A weird, danceable set from mrBlaQ is this week’s recommended mix

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It's mrBlaQ, getting ready for his close-up. (Photo courtesy of Dave Eckblad.)

Never mind New Year’s Eve—for Twin Cities dance-music aficionados, New Year’s Day is where the action is.

At the Exchange in downtown Minneapolis, Steven Centrific put on his annual NYD fete. I spent the early evening on Monday in the main room, getting happily pummeled by special guest the Advent (Portuguese-born Londoner Cisco Ferreira), the techno veteran whose nail-hard sound was leavened by unexpected shafts of aural light. (Let’s throw in a breakbeat here. OK, the Advent, sure!)

It took a couple of hours to realize that there was another room around the back. This shouldn’t have been a surprise—of course there’s another room, nearly all these things have second rooms—but the twist is that it was completely different, like a Winter Wonderland display at a mall, only not at all mall-like. Christmas lights and lit-up “icicles” festooned the booth; red and green pin spots danced in woozy patterns all over the speakers and floor (and dancers), and there as an inflatable Santa tableau in the corner near the booth. Joe Bartuski, aka the DJ and promoter Jobot, told me he and his elves were there from six a.m. setting it all up. It showed.

I got there in time to boogie down to disco, courtesy of Neil Fox, who finished brilliantly with Al Green’s “Love and Happiness.” Then came Dave Eckblad, aka mrBlaQ, who went in the other direction completely: Squarepusher, Venetian Snares, and other purveyors of cut-to-ribbons breakbeats. Soon I decided this wasn’t for me and I started to head to the other room. Only after a minute, as I stood near the speakers, the beat straightened out, the groove maintained, but the textures and timbres stayed strange—and delicious. I didn’t leave the room for the rest of the evening.

There’s a similarly mischievous glint audible in mrBlaQ’s set from Klubhaus, Minneapolis (October 29, 2017), though the music is darker and more straightforward than what he played New Year’s Day. For one thing, he opens with They Might Be Giants: “Space Suit,” from 1992’s Apollo 18. (An instrumental, whew.) It’s actually a perfect set-up—as its title indicates, the song’s sweeping synth whooshes are otherworldly enough to set the table for the cavernous pounding of I Hate Models’ “Don’t Be Afraid of the Light.”

The Klubhaus set has a heavy EBM (electronic body music—an ’80s precursor to techno in Germany and Belgium) and industrial tint to it, full of heavily textured tracks that recall those styles even if they fall outside of them, such as Japanese dubstep producer (in the pre-Skrillex sense), Goth-Trad’s “Departure.” The flickering bells and heaving kick drum of dotwav’s “Stroke (Jamie Haus Remix)” are both intimidating and intimate, the kind of thing that can sweep you into another dimension, even if you’re at home, stone cold sober.

Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set—often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily—and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.


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