickness

My friends needed to be up by 4h30 to catch their taxi at 5h00, and considering that we only got to bed around 1h00, you can imagine how little sleep we had. After we made our goodbyes and they headed off, I tried to get back to sleep and spent the rest of the night staring at the ceiling. When my alarm finally went off at around 8h00, I turned it off and promptly went to sleep. I don’t know why my body decided to finally get sleepy right then, but there you go.

I woke up just minutes before I should’ve been at work, tired and suddenly voiceless from a weekend of activity, so I called in sick to work again and tried to take advantage of the downtime to get myself back on track with my various commitments. I managed to mostly catch up on blogging before I had to zip over to l’École des Chartes to teach English. Class was a bit slow going this time, since it was the first class since their exams and everyone was a bit shell-shocked. Nonetheless, I managed to get them to talk a bit by asking a set of questions recommended to me by DJ Sassmouth’s husband this weekend: Where have you traveled? Where do you want to travel? Where wouldn’t you travel? I’ve gotta remember these questions for the next time I have a class with nothing to say.

So the rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I got home, made dinner (rice porridge! It’s tastier than it sounds) and took care of a pile of correspondence. Now, I just need to write that dissertation…

lundi, janvier 26, 2009

Last Night in Paris

Sassmouth and her hubby had one more full day before returning to London, so we took advantage of it to spend the day seeing the city. I called in sick to work (don’t look at me like that! I never take sick days, so I deserve it, dammit) and then we set out for a day of walking.

I had wanted to take them to see the Musée d’Orsay, where there was a magnificent pastel exhibit, but it was closed on Mondays, so instead we headed over to the Picasso Museum. That actually worked out well for me, as it was one of the art museums that I still hadn’t seen. They had an interesting temporary installation in the building, involving a mirrored wall that bisected the whole building, creating an uncanny mirror-effect if you stood in the right place. The mirrored wall continued through the building, so at times you would be in an exhibit room and the room would be sliced in two by this mirrored wall, which was pretty neat.

From there, we wandered in a zig-zag around Le Marais, stopping at Muji and then in the old Jewish neighborhood. Since Sassmouth and her husband are both fans of falafels, we had to stop for a “falafel spécial” at L’As du Falafel, the best falafel joint in Paris and approved by Lenny Kravitz (I kid you not).

I took them on a walk through the cluster of medieval houses in the southern portion of the Marais (Village St. Paul), and then over to the islands on the Seine. We stopped for a coffee at a café on the Ile Saint-Louis, and checked in with Fantômette, who had wanted to meet Sassmouth before she left. Fantô was still waiting for her girlfriend to get home from work, so we kept on walking, heading over to l’Ile de la Cité and wandering around in the Nôtre-Dame cathedral, just as they were about to close.

After having a bit of a chuckle at the souvenir shop in the church nave (moneylenders in the temple, anyone?), we headed out and went over the river into the Latin Quarter. I took them on a quick walking tour of the crowded streets around rue de la Huchette, where we were of course relentlessly hounded by restaurant hosts and hostesses, trying to wave us into their establishments.

By the time we got back to the fountain at Saint-Michel, it was getting cold and we were in the mood to sit down again. I sent a text message to check in with Fantô and then we hopped into the subway over to her neighborhood, near Les Halles. On the place des Innocents, we found a café bar called the Coeur Couronné (The Crowned Heart), which seemed like a good place to hang out. We got a bottle of wine to share and sat around chatting while we waited for Fantômette to catch up with us. One of the nice things about French cafés is that they don’t hustle you from your table after you’ve finished your drink—especially if you’re sitting in the front window.

Anyway, Fantô eventually made it over to us and we spent a while recounting our stories from the weekend, talking about music production and DJ gigs, comparing various techno scenes, and figuring out who we knew in common. After a while, I looked at my watch and realized it was already 21h30. Crap! We hadn’t had dinner yet, and we needed to get back to my neighborhood if we were going to hit the bistro I wanted to hit before the 22h00 seating closed up.

We made it to Au Pied de Fouet a bit after 22h00 and the waitress happily seated us. Mind you, she was definitely in a hurry to get our order from us, which was a bit annoying, since I was always busy trying to translate the menu items when she would jump in to ask if we were ready to order.

Anyway, besides that, the meal was great. Sassmouth had an endive and blue cheese salad, while I had the house terrine of poultry livers (why do I love this but can’t stand chicken livers?). For the main dish, I had the cassoulet (which was OK), Sassmouth had the pollock fish in a beurre blanc sauce (which was awesome), and her husband had the duck confit (also delicious). For dessert, I had the most raspberriest raspberry tart I’ve ever had, while Sassmouth had an excellent chocolate fondant cake. The highlight of the meal for me, though, was the wine; a Marcillac, which I’ve never tried before. It was a southwestern French wine, with all of the body and character of a southern wine, but without the tannins or coarseness. It was perhaps a bit too light-tasting for more robust foods, but the suppleness and low viscosity of the wine went really well with our meals.

So, after stuffing ourselves to the gills, we headed home again and got ready to head to bed. My guests had a very early train back to London (6h00), so we called a taxi for 5h00, set our alarms for 4h30, and then tried to fall asleep.

dimanche, janvier 25, 2009

Sassmouth in Paris...the day after

So, given that we fell asleep around 13h00, I was actually surprised that we got up at 18h00.

I made some coffee and we sat around chatting for a bit and pondering what to do with what remained of Sunday. I put on some music, which promptly got a knock on the door from my neighbor, who said, “I normally love music, but I have an exam tomorrow.” Yeah, sure.

By that time, we were getting hungry, so I proposed a walk over to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant in Belleville, TinTin, for a big bowl of Pho. Considering what we had put our bodies through the night (and morning) before, a big bowl of liquid, hot peppers and noodles seemed like the right thing. So we wandered over at a leisurely pace, had a big steaming bowls of Pho, laughed at the restaurant across the street (Dong Huong…yes it sounds like a cross between “penis” and “Don Juan”), and took the long way home. Boy, were we tired.

Still, we had a lot of soup in bellies that needed digesting, so just as we got to my place, we decided to keep walking. We bought some beers from the store on my street, and then I took them on a slow walking tour through République, the northern part of Le Marais, Bastille, and then back up Richard Lenoir to my place.

We stayed up till about 3h00, showing each other amusing music videos on YouTube, and then crawled into bed. Thankfully, the huge bowl of soup and the long walk sort of knocked us out and helped us fall asleep at a reasonable hour (i.e., 3h00 in the morning).