It’s time to go back—all the way to . . . well, the beginning of the month.
A few weeks ago in this space, I wrote about attending the New Year’s Day festivities at the Exchange in downtown Minneapolis, though the mrBlaQ set I mentioned hadn’t gone up on his SoundCloud yet. (Good news: It’s there now.) Because I got there in the late afternoon (doors had opened that morning) I missed quite a bit.
The knock on DJ sets heard outside of clubs or parties is that they don’t capture the vibe of being there, and surely I’d get more out of anyone’s set had I encountered it in a “Christmastown” setting like the one in the Exchange’s side room. Still, I’m genuinely sorry I missed Devil Girl’s set in that environment—though I’m glad that I (and you) can catch up with it, since the recording (by Dave Eckblad, a.k.a. mrBlaQ) was uploaded shortly thereafter as Devil Cake Techno: Episode 8 (January 3, 2018). Electro this proudly bleepy doesn’t come around too often.
“Electro” is one of the more abused musical terms of the last couple decades, thanks to the blaring midrange riffs of a bunch of mid-2000s artists, several of them French, whose work also attracted the moniker “blog house.” But the electro Devil Girl favors is far closer to the term’s roots—it was invented to describe MIDI-made, danceable hip-hop like Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock” (1982) and the pre-techno work of Juan Atkins’ early group, Cybotron, particularly “R9” (1985).
That form has been “revived” any number of times over the years, particularly in the late ’90s and early 2000s, particularly via Detroit-area acts like Ectomorph and Adult. (The period is included in the name; they play the Entry on February 15). You know—Devil Girl’s set (you can peruse the track list here) sounds like what old people like me know electro really means, cough cough.
The selector herself has a bit of history worth recounting. Born Leigh Simmons in Alabama, Devil Girl has “been a Midwest resident off and on for about 18 years,” she says. “First St. Louis in the 90s, then Minneapolis in 2004.” A longtime resident of Kingfield, she and her teenage son moved to St. Paul’s St. Anthony neighborhood last year.
Being a single mother does not always agree with the life of a touring DJ, which Devil Girl was between 1992 and 2003. “Going out of town on weekends to DJ proved to be incompatible,” she says. “When I moved to Minneapolis in 2004, I sold almost half of my records because I didn’t think I’d need them anymore.”
That changed in in 2016, when she “played an all-vinyl old school set at [Even] Furthur at the Headspace dome for old time’s sake. That reignited my interest in playing for fun. Last February, I began to learn the ins and outs of digital DJing and started my podcast. I have started playing out occasionally again, mostly for Communion’s Black Mass, most of what I do now is a podcast, Devil Cake Techno, on FNOOB Techno Radio out of the UK every four weeks, and guest mixes for other podcast shows.”
The ninth episode of Devil Cake Techno debuts at 7 p.m. on January 31; she’s also got a guest mix coming up on the Cubase FM podcast The Invasion Crop Circles, due February 3, and performs at LOV Bites at Squirrel Haus Arts on March 10 with Medicinall and Madre T. Rosa. “It’s (hopefully) the first in a series of Ladies on Vinyl shows organized by Brandi Rasmussen, AKA Medicinall, showcasing female DJs in the Twin Cities,” she says.
The New Year’s Day set was, she says, unplanned: “Someone dropped out of playing in the second room, so I was a last-minute addition. My usual stuff is pretty punishing, not what you want for a ‘chill’ room. Since I have been buying electro here and there for years, that was the natural choice. It’s actually the first all-electro set I’ve ever played. I hope to do more.” Likewise.
Are you a Twin Cities dance-music DJ? Michaelangelo Matos wants to hear your latest set. He writes about recent mixes by local DJs (and DJs making local appearances) every Thursday for City Pages. Tweet to his attention: @matoswk75.
More from Music