LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy Now Designing an Actual Soundsystem

Rig to debut during Manchester International Festival

James Murphy
"Alternative Ibiza": James Murphy in a still from Red Bull's DFA Records documentary
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

James Murphy has gone from LCD Soundsystem to crafting a real-live soundsystem. As the Guardian points out, the DFA Records co-founder is designing a customized rig for Britain's Manchester International Festival. From July 18 to July 20, Murphy will DJ a club night with pals David and Stephen Dewaele, better known from Belgian rock band Soulwax and pioneering mashup outfit 2ManyDJs. 

The club night, called Despacio after the Spanish word for "gradually," has impressive dance-music influences. Murphy told the Guardian it was conceived as an "alternative Ibiza party," a nod to the Mediterranean island long associated with hedonistic electronic beats. But he said the soundsystem is basically an updated, stronger version of the hi-fi systems at trailblazing disco clubs such as New York City's Paradise Garage. "It's a simple, floor-standing series of giant stacks, comfortably doing full, smooth sound," he's quoted as saying. The stacks will reportedly be placed in a circle so listeners can walk right in the middle of them. If all goes to plan, they'll represent jazz, rock, and other eclectic styles better than today's typical dance-music systems, which Murphy calls "tinny, sad, hyper-aggressive."

That's right: The guy who once sang he was the first to play Daft Punk to the rock kids has followed Daft Punk's turn back toward rock-style distaste for computer presets (see How Daft Punk Saved Pop Music (and Doomed Us All)). "If you have a program that helps you mix every song, why would you ever not mix?" Murphy told the Guardian. I played at this thing the other day... there were people there that seemed almost too excited, like I had done something very creative or crazy. I was like, 'It was literally a bunch of fucking songs, dude.'"

He continued: "I don't think I did anything exceptional. But what it wasn't was the guy with a computer playing a seamless, pre-programmed festival set, with no adjustments for the crowd, who, at the moment they're supposed to get excited, throw their hands in the air, but in between look kind of listless. That, to me, is really sad."

Murphy has been up to much more than soundsystem design since LCD Soundsystem disbanded in 2011, of course. Along with the concert film Shut Up and Play the Hits, Murphy has produced recently released tracks for Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Pulp, plus still-unreleased material for Arcade Fire. DFA was the subject of a recent 12-minute Red Bull Music Academy documentary. And Murphy made a short film of his own called Little Duck. The Guardian reports Murphy also has a stack of unreleased tracks lying around with the Soulwax/2ManyDJs guys, but he said he doesn't plan to release them.

In fact, if Murphy was clear about anything, it was that he won't give in to fans' demands for a new record from him. "To want me to do something that you want me to do," he's quoted as saying, "is to miss the fucking point."

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