Nothing ever happened quickly for DJ Qu. Ramon Quezada started out as a house dancer in the late 80’s, started DJing in ’89 and didn’t produce music until 2002. This might explain the timeless quality of his music, which is clearly indebted to Chicago and New York house but sounds neither retro nor particularly modern. His tracks exist on their own plane – raw and functional, but always primed to evoke genuine feeling on the dancefloor.
The slow gestation period of his music goes some way to explaining why Quezada is often considered a DJ’s DJ. He was releasing singles on his own label Strength Music for six years before he came out with his first album, 2011’s superb ‘Gymnastics’. That LP showed a defiantly singular approach to dance music, full of mood and gritty rhythms, referencing but never mimicking the loose group Quezada’s a part of, which includes Levon Vincent, Joey Anderson, Jus-Ed and Fred P.
Quezada’s follow-up is just as trim and confident, packing some of his strongest dancefloor material to date next to bold experimentations unlike the distracted ambient tracks that fill out many club albums. Each of these unusual tracks takes a different route but the quality never drops. Lotus is a soulful, searching opener with the honeyed guest vocals of Charlotte Carter-Allen, but its queasy synthwork and menacing bassline gesture at the darker terrain that Conjure covers. Elsewhere Quezada delves into dreamy broken beat on the dubbed-out drift of Supafly, and provides a single ambient interlude with the gorgeous Candlelit, a moment of calm on an alien planet.
These tracks provide welcome changes of rhythm to the album, but DJ Qu is still at his very best when he’s got the club in his sights. He offers a range of dancefloor flavours here, from the tense introduction of Feed Off Of, where scuffed martial drums ride under a needling trumpet melody, to the dark, abstract tribalism of Visitation.
The straighter cuts cry out to be danced to, particularly the sublime Get It Til It’s Gone, whose rough-hewn drumwork punch into magnificent chords that crackle with energy. Follow-up Toc is wilder, with its rolling bassline and hip house vocals, but it’s on closer Conjure that Quezada totally lets go with a disturbed mix of caustic acid and angular drums arranged awkwardly for maximum hysteria. Just when it seems to get impossibly rough, enter an oddly delicate guitar melody, a moment of unexpected beauty in a vicious cacophony. The notes call out, ask something, and then fade away, never to return.