By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Twilo, Volume 1: Junior Vasquez
FROM ATOP HIS rightfully earned perch in Manhattan's Twilo nightclub, Junior Vasquez regularly plays God to thousands of faithful dance music fanatics of every feather. Vasquez has generated a cult following since the late Eighties for his trademark hybrid of heavy house beats and his boundless bag of outré trickery (spinning records backward, sporadically inserting the Looney Tunes theme song). He first truly tasted DJ glory upon co-founding the transient Sound Factory (1989-1995), where each weekend he blew the roof off. Highly revered by dance-music fans but loathed by neighbors who apparently liked the roof where it was, the club was forced to shut its doors.
Reopening as Twilo several years later, the club offered Vasquez a permanent installation along with, as rumor has it, a kitchenette in his own DJ booth. This double disc aims to document Vasquez's marathon Saturday-night sessions (often exceeding 12 hours), and is, logically enough, the first of a compilation series output by his home-base club. Sadly though, this continuous mix misses the mark in capturing even a fraction of the energy of his live sets, relying heavily on the rising popularity of trance, that dance subgenre which layers high-pitched synthesizers and minimal rhythmic changes extended into near-infinity.
Disc one is composed almost entirely of dreamy vocals and heavy, staccato synths, although Vasquez sustains his tendency toward tribal beats. As would be the case with any three-hour trance compilation, cheesy vocal samples abound (e.g., "I know the pain and hunger/But I see the beauty everywhere/ Somewhere a child is laughing/A sister is crying/The circle keeps on spinning"). A roof-raising moment (albeit without relief from the cheese) occurs on System F's "Cry," which embodies diva-house strength and offers a catchy hook more worthy of Vasquez. Disc two has several bright spots, particularly on "Good Stuff," which, surprisingly, features Kelis (the vocals behind Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Baby I Got Your Money"). Ministers de la Funk also make a noteworthy appearance with Vasquez's spin on their uplifting anthem "Believe." But, in general, Vasquez strays too far from his roots here. Perhaps this deviation will gain support of the hard-to-bore trance-loving crop. But while Vasquez's quirky house stylings and buildups are usually worth the wait, with Twilo we only get the wait.