Dance, No Chaser
If you're a DJ duo with exotic names based in D.C., be prepared for the inevitable comparisons with Deep Dish. It was just last year when Deep Dish's Sharam (Tayebi) & Ali (Shirazinia) released the seminal mix compilation Global Underground21: Moscow and had clubs and charts worldwide buzzing about our nation's capital. But that was then, and now two entirely different D.C. deck artists are stirring up similar accolades with another compilation that should cash in on the continued success of the tech-house trend.
Enter Saeed & Palash, two veterans of the dance-music scene who have etched their names stateside with a strong grassroots following but are now poised to reap even greater notoriety with Tide:Edit:07, their recent double-disc release for Star 69 Records, and the first in the London-based mix series to feature U.S. DJs.
"Our goal was to capture as much of a range of electronic music as we could," says Palash, the older and more business-minded of the two. "Our live sets are very freeform, from house to techno, tribal and even somewhat alternative. I feel we put together a good example of our prime-time sets -- I'm happy with the end result."
Edit:07 is a cross between the prolonged, dark moods of Saeed's set and the more liquid and lifting style of Palash. Each takes his side and finds common ground with a deep, pulsating vibe that has come to dominate modern progressive house music.
"I chose a lot more underground tracks for my side," Palash continues, via cell phone from his D.C. studio. "So it wasn't too difficult getting approval. I also chose labels and artists that I know and respect."
The network Palash has carefully cultivated in D.C. is now paying dividends. Having been at the decks since 1989, he's been a major player in the relatively small but tight-knit capital club scene. He went to high school with Sharam and even helped the Deep Dish DJs get a few gigs when they were starting out. And his acumen for the business side of the record industry is what has Saeed & Palash on the verge of a major breakthrough.
"It's a small scene in D.C. but it's very supportive," he says. "There's almost no backbiting at all among the DJs. We really do look out for each other."
Palash will continue to look out for friends and trends with Addictive Records, the label he runs with Saeed, a venture he hopes will continue the development of electronic music as well as act as a catalyst for new and unconventional styles of DJ/alternative music.
"A lot of the artists we're signing are between alternative and dance," he explains of the current roster. "I guess the best way to describe the sound would be a cross between Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails. It has the elements of dance music but more song structure than just trance or house. It's a separate thing for us in relation to DJing, but it's becoming so much more a part of us."
Any DJ with a working knowledge of history knows that the club-music fad will eventually peak and fade from 'it' status. Palash has no plans to be left behind when it does.
"The excitement about this music will eventually fizzle -- that's inevitable," he says. "But what we as DJs need to do now is keep the music growing. A lot of that will have to do with creating recognizable songs. When was the last time you remembered an eight-minute instrumental track? Developing song structure is the key to keeping dance music alive."
For future projects Saeed & Palash will apply the intricate science of successful songwriting to their music, but for their latest compilation the course is pounding tech-house, straight no chaser.
Saeed kicks off with the omnipresent progressive producer G-pal, this time featuring Anna Maria X, on the thumping preamble "Ocean of Blue," which effectively sets the tone for his submergence into artificially heavy bass lines and tech-tribal percussion. BlackWatch again finds itself being remixed with its popular track "Word Unspoken," a mood swing to the melancholy that has been a club favorite for months. Saeed finds the peak groove with Lee Coombs's "Tribal Tension," the signature track that snakes in and out of the multistyle approach and echoes the word future throughout. It's a deep experience, perhaps more suited for a live performance, but is technically solid.
Palash continues the dusklike atmosphere on disc two but shifts into a space theme, where his loose percussion frees up room for expansion and breath. The drive is still a subhouse style but both Steve Parry's "Jawa" and Fabb X's "Driving License" benefit from more upbeat tempos and distinct grooves in the bass. Palash even has time to tip his hat toward traditional house on Althea McQueen's "My Heart," where soulful vocals blend in nicely with the cool, throbbing atmosphere. He may have gone more underground with his selections, but Palash tweaks the mix to be more accessible than Saeed's.
The compilation is solid and with the duo's experience couldn't be anything less. But looming on the horizon is judgment day: the artist album. Recent months have seen original releases from Timo Maas and Paul Oakenfold that have led to more intense critical scrutiny of DJs. The task is daunting: Leave your records behind and show us what you got. But Palash is unfazed.
"I look at it on a different level," he says. "We're not looking to sell a million records. It's more an outlet for creativity. It's great that we have a solid structure in place, with a good fan base and name recognition, so a good number of people will have the opportunity to listen and decide if they like it. Of course we'll test all the material in clubs before deciding to put it on the album."
With clubs as a laboratory, DJs have been using dance floors for empirical studies on bass beats and body movements. And as Palash explains, it's the live experience that defines him and his partner best. "We're much bigger on interaction than studio work. The CD is good but to get a definitive feel for who we are and what we're about you really have to see us live. We'll each take turns opening and setting the tone, but from there we'll go across the house-music board. Saeed and I are very different personalities. He's more the rebel style where I'm more grounded, but it's that contrast that makes us successful."
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