Strobe Lights Laser Disco: A Minimalist Mainstay
I believe the first official article I wrote for Crossfadr was of DJ Pierre’s “Acid/Jack Da Groove,” And since then haven’ had the chance to revisit his work. Which was why I was excited at having been assigned his latest EP, “Strobe Lights Laser Disco.” I feel it gave me the chance to reconsider previously held opinions on the artist in light of the other music I’ve reviewed. After listening to this EP, I’ve come to realize the mainstaying power that the Chicago born DJ holds in the EDM world. The album reflects a style hardened and perfected over a twenty year career. The music expresses a mature, genuine-quality often lost in newer electronic music.
The opener, “Strope lights, Laser Disco (feat. Venus Flytraxx),” starts out with quarter-note bass drum thuds that are slowly met by a wall of static and a low, hypnotic drone. In Pierre fashion, the song is patient in its development, depending on suspense to move the song forward. At one minute, Flyraxx enters the scene, acting not as vocalist but emcee; “Acid techno, dubsteb elcetro, drums bass, strobe laser disco.” Her voice leads the song into its first breakdown, heavy with bass, grating glissandos, and ferocious snare rolls. The music quiets and Flytraxx begins guiding listeners through the music again, telling everyone “once the lights go crazy in this club I need to see everyone, and I mean everyone jumping.” The song peaks, the drums play accented and staccato, the hissing static and bass drone grow loud and overwhelming.
Pierre, as always, is great at establishing an atmosphere through using only a few elements repeated and reordered throughout. Flytraxx’s role in the music was interesting if not a bit cheesy. Pierre’s decision to utilize her as an emcee could be seen as a bold move or a cop out, and I’m not entirely sure where I stand.
Track two, “Strobelights Laser Disco (feat. Venus Flytraxx),” starts out similarly to track number one, but this time, instead of the predicted 4/4 bass beat, the groove is funkier, more complex, broken by harsh, mechanical beeps and underlined by a squelch bass tone. At one minute, enter an eerie vocal chorus, expanding the music into all corners of the stereo field. The first breakdown growls a dubstep bass line while voice samples cut into the mix at unexpected moments, causing the energy to feel chaotic and unstable. From this point, the song follows a similar structural pattern as track one, growing more intense in its second bass drop, incorporating industrial sounding loops, all very jarring but enjoyably disorienting. The outro removes all musical elements except drums and a subdued bass line, then cuts off abruptly.
This remix is a real testament to the malleability of EDM, how one artist can influence and inspire another. The plethora of sounds, however brief and unexpected, demonstrate a keen ability to make this music both engaging, high energy, and disorienting. I felt like the atmosphere is more developed in this track, but I am hesitant to say it’s better than track one, as I feel they’re going for two different things.
The EP’s final track, “Let Me See You Dance” has an intense opening squelch line that’s underlined by a bass drum. The music is repetitive, but in that druggy, hypnotic way. And when the song reaches its peak, there’s a sudden silence in which listeners are left hanging in the abyss, and when the music returns it’s again quiet but infused with suspense. Pierre works within this framework throughout the entire track, each buildup adding greater tension than the last through the introduction of synth snare rolls, synth shaker, and synth tambourine. He finally delivers that sweet release at 4:30, where a wall of static, sounding like pressurized container releasing steam, hisses angrily in the background. At the end of the track however, part of me still felt dissatisfied.
Pierre really messes with expectations in this track. I can’t begin to guess why he chose to structure the song in the manner he did. By all considerations, it seems impractical, but on the other hand, I was really impressed. The suspense is latent throughout and only very briefly exploited. The sounds change and transform, and there’s a good use of silence. But did he write a successful piece of music? I really can’t say.
“Strobe Lights Laser Disco” is both a straightforward and markedly weird piece of work. DJ Pierre is a master minimalist, gaining the most mileage possible out a sparse repertoire of sounds. Furthermore, he makes some odd but intriguing decisions as to how we’re to listen to his music. He explores everything from a built-in emcee to a track built on suspense without delivery. I like walking away feeling confused as it feels like the jokes on me. Pierre is clearly enacting some well-considered ideas without revealing to us his intentions.