Directed by first-time filmmaker Jason Rem, Put the Needle on the Record is an award-winning documentary about house music, and it claims to be loaded with both thoughtful interviews and enough woozy audio-visual mood pieces to hold the attention of genre fans and newbies alike. In reality, though, this is just a very well-produced celebration of the obvious, a sermon to the choir… well, if that choir consists of gyrating music video hootchies, bass-heads and B-boy-style deejays.
Filmed in Miami during the Winter Music Conference — an annual week-long event attended by more than 20,000 electronic music fans, artists and industry professionals — Put the Needle on the Record is nothing if not exhaustive in its cataloguing of current and nascent electronica talent, featuring interviews with everyone from the Crystal Method, BT, Deep Dish and Mark Farina to Paul Oakenfold, DJ Sammy and Nigel Richards. Other folks who I hadn’t previously heard as much about include Dave Ralph, Charles Feelgood, Christopher Lawrence, Francois K, Donald Glaude, Roger Sanchez, Liquid Todd, Josh Wink, DJ Rap, Timo Maas and Marques Wyatt. These artists and other folks help pin down the sound’s birthplace roots, crediting the gay club scene of chilly Chicago with spawning the swooping, dance-happy bass and big-break beats of the scene.
Footage from events around the globe and (naturally) a pretty solid soundtrack combine to make for a high-energy offering, but Rem doesn’t really do much to push beyond the personalities and delve deeply into what such a constructionist/collagist mindset says about the state modern music. Neither does he elevate the air-quote artistry of those involved in the genre; in fact, if the intent of this film were to more deeply ingrain people’s preconceptions of its makers, it would be a hearty success. Put the Needle on the Record flaunts house and techno as being something approaching a “lifestyle,” but doesn’t make a persuasive case for its psychological depth when compared to even fairly rote rock ‘n’ roll.
Supplemental materials of this region-free widescreen release, presented in Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound, include an audio commentary track from Rem, a behind-the-scenes photo slide show and plenty of extended interview material, including Roger Sanchez in Chicago, DJ Mea in Los Angeles, Sen-Sei and David Coleman in San Francisco and DJ Agency in New York City. C (Movie) B- (Disc)