Truly great dance music needs to make asses move to be successful. This is the axiom that defines the genre, as dance music that doesn't make people dance shouldn't be able to exist (though it does, and in several varied subgenres as well). Rhythm is the easiest characteristic of good dance music to nail down, so let's take that as a given. Drama is certainly a necessary part of great dance music, and I'm not talking about personal conflict on the dancefloor. A properly-timed dropout or well-deployed sample can shape a dancefloor like Moses' escapade with the Red Sea, just as adding or subtracting a sound or sequence can cause large shifts in the energy and vibe of the crowd. But let's not forget the other ingredient of truly great dance music; the component sounds. You can make a serviceable dance record with a simple thump-and-clap and nothing else. You can make a nightmarish mess of a dance record by layering in hundreds and hundreds of sounds, samples, and noises as well. The key is finding and creating a system of sounds that not only appeal to the listener but also which mesh together and create something different and new.
These three tenets seem simple, but for years remixers would rise and fall who could master one or two of these ideas and yet never make something truly special. Disco and Hi-NRG as genres managed to keep all three of these elements in play, but the ever-mutating spine of house music begin to devolve at the end of the 80s, when dance pop and house stopped being friends for a while. The mid-90s was all about rhythm, with pounding dubby New York house dominating for quite some time. The circuit boom in the late-90s was a time when dance producers and mixers seemed to be rediscovering how to make truly enduring records, and it is with that kind of ethereal skill and in perfect balance of the three elements of truly great dance music that Josh Gabriel and Dave Dresden have quickly become some of the finest remixers working today.
Their rhythms and drum patterns are tuff enough for house crowds who wanna get banged by the beat and catch their breath on the back of the hi-hat. Their sense of drama is peerless, structuring their mixes and original productions like little novels with the peaks and troughs that pre-MIDI producers and mixers would serve up to keep the listeners captivated. And their sound is the clincher; incorporating elements of electro, trance, house, circuit, Hi-NRG, and the occasional symphony into a sound which is distinctive and sorely needed in the "trance like me" direction much of contemporary dance music seems to be mired in. Look no further than their breakout one-two punch of Way Out West's "Mindcircus" and Jewel's "Serve The Ego" in 2002, two mercurial tracks that proved that house's aggressive rhythms, trance's baroque orchestration, and Hi-NRG's devotion to song structure and dynamic chord progressions could not only play nice together but crosspollinate and create something wonderful.
Jason Shawhan: What have been the key inspirations for the Gabriel & Dresden approach to remixing?
Josh Gabriel: The sound of the voice, the meaning and flow of the words and any soulful musical bits from the song we are working on.
Dave The Wave Dresden: Long road trips listening to 80s music.
JS: How would you describe the vibe of your productions?
Gabriel: Upliftingdubbytechfunktrancetechnohousegothic.....is that a style?
Dresden: Classic and warm. Not too many frills.
JS: Do you start with drum loops, chord progressions, hooks, or vocals?
Dresden: Usually we start with drums and a bassline and then make the vocals work over that. Then we start playing with melodies and hooks.
Gabriel: Sometimes we just have the vocals and will lay down a bassline that goes with the vocals that implies a chord progression.