We arrived unfashionably early, as is our style, coming in not even 20 minutes after doors. The setup was good – lighting not too complex with a few laser projectors cast through netting draped from the exposed plumbing jutting from the ceiling. Lychee and Aaron J had just begun their B2B opener. The set was sounding dark and the venue was looking the part.
Lychee//Aaron J went on to lay down a set that was technically proficient but emotionally wanting, offering up dark sounds and sweeping landscapes that permeated the floor. But it always felt withholding. The intention must have been to anticipate Rrose’s set. I came away from it feeling cold, a little neglected. The mixes dangled bits of accessibility without letting too much through, becoming numbingly hypnotic. In its own way, that was masterful, but not what I craved.
After Lychee/Aaron J’s set faded into the droning of the organs, Rrose was up, keeping the droning going. At that point, I remembered that there was the second room and felt bad. This was not the show to have a second room with people doing ambient sets. I wish I could speak to the caliber of Dayglow or Elisabeth Dalton’s ambient sets, but like everyone else, I was here for one reason: the crashing, minimalist, slightly challenging, dissonant techno of Rrose. The second room’s performances just became the backing track to impatience in the (mercifully gender neutral) bathroom line.
When the organ interlude died down, Rrose went to it, with a calming beat forming, almost as before. But as we started to dance to the new set, a subtle melody with undercurrents of dub techno came into the mix. As dancing went on, flashes of other layers seeped through our trance, giving brief flashes of light. We were getting brief refrains of the music’s tropes: almost-drops, high hats breaking through the high-pass filter. But this wasn’t a club set by any means. It was obfuscated by a lens of hypnotic techno.
The set went on and was continuously flooring us. This was one of those nights when you know there’s nowhere else in town you should be. At 2 AM on the dot, the bartender sauntered over and slammed on the light. Breaking the magic spell that allowed us to briefly, if not fully, forget that we were in the basement of the Elk’s. This was far and away the best electronic show I’ve been to in Boston in a long time. maybe through the work of people like Lychee and spontaneous affinity, this city’s dance scene can be turned around.