By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Bursting out of the new disco punk scene, Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy made DFA (which stands for Death From Above) as ubiquitous an acronym among hipsters as WMD. The DFA name was branded on everybody's lips (and everybody's hips) when, in 2002, the duo produced The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers." That sassy screech was a fully realized, polyrhythmic collision of post-punk, Chicago house, and Italo-disco sensibilities masquerading as "indie rawk." They followed that up with Kraftwerk-informed electro tracks from The Juan Maclean (led by former Six Finger Satellite member John MacLean), and the cheekily scene crystallizing/crucifying "Losing My Edge" by Murphy's own acid bass-etched LCD Soundsystem project. The lean, stark, and often snarky DFA approach to punk-funk was codified.
With Murphy's (a sound engineer for bands such as Rhode Island's Six Finger Satellite) background in the often impersonal indie scene, and Goldsworthy's (formerly with James "UNKLE" Lavelle's Mo' Wax label) familiarity with the laborious, British shard-collage mentality, the duo knew the challenges and rewards of trying to coax hipsters to bare their souls and scuff their soles on a dance floor. By initially limiting DFA product to vinyl-only releases, they dangled the carrot of exclusivity to the aloof and discerning. But what helped them sell units anyway was their attention to detail, the depth they eked out of minimalist funk. It made DFA Records both conversation pieces and guaranteed party starters.
DFA's style of production is cribbed from no wave and Krautrock; from Public Image, LTD's post-dub death disco, the "dugga dugga dugga" chug of Wire, and Gang of Four; and the angular, bulbous, and buoyant funk of 99 Records' artists such as ESG and Liquid Liquid (the latter showcased on DFA Compilation #2 with the track "Bellhead"). Much of this is anchored by the steadfast -- but not stolid -- momentum of a 4/4 house track. This spectrum is exhibited through a range of artists, from the aforementioned The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, and The Juan Mclean, to the burbling, paranoid clip of Pixeltan and the bubbly, chanting Black Leotard Front. While it doesn't have any anthems on the scale of "House of Jealous Lovers" or "Losing My Edge," the eighteen-track, three-CD (the third disc a mix) DFA Compilation #2 confirms that not a single twelve-inch single released by DFA has been DOA.