The term “Horror Boogie” seems especially resonant these days.
But well before Brexit or Trumplandia or the newest and bleakest environmental forecast, British DJ and producer Dave Shades started a label with that name. “Horror Boogie Records was set up as a result of not enough people releasing ‘the good stuff’ on vinyl,” he explains on the label’s SoundCloud page. “Expect ‘out there’ bass, breaks, rave, wonk and electro.” The label’s first release was a four-artist, four-song EP from 2011 titled Welcome to the Horrordome!; its final release came three years later, via Luke Sanger, renaming himself Luke’s Anger for the occasion.
This sort of gleeful sneering has long been a core tenet of dance music—why do you think Skrillex got so big? The aggressive feel of the early work by second-wave Detroit techno artists like Underground Resistance and Richie Hawtin, not to mention the tweaked coldness of a number of New York, Midwestern, and middle European producers, gave rise to some of the most joyously snarling music on the planet. Sometimes, techno just sounds better when it singes—something Dave Shades seems to know quite well.
Shades’ WTB Podcast #44 (March 28), part of a mix series from a crew charmingly dubbed Warsaw Torture Boyz, is a startlingly no-nonsense affair. If you like techno nasty and brutish (though, at 75 minutes, hardly short), this is your jam. Though plenty of the tracks Shades plays hew to purist techno standards (meaning funky as well as noisy) they’re seldom as starry-eyed as that purist strain. One track right in the center of the mix offers transmission static, a gaseous-sounding low-pass filter, and overdriven hi-hat bleeding into white noise, all enhancing—not competing with—one another. People who think techno is mindless are thinking of this kind of techno. They’re also missing the point—the set is exhilarating.
Shades’ set is also offensive in places—specifically, around minute eleven, when a sped-up male voice starts hollering “Dirty low slut tramp bitch ho” repeatedly over concussive rhythms for about five minutes. This is less a techno move than a ghetto house one, a rave-era analog to gangsta rap. (I wrote about one of the style’s key labels here.) I accept it as part and parcel of a style, and as a historian I note the aplomb with which Shades commingles that style with the harder techno that dominates the set. On the other hand, hearing a fusillade of epithets might not suit your listening habits, so fair warning.
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.