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Veteran L.A. beat producer Daedelus recently remarked on Twitter, “Young producers. Someday your alias won’t sound ridiculous. Keep going.” A comforting gesture, but I don’t think Daedelus had DJ Seinfeld’s name in mind. Since last year, the young Swedish house producer—who also goes by Rimbaudian, referencing the 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud—has been caught in the crossfire of an ongoing debate on the topic of authenticity in house music.
Along with such producers as DJ Boring and Ross From Friends, DJ Seinfeld has helped usher in a new era of house music that prioritizes pleasure over precision; feeling over substance. With that—love it or hate it—“lo-fi” dominated the scene in 2016. Satisfaction is their M.O., and the internet is their oyster. In only a few months, DJ Boring’s “Winona” and Ross From Friends’ “Talk to Me You’ll Understand” both garnered over a million hits on YouTube—astonishing achievements for unknown bedroom producers. DJ Seinfeld’s own track “U” has accrued over 300,000 plays on the same platform since October.
The music DJ Seinfeld makes isn’t all that divisive on its own. His debut Season 1 EP, released last year, presented a freewheeling collection of five jacking beats dipping between vaporwave funk, scorched-earth acid, and tribal house. It’s emotive party music with a youthful, no-fucks-given approach. Aside from the cover art’s portrayal of Jerry and George in a decidedly Macintosh Plus aesthetic and a track entitled “Jerry,” DJ Seinfeld’s namesake is nowhere to be found in the tunes themselves.
The “Seinfeld” graphics have vanished for the three-track Sunrise EP, replaced with appropriative imagery of another kind—a cheeky smiley face recalling the ubiquitous symbol of acid house and a dog happily sniffing its own ass, like an ouroboros (the ancient symbol of a serpent eating its tail). The acid house reference is undeniable, and on “Chat Shit Get Luved,” DJ Seinfeld draws up a gnarly 303 bassline from subterranean depths as the claps reverberate through a cavernous space. It’s an effective club track, but it reaches top velocity fairly quickly, and stays there for five minutes of clenched-fist tension. It forgoes the archetypal EDM “build” and offers little variation other than a few predictably satisfying bass drops.
DJ Seinfeld evokes the cyclical nature of the ouroboros on “Beginning of an End,” where he transports us to a shimmering synthscape with a 4/4 pulse less ferocious than the rest of the EP. Meanwhile, a voice recites the 1932 poem “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye. As Frye’s voice is swallowed up by DJ Seinfeld’s gently lapping waves, her words—“Do not stand at my grave and cry/I am not there; I did not die”—emphasize morbid introspection.
The highlight here is “Flyin’ Thru Sunrise,” a stomping slice of nouveau-deep-house. Again, DJ Seinfeld doesn’t hide anything, as he recasts a snippet from the matriarch of the deep house vocal, Sade Adu. The sample comes from her 1992 Love Deluxe slow-burner “Pearls.” Her words aren’t “Flyin’ thru sunrise,” as the title suggests, but rather “dying to survive.” It’s effective inasmuch as it plays up the moody ecstasy of Moodymann or Larry Heard, but “Flyin’ Thru Sunrise”’s blatant emotion is also its greatest weakness. Sade’s “Pearls” is an elegy to a woman in Somalia barely scraping by; it’s a heartbreaking track about struggle and survival, literally “dying to survive.” For DJ Seinfeld, it’s fodder for a bleary-eyed banger.
Reinterpretation and re-contextualization are cornerstones of house music, and DJ Seinfeld hasn’t really done anything wrong here. But the blatant acts of appropriation in his choice of name, visual aesthetic, and samples make one wonder what exactly Seinfeld is getting at. While electronic music can offer the allure of anonymity or an alter-ego, DJ Seinfeld lacquers an opaque, kitschy dose of irreverence on top every surface of his project. He’s not hiding from view—he wants your attention.Share