DJ Qu, Gymnastics


Photo by Asger Carlsen

[Strength Music]


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The lines that blur techno and house have always been gray, but I’m not sure they get any grayer than with the music of DJ Qu. In our interview with Qu last year, Jordan Rothlein tried to get to the bottom of this and emerged with the idea that Qu’s music is just supremely dark house. It’s at once a satisfying conclusion and a troubling one: as a DJ he certainly tends toward the house side, but his music is just too amorphous, too idiosyncratic to fit any pre-existing box. After a number of impressive 12″s and numerous top-flight DJ sets, Qu’s debut album, Gymnastics, feels like a kind of manifesto, presenting his fully-formed vision of the darkest reaches of dance music across three slabs of wax or one CD.

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Gymnastics doesn’t immediately hit you. There are no big hooks, no shiny melodies. Its 13 tracks are (except for one short interlude) stripped down dance tunes, but you would be wrong to think of this is an exercise in functionality. Some are pure rhythm tracks, such as the steely focus of “JuicyFruit” or “Mud The Congo”‘s analog (read: actually hitting things with sticks) drumming. In fact, it seems Qu is deriving from a much richer rhythmic heritage than most, as the sheer attention paid to rhythm, as well as the rhythms themselves, are just not common in most house releases.

Qu’s voice is also a defining aspect of Gymnastics even if it’s not immediately apparent, and the album’s best tracks are those that fully harness it’s potential. “Step Back Up” utilizes his voice as another rhythmic element, while elsewhere it adds either a human element to grasp on to, or one that unsettles us even more. “Get Sum” is an easy highlight, with pitch black acid gurgles and Qu’s voice looped over and over, forming a kind of mantra that has been more firmly stuck in my head this past month than the catchiest of pop hooks. Even “Slidin Thru,” whose piano stabs and cyclical motions would make it a stand-out anyway, is not immune to the extra spice that even the slightest inference of Qu’s voice imbues.

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The reason Qu’s voice works such wonders is the same reason why Gymnastics is such an exemplary debut album. Qu’s vocals are stripped down, used with restraint, and unmistakably his own. Similarly, the tracks that make up Gymnastics are stripped down to the essentials, which in Qu’s world are layers and layers of dark, absorbing rhythms. It’s in no way a monochrome album, as tracks like “First Down” and Jus-Ed’s appearance on “Jus-Ed’s Aerial” provide some levity, keeping the atmosphere well balanced. It is, however, a very focused album, one that knows its goal and accomplishes it with determination. It’s amusing that his goal would be a set of ultra-dense rhythms, whereas most would try to use the album format to liberate themselves from the expectations of a dance 12″. But then, DJ Qu has never been one to follow in the footsteps of other producers. He has long been defining his own strain of dance music, and Gymnastics proves that his is a vision well worth paying close attention to.

Postscript:
Gymnastics is released in the form of either one CD or three individual 12″s (part A/B, C/D and E/F). While missing out on any of this project would be a mistake, budget-minded DJs are advised to at least check out part C/D, as it’s stacked with many of the album’s highlights. Gymnastics was released in this fashion with those of us strapped for cash in mind, but while part C/D is essential, tracking down all of these cuts is strongly recommended.

Aybee  on May 24, 2011 at 4:24 PM

Bravo Qu Bravo

DJ QU  on May 24, 2011 at 5:58 PM

Thank U LWE!

Per Bojsen-Moller  on May 25, 2011 at 6:11 AM

Been listening to this on the tube the past couple of weeks. Absolutely stunning, sinks in deep.

Blaktony  on May 25, 2011 at 9:28 AM

Qu’s the man; nice work out.

Alan  on May 25, 2011 at 10:08 AM

dope dope album !

lerato  on May 25, 2011 at 10:10 AM

qu is amazing . been playing this album a lot .

Joey  on April 7, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Amazing peace of work

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