Hawtin started in ambient mode, with only a slow sonic pulse rising in the mix, as smoke and lights swirled about his silhouette. Then, in came clattering hi-hats before his trademark layering of sound exploded with a booming kick. The screen erupted with images of him manipulating the machines.
Hawtin delivered 90 minutes of full-blooded techno, displaying an impressive skill for controlling and melding multiple sonic components simultaneously. But at times, especially in the first half, the show felt too tight, too uniform. The way he assembles large quantities of source material into a Phil Spector-like wall of sound can be, as my friend put it, "like listening through wet cardboard." I was particularly struck by one Afro-electro bassline whose energy was smothered by being pushed down in the mix to accommodate other elements.
In the second half, Hawtin allowed the original records more space to breathe. When he dropped Dettmann & Klock's "Phantom Studies" with only subtle enhancements, I felt more of a connection than in moments when he imposed himself more obviously on the material. The latter stretches of the set had an emotional playfulness and freedom about them, confirming why he remains a genuine artistic force and not only an adept technician.
With CLOSE, Hawtin says he is trying to create unique, unrepeatable moments in communion with his audience, which means there will be an unresolved tension between his personality and the work of the producers he draws on. The price to pay for such singular moments may be passages where the interplay doesn't come off. Regardless, the fact that I'm even pondering these questions in relation to a dance music event speaks to the depth and artistry of CLOSE. Don't pass up your chance to catch it.
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