Wednesday, 7 August 2013

James Murphy's New Soundsystem

A sound engineer by trade, Murphy despairs at high-impact systems, which, in an arms race for power, have become: "Tinny, sad, hyper-aggressive. They don't sound beautiful. If you play certain dance music, great. But if you play jazz or AC/DC, they sound terrible."

The Despacio crew also have a problem with a dance music culture, arguably at its most intense in Ibiza, where clubs are seas of camera-phones, with everyone facing a DJ who is often hurtling through a laptop set of faultlessly programmed, formulaic peaks and drops. Where is the love? The patience? The unexpected moments? Despacio, in contrast, will start slowly, probably with an hour of unmixed music – despacio means gradually in Spanish – and the trio will only play vinyl. Not because they are anti-digital, but because it sounds better. And, says Murphy, "It's a challenge. If I don't have it on vinyl, I can't play it. The idea will be to take chances without forgetting the principal thing about DJing: making a fun time for people."

Murphy designed the Despacio soundsystem with John Klett, a veteran New York sound guru who helped build the DFA studio. The technical detail is baffling – "I don't like horns getting in around my 1.6," says Murphy, and who does? – but, essentially, this is a much more powerful version of the old, physically aligned, uncompressed hi-fi disco systems used at, say, Paradise Garage. "It's a simple, floor-standing series of giant stacks, comfortably doing full, smooth sound," explains Murphy. "It's pretty wide-open, pretty raw." The stacks will be arranged in a circle that people can wander in and out of, literally immersing themselves in sound.

If all this talk of vinyl, vintage kit and slower BPMs sounds like a bunch of old farts trying to revive some mythical golden age of disco, Murphy denies the charge. It's about dissent, he suggests, not nostalgia, and questioning the bad habits that DJ software encourages. "If you have a program that helps you mix every song, why would you ever not mix? I played at this thing the other day... there were people there that seemed almost too excited, like I had done something very creative or crazy. I was like, 'It was literally a bunch of fucking songs, dude'. I don't think I did anything exceptional. But what it wasn't was the guy with a computer playing a seamless, pre-programmed festival set, with no adjustments for the crowd, who, at the moment they're supposed to get excited, throw their hands in the air, but in between look kind of listless. That, to me, is really sad."

Full Article / Source: The Guardian