“Electronic music” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “dance music.”
For example, there’s no question that Le Tigre, the New York trio formed in 1999 by ex-Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna and musician-programmers Johanna Fateman and JD Samson, made electronic music. Some of it you could very much dance to, such as “Deceptacon” and “Hot Topic,” the one-two salvo that kicks off 1999’s Le Tigre, one of the era’s great albums. James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy’s remix, as DFA, of the former, a slowed-down strut, was inescapable on early 2000s dance floors.
That remix was cannily timed. Le Tigre’s debut dropped two years before NYC promoter Larry Tee coined the term “electroclash”—just ahead of the curve. Hanna’s prior band and rock affiliations could sometimes make it easier to slot Le Tigre into the “alt” bin of the mind than the “electronic” one, even as their music grew more purely electronic. After they broke up, I more or less lost touch.
Clearly, this was shortsighted of me: JD Samson’s set for Beats in Space Radio Show #889 (June 6) is one of the most scintillating disco-oriented mixes I’ve heard in ages. Yep, disco—which may be surprising if, like me, your primary familiarity with Samson is through Le Tigre, but shouldn't be considering how many New York DJs have turned to disco over the past couple of decades.
In Samson’s hands, it’s not just funky and heavy on the four but buoyant. Familiar grooves are abundant: The set climaxes in the middle with Eli Escobar’s Stevie Wonder cut-up “Seein’ You,” and it’s dotted elsewhere by the likes of hip-house hit-maker KC Flightt and Karen Young’s disco monster “Hot Shot,” as re-edited by Britain’s Joey Negro, somewhat of a disco monster himself. Like many of her NYC peers, Samson also creates her own versions of tracks to play out—her own re-edit of “Hot Shot” is what she and host Tim Sweeney talk over at the set’s end. And there are long stretches of minimalist strangeness that offset all that string-drenched sumptuousness; my favorite is the barely-there bass groove and hummed tune of “Can’t U Get a Grip?!” by Missing Linkx.
Samson teaches at NYU’s Clive Davis School of Recorded Music as well as DJing parties in Williamsburg, something Sweeney teases her about at the end of the set: “It feels very professional of you to be here.” Nah—this feels like a party.
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set—often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily—and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.