If you’re a frequent visitor of Dancing Astronaut, then you know Gesaffelstein is one of my favorite rising talents. The Parisian native — whose real name is Mike Levy — has been creating quite the buzz on the dance music scene this year. Taken under the wing of Brodinski and his newly founded Bromance label, Gesaffelstein has been busy pumping out inventive remixes and unique original productions. With the sudden news that Brodinski wasn’t going to be able to make the festival because of Visa issues, our hopes were placed in Gesaffelstein to bring his brooding French techno sound to New York. Read past the break for our run down on Gesaffelstein’s Electric Zoo debut.
What the people at Made Event do best is bring together a lineup of considerable diversity. On Friday, A-Trak brought his Fool’s Gold Clubhouse to the Riverside tent — which he has been touring the festival circuit with all summer and showcasing artists signed to his label and friends that he supports. With the addition of Gesaffelstein, I knew I was going to get a one-off experience of unforgiving, dark and gloomy techno.
For the hour and fifteen minutes that Gesaffelstein took the the decks, he displayed mixing skills free from flaws and track selection that engaged the crowd into a frenzy. The early time slot wasn’t what we hoped for, but Levy made it work. People were just starting off their day, and Gesaffelstein played to the vibe and warmed up the stage for artists to come.
One of his notable tracks earlier in his set was his remix to The Hacker’s “Shockwave.” The ghostly vocals chanting “ecstasy” over the bouncy chords are the defining atributes to most of his music. It’s the perfect median between techno and electro, where fans of both genres can get lost in the beat. Later in his set — completely out no where — Gesaffelstein dropped the original version to “Viol.” This was an absolute risk, and it worked wonders. Unlike Brodinski’s remix, which is played at a higher BPM and has a natural dance groove, the original is minimal, hard-hitting techno, slowed down to 109 BPM, that has the potential to suck the life out of a dance party. Dropping it correctly involves meticulous timing and making sure the crowd is ready. Risk taking during a DJ set isn’t something we see very often, but Gesaffelstein had no problem testing the boundaries.
The Hacker – Shockwave (Gesaffelstein Remix)
Gesaffelstein – Viol (Original Mix)
This summer, “Control Movement” was played by everyone from Carl Cox to A-Trak. It was released alongside Brodinski’s “Let the Beat Control Your Body” on the Bromance #1 EP and were the tracks that brought both artists into the spotlight. There is something about “Control Movement” that will never get old. When this track came out, it really made a statement. It displayed an unorthodox approach to production, but showed that it worked on the same stage that all other forms of dance music could. When Gesaffelstein played this track on Friday, there wasn’t a single person in the Riverside tent without both hands in the air, legs elevating up and down.
Gesaffelstein – Control Movement (Original Mix)
On his most recent release, The Rise of Depravity EP, Gesaffelstein further pushed the envelope on his agonizing sound. To the novice ear, Gesaffelstein’s music isn’t the most palatable. The foreboding basslines and sharp kicks and snares aren’t found in your straightforward progressive and electro house. Pushing the boundaries of extreme noise making and harmonically pleasing music is something Gesaffelstein is proving to be a master of.
Gesaffelstein – Depravity (Original Mix)
Later in the set is where I saw Gesaffelstein’s creativity as a DJ shine. The 1994 release of Armand Van Helden “Witch Doktor” — which charted on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music list — is an undeniable classic, and was a pleasant surprise to hear get playtime. I’m going to go out on a limb here in saying that most of the crowd didn’t know what this track was, but when Gesaffelstein played Robyn’s “Show Me Love” vocals over it, the crowds reaction was priceless. In that moment, Gesaffelstein proved to me that he understood the art of DJing.
Armand Van Helden – Witch Doktor (Original Mix)
The Bottom Line
Gesaffelstein is an act that I recommend any dance music connoisseur to go and see. Listening to his music on your laptop speakers or through headphones might not do the trick. A live experience might be all it takes to understand that even the aggressive pastures of electronic music can be enjoyed once understood. From flawless mixing to superb track selection, Gesaffelstein is an act I will continue to keep my eyes on — and given the opportunity to see a live performance, you don’t have to ask me twice — I’ll be there.