Old-school house heads know King Britt for early-Nineties smash dance hits like "Tribal Confusion," coauthored with Josh Wink in 1993, as well as his latter-day DJ sets of deep, jazzy beats. As for everyone else well past their teen years, that is they probably remember "Cool Like That," by the Digable Planets. "King," as his handlers call him, was the DJ behind that group, among the first to bring jazzy, coffeehouse hip-hop to the masses. Neither contingent will hear much, if any, of what they expect at King's appearance this Friday at Laundry Bar. Touring in support of a new production album, The Nova Dream Sequence, he has ditched plain ol' spinning. Instead there's a many-textured live show featuring instruments, a VJ, and even a Nintendo DS for extra bleeps and bloops. Musically, too, he has veered in a different direction, returning to the minimal, warehouse-floor-thump of Detroit techno and filtering it through today's gadgetry. It's not that surprising, though, for a producer and DJ whose tastes run back to the earliest electronic music and differ from what some fans might expect. In fact, initially, he didn't even want to be in the Digable Planets.
"They came to me at first, but I said nah," King says. "I was too into working on my dance tracks. But then they were going on tour and Butterfly [the group's male MC] came back to me and asked again, so I said okay. I guess the rest, to use the phrase, is history." But the pull of the four-four proved too strong. Near the end of the Planets days, King met Wink, and the two went on to found Ovum Recordings, one of the most influential electronic music labels to date. Then came the DJ gigs and the remixes for people like Tori Amos and Macy Gray; the rest, to use the phrase, is dance-floor history. But then there were the dreams (the sleeping kind).
"When I first started working on this record," King says of his latest album, "I was having a particular series of dreams. So, like people keep a diary when they first wake up, I did kind of the same thing. I went right to the studio and started recording little sequences. And it took this form, which is cool because I wanted to make a kind of old-school, really, really Detroit album."
So far The Nova Dream Sequence has won kudos from techno pioneers like Juan Atkins and Derrick May, so King must have done something right. And he isn't worried about alienating his typical fan base.
"You know, when I come down here, I love playing Aquabooty, because it's real deep, real soulful," King says. "But I think a lot of those people are really cool and will come out to hear something different. Anyways, I actually dig playing smaller rooms. You hear the sound better; it's more intimate." Arielle Castillo
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