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A Tale Of Two DJs

New Musical Express with John's Music Blog

Bloghouse revival with The Dare, rave revival with DJ Flapjack, and an interview with Annie Pearlman about her studio listening habits

By John Chiaverina


John's Music Blog is a twice-weekly newsletter created by an aging millennial hipster and failed musician. John also has bylines in T: The New York Times Style Magazine and Kpopstarz. New Musical Express is an exploration of the fractured and confusing contemporary music landscape, written by someone who is one mental breakdown away from moving to the Midwest and working at a gas station.

One night a few weeks ago, during that undefined period between Christmas and the New Year—in Whit Stillman's yuppie classic Metropolitan, the movie confusingly refers to this stretch as “Orgy” Week (quotes theirs)—I went out clubbing. In a strange turn of events, I ended up hitting not one but two clubs, if you can even imagine that. Two clubs. A big night for John’s Music Blog.

Freakquencies is a party that was started by Harrison Patrick Smith, better known as The Dare, who makes music that sounds like Mark E. Smith lost in Myspace. The first time I went to one of these functions, at the storied Home Sweet Home on the Lower East Side, I found it a little jarring to hear “the sounds of my youth,” which is to say bloghouse and dance punk, blasted through a somewhat distorted PA, but I had a good time. At best, I was reminded that dance music is supposed to be fun, and that the DFA remix of “Deceptacon” by Le Tigre has held up pretty well. At worst, I flashed back to being 20 years old at some godforsaken party sponsored by Colt 45, playing a poorly received set for a bunch of kids in American Apparel v-necks, either drunk or having a panic attack or both.

What a difference a year makes, as they say, because when I returned to the party a year later, for the first stop of my “epic night out,” it wasn’t at the cramped confines of Home Sweet Home but rather at Public Records, a much bigger club in Gowanus. After entering, I navigated through disorienting amounts of fog and young New Yorkers, some showing signs of contemporary neo-electroclash damage (I saw a few ties), and sidled to the side of the dancefloor as The Dare played a mix of electro, house, and his own unreleased music. Slipping contempo Miami bass cut “We Not Humping” by Monaleo into the mix was an inspired choice, and I heard that after 1 a.m., The Dare “started fucking cooking,” but I had to dip out. I had a rave to attend.

Regular readers of John’s Music Blog, or New Musical Express with John’s Music Blog, or even the Magazine Rack section of Nina’s editorial initiative will know about my interest in contemporary rave music, and in particular the happy hardcore revivalist Flapjack The Kandi Kid. Well, Flapjack just happened to be playing in town that night, so I hopped in a car from Gowanus and headed to Trans-Pecos in Queens, arriving 10 minutes before Flapjack was set to hit the stage. He was decked out in a Santa hat and a red shirt bearing the logo of the skate brand Caffeine. I posted up on a bench to the side of the stage, with a bag of pretzels and a Diet Coke.

Compared to the foggy feel of Public Records, Trans-Pecos was brightly lit; taken together with some of the fashion choices on display, which leaned heavily on the tropes of 90s and Y2K-era rave, it created the impression that I wasn’t at a club at all, but rather some sort of gaming convention. Flapjack opened with a hardcore remix of Leroy Anderson’s standard “Sleigh Ride” and kept things pounding from there, hitting all of his usual turntablist tricks.

The energy in the room was high. It was the same energy I remember feeling while watching rainbow rock legend Dan Deacon at the same venue in 2007, back when it was known as the Silent Barn, or Denzel Curry and Show Me the Body in 2014, after the room was rechristened as Trans-Pecos. At the Flapjack show, it only made sense that kids were moshing to a DJ. It was in the DNA of the space. My dream is to see Flapjack and Lightning Bolt share a bill together. 

Flapjack and The Dare are on different ends of the cultural temperature spectrum. Really, it’s the eternal question of skinny versus baggy, or of rock versus rave: Though The Dare plays dance music, he ultimately comes from an indie rock tradition. His last project, Turtlenecked, was in the indie trenches for years. Flapjack, by contrast, seems to have emerged one day, fully formed, out of the candy raver ether. Or maybe, in this case, it’s more baggy versus very baggy, and indie dance versus happy hardcore. (My ability to get this granular with music is a sure sign that I have made some very questionable life choices.)

If one thing connects The Dare’s bloghouse revivalism and Flapjack’s rave purism, though, it’s the desire to play music that is, above all else, fun, energetic, and a little dumb; both could be seen, each in their own way, as a rejoinder to the self-serious dance music that has defined the past 10 years of clubbing. I ended the night in a positive mood, though I did almost fall asleep in the club. On the ride home, the driver had Hot 97 on, and I was surprised to hear Jersey club pioneer DJ Taj in the mix. So, really, I went to three clubs that night.

Welcome back to New Musical Express with John’s Music Blog. We have all the usual shit, plus an interview with the great artist and musician Annie Pearlman, known for her mysterious paintings of cityscapes and funky MIDI jazz, on her studio listening habits. Happy New Year.


1. Lucy - “Anniversary”

Everybody loves Lucy. It’s true, though: Western Mass’s own Cooper B. Handy is the rare artist to unite online rap nerds and indie kids, and maybe even the odd person who used to make noise music a long time ago. It’s all about the songwriting, natch. In Lucy, I hear the potentiality of a refreshed twee cannon realized; I hear Jonathan Richman and Bobby Birdman and a TRL countdown from 1999. On this one, produced by I.V., I hear trace elements of Animal Collective peeking out of those 808s. 

2. Society - “Loser”


Not only do I not own a car; I don’t even know how to drive, which is probably why I often fantasize about living in a college town and delivering pizzas. In that fantasy, this song is playing on the college radio station as I cruise around town. Picture it: it’s some weekday winter night; the sedan is fully hotboxed; there’s gas station coffee in the cupholder. Society is the solo 4-track project of Philly’s Sims Hardin, who refers to the music his “band” makes as “dunce rock.” 

3. Fredo Bang - “Middle Name”

In 2023, Fredo Bang pumped out a grip of great Louisiana rap songs. In contrast to some of his Baton Rouge contemporaries, his recent music has been more hooky than melancholic. “Bang Man” feels like one big chorus, and his newer cut, “Middle Name,” continues along those lines. The track’s buoyant bounce sits around 85 BPM; in the video, Fredo is at the dealership, hamming it up with a middle-aged saleswoman. “Bank account got lotta O's,” he raps. “That shit look like some onion rings.”

4. Ecrylian - “<Body<Temple</>Mind>Power>”

I started the year off with a cheeky bit of jungle that I found while plumbing the depths of SoundCloud one late night. A Nas acapella over chopped-up Amen breaks will always be a go for me. This track sounds like something German harshstep master The Paneca might’ve pummeled into a DJ set in the late 90s, which is to say that it sounds hard as hell.

5. 41, Kyle Richh, Jenn Carter, TaTa - “Run That!”

In what might be the most high-energy rap song of 2023, the New York trio of Kyle Richh, Jenn Carter, and TaTa finesse a club reworking of M.O.P.’s eternal “Ante Up” into a song tough enough for some Boston goon, decked out in cargo shorts and a Celtics jersey, to spin kick to. Between this and the Ecrylian cut, we have enough mosh pit fodder to get us into the spring. How do you like them apples?



Annie Pearlman is a New York City-based artist and musician. Her paintings present imaginary cityscapes—solitary, funky and cool—that seem to cry out for a musical accompaniment. Luckily, her long standing project Private Time fits that bill. Filled with jazzy MIDI moves, Pearlman’s songs sound like looking out of a rain-smudged apartment window onto a CVS. They make for the perfect partner to the atmosphere she builds in her paintings. I was curious to know what Pearlman listened to in the studio, so I gave her a call.

Private Time - 'Useful Love'
Private Time - 'Useful Love'Ptime

So, when you're working on paintings, what kind of stuff are you listening to, usually?

I find that podcasts are real incentives for me to do tasks. It’s such a crutch for me—I need a podcast to get me to take a shower or something, like very basic things. When I paint, I listen to podcasts, and music-wise, it's mostly motivating music. It's rap, it's dance, it's things that move my body. If I'm standing and painting, it's good to be jostled around.

What's your favorite podcast right now? 

Let's see. I love Double Threat, with Julie Klausner and Tom Scharpling. They get me to laugh a lot. 

Were you a big Best Show listener when it was on WFMU? 

I wasn't. I love Tom Sharpling, but I'm a real big Julie Klausner fan. And I got into her from—do you know this comedy podcast, Hollywood Handbook

Yeah, I've listened to that one. It's good. 

It's good, but it's hard to fuck with those guys, and Julie Klausner went on there. It was amazing how disrespectful and irreverent she was in the most hilarious way. Those guys are amazing, and she brings it. 

So it's a lot of comedy podcasts. 

It's gotta be something funny—you know, make it entertaining for me. And there's also another podcast called Pot Psychology. It's basically a culture thing, but one of the hosts does very good research-based segments. I should also mention I watch a lot of bad TV while I'm in the studio.


You know it.

What’s your number one right now?

I mean, Salt Lake City just had a big, big episode—The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. I'm going to be flying into Salt Lake City in two weeks. I'm going to Sundance. There's a woman on the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City who's called herself the Queen of Sundance. Really hoping to get a picture with her.


Do you see a connection between the landscapes you paint and the music you make?

I hope I have the same values in the music that I make as the paintings I make. I would say there are very strong moods and temperatures in the paintings; they're not always realistic landscapes or places, but they definitely have the feeling of a place. And yeah, I'm trying to make that with my music.

There's a sort of magical, lonely city night quality to your paintings. I would have almost expected you to tell me you were listening to a wailing saxophone as you painted. 

I think that's in me. I love that music, and all that shit is in my playlist, but I can't just listen to quiet storm music, as beautiful as it is. It’s got to be peppered in with something ridiculous and fun.

One throughline I've seen in doing these interviews is that there isn’t necessarily an aesthetic connection between the work an artist makes and the audio they consume. It’s more utilitarian. 

Yeah. Oh my gosh, I have a new friend—I really like this person's paintings. And I was asking her what she listens to in the studio, and she's like, “Silence. I need all the focus.” That’s so antithetical to what I do, which is to almost distract myself until I’m subconscious, like my awareness levels are down and I'm kind of instinctual—or not as present. And I think that's where I do a lot of things I wouldn't do in full presence. 

If I felt precious with these paintings and tentative about doing things, they would be very different works. So the idea of being completely present and focused is a wild idea to me. Maybe my ideas happen outside the studio, and then when I get in the studio, I’m trying to achieve some kind of flow state.

I love that new Christmas song you put out on Nina.

I was working on that before Christmas. And I was like, Come on, get it done on Christmas, get it done on Christmas. And then I got it done a couple days after Christmas. And I came up with the title right then, and everything was fine. 

I'm kind of a perfectionist with releases, even when I make stuff that sounds really improvised. Like, I have to sit with it for a while or really finesse the production, even though I'm hitting the wrong note or whatever. This one I just cranked out, and I think Nina encouraged that in me. So that was cool. 

What were your experiences with Christmas growing up? Were you listening to a lot of Christmas songs? 

I love Christmas. I love Christmas music. [Singing] “It's the holiday season / And zoop de zoop / And hippity hop / And don’t forget / To hang up your socks.” The Andy Williams version of that is pretty great.


Piddlewink - “It’s Snowing Out!”


The dungeon synth subgenre known as comfy synth is so disquietingly cozy that it might as well be harsh noise. It fucks with your dome in the same way. Take a listen to Santa Is Real, the newest release from cozy artist Piddlewink, and tell me that you don’t feel—and excuse me here—Lynchian levels of unease. Deranged music!


Laura Trance - “LYL Radio 12/9/23”

There is a certain style of clean, modernist web design that I associate with European arts institutions and internet radio stations. It signifies a high standard of living, health care, and a low-stakes art and music culture. Safe hands. A good life. LYL Radio is from Lyon, France and this show is heavy on what the DJ calls “2007 bangers.” It’s official—I’m old.


Miriamdola + Tek Lintowe - “I am a freelance artist”

The days get dark so early. The wind singes your skull as you walk to go pick up a Gatorade to help deal with the stomach bug you recently contracted. The invoice for that design work you did last summer hasn’t gotten paid yet. Time for a sixth email. Time to throw on “I am a freelance artist” and stare at the ceiling in your bedroom. “Stone Island jacket / Keep me warm like a warm blanket.” See you all next month!

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