On a whim, I was asked to venture out on a still-wintery Friday night (despite the spring solstice having just passed) to see two artists perform their different – but equally danceable – forms of electro-fusion.

Toronto’s ‘The Hoxton’ has never disappointed as a venue whose acts each push musical boundaries in their own individual right. I was told the opening act was Digitalism. Knowing the German duo for their unique indie-electro sound, the idea of them seeing them perform a DJ set was enough to perk my ears. Though I had never danced to (read: listened to) main act Cyril Hahn’s R&B-laced electro grooves until 3 days prior to the show, I knew this would offer me a unique perspective. I could go to the event and objectively observe the Swiss-born musician for his performance in itself and I would either leave with a newfound curiosity for Hahn’s music, or at least the credibility to say I had listened to it and it wasn’t my cup of tea.

The combination of being a bit tardy and having to wait in line with the other 20-something-year-old electro lovers meant I got into the venue at what I can only hope was 15 minutes into Digitalism’s set. Blue and pink lights lit up the construction-themed décor of the Hoxton – a welcome change from the blank white walls I had known it for in prior visits. I made my way to a clear elevated vantage point beside the booths – the best spot in the house. Kudos to the girl who offered me her prime spot against the railing – her extremely expressive dancing indicated that Digitalism had done well thus far.

Performing back-to-back, Jence and Isi, the two members that compose Digitalism, played a hard, kick-heavy, loopy set on four Pioneer CDJ’s and a mixer. This setup was a welcome change from sets I’d seen recently – their decidedly non-laptop performance added an extra element of connection with the packed crowd. Jence was armed with a cool, laid-back stage presence: he wore a black varsity jacket and occasionally illuminated a blue glow as he puffed on an e-cigarette. On the other hand, the button-downed and bearded Isi was more connected with the crowd. There were a handful of moments where I caught him smiling at other partygoers, even going so far as to stretch out for a high-five with a few of them.

Mixing from classics such as ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’ by the Chemical Brothers all the way to contemporary bangers like ‘Yeah’ by Boys Noize, they had the crowd bouncing. More importantly, they kept my feet stomping and my head bopping. True to the indie-electro style I knew them for, they even threw on ‘Rock the Casbah’ by The Clash. Jence sang along as they put on a single most people should know them for: ‘Pogo’. Transitioning between tried-and-true hits and heavy-hitting new sounds, Digitalism definitely primed the audience for headliner Cyril Hahn.

My first glimpse of Hahn was of him setting up his laptop and MIDI controller while the prior act closed out their set. Performing off of his MacBook using Traktor, and with a flood of light illuminating the crowd, he took over seamlessly. Being a Vancouver-based musician, the red and white lights that dominated his set fit in an ironic way. From the very beginning until the very end, Hahn was in his own world. Though his set was low-key for the most part, his deep involvement in his choice of tracks and detachment from the crowd made his set all the more intimate, as if he had specific attachment to each and every song. He could be found dancing shamelessly while illuminated by the glow of the DJ interface he looked intensely upon.

Donning a hoodie and a white tee, Hahn started off mellow and chill with smooth bass rhythms that warmed the crowd during a cold start to spring. It would’ve been the perfect music for a drive along California’s pacific coast highway. Moving from chill to more party-oriented music, Hahn proceeded to heat up the crowd by dropping bass vibes that featured trebly house samples. Eventually, we arrived at an R&B-induced, danceable groove that Hahn’s Soundcloud posts had prepared me for. At a point he threw in some short-but-instantly recognizable Motown samples, but what had me hooked was the inclusion of bits from ‘Tread Water’ by the old-school hip-hop champions De La Soul. He closed his set out with harder tracks that featured 909-laced drums.

Overall, Hahn’s quickly mixed set was full of deep, synthy bass, funky rhythms, sharp samples and a predominantly warming tone. Almost everything I heard from him was completely new to my ears, though I would have enjoyed the addition of a couple more universally recognizable tunes. His set would’ve been perfect at a nighttime rooftop patio a couple months from now, but after an unbearably long winter, I’ll take whatever warmth I can get – even if it is just for my ears.

It’s safe to say I left with a newfound curiosity for Cyril Hahn’s music. Check out “Perfect Form”, an original track I’ve got on repeat.

Guest Writer:  Adrian Muir

A little about me: I’m a sometime-soon-to-be producer/DJ with a knack for exploring new music (of all beats and rhythms), a decent grasp of the English language, and a love of stomping my feet to a bass kick. – Adrian

Cyril Hahn: | F | S | T |

Digitalism: | F | S | T |

Electric Sloth: | F | S | T | I