Don't take the electronic offerings at the east-side festival for granted.
With the help of curators Ankur Malhotra and Jason Van Nurden, La Fete De Marquette has become one of the more exciting events in Madison for those with more than a cursory interest in electronic music beyond the likes of Deadmau5 and Skrillex. While last year's Musique Electronique headliners—left-field house producer and DJ Luke Solomon and Milwaukee's DJ Fortune—were no slouches, this year's lineup is twice as big, and features accidental acid-house inventor Charanjit Singh, from Mumbai, India. Besides the headliners, the bill is also packed with several Madison-based DJs who put a ton of work into throwing parties that aren't based on lame '80s-vs.-'90s themes or full of awful Diplo clones, folks like Apart collaborator Niki Kitz and veteran vinyl-lord DJ Lovecraft. There will even be a live hardware house set (as in original cuts performed live with drum machines and synthesizers) from DJ Umi, DJ Carrick, and DJ Maze of local party-throwing crew Foshizzle Presents. However, we want to focus on why catching this year's imports is so crucial, as it's not too often that folks like this get much further north than Chicago. As Musique Electronique gets underway Friday and Saturday in Central Park—with after parties both nights at the High Noon Saloon—here's a deeper look at some of this year's heavyweights.
Dustin Zahn (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
Moody Berlin-via-Minneapolis techno explorer Dustin Zahn has released dozens of records packed with his refreshing and meticulous approach to minimal, dark dance music. Though Zahn has released dozens of EPs and 12-inches over the last 15 years, this year saw the release of his first proper LP, 'Monoliths,' an incredibly eclectic and sonically meticulous hydra of experimental techno. Despite the album's many unspoken continuities, like the one between the abstract carousel of vocal samples opening "1984" and the sample-laden midnight groove of "Deus Ex Machina," no two tracks ever feel like they're born of the same formula. While Zahn is obviously a reputed producer and remixer, he is probably best known for his DJ sets, which have taken him all the way from Berlin to Chicago.
Mark Farina (Friday, 9:30 p.m.; also headlining after party at the High Noon Saloon, Friday, 10 p.m.)
If there's a DJ mostly likely to drop below 110 BPM this weekend, our money's on legendary San Francisco-based DJ and house producer Mark Farina, who will apparently be doing a set in the style of his brilliantly cosmic Mushroom Jazz mixes. Each volume of Mushroom Jazz features beautifully curated shards of deep hip-hop, jazz, and soul that are processed live and mixed seamlessly. Farina's an old buddy and co-worker of Chicago's Derrick Carter (who will be playing Saturday night) and has certainly built a legacy for himself in the world of house jams, but with a Mushroom Jazz set on the way, partygoers can expect a deep, downtempo refuge after being (lovingly) trampled by four-on-the-floor kick patterns.
Charanjit Singh (Saturday, 8:30 p.m.)
There's no denying how hopelessly flooded the market is with overpriced, obscure reissues, so when your ding-dong record nerd buddy claims he picked up the record that gave birth to acid house in India back in 1982, don't feel bad—your knee-jerk response *should* be a forehead slap and an exasperated sigh. However, upon listening to Charanjit Singh's 'Synthesizing: Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat,' you hear the mechanical disco from the TR-808 drum machine, the twitching TB-303 bass sequences that basically define "acid house" as a genre, and the eastern musical scaling—and it becomes tough to contest that your dingus friend may be onto something. Amazingly, the Mumbai, India-based ex-Bollywood composer will be touring through Madison with his synthesizers and performing a live set of his signature proto-acid tunes.
Derrick Carter (Saturday, 9:30 p.m.; also headlining after party at the High Noon Saloon, Saturday, 10 p.m.)
Known well for mind-bending DJ sets that splice together meticulously curated house, disco, and jazz cuts, house-lifer Derrick Carter is one the most indisputably beloved resident DJs of Chicago dance music institution Smartbar. Carter’s current Smartbar residency, Queen! Sundays, was previously shared with late house producer and legendary DJ Frankie Knuckles. However, Carter’s reach extends far beyond the windy city, spinning his sonic journeys well across the globe. Somehow, Madison gets him twice in one night—after playing at Fete de Marquette, Carter will spin a late-night show at the High Noon. This one should provide redemption for anyone who’s ever gotten off on the wrong foot with house music, or just for anyone who wants to hear it spun with a ton of taste and knowledge.