By Jacob Katel
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By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
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These guys are obviously 24-hour party people. (Okay, so is most of South Beach.) Their bungalow, nestled in a courtyard just off Nineteenth Street that's filled with fellow bohemian types, is a straight-up bachelor pad: Vinyl, various papers, and other detritus are strewn everywhere, even though a perfectly good bookshelf sits nearby. They've just come in after an afternoon spent boat fishing, but there's little time to relax. Omar is covering for the crew's nightly gig at Touch this evening, while Edwin and Stephen serve as guest DJs at South Beach nightspot Luna's new Sunday-night party, Wink.
The trio's lifestyle isn't that much different from other professional disc jocks. But the records they spin are. Frankly DHM doesn't care for the mind-numbing, bone-rattling hard house streaming out of behemoths like downtown Miami's Space 34; the mushy, oversexed, ultraglossy house being spun in South Beach lounges like Mynt and Skybar; or the weepy, heart-wrenching, glassy-eyed progressive house and trance flowing through Maze and crobar. It aspires to a sound refined by Eighties stars like Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles, an aural dream of sex and spirituality, soul and funk; the heritage of Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, and Donny Hathaway. On any given night, its playlist encompasses everything from Cabo queen Cesaria Evora (albeit remixed by Carl Craig) and German aesthetes Jazzanova to Philly vocalist Shaun Escoffery and British anarchist Matthew Herbert. "It can go from deep house like Larry Heard, to Brazilian, Afrobeat, to Middle Eastern, Asian-sounding things," says Omar. "It's very ethnic."
Each member brings a different element to the group. Omar, a New Yorker of Dominican descent, was a student of Body and Soul, the famous Sunday-afternoon party in Manhattan organized by Francois Kevorkian, Ron Trent, Joe Claussell, and other DJs. Edwin was involved in Orlando's drum and bass and downtempo scene before relocating here in the late Nineties. Irishman Stephen, who came to Miami in 1999, espouses a European club sound that nods to the legacy of electronic pioneer Giorgio Moroder as well as Chicago house. When all three play at a nightclub, each will take turns mixing a few records before the other replaces him, resulting in a set that incorporates three perspectives on the nature of dance music. "We're unique because there's three of us," says Edwin. "After every record someone is coming along with a different idea, a different feeling, that's not necessarily how the person that's playing [at the moment] is thinking where it should go."
Body and Soul had a major impact on New York nightlife in the Nineties. But here in Miami, DHM's take on house music has been marginalized to small clubs and private parties. The crew, however, says it doesn't mind. During the Ultra Music Festival last spring, the three were relegated to a small tent that most of the ravers passed by as they headed toward the main stage and trance bigwigs like Paul van Dyk and Paul Oakenfold. The reaction, unfortunately, is typical of how much of Miami's main floor-obsessed dance scene regards them. Still the three point out that their brand of intimate, sophisticated music often sounds out of place in a large, cavernous superclub. "The bigger the room that we play, the harder it is to be ourselves," says Edwin.
Unfortunately the trio's economic reality hasn't yet benefited from their ambition. "Over the summer the gigs slacked off, so I had to do a little extra work," says Omar, who wrote sales presentations for various advertising agencies to supplement his income. But they all say that being full-time musicians is worth suffering through the occasional hard times. "I feel very free, you know. Freedom is key," says Edwin.
So what are all these dues being paid for? DHM is currently working on a series of parties called Jam that will feature guest musicians like local percussionist Sammy Figueroa. But they eventually want to put together their own band -- something similar to Carl Craig's Innerzone Orchestra or Louie Vega's Elements of Life -- and produce records. Stay tuned.