Fire Don Mattingly, Hire DJ Dodger Stadium

Two of LA's best house producers drop gems, re-work Timmy Thomas, bat-flip with wanton disregard.
By    October 20, 2015

Art by John Liu

In some conversations I had last week with several LA producers, they reiterated the old assumption that all roads eventually lead to house. Some people start out with that tempo and aesthetic, but most of the people who actually expand the sound come from a different tradition. Before teaching Clayton Kershaw the curveball, Jerome Potter was one half of the LOL Boys, a group that incorporated Chicago Dance Mania style house with UK Funky, R&B, hip-hop, hints of the LA and English beat scenes, and even a little calypso.

When the duo eventually stopped smiling, Potter formed DJ Dodger Stadium with frequent collaborator Samo Sound Boy. It was a de facto flagship act for the fledgling Body High label, which pressed up seminal Jersey club and Baltimore club, along with house and techno — becoming one of LA’s most dependable dance imprints alongside LA Club Resource and 100% Silk.

The breakout was last year’s full-length, Friend of Mine, a melancholic ashen but oddly uplifting tribute to John Fante, the filthy disarray of MacArthur Park, and Yasel Puig’s bat flip. It’s nominally house music, but it’s not necessarily built for the club. There’s an unusual sadness that almost reminds me of the usual deep house and minimal techno suspects, but also the mercury thump of the Four Tet and Burial collaboration.

There’s something definitively West Coast to it too. A distant heat burning through the marine layer, but also the visuals that accompanied the music, including the instantly canonized clip for “Love Songs,” where a drone flies over the city looking for love in all the wrong places (word to USC graduate, Young MC).

Without much delay, Sam and Jerome returned with a duo of singles from their next salvo, “You Don’t Have to Be Alone” and “In the Flames.” The song titles sound like something off mid-00s Saddle Creek, but the emotion behind it is the sort of stuff that can’t be contrived. The former rides piano house vamps and chopped up soul-disco vocals that come out of some sweltering attic memory. The words “You Don’t Have to Be Alone” repeat, but not as some cheesy mantra, but more something to console you from being resigned to solitude. And just to avoid being maudlin, the video depicts an adorable dog frolicking in the ocean.

“In the Flames” conveys the same depressed euphoria. It’s not quite when the drugs wear off, when you’re sitting alone in your room, counting your emotional errors and hollow thoughts. But rather when they’re still going strong, but a nagging reminder of tomorrow and yesterday pierces the shade of momentary bliss. The drums have strong legs, the vocals are pitch-shifted to keep pace, but then become clear — “call your name when I need you/will you be there/will you be true.”┬áIf house music is often interpreted as just a tempo or BPM, DJDS succeed because they capture that original feeling of trying to find warmth in what was an empty warehouse.

You might recognize the final song of the trio as the sample source for Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” In the DJDS edit of Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live it Together,” they spike the original Blue Hawaii tropical pulse with amphetamines and chromatic sparkle. It’s one of those reworks that reminds you of all the ways that things can go. From Timmy Thomas, you indirectly get Dram, directly get Drake’s ode to emotional house arrest, and this — something that achieves a mutant form but captures just enough of the original to show the work. You don’t need a video of someone dancing awkwardly alone in front of bright colors. You can just close your eyes and get the same feeling. Although a few dancing turtleneck Gifs never hurt.

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