On Friday nights, the crowd at Otherlands turns on and tunes into
by Amy Lawrence
therlands Coffeehouse in Midtown glows with the light of votive
candles on Friday nights. The atmosphere is usually low-key. Customers
laze on futon couches or fill the chairs around the many tables
set up throughout the large main room. In a corner, a deejay works
over a pair of turntables, churning out the beats of acid jazz,
the coffee joints featured attraction.
Acid jazz, like other categories of deejay-driven music, isnt
easy to define. The term electronica encompasses acid jazz,
as well as jungle, hip-hop, house, and techno. Acid
jazz tends to range wildly from a calm and soothing blending of
old-school records to a more frenetic and dance-oriented sound,
complete with thumping backbeats and sampling. The emphasis on
creating new forms is prevalent, and often, when very different
records are mixed, they create a sound thats distinctive.
|PHOTO BY DANIEL BALL
Brad Johnson, co-owner of the electronica record shop Whats That
Sound? and sometime Otherlands deejay, pegs the music as a free-form
style of jazz, be it produced digitally or performed live with
He explains, It can be broken down in a couple of different ways.
The live aspects of jazz with some programmed effects are in the
music of Miles Davis or Herbie Hancock. Deejays, he says, also
produce acid jazz, but in their case they make it by blending
music thats been produced digitally.
The basic premise is the blending of two records, says Johnson.
Usually, its always focused on being danceable.
Naturally, the music that forms acid jazz varies wildly from deejay
to deejay. On a recent Friday night in November, a deejay who
goes by the name Charles Ben Wa experiments with a variety of
styles. An informal poll of people listening to the music reveals
the elusive nature of the sound and shows the difficulty in trying
to classify it. Its a mix of hip-hop and trance, says one listener,
while others offer that it sounds dissonant ... with a lot of
samples, and then classify it as jungle there are fast beats
that arent repetitive.
Lorin Vincent, 23, a University of Memphis psychology major who
works at Otherlands, hatched the idea of inviting local deejays
to spin records back in May. Its a different deejay each week
coming from a pool of six of my friends, she says. They do it
for free, mainly to expose people to this kind of music. People
think electronic music is all about dance, but this is different.
It may have a beat, but its really enjoyable to hear. People
can hear new music here instead of cover bands.
The idea grew out of Vincents own passion for the music. Shes
learning to deejay herself and brings her own equipment to the
shop for the guest deejays to use. But since she plans on graduating
from the U of M in May, she has been too busy to spend as much
time as she would like learning the art of spinning records.
The last thing I want to hear after Ive been studying is train-wreck
noise, she says, referring to the irritating sound that occurs
when beats do not match between two records. Vincent plans to
devote much more of her time after graduation, hoping one day
to work raves under the name Vince. In the meantime, she has
immersed herself in the music, and adds, This is a culture that
Ive been around through raves. Were obsessed with it and want
to turn everyone on to it. Even a lot of people of an older age
group come in and have a really good time.
A one-drink minimum is the cover charge on Friday nights, and
a diverse crowd usually turns out, often bringing their children
and dogs along with them, either to listen to the deejay or to
enjoy the night from the vantage of Otherlands outdoor porch.
Deejay Alex Westphal, who describes his music as soundscapes,
explains that his goal is to put people in a good mood and keep
them in a good atmosphere. When asked why he plays on Fridays
at Otherlands for free, he says, I love to do it and Id be doing
the same thing at home if I had record players there. Its fun.
8 p.m. Fridays
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