Gil Scott Heron said the revolution will not be televised. But a revolution is here, and the video screen is taking center stage. On Friday night, the famous British DJ trio ColdCut came to the 9:30 Club and, along with Baltimore natives Sonic Soul, gave D.C. a taste of what the future of electronic music has to offer.
ColdCut’s major contribution isn’t even the music itself, but the video show produced on the large screens above the performers. Other acts such as The Chemical Brothers and Prodigy also feature psychedelic visuals, but the way ColdCut produces these images sets them apart – the group invented a computer program to produce on-stage effects. Using its own V-Jam computer program, ColdCut has successfully integrated music and video, giving rise to a new player on stage: the VJ.
Poised on stage in front of their laptops, the VJs are able to trigger video samples and actually manipulate the video images as if they were on vinyl. The VJ can produce an image such as an atom bomb’s mushroom cloud and then manipulate the clip, running the image in reverse to create the impression that the cloud is being packed into a tiny bomb.
Even more innovative is the fact that ColdCut actually uses the sound effects of these video clips as a part of the music. An elephant pulls a swath of grass from the ground, producing a ripping sound. As the video clip is toyed with, the sound comes alive.
It didn’t take the crowd of more than 600 dancers long to realize the main event was not the DJ’s but the screens behind them; especially as two of the three stage members were visibly producing the video show, turning around to check out the overall effect. The accompanying music combined many styles, taking the listener on a musical journey through down-beat valleys and high-energy peaks.
Unlike many DJs that keep the music tuned to a specific beats-per-minute flow, ColdCut abandons this linear form. The result is a more free-flowing experience. In fact, the group tailors the music to match the tone expressed in the video. In this respect, it could be said that the DJs are providing a soundtrack for the movie that is created spontaneously.
Touring in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the eclectic London record label Ninja Tunes, ColdCut was joined by Sonic Soul Productions, a similar production team that consists of three DJs and four VJs, all of whom perform either solo or as a group.
Ever since group member Al Lovegrove returned from London with V-Jam technology, the Baltimore-based group exposed local audiences to the movie that changes every night. The music of the evening followed a smooth progression, starting with chill beats provided by DJ Fluid. This warm-up was continued by DK, who has his own Ninja Tunes radio show in London.
This new style of mixed media is certainly a departure within a musical genre that some refer to as a mindless thump. Although there are no musical instruments on stage, the performance is definitely a live one, as the music is actually being invented right before your eyes. As two shows are exactly like, this style is certainly refreshing. By combining images that are thought provoking, such as political clips that show police brutality or a flag burning in the street, ColdCut has proved that there is a human element present to the music. What, dancing as a cerebral exercise? Yes, the revolution is coming. Jump on board.