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Culture Reviews
2ManyDJs
By Alex Meredith
They have been hailed as the fathers of a completely new sub-genre of music. “Mash-up” is dance, which, first in a radio studio, then on an album and now on tour, 2ManyDJs invented and pretenders have been copying it ever since. The idea is to take seemingly abstract and incompatible tracks and mash them together to produce tunes you think you recognise, you know you like and you have to dance to. Hailed by the critics, it is a sound that has made 2ManyDJs global stars and having heard their album (As Heard on Radio Soulwax, Pt. 2) my expectations were high. Of course, the depressing thing about high expectations is that they are often shortly followed by an anticlimax.

Firstly a confession. An appearance at the previous night’s Christmas party from support act “2ManyVodkas” was still having an unsettling effect on my powers of concentration. Also I got to Club XIII unusually early. This combination meant that by the time the headliners emerged my enthusiasm for the gig was tinged with a little more fatigue than usual. Even the sight of a German techno-geek unsuccessfully pleading with a doorman to get in did not fully perk me up. I needed a firm slap around the ears to get me back in the groove and who better to provide it than the pioneering Belgian duo.

Sadly, it was not to be. Despite borrowing occasionally from the album, the live set failed to effectively recreate the ground-breaking creativity and flair of the recorded product let alone go beyond it as I had hoped. Too often the pair’s music drifted back into monotonous, repetitive beats that aggravated my hangover, instead of weaving in the innovative sampled melodies that could have been the cure. Those beats may have been striped out of unusual samples, but unless they were going to hold up a credit, I was none the wiser. Moreover, these long drones meant there was a real lack of momentum about the set and the music rarely erupted into the welcome surprises that makes the album so fresh. A brief breakdown of the equipment half way through also added to the stop-start feel of proceedings.

At moments it looked like it was going to be so different. The familiar sounds in unexpected combinations - Primal Scream, Salt ‘n’ Pepa, even Abba – were there, just not regularly enough. Using apparently unsuitable material in a house track is what 2ManyDJs are all about and when they chose to do just that, the mixing was accomplished. The tragedy was that as soon as they caught my ear, almost persuading me to ditch the water and join the party, something as tired as a Billie Jean bass line would send me slumping back in my chair. Overall this “mash-up” was as bland as the pale blue check shirts that the balding Belgians appeared in. It was a look that made the brothers seem better prepared for a tax seminar than a house gig. Their accompanying muted stage presence was also unimpressive and was easily put to shame by the bouncing effervescence of the support DJ.

Disappointed as I was with the gig, I returned home for another spin of the album to see if my ears had deceived me. Mercifully it still sounds as innovative as the first time I heard it. The lesson here appears to be that 2ManyDJs should be confined to that category of acts best enjoyed in comfort of your own home. As I learned this weekend, their live performances, like office Christmas parties, should be consumed with caution.

12.12.05
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