Jamie xx is really at home behind the decks nowadays.
Back when he first started appearing on club bills and festival lineups solo, he seemed like a producer who DJed on the side because he wanted to share his wide-ranging musical taste with crowds, and, well… it probably seemed like a pretty fun side-hustle. His improvement from that guy who you’d want to go and check out mainly because you might get a first listen to one of his own productions to a really top quality DJ in his own right is becoming ever more clear. It can be charted across various Boiler Room sessions, and was wholly confirmed by his set at Verboten in Brooklyn, NY on Friday, March 28, where he was joined on the bill by John Talabot.
I had seen Jamie xx only a few weeks earlier DJing for an art crowd at the MoMA, playing a mix of old soul and funk records mixed in with bits of house and disco. It was the kind of stuff that got people dancing, but was never going to blow the roof off a party, played to a crowd was less interested in the selection and mixing than the free cocktails (shout out to the free cocktails, though). Jamie xx has DJed numerous fashion and art events, and as I waited for him to play in the lush converted warehouse space of Verboten, with a crisp soundsystem and a crowd who was most definitely there to see him, I wondered if maybe he was in his element blending into the background, rather than his sets being the center of attention and the star attraction.
Short answer: Jamie xx’s DJ set at Verboten demanded the crowd’s attention, with upfront selection and ceaseless energy that built and built over his two hours behind the decks. Longer answer: Jamie xx still has a wildly eclectic taste, but he now knows how to build a set, and keep the pressure up all night, without any of those stylistic switch-ups that take partygoers out of their zone, and can have everyone suddenly thinking, “yeah, now is the time to get another drink.”
While the journey through house and disco was excellent and wholly enjoyable, the highlights of the night were still, undeniably, Jamie xx’s own productions. His new single “Sleep Sound” provides a gloriously warm, all-encompassing cocoon of sound and needs to be heard on a system to be really appreciated, while the use of Gil Scott-Heron’s voice on “I’ll Take Care of U” still send shivers down my spine. The absolute best moment was, somewhat surprisingly, Jamie xx’s opening track, an absolutely brilliant mix of breakbeat snippets, that tropical, steel drum-infatuated sound that he’s made his own, and monstrous, cavernous, chest-rearranging sub-bass. I have a sneaking suspicion that that opening track might have been “Girl,” the other track on the forthcoming “Sleep Sound” split single, and if it is, Jamie is about to really fuck the game up on some no more Mr. Nice Guy tip.
Whatever track it is, I need it in my life, just like I now know I need to go see Jamie xx DJ whenever the chance arises. And if you have the chance to see him stepping up stepping in, don’t be silly, just take it. Not only will you likely hear some tracks that you absolutely will not hear anywhere else, but you’ll be treated to a DJ of the highest order, in total control of his music and the crowd.
See who is playing in the coming weeks at Verboten here.