For those who think that this year's Decibel Festival lineup is too cerebral or too minimal, there exists a simple rebuttal: Green Velvet.
An electronic alter ego of Chicago producer Curtis Alan Jones, Green Velvet produces hedonistic electro-house, the kind of music that exists solely to deliver instant gratification to sweaty dancers. His tracks are fun, functional constructions distinguished by flamboyant, sometimes silly, vocals.
Which is not to say that Jones doesn't take his music seriously. A graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in chemical engineering, Jones approaches his chosen medium with the focused precision of a laboratory technician, combining clinically clean drum programming with acidic bass lines and wildly oscillating synth patterns.
Two elements informed Jones's early musical development: his home—his father was a DJ and a musician—and Chicago's burgeoning house sound, which he would embrace and evolve over the course of his multifaceted career.
Jones first made a name for himself under the name Cajmere with the classic "Percolator," an enduring favorite of superstar DJs such as Diplo and Miss Kittin, as well as aspiring jocks the world over. That track accelerated the loose beat of house into something more tense and mechanical, filled with rubbery synths and driven by a single repeated lyrical exhortation ("It's time for the percolator"). In retrospect, the track reads like a missing link between acid house and the more modern ghetto tech, with Cajmere speeding up the pulse, minimizing the extended filter tweaks, and pushing the simple, repetitive vocals to the fore.
Cajmere's "Explorer" made enough of a critical impact to warrant inclusion on Soul Jazz's genre-exhuming compilation Acid: Can You Jack?, an anthology of Chicago's acid-house scene. The track appears on the disc's latter half, as part of acid's "second wave" and features all the standard acid fare: a jacking beat, resonant filtered synth tones, and vocal ad libs.
In 1993, Jones created the Green Velvet persona and his label, Relief Records, in an attempt to distance himself from the Cajmere moniker. The frenetic rhythm of "Percolator" gave way to more playfully funky tracks built from the same basic beats and aggressive synths. Over the top of all this—way over the top—Jones delivers free-flowing lines about raver favorites such as aliens ("Abduction"), pills ("La La Land"), and sex ("No Sex"). Green Velvet is a calculated, crafted persona, an indulgent master of ceremonies committed to debauched excess and sensory overload.
Green Velvet released his first full-length, Constant Chaos, in 1999 on the Belgian Music Man label. The album featured the aforementioned "Abduction" as well as "Coitus" and "Stormy Weather."
In 2001 Jones released his second Green Velvet full-length, Whatever, featuring the popular single "La La Land." The track sings the praises of better living through chemistry over shuffling high hats and buzzing bass. Jones ponders "those little pills," "the thrills they yield," and their eventual toll ("they kill a million brain cells"), although the obligatory warning sounds vaguely satirical in the context of the track's warm bass, cheeky lyrics, and constant rhythm—it's practically a commercial jingle for casual drug use. The deadpan vocal delivery and spare electronic arrangement caused some to lump this album in with the dreaded "electro-clash," but Green Velvet's decade-plus longevity and varied output eclipse such faddish trends.
His original productions and remixes (recently for Madonna, among others) all work a similar sound and style typified by big, bold synths and heavy drum machinery. Whether reworking other artists, producing original tracks, or performing a DJ mix, Green Velvet's objective remains constant: to loosen minds and move bodies on the dance floor.
Green Velvet's live shows have been known to feature Jones on keytar as well as occasional backing musicians, and his DJ sets span the impressive length and breadth of his illustrious career. Green Velvet should make a spectacularly entertaining headliner for Decibel's Dirty Dancing showcase. Amid panel discussions, software workshops, and more restrained musical showcases, Green Velvet promises to inject Decibel Festival with a crucial dose of sweaty maximalism.