What started as the Sunday School for Degenerates in Miami during WMC is now a regular installment at New York’s Electric Zoo. At this year’s festival — just as in years past — the Sunday School Grove was positioned off in its own secluded section. When it comes to lineup, some of the biggest names in the underground scene were invited to display their own unique take on what we like to call, “dance music.” Day one brought back Luciano for a second year in a row, this year Vagabundos crew in tow. Day two featured rising star Maya Jane Coles, progressive house pioneer Sasha, and dark techno master Chris Liebing. The final day saw the return of Boys Noize with some of the Boysnoize Records crew, the trio of Better Lost Than Stupid, and Italian techno god Marco Carola. Jump past the break for our day-by-day rundown of this year’s Sunday School Grove.
Day 1 – Vagabundos
I was eager to get to Electric Zoo early on Friday. It was a perfect sunny day, the mood was right, and there was no point in wasting any time. With the tip that Luciano’s Cadenza label was launching a residency at Cielo in the fall, I knew the Vagabundos party would be Luciano’s way of giving us a sneak peak of what was to come. The day started off with a two-hour warm up set by Mendo. Having played Vagabundos parties at Pacha and Ushuaia in Ibiza, he offered the perfect blend of down-tempo house and techno to set the mood for the early hours. Frivolous and Argy took over the remaining afternoon hours, until Cadenza bigwigs Robert Dietz and Reboot stepped things up a notch.
Coming into the weekend, there was a certain buzz going around that Reboot would be the show to catch on Friday night, and Luciano would have a hard time exceeding. Although it’s too hard to pick a clear favorite, both brought fresh sets to the table. A sunset slot always adds a degree of difficulty to a DJ set. Especially with a mature and seasoned crowd like that of Sunday School, once the sun sets, the festival churns into overdrive. Reboot, in keeping things groovy, favored darker and harder hitting tracks. Once Luciano took to the decks, that groove turned into bouncy tech house and sexy techno. The two-hour slot let him dive into a musical journey, taking New York on a ride with some of the hottest Ibiza tracks of the summer. Some of the notable tracks were Yotto’s rework to M83’s “Intro,” and Luciano’s remix to Argy’s “Love Dose.”
Argy – Love Dose (Luciano Remix)
M83 feat. Zola Jesus – Intro (Yotto Rework)
Day two dipped into every subgenre that the underground scene had to offer. From 4:00 P.M. onward, the lineup featured five artists, each bringing a unique element to the table. Dirtybird label-head Claude VonStroke had one of the earlier slots, but played to it perfectly. He intertwined bass heavy tech house with hints of funk and just the right amount of groove. With Justin Martin releasing some absolute bombs via the Dirtybird imprint, Claude used his slot to showcase some of them. Along with Martin’s “Buggin’,” one of the notable tracks from his set was Julio Bashmore’s “Au Seve.” With these kind of tracks, you can see how Claude is the champion of making weird noises come together on a harmonic level.
Julio Bashmore – Au Seve
Deep house wunderkind Maya Jane Coles was one of the highlights of day two. On the production front she has had a massive year, and in terms of offering a great live preformance, Maya is no stranger to the notion. She has a way of mixing soulful deep house with downtempo techno in a way that puts a smile on your face. Some of Maya’s notable tracks were Zebra Katz’s “Ima Read,” and Domyan’s remix to Milscot’s “All Alone.” Following Coles was minimal techno’s Paco Osuna. Perhaps the least recognizable name on the line up for such a late time slot, Paco proved above and beyond that he’s a forced to be reckoned with. Offering a perfect rhthym of techy sounds, the night was properly readied for legends Sasha and Chris Liebing.
Zebra Katz – Ima Read (ft. Njena Reddd Foxxx)
Milscot ft. Angela Sheik – All Alone (Domyan Just Slow Remix)
To say that Sasha “stole the show” would be a giant understatement. He is undeniably one of the best DJs in the world at controlling a crowd and mixing two tracks together that have no business following suit. The saying “God is a DJ — but he only warms up for Sasha” was demonstrated in exemplary fashion on Saturday night. His one and a half hour set was nothing more than a tease, but with Chris Liebing following suit, who was I to complain?
Fast paced, driving techno was Chris Liebing’s formula. His method of production and DJing is unforgiving in every sense of the word. His beats are dark and scary, but somehow built around a melody that makes it pleasant to listen to. Liebing’s different approach was one hell of a way to close out day two of Electric Zoo.
The final day of Sunday School had the most complete lineup of the weekend. Two years ago, Martin Buttrich, Davide Squillace, and Matthias Tanzmann came together at Electric Zoo to make up Better Lost Than Stupid. Unfortunately, their return was placed at an early time slot — a time I wish they would have switched with Dixon. Dixon’s set was satisfying, but a little too soft to be placed in between Umek and Apparat. Umek played a perfect day time set, and kept it more tech house than techno. A notable track he played was Pleasurekraft’s latest remix to Eric Sneo’s “Shut Up and Dance.”
Eric Sneo & Chris The Voice – Shut Up & Dance (Pleasurekraft Remix)
The concluding three hours was left to Boys Noize and Marco Carola. Not to take anything away from Boys Noize, but his set was probably the most misplaced set of the weekend. Sunday School favored downtempo deep house and techno throughout the weekend, and Boys Noize played to his harder electro side instead of the techier side that I had hoped for. Not to say that he was a vibe killer, but Sunday School is a place to sway left and right and listen to the intricacies of groovy music. Tracks like his new single “XTC” and Skrillex collaboration of “Next Order” had no place being played in the Sunday School Grove. What followed Boys Noize was potentially the best hour and a half of the Electric Zoo weekend. Marco Carola had me hypnotized under his techno spell. His long drawn out builds, with hints of lingering basslines from previous tracks, showed that Carola is a true master of crowd control and understands the fine art that DJing can be. With 20 years under his belt, it comes as no surprise.
Dog Blood – Next Order (Original Mix)
The Bottom Line
What’s great about Sunday School is its mystery and seclusion. To the novice ear, it’s a strange and spooky place. To the veteran, it’s a dance floor with ample room and chill vibes. To the people who didn’t explore Sunday School, you missed out on the artists that founded your “EDM” obsession. To the people who didn’t explore Electric Zoo and stayed put, I respect your actions. As silly as this may sound, Sunday School offers an escape from the somewhat tainted atmosphere that festival culture has become.
If you read some of our preview guides and explored DJs and genres, we commend you. That’s what music festivals are all about. The great thing about electronic music is how vast the scene really is, you may become bored of a genre or a sound but you will never become bored of dance music. When you hit a patch where commercial progressive house and electro are too loud and jarring, explore the down tempo side of things at places like Sunday School.