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  Steve Lawler Dark Drums Vol. 2
by Charles Michael Fulton
Photo by Carlos Amoedo

Steve LawlerSteve Lawler is a DJ in transition. Since he came on the scene with the original Dark Drums mix CD, we've known him for deep, driving, tribal rhythms. His intense track selection and re-edits (Lawler will edit the breaks out of his records and then burn them to acetates to maintain intensity) earned him the title of "King of Space" early on in his residency at the infamous club in Ibiza.

After a couple of dark, brooding remixes, Lawler caught the attention of the Global Underground Pantheon. They quickly commissioned a Steve Lawler mix in the NuBreed series, which officially launched his carrier as a superstar DJ. Now Lawler jets around the world, bringing his intense sound to the masses.

However, judging from his schedule, he does love his time in the sun. With a full fifth of his summer spinning done in Ibiza, it would seem that the "punter's paradise" has had a deep effect on him. Or should I say, an un-deepening effect?

The second edition of Dark Drums isn't...well, it isn't that dark. It seems the sun has lightened Lawler's taste in music, as he goes for more groove-friendly sounds and a less brooding, more tittering mix. Success has defiantly lightened Lawler's mood, and this CD portends this new direction. Dark Drums starts out with a palpable intensity, blending nightmarish sounds and a heavily-processed female vocalist ranting about her pseudo-sexual dance floor experience. Then, on come the tribal drums! Lawler promises to never yield, to not allow the listener to escape his tribal gravity, to bang a punter's head with the dark drum sticks until he GETS IT! On comes DJ Myka & Addy's mix of "The Chief Warning," as legions of near-naked savages dance, glistening with war paint, in the glow of the pagan fire. Hither comes the blistering bass of Borgo Manero's "The Darwin's Theory (White Lady Mix)" to separate the reproducers from the genetic dead-ends!

Further! Jair's "Shake" takes the listener to the dark place where he (and she) is to do his (or her) duty to propagate the human race. As the listeners find their rhythm, close their eyes, and play the often dangerous game of love...Mom walks into the room. And she's got a boom box. And it's pumping out Luca Ricci's Deep Tribal Dub of "Everybody" by Frankie Carbone.

"Mom!?! What are you doing here? How did you find this place? Get out! You're ruining the mood!"

"No, honey, I brought a few tracks at the store today that you're going to like. Here, listen! Isn't this the kind of music that you 'get down to'?"

I'd like to take a moment and recognize Steve Lawler as an amazing mixologist. With his frequent uses of accapella vocals to blend refrains from tracks together, I cannot accurately tell which track is which. Either that, or the track list I have is slightly off.

Either way, we sit with mama's funky stuff until about track seven, when Lawler brings back his fierce drums and irate diva. According to Ms. Angry Thing, it's Menace's "Sound of the Floor." And apparently she doesn't sleep any more. No wonder she's so cranky.

Lawler rebuilds his intensity until track nine, a funky tech house number that might just have come out of somebody else's record bag. It's a hip-grinding track with a shiny happy female vocal that I suspect probably belongs to Tony Humphries or perhaps "Little" Louie Vega. Lawler's really got to learn to keep better track of his records.

Peter Balley's "U Need It" winds down the CD with some relaxing deep bass and percussion. As the track winds down, we are warned by a strong male vocal, but about what is not clear....

Oh! We're warned not to turn the CD off! There's more! Out of the wind-down, Lawler brings us back into his world with an accapella of "Sun, Moon, and Stars," then deeper into Robert Owen's "I'll be Your Friend (Leon Roberts Edit)." "Friend" builds up until about 7:00, at which point it climaxes with a Casio Trumpet-synth solo that's just, well, a good way to end.

Dark Drums Vol. 2 is both a departure and a return to a more roots-oriented house sound for Mr. Lawler. It might be a bit of a disappointment to fans of dark tribal drums, but it is a CD that opens some curtains and lets the light shine into the new direction that Lawler is heading.

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Dark Drums cover art Dark Drums Vol. 2
Mixed by Steve Lawler
Record Label:
Uni/Bliss
Track Listing:

  1. Intro: Lawler's Drums/Dance Naked - Aaron Carl
  2. The Chief Warning - The Frost Project
  3. The Darwins Theory - Borgo Manero
  4. Shake - Jair
  5. Everybody - Frankie Carbone
  6. Shaka - Sharam J & Nick K
  7. You Drive Me Crazy - Java & Jan
  8. Sound Of The Floor - Menace
  9. The Gathering/Praying - Jaimy & Kenny D Present
  10. PMS/The Path Presents
  11. When I Fall In Love 2001 - UBQ featuring Felica Washington
  12. U Need It - Peter Bailey
  13. I'll Be Your Friend/Moonraker - Robert
  14. Owens/Foremost Poets

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