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De LuxAfter establishing a sound on their debut Voyage and then establishing an identity with the revelatory Generation, L.A. disco-not-disco duo De Lux took a moment to re-center and come back leaner, sharper, clearer and deeper on their new album More Disco Songs About Love. Now that co-founders Sean Guerin and Isaac Franco know how to play and what to say, they’re ready to just get lost in the music. As the band puts it: “We like to say Voyage was our baby, Generation was our baby all grown up and More Disco Songs About Love thinks growing up sucks and just wants to party smart.”
They started in 2013 with a happy accident called “Better At Making Time,” the lead track of their 2014 debut Voyage and an unexpected practice-space jam session that crystallized a sound, a philosophy and a future direction all at once. In that sudden moment DeLux snapped into focus as an outfit matching post-punk sentiment and the-sociopolitical-is-personal perspective to joyfully indulgent analog synthesizer soundscapes and a deliriously transportive musical joy. And the press was ready to take the ride, with the Guardian calling Voyage “intricate, witty, inventive, dazzling in its detail” and Billboard celebrating its “lush, eclectic dance music.”
On their 2015 sophomore album Generation—a title activating every sense of the word—De Lux added a new almost-documentary aspect to their dance music, delivering clearly personal stories of anxiety and hopeful aspiration from the place where IRL L.A. exhaustion collides with a digital city that never sleeps. (As Guerin sang: “All of these things that they put us through / I’m writing it down / I’m writing it down.”) And they were growing up in other ways, too: 2015 saw their first major festival appearance at Bonnaroo, where they delivered the first of many stand-out big-show performances. Then in 2016, they made a hotly tipped Coachella debut and shared a bill with Arcade Fire at New York City’s Panorama fest. And then at the end of that summer, they started the very first experiments that would lead to their new album.
Like Voyage, More Disco Songs About Love starts with the song that made everything clear: “875 Dollars,” a song (in part) about losing the place you’ve always called home. From there it’s a stream-of-consciousness tour through De Lux’s reality, from the family and friends who helped focus the sound of the album to everyday L.A. experiences, including but not limited to elections, evictions, even porn—although in the context you’d least expect, of course. New York City dance-punk legend Sal P. of Liquid Liquid—who did a De Lux remix on their first-ever release—takes featured vocals on the relentless “Smarter Harder Darker” and the Pop Group’s maniacal Mark Stewart pushes “Stratosphere Girl” into interstellar overdrive. (Plus Guerin’s mother Marie helps out with some very French examination of crepe preferences on “Music Snob,” mutant sibling to Generation’s surreal “Oh Man The Future.”)
And even though the title might seem like some kind of clever reference to something, it’s really just as simple and direct as it seems. The disco is the sound—in the most innovative way, of course—and the love is the sentiment: “‘875’ is love for a house,” they say. “‘These Are Some Of The Things That I Think About’ is love for thought. ‘Keyboards Cause We’re Black and White’ is our love for a friend. ‘Writing Music For Money, To Write More Music’ is love for music—or money. It’s all literal to us but we realize that it might not be for others. We like the idea of giving listeners something to question and wonder about. But there’s love in there.”
Short bio (if needed):
After establishing a sound on their debut Voyage and establishing an identity with the revelatory Generation, L.A. disco-not-disco duo De Lux took a moment to re-center and come back leaner, sharper, clearer and deeper on their new More Disco Songs About Love. Now that co-founders Sean Guerin and Isaac Franco know how to play and what to say, they’re ready to just get lost in the music. As the band puts it: “We like to say Voyage was our baby, Generation was our baby all grown up and More Disco Songs About Love thinks growing up sucks and just wants to party smart.
Their 2014 debut Voyage revealed De Lux as an outfit matching post-punk sentiment and the-sociopolitical-is-personal perspective to joyfully indulgent analog synthesizer soundscapes and a deliriously transportive musical joy. 2015’s Generation added an almost-documentary aspect to their dance music, delivering clearly personal stories of anxiety and aspiration. And 2015 also saw their first major festival appearance at Bonnaroo, the prelude to their hotly tipped Coachella debut in 2016 and then sharing a bill with Arcade Fire at New York City’s Panorama fest.
Now More Disco Songs is a stream-of-consciousness tour through De Lux’s reality. (With New York City dance-punk legend Sal P. of Liquid Liquid and the Pop Group’s maniacal Mark Stewart as guests, of course.) Though the title might seem like some kind of clever reference, it’s really simple and direct. The disco is the sound—in the most innovative way, of course—and the love is the sentiment: “It’s all literal to us but we realize that it might not be for others,” they say. “We like the idea of giving listeners something to question. But there’s love in there.”
Traps PSTraps PS are a band that breaks “less is more” all the way down to “less is everything.” You get it: like the Minutemen, the songs are short because they don’t need to be long. And like the Minutemen, sixty seconds of Traps PS hits harder and resonates longer than five-ten-twenty sloppy minutes from somebody else. Or like Gang of Four, who got it from James Brown, who is a fundamental Traps PS inspiration—Traps PS cares about discipline, rhythm and clarity. Says drummer Miles Wintner: “We don’t waste time.”
They’ve always been unafraid to do what needed to be done, this practically telepathic trio of Wintner, bassist/backing vocalist Danny Miller and singer/guitarist Andrew Jeffords. They recorded and released records on their community-oriented/community-involved label Papermade and played any space they’d fit—lost all ages institutions like L.A.’s Pehrspace or not-exactly legal “guerilla” shows on city streets and in dusty Inglewood oil fields. But with their first full-length in three years coming into focus, they found L.A. independent label Innovative Leisure ready to amplify that DIY capability: “We’ve done so much in our own bubble that it was exciting to explore another aspect,” says Jeffords. “I’m enjoying inviting people into our family.”
By the time they walked into Long Beach’s Jazzcats studio—where labelmates like Hanni El Khatib and the Molochs recorded with producer Jonny Bell—they had more than twenty songs nearly fully finished, trimmed to their most necessary components and rehearsed only enough to sharpen the original inspiration. That was the most important part, says Jeffords, to capture that ecstatic lightning-strike instant that sparked a song in the first place, and to make sure it never fizzled out. “If we didn’t have that feeling,” he adds, “the song would have never made it out of the rehearsal studio.”
Their last full-length was about energy, says Jeffords, an echo of the helicopters that shook the walls in his old apartment and the car crashes in the street. New Chants would be darker in tone and color, he thought—about people and their machines, and the blurring relationship between them. Like the way you can sometimes see your reflection in a TV screen—maybe you lose track of where the media starts and you begin. If “Fourth Walls” didn’t make it obvious, the black border around their cover art does: Traps PS knows there’s always a frame around the image.
This is where the real spirit of that first wave of post-punk is at work on New Chants. It’s that uneasiness with the future and the unpredictable effects it brings, and an effort to make an unpredictable new music to meet it. (Possibly related: there’s actually one of the Jazzcats studio cats playing piano on this album, but not where you’d think.) New Chants is an album about watching and being watched, about white noise and negative space, about how what’s undone or unplayed or unsaid is just as deliberate and meaningful as everything else. Jeffords even perforated his lyrics sheet with “…” ellipses—negative space in the language itself.
So think Wire’s precision minimalism, antidote to the over-the-top spectacle of punk and pop both. You’ll hear it in “Seven Voices” or the album’s title track. Think Public Image and that caustic, corrosive—and purer for it—dissonance. You’ll hear it in “Two Truths,” with its ragged semi-chorus of “Emmmmmmbrace …” Think the Contortions, who tore out everything in their songs except the rhythm and discovered there wasn’t much else they’d needed anyway, except for some saxophone used more as flamethrower than musical instrument. You’ll hear that as “Fourth Walls” falls in on itself. And then think about Traps PS, who thought about what they didn’t need and then threw it out, and who made an album only out of what they felt mattered most: “Let it be what it is,” says Jeffords. New Chants is barely twenty minutes long—but it’s got everything.
Mystery FriendsMystery Friends is a band rooted in the Washington, DC-music tradition while forging its own path forward. Since forming in 2016, the band finds its sound from a variety of influences, but they all fit together like a weird, wonderful puzzle. The band has been likened to Chvrches and Talking Heads, among others, but never looks to copy someone else’s sound. Combining powerful vocals, angular guitars, woozy synths, and a funky rhythm section, Mystery Friends makes moderately danceable rock music for a time when people need a reason to dance.