To outsiders, Auckland, New Zealand, can appear to be marooned from the dance-music scene. And there's no denying that in strictly geographical terms, Auckland's distance from nightlife capitals such as Ibiza, Berlin, and New York, leaves the city's electronic scene to its own devices.
That said, Chaos in the CBD is proof that isolation breeds creativity.
Brothers Louis and Ben Helliker-Hales have tinkered with music since childhood, but it wasn’t until 2011 when they officially founded the project dubbed Chaos in the CBD. Under that moniker, the pair built a reputation for delivering a style of dance music that's too heavy for the average house set yet too svelte to be considered techno. In 2012, their willingness to eschew dance-music conventions took them to one of Europe's brightest nightlife capitals, London, where they've put their stamp on the Peckham scene that was just coalescing at the time. Unencumbered by expectations, the brothers weave left-field elements such as tribal music and jazz into all of their work, whether in the studio or behind the decks.
Take, for instance, "Invisible Spectrum”: Clocking in at ten minutes, the cut relies extensively on conga drums and, later, a harsh saxophone riff. It's sufficiently formidable to be tested on the dance floor but is also reminiscent of a rainy, stay-at-home kind of day — the sort of thing that led Mixmag's Louis Anderson-Rich to write of the Helliker-Hales brothers: "Their music’s introspective quality does something to their listeners, allowing them to lose themselves either at home or on the dance floor."
Brother DJ duos aren't exactly unique in dance music — see Alessandro and Federico Fognini of Mind Against and the Martinez Brothers, Steven and Chris — but for Chaos in the CBD, the sibling dynamic seems essential to how they operate.
“We wouldn't be here doing this if there wasn't two of us,” Louis told British DJ and writer Bill Brewster. "There’s just been too many scenarios where I couldn't have done it without him and vice versa. So we lean on each other a lot emotionally. Plus, if something goes wrong, it's only half your fault; if something goes right, you get to share it with someone."
The brothers have been at it for close to a decade, but 2020 might be their best year yet. Besides Miami, their current tour includes stops in Chicago, Paris, Lyon, and Stockholm, to name just a few. They'll hit the festival circuit later in the year, when they'll perform sets at Glastonbury, Primavera Sound, Rainbow Disco Club, and the Noise Pop Festival.
Having twice played the Magic City — the Electric Pickle in 2017 and Floyd in 2018 — Chaos in the CBD will return to Floyd Saturday, March 7. Delivering an anodyne rhythm that could keep partiers locked in a groove for hours, the set will provide a contrast to the pulsating bass that Charlotte de Witte and Ellen Allien will offer on Space's Terrace the same night.
If you take in the set at Floyd Saturday night, rest assured the dancing will be the easy part. The real chaos will come afterward, when you head out to 11th Street in the wee hours of Sunday to hunt for an Uber.
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