Friday, 5 December 2008

Daniel Wang - Disco Marmite

Let’s get straight to the point - I think Daniel Wang is one of THE best DJs in the world. But the Berlin based American is not everyone’s cup tea. In fact, whereas I love his DJing, some other people can’t stand it. And I don’t mean dubstep ruffnecks and indie kids don’t get him, I mean there’s plenty of dyed in the wool house heads and beardy nu-disco fans who aren’t feeling the Wang.

On the face of it, this may seem strange, given that house is essentially a continuation of disco and nu-disco is, err, disco. But I can actually understand why some people don’t like Daniel Wang.

These days disco has been kinda sanitised for the house generation. Not only are simple to programme tracks like Gino Soccio ‘Dancer’ are ubiquitous but edits are abound and remove the ‘cheesy bits’ like camp vocals (Cellophane ‘Super Queen’), guitar solos (Chilly ‘For Your Love’) and operatic breakdowns (Sylvester 'Band of Gold'), leaving the elements that have become the basis of so many sample laden house tracks and as such, the elements to which today’s clubbers’ ears are attuned. And all of this is played by DJs in a house context. If a DJ plays Chicago ‘Street Player’ people will love it because they all know the Bucketheads tracks that liberally sampled it. If a DJ plays Boystown Gang 'Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You' then 99% of dance floors shit themselves.

Wang takes it back to its roots, playing what was essentially gay dance music for gay men to dance to. The song and the melody are the primary focus rather than the incessant 4/4 beat, beat mixing takes a back seat, often used but not ruling his sets, and all those bits that are often filtered out for modern ears are left in, maybe even emphasised, along with that sense of drama that once lit up the floors of The Saint, the Garage, Better Days, etc.

In fact, he has a natural penchant for drama. I heard him play at massive Faith/Secret Sundaze party at the tail end of 2007, with people like Chateau Flight and Timmy Regisford spinning in the other rooms, on huge sounds systems, with giant lighting rigs, to literally thousands of people. Daniel was downstairs in a relatively small room on the way to the cloakroom, with maybe a hundred dancers. At one point he plunged the room into virtual darkness, the only light being a small table lamp wrapped in red plastic, which he started to switch on and off strobe style, before dropping Amanda Lear ‘New York’, a haunting, dark disco ballad at clocks in at about 3bpm. It sounds a bit shit but it wasn’t. It was the most amazingly house moment of the night, blowing away all the big rig, big room stuff going on upstairs - and he had the room in the palm of his hand for the rest of the night. That set was actually the DJ highlight of the year for me. A proper disco DJ playing proper disco the way it was made to be played.

More power to the Wang!

With thanks to Nick Ensing for the pictures

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