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Culture Reviews
Scumfrog
Artplay na Yauze 
By Alex Meredith
I took one overriding impression away from an evening with the Scumfrog; this DJ rates himself. Not just rates himself, loves himself. One pose he gleefully adopted said everything you need to know. The six-foot-three Dutch-born American stood behind his decks, arms outspread, index fingers pointing back at his beaming face. Everything about him screamed: “check me out”. From the opening beats of his long awaited Moscow debut, Scumfrog relied heavily on his overpowering persona as the spotlight repeatedly fell on the man rather than the music.

If you wanted to see a DJ put on a visual show, you would have got what you came for from this effervescent darling of the house music press. If you were there (like me) to hear something a bit different; some fresh, innovative mixes, some lively improvisations, then you would have left Artplay disappointed. For all his strutting around behind them, the sound that was coming from the frog’s decks was not much more exciting than the scum that he presumably likes to wallow in.

Perhaps my expectations were too high. Perhaps I had fallen for the hype. But having such diverse and creative artists in his back catalogue as David Bowie, Missy Elliot and Annie Lennox I think I was entitled to hope for a glimpse of the magic that had persuaded these names to let the frog hop all over their tracks. Instead there was little in the set to inspire. For me the Scumfrog’s music was conservative mainstream house and no amount of ad hoc percussion or garbled vocals could cover that up. It was the sort of set you would expect from a steady resident of an average club. It was not the life enriching musical experience that I had expected from an act so keen to emphasise his own music-making prowess. Fortunately the Scumfrog hopped off the decks at 4, leaving me to finish the night off in a different club where the DJ produced a lot less hot air, a stack of original beats and attracted a hell of a lot more people.

The lack of punters at the Scumfrog’s gig was puzzling. Wearing a skin-tight black vest, bleached blonde mohican, and oversized aviator sunglasses, he should be a Russian clubber’s idol. Moscow is the spiritual home of after-dark UV protection and Scumfrog seems to be a fully paid up member of the shades brigade.

Nevertheless, with Zepplin in the driving seat the amphibian’s PR machine seemed to have misfired. Whether the cause was the extortionate 1000RUR cover or the head-to-head competition of John Digweed at Club XIII, I counted more publicity girls than clubbers at Artplay. The resulting empty spaces made the frog’s arrogant posturing even more comical. Aviators in place, this Top Gun extra repeatedly gestured for quiet as he prepared to roll out another pedestrian beat. Unfortunately, the venue was already as calm as a village pond at midnight. The only sound to be heard was a self-obsessed ribbeting of the frog himself.

Such a low turnout did not ruin the evening completely, but it meant that an uninspiring set by the headliner could not be masked by a riotous atmosphere. There was no chance of anyone getting carried away on the crowd’s enthusiasm. Nor was there any danger of the frog being persuaded to up his musical game by the indifference of the fashionistas before him. Though he persevered with the occasional bash on his electronic drums, by the end, he tapped away with no more zeal than a perehod busker.

For a man who possesses such unbridled arrogance (he refers to himself as one of his favourite DJs on his website) it is unlikely that this lukewarm reception will do anything to dent his confidence. However, if the Scumfrog wants to repeat his successes of 03/04, he should seriously consider cleaning out his record box and refilling it with some more powerful tunes. This unmemorable set shows that the New York based artist may be past his musical peak; making him less of a Scumfrog, more of a Toad-in-a-hole.

14.02.06
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