Live: Win Win Rile Up The Norwegians At Santos Party House
Better Than: The Odd Future show (SORRY ROB).
Win Win is a big name to live up to. The project consists of ex-Spank Rock producers and DJs XXXchange and Chris Devlin, along with their video-collage artist/producer and Fully Fitted label-mate, Ghostdad. After years of producing for artists and remixing countless more, their self-titled debut album, out now on Vice, is an attempt to step out of the shadows and, well, throw all-in and make whatever the hell they want. The result is a 15-track grab bag of dance music, grinding rock, and ethereal interludes that features a handful of friends -- Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, Gang Gang Dance's Lizzi Bougatsos, Andrew W.K., and, yes, Spank Rock -- on vocals. A few of those people even showed up last night.
This is a good time to remind ourselves that, with the possible exception of XXXchange, these guys are DJs, not artists. We mean this in the best of ways, honestly. (It's far too often that we see DJs become singers, scenesters become DJs, promoters become rappers, and so on.) While their set tonight showcased their work, there was none of that mic-wrangling corniness and no stage banter, just one large screen featuring Ghostdad's real-time video edits. While the music itself is sometimes lost in the spectacle, a few of the stronger productions shine through, especially when they include performances by the album's guests. A seemingly shy Alexis Taylor took the stage early on, leaving the trio's elaborate stage setup of turntables, mixers, samplers, and video-rigs in the dark to croon his eerily smooth "Interleave," a longing ballad that's allowed to be one. Bougatsos followed soon after with the more upbeat "Release RPM," a breezy tap-along track that sneaks up on you. Where we were expecting to sway in time and bask in Bougatsos' weird childlike presence, we were instead unexpectedly enveloped by a jumpy dance pit of . . . Norwegians.
But back to the hard stuff. "Not Too Late" isn't electro (thank god), but it has the hard, noisy, and self-propelling phrases that we'll undoubtedly see mixed into harder house sets. "Future Again" carries some of the same, though the airy vocals of Angela Sarakan kicked the track back into a slightly gentler groove. All the while, YouTube and Google image searches of the hook ("Standing in line / wasting my time") flashed on the screen. (We'll mention the shirtless Burt Reynolds montage here, too.) Raw bass strums and accompanying fuzz laid the foundation for "Victim," a Blaqstarr-sung rock track that features an appropriately agonizing line about society weighing him down. (Honestly, as far as experimental Blaqstarr goes, this track outweighs any bluesy attempts on his own album.)
The set came to a close after an hour and a half of dance jams and all sorts of oddities. If anything, we wish they'd thrown in a performance of "Pop a Gumball," a glam-rock throwback with Bowie-esque vocals by Spank Rock and backup yelps courtesy of Matt Sweeney and Andrew W.K. (we were at Santos, after all). Or played up "Ghosts Delirium," the weirdest of their new work, with reverb fuzz and unsettling noise rifts that unfold from a breathy downtempo groove into one laced with a hint of drum 'n' bass. And while it does seem like the trio is trying to put their hands into a little bit of everything -- usually a bad sign -- tonight's showing proved that it's working for them.
Critical Bias: XXXchange and Devlin were once part of the Baltimore Bass Connection, one of the first regular dance parties in Baltimore that I stealthily got my way into as an underage college kid.
Overheard: "These guys are huge in Norway!" -- a Norwegian apologizing for shoving into me mid dance-move.
Random Notebook Dump: So many texts from the Odd Future show asking if Win Win had started yet! The overlap in fan bases must mean something.