If you’ve seen the 2003 film Party Monster, a lurid biography starring Macaulay Culkin as smack-brained NYC entrepreneur Michael Alig, you might have an opinion on Alig and his entourage of ‘club kids’. That opinion might be that they were collectively the worst people ever to exist on Earth. Abe Duque was not a club kid – the clue is in his appearing not to be an utterly loathsome twat – but in the early to mid Nineties, he was one of the core DJs and promoters at their main hangout, Manhattan club the Limelight, and thus was often responsible for soundtracking their nights of spoiled caning.
Live & On Acid is a double-disc set, with both discs carrying a certain nostalgia for his Limelight days; Live consists of 12 tracks either composed or remixed by Duque, recreating the lysergic chug of his original live sets, while On Acid is a mix skewed heavily towards the olde tyme acid house which got the nightspot jumping. Sometimes knobheads enjoy great music too, you see. Live’s first track, Daniel Meteo’s ‘In The Mood’, is only a year old but is injected with slow-mushrooming menace by Duque’s vulgar, almost industrial bass. This is a recurring, if not ever-present theme of the disc: the dude likes to test the subs more than Graham Taylor did as England manager (thanks, I just made it up). His own elephantine ‘Big Bomb’ lurches into Savas Pascalidis’ ‘Deep Inside Your Eyes’, doing big tings with little more than a blunt bassline and a phonecall-from-a-sex-pest vocal.
German producer Pascalidis, like others on disc one – Edinburgh newish-face Jacksonville, Glaswegian techno classicist Jon Virtue, New York-based tough house duo Neurotic Drum Band – seems to have a certain commonality of ethos with Duque. Specifically, that there’s still much gold to be mined in techno’s fields, and much joy to be gained from arranging loops and breaks and grooves just so. They’re right, too. Not that there aren’t a couple of names you might not expect here: Vinny Troia’s productions are normally solidly encased in vocal trance cheese, but ‘Expression’, from 2004, finds him doing one of those 'what is house music? Wait, let me tell you with the help of a very serious-sounding vocal' turns. Remixed by Duque, it bumps infectiously.
Sort of oddly, a couple of cuts in the mix’s second half sound a bit like early trance (the type that came out on Harthouse and Eye Q), although this is interrupted by ‘Take Care’, by French minimal lady Chloé, the other kinda-surprising name herein. Best thing on the whole disc, though, is ‘Lisa Cadena Volume 2’, which is 15 years old and a teamup with an Austrian, Helmut Wolfgruber (if you care to search for Bingoboys’ sub-Deee-Lite one-off hit ‘How To Dance’ on YouTube – he’s on that). It’s Nineties as hell, and could easily be by Frankie Bones or someone like that, but is a totally swinging symphony for kickdrum’n’hi-hat.
Assuming you give a shit about acid house and techno at all – if you don’t, cheers for reading this far but DiS have the clickthrough now so it’s cool – On Acid should have a higher recognition factor than Live. ‘Can’t Stop’ by Plez, which opens the mix, is a minor aceeeed classeeeec from 1988; Fingers Inc.’s ‘Distant Planet’ and Bam Bam’s ‘Give It To Me’ came out that same year, as did about three billion other total bangers. As tracks three and four respectively here they whip you back through time (and would still rule the skool if they’d been released last year; Steve Summers’ ‘Lands Of Mind’ actually was, and its faithful acid retroactivism is delicious). They’d have pretty much been elected into the canon by 1993, the year Duque started playing at the Limelight, which makes you think about how quickly dance evolved around that time, and how big a hole this stuff made in folks’ dancefloor sensibilities.
Although a party guy who likes you to know it, Duque’s track selections betray his keenness for a certain suaveness, which when applied to house music can often result in… adult situations. Edgy, vaguely creepy ones. “See these muscles? They’re yours, baby,” beckons Duque towards the end of the stripped thump of ‘I’m Your Man’. Detroit Grand Pubahs, most often found doing a techy booty bass thing, contribute their uncharacteristic and deeply weird ‘Surrender’. “I’m an independent woman, strong and secure,” insists Mack Goudy Jr in his, frankly, manly voice. Like the first two minutes of Air Liquide’s ‘Liquid Air’ (the only non-US track in the mix), ambient waffle with a lady waxing poetic about an acid trip, it’s just the sort of thing to pickle the brainstems of the dancefloor’s monged contingent. Abe Duque seems like the sort of DJ who lives to do this to people – a bit of a bastard, but a bastard who has never lost his hardcore during almost 20 years in the game, and who has scattered his muse across two highly entertaining CDs.
8Noel Gardner's Score