The finale of this season’s Sunday Love live music series featured a live concert of four performers: Jennifer Cardini, Lola Villa from Mexico City, the Danish duo WhoMadeWho, performing a hybrid set of live and pre-recorded music, and the charismatic Lee Burridge, who is credited with bringing the underground music scene to Hong Kong.
When I first bought tickets to the event, I expected a multi-level blowout Flash DC experience, the usual event space on Florida Avenue. Then I discovered something unexpected — the tickets listed a secret venue address, to be revealed shortly before the event. It was Halloween and I suspected they’d dial up the spooky vibes. The photograph they chose for the ticket offered a familiar, cryptic clue: Was it the chapel at the Congressional Cemetery?
My instincts were right on target. Though the thought of renting a cemetery — and this one in particular — for a private event seemed peculiar and improbable. This sprawling property serves as the internment place of members of Congress, public functionaries and musical luminaries such as John Philip Sousa. Even the remains of the infamous John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s assassin, are buried there (albeit in a secret, unmarked grave).
So here I was, sharing this place of eternal sleep with costumed revelers, combing my way through the smell of sage, cannabis and the cool Halloween air. The DJ deck was located along the side of the chapel, with attendees fanning out between headstones and down walking paths. Bars flanked the stage, and vendors lined the path perpendicular to the deck. I arrived at the tail end of WhoMadeWho’s set and found the artist’s similarity to Royksopp very pleasing. Lola Villa had finished already and had joined the group. But my main focus was not the food, drinks or which luminary was interred closest to the DJ area. I was chiefly there for Jennifer Cardini.
Now based in Cologne, Germany, and helming Correspondant Music, Cardini spent years as a DJ in her native Paris, inspired by nu-disco and 1970s industrial electronica. She’s played in some of the most famous clubs in Europe and is a frequent headliner across the globe – In fact, she had just come from Miami by way of Mexico City right before taking a detour to Germany.
I first heard Cardini’s music in 2015, sitting in my brother Dan’s living room in Seattle listening to a late-night “Expansions” set on 90.3 KEXP. On that program, DJ Kid Hops spun Cardini’s “Tuesday Paranoia,” a track made in collaboration with Shonky that features what appears to be an old European Fire alarm on top of a melodic drum line. The simplicity was so intriguing. Many of Cardini’s studio tracks start simple, then she layers on industrial and digital sounds, often in repeating patterns, building on this with synths and recorded sounds. Sometimes minimalist, sometimes high-octane Euro dance and sometimes French disco, Cardini always delivers intriguing and engrossing sounds.
When it was time for Cardini to perform, WhoMadeWho moved over and shared the boards for a track before letting Cardini take command of the stage. As night fell, she developed a good stage presence, moving back and forth, constantly checking her over-the-ear monitors and rechecking each individual sound as she introduced it, making minute adjustments on the board to ensure it hit the perfect note. A robust laser projection program accompanied syncopated bassline and mechanical elements, adding additional flavor to an intoxicating dish already delivered by a master.
It was a high-energy set but not high impact, providing deep bass drops that’s neither discordant nor bruising. Apparently, at home in both cemeteries and Euro clubs on both sides of the Atlantic, this deep and upbeat electronica was a perfect ending to October.
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