There are four conclusions to be made about Hollywood: One, all roads lead to Cahuenga, two, dressed up street performers are a mixture of funny and tragic, three, parking is the worse, and four, if it is the weekend, there’s bound to be a great show in the area somewhere.
This past Saturday, the fourth was true, it was the wrap party/show for Richie Hawtin’s CNTRL College Campus Tour at the palatial Hollywood Palladium that took the honors. Every year for the past four years the tour, founded by legendary Canadian Techno producer Richie Hawtin, offers lectures and performances to aspiring student producers. The mantra of the CNTRL is presenting the opportunities available to avoid the tumultuous route of Electronic Music composition and performance, favoring cheaper equipment, DAW’s(Digtial Audio Workstations or recording programs) and methods of production used by established producers today.
The tour hit eight cities across North America via it’s respective universities, along with performances at each cities corresponding venues. Hawtin, along with a number of other speakers, offered didactic information about innovation in technology based music (an almost dysphemistic variant of EDM) to music students of schools such as Berklee College of Music, NYU, SFSU and Penn State.
The tour ended with a presentation at UCLA, which featured a guest speaker appearance from Synthpop master Grimes, along with a performance at the Palladium the same evening. With doors opening at ten, the first half of the night was graced with thumping sets from Ean Golden and Victor Calderone, each bringing incendiary mixes of Deep(like Marianas Trench deep) House and Minimal. The crowd filled up immediately after doors, everyone was ready to dance and when the kick drum came in, such occurred. The secret to this iteration of House music isn’t necessarily the drop, moreover, it’s the thunderous kick of the chorus that gets everyone in the room jumping and gyrating.
The visuals of the show were reflective of the music of the evening; minimal yet wonderful. Giant lights encompassing the stage along with a leviathan of a disco call encased in the middle of the splendor. The array of lights complimented the music perfectly, with each explosion of synths and throbbing kicks at 120+ beats per minute, the visuals accentuated the booming audio without reproach.
The set of the night honors had to go to the man himself, British born pioneer of Detroit Techno, Richard Hawtin. Hawtin has made a name for himself by being among the producers who spearheaded Detroit’s seminal Techno movement in the 90’s, the influence of the period can be seen in Electronic Music today. For over 20 years, he has been producing cerebral Techno and house that has gone from the Warehouse to the Arena. What is really enjoyable about his brand of songwriting, which is a factor easily forgotten by the PLUR-ed masses, is the meticulous crafting behind each track. All of his works are layered and mixed beyond even the peak abilities of his younger peers, going from the Analog at the burgeoning period of his career route via Roland and other sequencing machines to championing the digital in vogue, a la Ableton.
This was reflective in his performance, each song in his set was a motif of synths, opaque textures and an 808 kick on steroids. It was easy to get immersed into his hour and 45 minute set, the mix was an amalgam of Minimal, Techno and Disco all with Big Room House ambition. There wasn’t a single moment where it felt repetitive, in true Tech fashion, a textural component,such as a percussive sample, sat atop the song to give it a fresh feeling as it progressed. Aside from his world renowned mixing(which did not meet error once), his setlist was a collection of some the grooviest Deep cuts I’ve heard in a DJ set in a long while. From what I could glean,the most I’ve heard from his catalog (check out his work as Plastikman) has yet to disappoint me. What made me very happy was to see a packed room of young party people who feel the same; there isn’t anything dirty about his music, nor “turn-up” worthy, it’s some of the best electronic music out there and has been for a long while, the hermetic compositions (with a pulse) of a musician whose skill is unmatched.
When looking at the acronym of EDM, people often forget the M. If it’s Electronic and you can dance to it, is it good? Ostensibly yes, but what is an often oversight is the musical skill behind these songs, just because it is a “banger” doesn’t mean it’s good, at least on a songwriting level, Hawtin, along with his CNTRL program, is purveying the importance of musical skill and education in the scope of digitally composed music. His music and any endeavor he takes on comes from a place of immense skill and endless creativity, whether it’s his ENTER. Club party on the opulent island of Ibiza, which features some of the most forward thinking DJ/Producers in the world, or his legendary DJ sets that have inspired many and have yet to be beat. Hawtin is the pioneer who continues to influence his genre with whatever venture he takes on.
Kieran J. MacIntyre is a voracious music nerd of all genres, bass player and managing editor of M&C Music. You can find him on Twitter