Rusko / Doorly

Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC April 17

BY Alan RantaPublished Apr 18, 2011

DJ sets don't often command respect from those who aren't already electronic music fans, but anyone paying attention to what Martin Doorly was doing this evening would have to give credit where credit was due. Unlike most contemporary DJs, Doorly actually mixed compact discs armed only with EFX and intuition, without the benefit of laptop software. He set sample and loop points on his Pioneer CDJs and fully utilized his mixer, using delay, pitch shifting and tricky EQing to create electroacoustic gestures designed to accent and/or tease out the builds and breakdowns in the otherwise pre-recorded tracks, and drop in key phrases to give his set an overall form.

Flawless mixing and nuanced yet schizophrenic track selection maintained Doorly's mystique. He presented massive festival-sized bass through a mixture of mainstream sounds (i.e., the Indian sample from "Get Ur Freak On" by Missy Elliott, the vocoder from "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" by Daft Punk), underground riddims and old-school synths. All the techy, hard-edge rave sounds were counterbalanced by moderate clichés (like the dancehall air-horn and air-raid siren), with Doorly making full use of all three CDJs throughout his set. Impressively, Doorly placed techno, dubstep, and drum & bass into slightly new contexts without ever sounding strained, effectively making for a very smart DJ set overall.

Following Doorly, Chris "Rusko" Mercer's performance was a bit of a letdown. He had an impressive rig, for sure. Rusko's name was spelled out in triple rows of incandescent bulbs on six-foot-high letters that surrounded his gear, suspended on a hydraulic rectangle, which created a platform box within which he was free to jump, run in place, command the heavens and generally act the fool. His software-assisted mixing was definitely competent and calling his selection of pop-dubstep "heavy" would be a serious understatement, as he managed to rumble beers off tables all the way at the back of the sizable Commodore Ballroom and gave the bouncers outside nosebleeds.

Unfortunately, for all the eye candy and absurdly delicious bass, his performance mainly consisted of him running amok in his plywood playpen while rambling party gibberish into a mic, screaming about bitches, what kind of night was happening, how people liked it, and so on. DJs with microphones unfailingly do themselves more harm than good, and Rusko was no different.

He did commendably work every single track like a little Richard Simmons sweating to bass music, which is more than you get from many acts who play more traditional instruments, but Rusko didn't take any real risks with his performance.

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