When Boston is mentioned to people around the world, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A city full of fictional Affleckian rogues? Tom Brady’s haircut? Our uniquely enthused sports fans? Possibly.
But if you bring the focus in a little closer to the world of electronic music, and start asking around the beaches of Ibiza or Miami, or in the clubs in Berlin and London, for example, the answer will most likely be the DJ and producer duo Soul Clap.
Eli Goldstein, 29, and Charles Levine, 30, who met while growing up in Cambridge and Brookline, respectively, are the hottest locally grown electronic act on the international scene. They’ve done recent high-profile mixes for the influential DJ-Kicks series, as well as tastemakers Mixmag, FACT magazine, No. 19 Music, and a BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix, and that’s just the tip of the buzz iceberg. They’ll celebrate this week’s release of their first full-length album “EFUNK” on the label of frequent collaborators Wolf + Lamb, with a return to their old stomping grounds, the Phoenix Landing, on May 16 at the long-running Re:Set Wednesdays party, where they’re likely to experience a local heroes’ welcome.
“They are really not blowing [up], they have already [blown up] at this point,” says Re:Set’s Randy Deshaies. “It was kind of amazing to watch it happen. One day they were here playing at the Phoenix and Middlesex, then they were gone for months touring. I knew they were making progress, but I wasn’t even aware that they were getting that big until I heard they debuted in the top 20 in the highly respected Resident Advisor DJ Poll. Then when [I heard] the DJ-Kicks mix compilation and their mix on the internationally famous Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1, it was real. They were international superstars.”
While Soul Clap spend much of their time in Miami and Europe now, repping Boston on the international scale is something that remains important to the duo, they explained over the phone from Berlin and Austria. They see themselves as a sort of Boston house music ambassador to the world.
“What it really takes to put cities on the map is having producers and DJs traveling around the world from that city. More people are putting out music from Boston now,” Goldstein says, name-checking the deep disco phenom DJ Kon as one they expect to blow up even more internationally. “That’s what puts it on the map, people recognizing musicians from that city. Between us and Hot Pink Delorean we’ve made a lot of progress. . . . Now we’re waiting for the next generation to step up and represent.”
While the city’s profile in the electronic music world at large is certainly expanding, particularly with events like the recent Together festival, they say, it was some untimely red tape in dealing with the city of Cambridge for their popular 2007-09 Dancing on the Charles party that finally made them think they’d need to relocate to a city more conducive to the production, and enjoyment, of electronic dance music.
“We always went out of our way to go by the book, to have a safe environment, and it ended poorly,” Levine says. “That was the final blow after working as DJs and promoters in Boston for over a decade. It wasn’t until that moment that we threw in the towel. . . . We moved to Berlin that summer of 2010. From Berlin we found Miami.”
They wouldn’t have graduated to the big leagues if it weren’t for their formative time here, of course.
“What we found was that growing up in Boston DJing really made us play such a wide range of music,” Goldstein says. “When we started to take off in the more electronic music DJ world we had the distinct advantage of knowing a wide range of stuff and being able to mix it.”
Whereas the prevailing trends had been stagnating in a very minimal German sound for years, their chief innovation came from adding in elements of American disco, house, and hip-hop, not to mention a sense of levity.
“As they got to know us better in Europe, it gave us this unique sound at a time when people were waiting for this soulful American thing,” Goldstein says. “It’s been a while since an American artist has broken over here in Europe. As we’ve developed, we try to keep it really deep. It’s not big music for big rooms, but music that’s big and sexy and musical.”
That approach is evident on “EFUNK,” much less a record for wilding out in a club than it is a chilling-out-at-home listening experience. It moves from the funky Janet Jackson romance of opening track “Take It Slow”
It’s rare you hear an entire quality dance album, Goldstein says. “It usually feels like a compilation of tracks to sell to DJs, or piece by piece. We wanted to go back to the tradition we grew up with on hip-hop albums like A Tribe Called Quest’s.”
If it’s not obvious, that’s a lot of ’90s references packed into one album. It’s no coincidence, Levine says. “We love the ’90s. We’re huge bringing-the-’90s-nostalgia guys with our parties. To have a real ’90s pop star from All Saints on the record was big deal for us.”
“The idea is a full listening album,” says Levine. “It’s not a new idea, but it’s something that’s been lost.”
It may be antithetical to the current moment of the track-driven culture, but an act like Soul Clap, one with ideas to burn, may just be influential enough to shift things, whether that’s just in Boston, or on the international scene they now call home.
One of the more exiting acts in underground bass music, Jacques Greene, comes to Make It New at Middlesex on April 26. The Montreal-based producer of Night Slugs renown is responsible for one of the most romantic singles of the year, “Another Girl.” He somehow manages to turn a repeated five word sample of Ciara’s “Deuces” (“You got me feeling like. . . .”) into one of the most fully realized minimal love songs in recent memory. Boston’s Coralcola opens. Visit www.middlesexlounge.us for information. . . . JASS, the club night that hosts events in Boston, Atlanta, and San Francisco, have expanded into the imprint world (based locally for the moment) with a release dropping last month. The first of more to come, “Companion 1,” is a collection of 10 tracks highlighting East Coast-based talent, and is stacked with throwback drum machine beats, hip-hop- and dancehall-influenced cuts, and squiggly chopped-up synth lines from the likes of Obey City, Quam, Doctor Jeep, REKchampa, Broodlings, and more. Available at www.jasssite.com. . . . On April 25, Tony Williams, a.k.a. Addison Groove, the UK bass music star (who also records under the name Headhunter), comes to Central Square’s newest dance music venue, Naga, for a set of drum & bass, grime, and technical dubstep. Opening the night is Wheez-ie, a member of the Boston-based Mmmmaven talent collective. He’s dropped recent releases on the likes of Embassy Recordings and Well Rounded Individuals, and his tracks have started showing up in the sets of international superstars like Diplo. Visit www.nagacambridge.com.