Posted by: pascoesabido | November 10, 2008

Death From Above Matter

This Is London present DFA: Special Disco Version @ matter, London – Friday 24th October 2008

Data Transmission [Original Article]

Straight out of New York City, Death From Above is currently the undisputed heavy-weight of modern disco – if not the world. James Murphy’s DFA label is home to far too many classy acts: Murphy’s own LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, The Rapture, Hercules and Love Affair – all have achieved greatness; but then there’s Yacht, The Juan Maclean, Still Going, Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom, Pylon, Shit Robot… The list keeps on (but lists are boring so we won’t). These are the acts that if you’ve not heard of yet it’s because you’re not listening hard enough. Not only are these North American conquerors touring the world and laying siege to all before them, they’re even breeding with the locals: DFA’s now spawned Death From Abroad – in its own words “der créme auf la musik internationalez”.

New-wave dance-punk disco (to instantly fabricate a crap name) has officially arrived, and Matter welcomed it straight into This Is Not London with open arms (and legs). With a licence to curate, Murphy and LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney threw a Special Disco Version party for the up and the coming, cramming the Dome’s best club with live sets from YACHT, Gavin Russom, Planningtorock and Juan Maclean (a live acid set), wedged between DJ sets from Still Going, Mock & Toof and Baby Talk; an impressive haul for one night. Oh, and let us not forget the curators’ DJ partnership, Special Disco Version, getting behind the decks for a primetime slot.

Ignoring the ‘is it/isn’t it a great club?’ argument – already been had on these pages and will inevitably get personal and lead to mum-cussing – let’s just say it befits the occasion. The two rooms do fill up, but the original fear of being trampled by 2,599 other people soon fades and there’s as much room as any other popular club. Stumbling across the stage finds Planningtorock a.k.a. Janine Rostron, finishing, and judging by the costume – a cross between a panda bear and that rabbit thing from Donnie Darko – it was a typically intriguing performance. Arriving in room two provides the first taste of disco as Babytalk a.k.a. Eric Broucek, lays the necessary female vocals over a lightly synthesised bass that twinges with funky house; an uplifting reprieve from the cold outside that flows through his set, evoking memories of Miami beaches in the late 70s (not my memories, I wasn’t quite conceived by that point, but I’m sure someone out there was loving it – lots of afros and cool sunglasses yeah?)

With a view over the main room, Special Disco Version also season their set with Miami beaches. The party people can’t help but wiggle their booties and even manage a few spectacular shapes on the dance floor – which has been accused on this website of sending the bass up your bum (body-kinetic floooorboards darling). Personally I don’t feel it, but can’t say I’m too upset about missing out. Whilst the dance floor packs out, the overlooking balconies provide a more relaxed – and less bum-intrusive – space, especially the top level with its discotastic illuminating dance floor. Regardless of where you are, the Murphy/Mahoney selection can’t fail to inspire: a blend of new with classic as golden oldies are given a modern twist; sharp trebles and rumbling bass lines juxtapose the syrupy vocals. Diana Ross and Donald Byrd both get an outing, as does Daniel Wang’s classic Like Some Dream (I Can’t Stop Dreaming), leaping out of the speakers.

And so to Juan Maclean’s ‘live acid set’ – any doubt as to what it would entail evaporates with his first tune: pounding beats, acid-glitchy samples, continuous soundscapes under penetrating bass, and not a hint of disco – not that he’s known for it. Some poor souls look horrified, alarm spreading across their face as sound waves leave them involuntarily shaking. It’s a shock to the system when compared to the funkiness coming from the main room, but not wholly removed: next door they play the game of hinting at Maclean’s warped sound, but take pride in its subtle incorporation and the simple suggestion of dirtiness. When Still Going takes over the dirty-disco game is played in reverse: a thumping nomadic bass drum reverberates up the narrow second room but then a small chirpy electrofied sample escapes between the pounding and hints at disco credentials. The same trick is played again, lacing loving vocals over broken beats dredged from the depths of every genre – I can sniff the old school house and garage.

In the main room Gavin Russom stalks the stage, looking like an Amish Russell Brand. Unhappy with conventional instruments, Russom uses a modular analogue synthesiser to create his own world of sound that can be heard on his album with Delia Gonzalez, The Days of Mars. However, while 15 minute tracks of pulsating monotony and subtle variation are great for those on drugs, the subtle tweaks and changes are boring to anyone wanting to dance but still firmly in their tree. Russom makes progressive-minimalist Richie Hawtin look like DJ Qbert at a gabba night -substitute ‘progressive’ with ‘stationary’. Shame on me for not being spangled! But all is good as a last peek in room two surrenders the track many were secretly waiting for: Still Going’s Theme. The simple thwack of the piano provides a perfect note to leave on.

James Murphy and Matter have provided another exemplary This Is Not London with a dazzling display of DFA’s diversity. Death From Above can successfully stake its claim as home to the most relevant sounds of today, while continuing to develop a genre that befits the brand. Its ability to create cutting edge music through a fusion of old and new underlines the label’s ease in straddling genres and places James Murphy on a musical high-horse, a finger in every pie and a command in the worlds of electronica and pop. If their current ambition of harbouring talent from across the world continues, then prepare for global dominance – which can only be an improvement on Simon Cowell.

The Juan Maclean – Give Me Every Little Thing


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