Online stores such as Beatport make shopping for electronic music easy, economical and eco-friendly by saving on pressing, packaging and transport. But for Toronto DJ Sydney Blu, a quick music sample and click of the mouse still doesn't beat the socializing shopping sprees at a good old record store.
One of Canada's most promising emerging talents, Sydney Blu has been jetting around North America for the past three years, banging out her electro-tinged, dirty tribal house sets. When there's time, she drops by Toronto's legendary Play De Record for rare gems not available digitally. But even then it's a quick scan through the city's largest selection of domestic and import underground music, usually set aside by house-music buyer Tim Patrick. On the road, if she's not buying new music from sites like djdownload.com and expressbeats.com, Blu is running between flights to stores like Gramaphone Records in Chicago for funky electro finds. Back at home, after careful selection, Blu burns everything to CD, sans editing.
“If there are parts of a track that I don't like, chances are I'm not going to buy it. There's so much out there that I'd rather search for something different and respect the integrity of the tracks I do buy,” explains Blu, who often goes for oddball white-label remixes such as a bootleg of Latour's “People Are Still Having Sex” to throw on her Pioneer CDJ-1000s.
Blu has kept busy as a resident at Toronto's The Guvernment and Comfort Zone clubs, as well as Detroit's Bleu Room. She can also be seen spinning at Club Crystal in Miami and Nectar in Cancun, Mexico.
Recently, Blu piqued the interests of DJ Exacta (Pacha NYC resident), Hernan Cattaneo and Carl Cox with a series of remixes of up-and-coming Toronto talent (including Chris Vench, St. Pete and Nathan Barato) that she and studio partner Fabio Palermo have turned out over the past year. “We've connected with some great producers,” Blu says. “It's such a great way to express myself as an artist and to get known abroad.”
Like her DJ sets, her collaborations with Palermo are becoming known for their signature dirty leads (courtesy of VST synths like LinPlug Albino 3) and messing with melodic pad swells and deep sub bass (thanks to Spectrasonics' Atmosphere and Trilogy). Their remix of St. Pete's “Land of Electro,” featuring fellow Toronto DJ Flipside (former MC for drum 'n' bass DJ Freaky Flow and now a burgeoning singer/songwriter under the alias Mic Perri) slammed the crowd at Double Frequency's Winter Music Conference party this year and landed them a remix of Big Fish's “Love Machine” for his label Compulsive Music.
No stranger to self-promotion, Blu first networked and secured gigs south of the Canadian border at Plant Bar and Café Novecento in New York, at Luna Lounge and Liquid in San Francisco, and on a boat cruise on Lake Mead in Nevada. Always connecting with the electronic-music community through her weekly newsletters, Blu first moved to Toronto from Canada's capital city Ottawa in 2000 and stormed the scene with her relentless get-down-and-DJ attitude, so much so that local press credited her with being the fastest rising DJ in the city in 2002.
While she's on the road a lot these days, Blu's flagship event Bitchslap! is evidence of her hard work. The gay-friendly night has been a mainstay in Toronto's underground scene for the past few years, bringing in headliners like Miss Honey Dijon, Robert De La Gaultier and Montreal's Danny Torrence. With her first foray into Europe and Asia planned for the fall and the release of her debut album Twisted & Dirty on Canada's seminal house label Hi-Bias Records, as well as more productions with Palermo, squeezing in some record shopping to stock up on tracks at her favorite “Play D” couldn't have come at a better time.
“Reckless Girl 2007” (white label)
This classic house tune from 2002 on Cheeky Records has been reinvented with today's electro-house elements. A new dirty bass line and samples of the original vocal update the much-loved track. The vocal sample is not overused, which I like. I have been waiting for a remix of this one and know I'll enjoy playing it out.
“This Is the Hook” (Play)
Here's another record with a killer electro bass line and a thumping kick, and like the title says, it has all the right hooks. Catchy computer voice samples saying, “This is the hook/ It's catchy, you'll like it,” bridge different parts of this very dirty, very funky track that's perfect for late-night surprises.
“I Get My Kicks” (Frontier)
UK production duo Coburn is really pumping out some great breaks-, rock- and electro-flavored house. A sexy male vocal paired with a trippy, synthy bass line makes for great electro house. In case you haven't noticed, I like electro house! The track breaks down into a driving guitar riff before jumping back into the killer bass line. On the B-side, the Robbie Rivera remix is unlike his usual work with rock written all over it — nice work on both tracks.
JAIMIE FANATIC & MARIO OCHOA
Lost & Found EP (Relic Silver)
This double-header on Relic's funky sub-label is my favorite pick of the bunch. Mario Ochoa's “Lost Language” is exactly what I'm playing right now — a dirty electro bass line with a jacking tempo. The breakdown is nice and melodic with electro grooves and banging bass. This is definitely a crowd pleaser!
On the B-side, here's a funky gem to surprise the crowd with. Danny Freakazoid delivers a solid tribal-electro instrumental track for UK electro-house label CR2. The middle of the track breaks down to an interesting melodic piano while a bongo in the background continually builds before it all drops hard to combine the melody with the dirty bass line. Nice one!
MOBY FEAT. DEBBIE HARRY
“New York, New York” (Armand Van Helden remix) (Mute)
I love Moby, so this was a no-brainer, plus the fact that Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry was doing vocals on this timeless classic sold me instantly. It's a great banging tune with a tinge of rock. This is one of my first Armand Van Helden records, believe it or not!
REFLEKT FEAT. DELLINE BASS
“Shine (Feels Like Home)” (John Gurd remix) (Mono Type)
Found on the B-side, this hidden gem starts out with a nice tribal electro bass line, giving way to a filtered vocal in the background. The breakdown is strong with great sound effects and a nice banging drop. This is dubbier and will fit nicely at the beginning or end of the night.
“Jump” (white label)
This white-label mashup of House of Pain's legendary “Jump Around” is definitely a dancefloor filler. A funky bass-line intro playfully foreshadows the original single with glitchy samples of bagpipes and the famous “Pack it up/ Pack it in” vocal before breaking down to the original single. Big energy here for getting hands up in the air!