John Digweed | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Though he's best known as the second half of Sasha & John Digweed, the world's most famous pair of trance DJs, this red-haired Londoner is hardly a second banana--if anything, he's the more talented of the two. This summer the duo played to the suburban trance set with a mix CD called Communicate (Kinetic), but over the past year Digweed has also issued several mixes under his own name and made a cameo as himself in Greg Harrison's ravesploitation flick, Groove. (Though he typically headlines European superclubs for several thousand dollars a gig, Groove has him spinning at a tiny San Francisco warehouse party for free.) "Heaven Scent," Digweed's hard-driving contribution to the movie's sound track, has introduced a lot of dabblers to his sound; the same cut also appears on a 1999 double CD that's probably the best place to dive into his discography, Bedrock (Ultra)--also the name of his recording-and-remixing duo with keyboardist Nick Muir and his monthly night at the London club Heaven. In a departure from form, the first chunk of Bedrock isn't trance but glassy, synthetic-sounding tech-house. The icy, disembodied helium-soul vocal of the opening cut, Raff 'n' Freddy's "Listen," is transparently manipulative and yet genuinely stirring, and C12 sets the scenester-turned-cokehead story of "Judy" to music as brittle as a cocaine high. I don't care for most trance--a lot of it sounds like Yanni with a machine beat--but by setting his listeners up with over half an hour of robotic tech-house, Digweed makes the trance that fills out the bulk of his mix seem especially warm and caressing. Of course, it helps that he's got good taste: ABA Structure's "Illusion" leans on a loopy, bleeping-then-groaning 303 bass line; Jodi & Spesh's "We Are Connected," with its thrilling Pong-gone-berserk noises, reminds me of early-80s classics like Yaz's "Situation"; and Digweed's remix of Heller & Farley's "The Rising Sun" maintains a steady, head-down-into-the-wind crescendo for almost ten minutes, peaking through tireless, hypnotic repetition instead of shoehorning in the usual rosy-dawn keyboard line--in short, it actually puts you in a trance. Saturday, November 25, 9 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carlos Amoedo.

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