[Photos by Tasya Menaker]
With influences ranging from Detroit techno, Chicago house, to UK garage and bass, as well as urban R&B and hip hop, Montreal’s Jacques Greene is leaving a defining mark on what house music can sound like in the 2010s. His analog-coated productions are one reason he is able to stand out, but his ability to create a story and evoke emotion in his music are what really sets him apart from his contemporaries. I initially discovered Greene on SBTRKT’s 2011 Essential Mix with the enthralling R&B-soaked garage anthem “Another Girl.” I was instantly hooked and began paying close attention as he continued releasing quality remixes and originals such as last year’s Ready EP, as well as starting up his own label Vase-Forever. I grew rather impatient as I awaited his Chicago debut, staying connected through Soundcloud and live performances on the internet like Boiler Room. Thankfully Smart Bar answered my prayers and recently booked Greene in the dead of winter, a time when things begin to slow down in Chicago. I can tell you right now that this was one of the most memorable performances I have experienced from a DJ in some time.
After witnessing Savile set the tone for the evening by bookending two impressive sets for Pantha Du Prince, I made sure to get to Smart Bar early and catch this rising local producer. And once again he did not disappoint. He obviously did his homework and matched Greene’s tenacity with a very edgy set that featured plenty of house and techno. He even mixed in a little R&B in the middle of his opener with Frank Ocean’s “Lost.” A gaggle of bros immediately rushed to the booth shortly after the track finished and began throwing out numerous requests (when will people learn to stop doing this). Savile kept his cool and moved ahead, peaking things out with Rachel Row’s popular track “Follow the Step (KiNK Beat Mix).” It was a quality opening set that laid the groundwork for the entire evening.
Greene eased his way into things with an intro track comprised of a mellow piano line that morphed into a driving melancholic synth tune that pretty much summed up his unique sound. Early on he stuck to funky, dubby house tracks such as the popular club tune from Paranoid London, “Paris Dub 1.” He continued displaying his influences, playing tracks from Four Tet, Joy Orbison, and Carl Craig, switching between house, techno, and bass music. The tempo was kept between 125-130 bpms throughout most of the set and transitions between tracks were seamless. But the real highlights were the curveballs that Green threw at the audience. Halfway through the show a familiar 90′s R&B tune began flowing from the speakers and by the first chorus it was clear that he decided to bust out a remix of Tony! Toni! Toné! “Let’s Get Down.” The remainder of the set featured mostly explosive tracks that resonated strongly with the audience. Standouts included his own original “Ready” and the dramatic piano-led house classic “Rushing to Paradise” from House of House.
Greene also built tension by scaling back throughout the show and playing a series of originals that featured a similar fuzzy, melancholic analog theme like ”Dakou,” “Quicksand,” and “Lost In Tokyo (Jacques Greene Remix),” as well as KiNK’s “E79.” All of these tracks have a similar feel yet stand out from each other. He was able to sprinkle them in throughout the show and created an interesting contrast from the harder stuff he played. As I previously mentioned, the entire set was mixed with patience and cohesion, a feat that is not easily done when an artist is mixing several genres. But he did it, and he made it look easy in the process. For a Chicago debut, Greene looked like he was having the time of his life; he even left the audience with some memorable dance moves. He winded things down and handed the booth back over to Savile, who was kind enough to get Greene some extra time in the process. Savile closed out strong and tried matching Greene’s fury with his own aggressive records. For a Chicago debut, Greene left quite an impression on me. Judging by his demeanor throughout the show, it’s safe to say that he’ll be returning to the Windy City sooner rather than later.