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DJ Tour Plugs Into Electronica's Surge

September 24, 1997|ROSE APODACA JONES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Electronica was supposed to herald a new era in music: faceless musicians motivated more by their art than their desire to become rock stars.

There was a catch, though. This complicated and convoluted genre is made not by machines, as the misconception goes, but by humans. Humans have something machines don't: egos.

Two of the genre's most sizable, with swollen followings to match, belong to deejay sensations Keoki and Carl Cox. The pair will test the 673-person capacity of Metropolis in Irvine at Thursday's installation of club Up when they kick off the Moonshine OverAmerica tour.

The Hawaiian-born, self-crowned Superstar Keoki lays claim to his fame mostly by way of the New York City rave scene. The title is part conceit, part irony--and it has earned him as much adoration as scorn.

Keoki's first full-length collection of original material, "Ego-Trip," describes the power of the album as much as it does the deejay's showman prowess. Either way, Keoki has become a superstar simply by acting like one and having the talent to back it up.

Mentions of the British import Cox are always accompanied by "World's No. 1 Deejay"--and not just by his promoters. He's amassed accolades and awards the way a club kid hordes V.I.P. passes. Cox, too, wows the crowds on his globe-trotting sets, but more for his humble mastery at the Tectonics than for any peacocky antics.

Cox demonstrates his worth on "F.A.C.T. 2," his latest release and the first on Moonshine Music, the Los Angeles label presenting the tour.

A sequel to the 2-year-old "F.A.C.T. 1," considered a success in electronica circles for sales of 170,000 copies internationally, the second "F.A.C.T." is a sundry collection of spirited techno stylings, from Chicago-inspired flavors to those of his native U.K. scene. That mix is partly the result of having recorded the album live before a small party of friends in a Los Angeles warehouse. While it teeters on monotony at times, especially on a subsequent listening, the album overall belongs in every technophile's library.

Completing Thursday's bill is Long Beach act Cirrus, a.k.a. former L.A. rave deejays Aaron Carter and Stephen James Barry. For those who sneer at the absence of conventional instruments in electronica, Cirrus offers a way of easing into the future sound. The duo laces live guitar and bass through a funkadelic series of danceable tracks, punctuating their melodic 13-song debut album, "Drop the Break," with fierce breakbeats. The exception is the hardcore zeal of the title track, which has remained on rotation on college and alternative radio since its April release and will probably bring down houses along the tour.

The Moonshine OverAmerica tour is, of course, a platform for the label's signed property, with Keoki and Cirrus anchoring the bill throughout the 14-city stretch. The run is a response from Moonshine President Stephen Levy to the "commercially packaged" tours being planned by the majors. Those won't "have a realistic understanding of what's happening on the street, in the underground," said Levy, a British expatriate who founded the label with brother Jon in 1992.

As electronica blasts its way into the mainstream, this is an opportunity to catch some of its stars before they go pop.

* Moonshine OverAmerica featuring Carl Cox, Keoki and Cirrus, at Up, Thursday at Metropolis, 4255 Campus Drive, Irvine. $12 in advance at Dr. Freecloud's Mixing Lab, Costa Mesa, (714) 650-0909, and Record Reaction, Long Beach, (562) 434-5753; $15 at the door. Up hotline: (714) 751-1145.

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