Andy Vaz: Live in Detroit
Persistencebit Records

Despite numerous 12-inch appearances and his own extensive soundvariation series, Live in Detroit represents a number of 'firsts' for Vaz. While it does follow the conventional trajectory of a live set by gradually moving uninterruptedly towards a climax, it approximates an 'artist album' by featuring a healthy amount of unreleased new material plus new versions of previously issued content. Like Vaz's premiere Persistencebit release, the 12-inch First Aid Course, it eschews soundvariation's modus operandi (re-working a limited pool of audio samples) for a more open-ended and wide-ranging approach, creating an appealing contrast between perpetual flow and diversity. True to its live nature, Live in Detroit grooves deeply with Vaz referencing a catalogue of personal influences throughout, including Detroit techno, Chicago house, deep house, minimal techno, glitch, and soul. Don't be thrown by the title, either; while the album was recorded live at Club Oslo in Detroit, you'll hear no crowd noise, and sound quality is crystal clear rather than muddy; Vaz also reduced his 90-minute performance to a sleek 68-minute streaming mix of thirteen numbered tracks for the outing.

The recording introduces a dimension previously downplayed in Vaz's work, the prominent role accorded voice samples in parts one and four and, to a lesser degree, in two and eight. That change is apparent immediately when part one introduces a pitch-shifted, repeating “we” floating through granular haze as a prelude to a male voice's wearied intonation “We outside aren't supposed to feel connected with people inside.” A burbling field of whirrs and smears then develops with a steady, mid-tempo clicking pulse emerging as an anchor that'll remain in place throughout. In part four, the set's epic, twelve-minute centerpiece (“People Inside/- Outside”), two phrases (the first, “To those on death row,” and the already-heard “We outside aren't supposed to feel connected with people inside”) loop over an hypnotic, clanking base; pounding, clattering techno emerges halfway through, with the phrases still repeating, the groove deepening into an ever-denser burn. Naturally, the words themselves suggest a thematic dimension, turning Live in Detroit into a seeming 'Death Row' mix with a heavy 'incarceration' theme. (Vaz discovered the voice material in a biography of Mumia Amu Jamal, specifically on a CD included with the book that features interviews with Jamal recorded when he was on Death Row.) The idea also resonates beyond the 'prison' association as a general 'outsider' theme that relates to any marginalized or disenfranchised group (race, gender, et cetera).

A sense of hallucinatory drift often pervades the music as voices and instruments float within the mix, moving from front to back. Opening with glitchy pulses during its voice-laden overture, the set gradually courses through mechano-funk, minimal techno burble, and funky minimal-house. Part six has a rather dubbed-out, aquatic feel augmented by a repeating smear in the background, with the heavily textured groove now a clacking, minimal house pulse. By part nine, the mix has escalated into a broiling dense mass, and reaches a peak in part eleven with rapid-fire bubbly bass lines powering the groove. The last two tracks chill the pace, part twelve a minimal interlude of soft synth flares and thirteen a percolating coda that gradually expires. Meticulously assembled—nay, sculpted—and arranged, Live in Detroit functions as both a summative stylistic overview of Vaz's catalogue and a significant departure from it.

November 2005