With DJ Jus-Ed on permanent impresario/wood-cutting duties and Levon Vincent releasing a near-constant stream of contemporary classics, New York house’s flagship positions look pretty well locked-down as 2010 gets cracking. It’s a bit more of a tossup for the underdog slot. Fred P., whose Black Jazz Consortium long-player and singles for his own Soul People Music imprint were among 2009’s most coveted dance records, makes for something of an easy bet, though I can’t deny his talent at cranking out tense, minimalist house trips. And Anthony Parasole, who’s already proven himself a formidable selector, will almost certainly raise his asking price when his first solo production credit drops later this year. But I’m throwing my lot behind DJ Qu, the New Jersey man and former dancer born Ramon Lisandro Quezada. His latest, “Party People Clap” for Vincent’s and Parasole’s Deconstruct Music, has a whole lot to do with it.
What’s set Qu’s productions apart from his peers is his abstract approach to building a groove: dark, dense layers of booming percussion — derived both from the analog machines of so much techno and the organic microsamples of so much house — form an almost impenetrable membrane around what could be a world of melody; seemingly whichever flits of color slip through, no matter how disparate and atypically matched, are allowed to float across the soundstage like creepy one-celled organisms on a microscope slide. Forget “deep” — DJ Qu records often go beyond. “Party People Clap” retains that penchant for strangeness and heaviness but achieves it through a minimalist bent notably absent on his preceding releases. With just a few listless handclaps, throbbing dub chords, and ironically muttered invocations to commence party-time, Qu lays down his most infectious and direct transmission to date, recalling (and damn near besting) everyone from Prosumer & Murat Tepeli to Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts to Vincent himself. Were it not released mere moments after most dance writers had already submitted their 2009 ballots, it would have done battle with the best of them.
With a stripped-down anthem on their hands, Deconstruct pulled out all the stops for the remix treatment, inviting everyone in the scene to cover the doublepack’s remaining three sides. Fellow underdogs Parasole and Fred P. absolutely nail their tagteam take, morphing Qu’s stoned shuffle into an ultra-taut 3/2 workout. They’ve also combined the original’s myriad rhythmic fizzles into one of the more epic trapdoor moments in recent memory. While Parasole is an unknown quantity as a producer, his influence might be evident in how little this remix resembles the Fred P. we know: screechy, punchy, and techno as hell, it’s a raucously far cry from his stately BJC sides, and I’m glad to hear it. Jus-Ed, in typical fashion, nudges down the BPM’s and cranks the positive vibes to eleven, leaving very little to complain or rave about. If you like the guy or don’t, his remix probably won’t change your opinion, but it makes for a nice detour from such hard-hitting club sonics.
The set’s only real disappointment comes courtesy of someone not known for delivering them. Pushing too many ugly and unintelligible midrange elements into the same point on the soundstage, Levon Vincent’s remix refashions sexy murk into vibe-ruining mud. Only in the track’s final moments, when stuttering drums tickle sassy Nu Groove pads for about twenty seconds, does Vincent show us what a light touch he could have given to Qu’s elements. If “Double Jointed Sex Freak,” released concurrently with “Party People Clap” on Novel Sound, didn’t comprise a pretty brave step forward, I’d be worried about what he’s doing with the artistic mandate he so impressively and rightfully earned for himself in 2009. His misstep shouldn’t go unnoticed, but it shouldn’t prejudice anyone excited, or looking to get excited, about a new year of New York house: the biting Parasole/Fred P. collab, Jus-Ed’s house-ification, and especially DJ Qu’s magical original make this hand-stamped (in fuchsia!) doublepack well worth owning. Vincent spent all last year having his coming-out party; might he just be letting everyone else have theirs?