I went to see DJ Dodger Stadium at Music Hall of Williamsburg last night; though I’d tried to see them several times before, I kept just missing the shows. Last night I almost didn’t make it out either, due to our own December/January issue release party and a lot of Sapporo. But I showed up in Williamsburg just in time to catch a set by Venus X, a legendary New York nightlife fixture and DJ who pulled me in immediately by playing the instrumentals of Nicki’s “Only” and mixing it with her own noirwave shit. This woman is incredible, a founding member of New York’s GHE20G0TH1K, and you can read more about her in an interview that Judnick Mayard did for Complex earlier this year. When her set was cut short–possibly due to technical difficulties?–I was disappointed. But then DJDS came on.
Ryan Adams has been maligned a lot lately, not so much for that whole mansplained version of 1989 as for how he preened over himself for undertaking it, but there’s a song he wrote called “When the Stars Go Blue” that makes me want to forgive him every time he bullies and pouts. It’s about seeking out a place or a person when things feel insurmountable; it’s a raw, still-bleeding song so full of love and pain that it eventually becomes the source of comfort itself. It’s the kind of song that gets done over and over by enough different kinds of artists that Adams’ original seems hazy. But the version I grew up loving the most is a duet between Bono of U2 and Andrea Corr of The Corrs. (Can you tell my parents were very into Celtic music?) I like their version because the song makes sense as something you share, a call and response between two people fearlessly facing oblivion. The way it feels when Bono and Andrea hit that last line, sung together–“Where do you go when you’re lonely, I’ll follow you / When the stars go blue”–that’s exactly how being at a DJDS show feels.
Notoriously, painstakingly, fearfully, I do not dance. I’m terrified of moving my body in front of other people, I don’t know a way to do it that feels okay. But I always want to. And DJDS create the kind of music that make you feel like your body does know how to move, or, that make you want to leave your body behind all together. They’re creating electronic music, yes, but it lifts and loops with a soulful glee that is increasingly rare. These songs aren’t purely instrumental either, they speak. The duo’s new album seems to double down on that idea, actually. It’s called Stand Up And Speak.
Whether it’s the coursing comfort of “You Don’t Have To Be Alone,” spattered with technicolor, morphing synths and pitch-shifted, echoing harmonies, or the triumphant, ringing freedom of “I Don’t Love You,” there is joy here. There’s an otherworldly sense of safety and assurance. These songs are big enough to recall stadium-sized surges and crowd roars, but also feel tightly wound, small and intimate enough to be speaking only to you.
Seeing DJDS live is even better than listening to their record, because just like the call and response of the duet I referenced above, Jerome LOL and Samo Sound Boy play off each other. They’re asking musical questions and answering each other in real time. “In The Flames” warps lyrics until they’re just songbird chirps, stippling pain and relief into one liquid, glitching house track. Their take on Adele’s “Hello” injects a burst of clarity and clatter into the syrupy, world-stopping ballad. And even though I love their new album so much and believe it will catapult them to yet another level of success, my favorite thing they’ve ever done is still the choir-rave power-drill of “Love Songs” off their 2014 debut album Friend Of Mine. They use it to end their set, a jittery burst of gospel-indebted self-love that cuts through the alcohol haze, that reconnects you to the core yourself.
It’s what I listen to when the stars go blue.