Every Sunday at Sugarhill during the late-night dance party Volume, Kai Alce spins deeply soulful house. The songs he plays are blissfully sweet, and full of exhortations of love and indestructible relationships and values. The dancers often respond in kind, leaping and bouncing across the floor as if they were in the middle of a drum circle under a starry sky, not a darkly lit nightclub in downtown's Underground center.
The tracks Kai Alce produces as a solo artist sound radically different, however. They usually don't have any vocals at all, nor do they have the lush melodies that mark his DJ sets at Volume. They're tracks in the literal sense of the word – instrumental workouts made on an MPC keyboard and a Mackie mixer board and set to a 4/4 beat.
"When I was at MJQ, I used to play Theo Parrish, a lot of myself, a lot of Moodymann," Alce says. He's noting the artists he used to incorporate into his sets during the Saturday house music parties at MJQ nightclub, which ended in early 2006. Volume began in mid-July at Sugarhill; it features Alce, Kemit, Salah Ananse and Jamad on the turntables. "Being at Sugarhill, it's more of a commercial type of place. To fill that type of arena with people, you're going to have feed into ... music that's more commercial, more palatable," he says.
Alce has DJed for years, but he only began producing tracks in 2002. He's issued 12-inch singles imprints such as Track Mode, Mahogani Music and now-defunct Atlanta label Late Night Essentials. Popular Chicago house DJ Mark Farina included one of Alce's tracks, "Do It Down," on his Sessions mix CD for Ministry of Sounds, a sign that the DJ community is aware of Alce's work.
Last June, U.K. imprint Real Soon Records issued Alce's new EP Broken Headlights. Alce acknowledges that his music is more intended for dance-music DJs than casual listeners. "I try to keep my tracks deep, but with some energy," he explains. "DJs are going to be the ones who play them. But for a listener, a track like 'Broken Headlights' is something that you can sit at home and listen to. It's a little mellow. It's more of a late-night kind of thing."
"I try to keep most of my tracks smooth," he continues. "I'm not making tracks for the DJ who plays for 3,000 people. I'm making tracks for people who play in smaller, more intimate rooms."
Kai Alce spins during Volume w/ Salah Ananse, Kemit and Jamad. $5. 10 p.m. Sugarhill, 50 Upper Alabama St. 404-658-0068. www.sugarhillatl.com.
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