The electronic “Elite”

Minneapolis’ Elite Gymnastics is the Twin Cities’ electronic finest. Just don’t expect too much sunshine.

Elite Gymnastics' James Brooks and Josh Clancy croon over their beats.

Courtesy Amanda Bailey

Elite Gymnastics’ James Brooks and Josh Clancy croon over their beats.

Andrew Penkalski

 

WHO: #LIFE #RARE: A Music Video Party Experience with How To Dress Well and Elite Gymnastics

WHEN: 10 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis

Minneapolis electronic duo Elite Gymnastics wonâÄôt be the first to tell you that dance music is a traditionally vapid discipline. Historically, the cream of the club-music crop âÄî like Donna Summer in the âÄô70s or Dee-Lite in the early âÄô90s âÄî has always preferred to wade in waters of blind serenity. After all, no one wants to stir up any internal miseries on a Friday night.

However, the same cannot be said for Elite Gymnastics, who at times sound more interested in setting up shop in a clubâÄôs shadowy corner booth than on the dance floor.

âÄúWhen I think of dance music, IâÄôm thinking about people running around clubs trying to get drug deals down because theyâÄôre miserable and thatâÄôs the only way that theyâÄôre going to feel important,âÄù member James Brooks said. âÄúThereâÄôs just all this stuff that goes behind the scenes that to me is what that whole life is really about.âÄù

Brooks and fellow member Josh Clancy may have benefited from an initial distance from the desensitizing effects of any city with a perpetual nightlife. The two initially met while attending high school in the middle-of-nowhere Minnesota town of Cokato. While initially a roster of four, Brooks and Clancy found that they were the only two on similar wavelengths.

âÄúJosh was the only person that I would ever consistently agree on things with,âÄù Brooks said. âÄú[He] was just always like âÄòYeah dude! WeâÄôll totally sample Final Fantasy VIII. ThatâÄôs an awesome idea!âÄôâÄù******

Like any electronic act that is worth a damn nowadays, Elite Gymnastics stays active. They have a spattering of remixes and singles, but their two EPs, this yearâÄôs âÄúNeu! âÄô92âÄù and their nationally recognized 2010 debut, âÄúReal Friends,âÄù are the records that show off their penchant for diverse expressive explorations. Their debut opens with the double-time bounce of âÄúWe Fly High.âÄù The trackâÄôs spoken-word narrative shows Brooks flaunting a particular thread of intellectual dance pedigree âÄî an approach very similar to James MurphyâÄôs matter-of-fact words on LCD SoundsystemâÄôs breakthrough, âÄúLosing my Edge.âÄù

But BrooksâÄô words are uglier than MurphyâÄôs. ThereâÄôs anxiety in the beat and his streaming recollections. All the hedonism and drug-addled debauchery of club culture is there, but it doesnâÄôt shine under any spotlights.

âÄúI feel like the best dance-music-oriented parties that IâÄôve been to, the music is a little more sophisticated. There is more than just sort of blatant hedonism going on in the music,âÄù Brooks said. âÄúI couldnâÄôt just personally work with dance sonics without talking about what they mean to me.âÄù

While BrooksâÄô brand of dance deconstructionism is clearly one of calculated intent, there are entry points from contemporary musicâÄôs audible vernacular.

The rhythmic vocal sampling from their standout âÄúReal FriendsâÄù track, âÄúIs This On Me?,âÄù repeats in a way that removes any meaning from these looped words as if they were just instrumental notes in the orchestration.

There is a resulting tinge of nostalgia in their ability to synthesize these scattered elements of contemporary musicâÄôs historical memory. 1990s-era tropes, like the big bass of new jack swing hip-hop, weave throughout their recordings.

âÄúEspecially when it comes to dance music, we sort of defer back to that time,âÄù Brooks said. âÄúIt sort of is interesting to perceive dance music from a childish point of view âÄî from before youâÄôve gone through puberty, before youâÄôve ever gotten drunk and see whatâÄôs left when you strip away all that stuff from it.âÄù

It is an approach similarly shared by Chicago electronic musician How To Dress Well, who is headlining SaturdayâÄôs show with a DJ set. The eveningâÄôs music video framing, which is in coordination with the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, will also likely draw upon this interest in the recontextualization of the dance genre. It is also what Elite Gymnastics do best. Amidst the unique aesthetics of their aural building blocks, Brooks and Clancy have a knack for teasing out their unique voices. Even worn-out top 40 tracks like Lady GagaâÄôs âÄúPaparazziâÄù can find new life in the hands of Elite Gymnastics.

âÄúI really liked that song, but I felt like the reasons why I liked that song werenâÄôt as evident as they could be,âÄù he said. âÄúI tried to make a version of it so other people could hear it how I heard it.âÄù