ASC in Vancouver

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  • When you consider how much music James Clements releases as ASC—two LPs and four EPs in 2016 alone—you might expect him to play out more. But a chronic back injury has made DJing, nevermind traveling, difficult for the San Diego-based Brit in recent years. Saturday's gig in Vancouver was his first since December 2015, which is a shame because Clements makes such singular dance music—without him around to represent it, it's not a sound you hear out all that much. If nothing else, Saturday's strong turnout proved that there's still a healthy appetite for it. Vancouver Art And Leisure was already full when I arrived around 11:30 PM, a remarkable feat for a city and venue that both skew toward late arrivals and wee-hours partying. Locals Disociate and Sinerise warmed up with forward-thinking uptempo music (complete with vocals from Sinerise herself) that nicely laid the context for ASC's post-drum & bass, while Michael Red's live set was an unusually straightforward affair of broken beats and killer basslines. The visuals were equally arresting, with noted local A/V wiz C130 projecting abstract images and videos onto die-cut panels that almost obscured the DJ booth, putting the focus firmly on the dance floor and not the DJ. By the time ASC went on, at around 1:30 AM, the room was at fever pitch, which felt funny for an artist mostly associated with atmospheric pads and mournful melodies. But Clements' dance floor might was immediately apparent: the heft of his rhythms landed somewhere in between techno and drum & bass, and his all-originals set kept the crowd captivated for nearly two hours. For those familiar with Clements' catalogue, his set played out just like you'd hope: churning basslines, stormy techno-not-techno rhythms, dramatic melodies and enveloping atmospheres. It nicely set the stage for another local, LVT, to seize on the tougher threads and close in barnstorming fashion. The pacing across the night was excellent, and it was a fascinating way to experience ASC, an artist who proudly places himself in an in-between space. Saturday night also revealed the extent to which Vancouver's dance music scenes are thriving. Most attention from outside focuses on the city's house music community, anchored by Mood Hut. But Bound By Sound is an example of how its techno and bass music scenes are in equally rude health, pushing local artists that leave a lasting impression. That Vancouver was the first gig in more than a year for ASC, an artist at the forefront of experimental uptempo music, is nothing to sneeze at. Also, in organizing an event that felt both creative and inclusive (it was organized by women, featured women performers and was attended by an overwhelmingly queer crowd), Bound By Sound showed just how much this relatively small city has to offer when it comes to clubbing.