Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dethlab [the DJ/art project of myslef and Ms. Toybreaker] is featured in this week's edition of the excellent local arts and entertainment web-zine LISTD! Below is the transcript:

Dethlab and the New Black

We've watched the fickle winds of fashion and favor have their way with genres from house and techno, to electroclash and dance-rock over the past few years. In bleak times like the present, people seem to identify with and take some sort of comfort in a darker, more complex aesthetic. Not necessarily one of despair, but one that balances romantic idealism and the brutality of the real world. Tough and pretty. Most definitely Baroque. The patterns of the social-political climate's influence on the arts are historically consistent, and we are clearly in one of the darkest periods of modern history. We see this in fashion; from established names like Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, to upstarts such as Yoko Deveraux and Morphine Generation. We see it in graphic design; the slick, minimal compositions and "techno fonts" have been traded in for ornamentation and historical references, glitched out and covered in a shellac of time and underscored with a sense that the future we were promised isn't all it was cracked up to be. We definitely see this in music; from the industrial influenced work of Black Strobe and T. Raumschmiere, the brooding funk of Two Lone Swordsmen, the sometimes sinister sometimes dreamy compositions of Ellen Allien, to the urgent, anxiety-laden music of Adult. Even party favorites Daft Punk seem to have traded in their shining space helmets for something more suited to Darth Vader with their latest release, and the summery pop melodies of Pas/Cal are subversively cheeky carriers of often sinister notions. It is perhaps surprising that more DJs haven't connected the dots and recognized an aesthetic pattern much bigger than any specific genre. Enter Dethlab.

It's no coincidence that the pair leading the charge in this next wave of dark dance music are scene veterans who grew up on post-punk, early goth and Wax Trax! era industrial records. Dethlab's blood certainly runs black, and are right at home here. Formative listening preferences aside, these are two cultural commentators who know their stuff well beyond what is expected of most DJs. Dethlab's Bethany Shorb and Michael Doyle list a combined ten years of art school education as their primary influence, with degrees from Boston University, Cranbrook Academy of Art and the Center for Creative Studies. Both are internationally recognized artists and designers and extremely active figures in the creative community. Individually they have lectured around the country, curated art exhibits, have been widely published, exhibited work internationally, and write for several leading design and culture websites. They don't really view themselves as DJs, but rather as curators. With the Dethlab project, Shorb and Doyle seek (and find) cultural relevance for the music, while not losing sight of creating a fun atmosphere. "We do take an artistic approach to how we throw events and play music, but without compromising why people are there - which is to have a good time." Doyle says, "We want people to walk away with a really unique experience. If we're showing a Matthew Barney movie on the wall of the club, or spraying each other with fake blood, its all in an effort to elevate the experience... and certainly much of what we do is a bit of self-parody. You can have serious intentions and still be able to laugh at yourself. I think most people get that. It's equal parts obsessive quality control and complete hedonism - with a dash of slapstick."

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