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“Nobody is at This Point the Premiere Record-Releasing DJ on the Planet”

DJ Nobody [1] is in love with making albums and I’m in love with listening to them. It started for me in spring of 2005 in Bloomington, Indiana, at the Tracks records on Kirkwood, with …And Everything Else on the recommended listening station. I’d really never listened to DJ music to the point where I actually owned a CD before and really most DJ’s seem to harbor this obstinate reticence to write and record actual albums (probably rightfully observing that doing live shows with their turntables and thrifty lack of a “road crew” is a way superior financial investment).

Something about it scratched a certain itch in me though — there was an obvious penchant for hip-hop, which fed the same bone in me that already enthralled itself with the Beastie Boys, The Roots, Eminem and Wu-Tang. It was also at least traceably psychedelic, with colorful melodies, hazy, wilting sonic textures and a lyrical allusion to something called a “bright sun rose.” Another time in Chicago I picked up Pacific Drift at a Reckless Records and found it to be a similar album — maybe not as deep and dense with the jungle of grooves and sounds but still arching in as music that breathes effectively, and again, carries a thickly psychedelic tinge about it. To this day I must confess I’ve never heard his first album, Soulmates, from 2000.

And what a dorky title for his first album! Well that’s what this guy is — he’s a music nerd. For his last two LP’s, he even picked up a whole new instrument, the guitar, somewhat surprising since from what I heard that Vivid Green project from 2013 had more tension and opaque hip-hop sustenance about it than almost anything else from his catalogue. 

But the music just obstinately refuses to devolve into formulaic “club” fare. And though Nobody undoubtedly has the skills to be a club DJ and that’s how he got his start (he’s typically lumped into a group with Four Tet, Caribou and Todd Terje, from what I’ve gathered), he’s more than proven by this point in his career that recording an album to be listened to at home, or at work, or while running or working out, or driving, is his primary motivation in what he does. 

Between doing sporadic shows around LA (it looks like his 12-year stint as a resident DJ at the Low End Theory club has come to a halt because of said club’s demise), then, he can apparently be often found in his studio, perfecting his musical techniques. Actually, to observe his last non-guitar album, Vivid Green, it’s almost like the DJ stuff was just getting too easy for him: every single sound seemed to seethe and gyrate with this brand of originality that was just so bonkers that it bespoke a disdain for anything normal or conventional within that particular stylistic mold. You get the sense, then, that guitar is an instrument that’s somewhat challenging to him (in general it’s held as one of the harder instruments to play out there), as his riffs and patterns tend to be fairly simple, not quite the Eddie Van Halen “shredding” you’d expect from a “hero” within the instrument’s pantheon.

But as for sound itself, Nobody again refuses with a vengeance to rest on anything plain or conventional, on 2019’s All Too Familiar. The opener “Watery,” almost mimicking the first track on 2005’s excellent …And Everything Else for its insistence on making every single note psychedelically ephemeral, almost doesn’t even sound like guitar, at all. According to Bandcamp the album was “written primarily on his guitar” and I suppose the sounds that usher things in do somehwat resemble something played through an echo chamber with a whammy bar effect — a sound that already, to begin with, was of unbelievable clarity. It almost seems like a West Coast thing, too, to obsess over sonic matters, emphasizing textures and idyllic landscapes over things like “messages” and “grooves,” in theoretical concordance with the rich, undulating mountain-and-ocean juxtapositions on the Coast, I suppose. 

What resounds to me about the rest of All Too Familiar, along with what is a further glut of innovative, mind-blowing guitar playing, from a production standpoint at least, is the emphasis on and penchant for creating a final music product that can entertain in and of itself, and can play as an album. Contrary to what you might think, this really isn’t music you have to be on drugs in order to enjoy (though it probably doesn’t hurt, at the same time). Anchored still by his expert hip-hop beats and granted a bass moxie that now has the newfound mission of flanking a rock mix (along with retaining its old hip-hop identity), this is an album of ample, profuse musical manifestations and turns, one that seems to pay homage even to grunge and Alice in Chains unplugged on “Smash Yr Radio.” Even as we enter the third decade of the 21st century, Nobody is creating music that’s both universally enjoyable and unifying and also staunchly “alternative.” The completely instrumental anatomies of the songs, that is, will likely turn a lot of people away, but it won’t turn away any Four Tet fans, and I could see this inspired decade from Nobody lighting a fire under the British DJ, and maybe even stealing some of his fans. 

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[1] He is also known sometimes simply as “Nobody,” like in his recording enterprises as opposed to his live sets, in particular. I apologize for the confusing title. 

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