Sneak and Mark Farina took to the decks in Vancouver back in May as part of the Nordic Trax label’s 15th Anniversary celebrations. Scene In The Dark have a great review, which we’ve re-blogged here in it’s entirety alongside some videos, photos and a live recording!
In the midst of a notably warm May Long Weekend, Vancouver’s stalwart bastion of the electronic underground, Nordic Trax, celebrated their 15th anniversary in unquestionable fashion at the spacious Commodore Ballroom. The label’s signature deep house sound has been an infectious influence in Vancouver’s rapidly growing EDM market, and helping them celebrate on Sunday were internationally acclaimed producers, Mark Farina and Dj Sneak, alongside Nordic’s own Jay Tripwire, Jon Delerious, and label founder, Luke McKeehan. I should note that one of the huge advantages of running a label in conjunction with promoting events is the quality of content and the mastery of music, both live and on any of Nordic Trax’s 75-plus releases. Furthermore, the dedication and appreciation of their fans is glaringly apparent when compared with the excess of commercial dance music now flooding North America. It was clear upon entering the Commodore that the energy and camaraderie in the crowd were rooted deep beneath the glossy pop of today, in the forgotten warehouses that gave the genre its name.
To really appreciate house music as it once existed, the modern listener must be aware of the incredible technological advantages that today’s djs enjoy; with laptops, controllers, and touchpads at the artist’s disposal, the art of turntablism has evolved greatly. Transport yourself back ten years ago, to when vinyl was still the medium of choice and merely turntables were the instrument at hand. The joy of watching a dj furiously sort through the records, find his cue and string together a symphony of seamless sounds, was a thrill that could be equated to watching any traditionally skilled instrumentalist solo. That moment in time was re-created on Sunday night. Boundless respect for the artists, both local and international, was displayed by a captivated audience as they were pulled through deep oceans of moving musicality.
When Mark Farina took command of the dancefloor with mic in hand, in a brief breakdown that is characteristic of his mixing style he asked, “Can you dig it?!” When the kick and bass filled the room in the moment that followed, the emotion in the crowd mirrored the impressive instrumentation. The genre “mushroom jazz,” a term coined by Farina, is his descriptive of the colourful blend of funky house beats, jazzy, tangential instrumentals and the soulful vocals that lock the dancefloor in rhythmic unison from one song to the next. The repetitive lyricism paired with Nordic Trax’s thoughtful light show, a collage of colourful, patterned projections surrounding the Commodore’s vast stage, did well to mesmerize the the club patrons while keeping them in perpetual and fluid motion.
Dj Sneak followed Farina’s set after the two icons shared the mic briefly to remind us in Vancouver to, “keep that shit underground!” Then proceeding to tear down genre distinctions and boundaries, Sneak fearlessly combined hip-hop samples, like the unmistakeable Wu Tang‘s Tearz, with interminable bouncy house rhythms that fixated the floor and progressed the set through a subtle evolution by the master mixer. Sneak’s fierce defense of traditonal mixing tehniques and the roots of Detroit House is evident in his vehement disregard for the new school, but he proved through his sheer skill and stage presence that he can back up those heartfelt claims. Mixes like Are You Ready To Play The Game? displayed his incredible ability to mash tracks right before our eyes, another technique quickly losing ground to the huge number of studio mash-ups (when two or more tracks have been tastefully combined into a single work) now at a dj’s disposal.
To close the last hour of the extended 4am curfew, Farina and Sneak took to the stage together, trading the decks track for track. After decades of shared experience, the two revolutionaries appeared effortless working the mixer and audience alike. Enjoyment in their interplay was apparent, and they enthusiastically congratulated the venerable leaders of Vancouver’s underground while onstage. Electronic music will continue to change and grow, but as the title of Farina’s Remember Me suggests, we must not forget where we started: Here in the warm, deep love nurtured by the analog pioneers.