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EDM Goes Avantgarde… We Went To Afrojack’s Album ‘Listening Party’

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Like young men, aspiring actresses and North Korea, mainstream EDM appears to have a renewed need to be taken seriously. Why, remains a question, given the once-controversial term is now a mainstay in most music media. However, between EDC’s Under The Electric Sky documentary, a spate of new self-consciously serious industry events like EDMbiz and even a selection of jazz-cafe like ‘EDM-restaurants’ popping up across the US, It would appear considerable attempts are being made to create something of an avantgarde.

Our suspicions were confirmed last night when DT attended an invite only event at central London venue DSTRKT. Afrojack was in town to showcase a ‘Listening Party’. Once the mainstay of esoteric 70s rock bands, the concept was simple. We’d show up, drink a whole lot of free booze, and listen to Afrojack talk about his album, pausing for a few minutes here and there to actually listen to the tracks. 

Here’s how it went down.

7.45 PM – Fifty or so people arrive at DSTRKT London. Supercars with Afrojack logos sit outside. Driving tech-house is playing, Danny Howard sits centre stage, attempting to look busy.

8.15 PM – Wearing branded Afrojack T-shirt and cap 7ft-tall Afrojack arrives on stage to applause.

8.30 PM – Danny Howard opens by asking how the album came together. Afrojack opens by talking about how the album came together, via a series of asides about Avicii. Afrojack discusses that, having been a producer for eight years, he’s now determined to make a new, different sound. 

8.40pm We listen to Ten Feet Tall. The crowd aren’t entirely sure what to do, given the entire place is vibrating with pounding kicks. Do we sit? Do we kinda, bob our heads? Most of the crowd affect thoughtful poses. Afrojack sits, motioning various parts of the song with his hands.

8.43pm Danny Howard asks again, how the album came together. Afrojack explains that the title ‘Forget The World’ is intended to be indicative of a desire to just break with the norm, for people to be able to do their own thing.

8.45pm  We listen to ‘Illuminate’ by Matthew Koma

8.46pm Afrojack explains that a lot of people thought Matthew Koma’s vocals were that of a girl. Danny Howard asks why the collab happened with Matthew Koma. Afrojack explains because Matthew Koma wrote the song. Afrojack asks the crowd how they’re feeling. A girl toward the back shouts ‘sexy!’ so Afrojack puts on a track he feels will get the club moving. 

8.47pm – We listen to Dynamite, featuring Snoop Dogg.

8.47pm, ten seconds. The track is stopped, by Afrojack, because the DJ didn’t bring the fader up properly.

8.47pm, 18 seconds – We listen to Dynamite, featuring Snoop Dogg. 

8.48pm – Danny Howard asks how the Snoop collaboration came together. Afrojack explains it came about because the two met at an award ceremony. Danny Howard kinda, nods. Afrojack takes a swig of vodka from a glass, then sort of, drops the glass on the floor. Luckily DSTRKT is a carpeted kinda venue. 

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8.49pm Afrojack stretches, walks around the room a bit. Then launches into a discussion about the deeper ramifications of his album. Some key points:

-Forget The World’s driving message is that it’s important just to do exactly what you want to do in life. Because if you do what you want to do, that’s what you’re going to do.

-If you post a picture of Pizza on Facebook, it’s going to get a few likes.

-Pizza is bad for you.

-If you post a picture of yogurt on Facebook, it’s going to get lots of likes 

-Yogurt is good for you.

-It can be deduced then, that there’s a direct link between the nutrition values of food and the amount of social media uptick on a post-by-post basis.

-Quid-pro-quo, you should do what you like.

-Socks are another example of why you should do what you like.

-Businessmen often meet in posh buildings, to do business.

-Sometimes these businessmen are wearing crazy socks

-In each instance, only the sock-bearing individual knows the extent of said socks’ craziness

-So, in a kind of Schrodingers’ cat way, none of that matters.

-So you can do what you like

8.56pm Danny Howard asks what Afrojack’s personal favourite track on the album is. Afrojack says it’s probably Mexico. Danny asks if we can play Mexico. Afrojack says no. Afrojack says he’s now going to play us a hard tune. 

8.58pm We listen to Freedom, by Afrojack and D-Wayne. Afrojack leans over and hikes the volume on the mixer to pain-levels.

9.04pm Danny Howard asks how the collab came together. Afrojack ignores the question, instead discussing at length the changing dynamic of festival sets at EDM festivals, and the crossover aspect of elements of rock and EDM. Danny Howard says something about Snoop Dogg. Afrojack ignores that and starts pouring vodka into glasses and handing them round the crowd. There are general cheers. Afrojack announces he’s going to play one more tune.

9.05 pm We listen to Too Wild featuring Wiz Khalifa

9.09 pm Danny Howard attempts to ask another question about Snoop Dogg. Afrojack starts pacing backward and forward, before saying he isn’t speaking again until people have stopped talking amongst themselves. Then he laughs, and says he’s glad when people talk amongst themselves as they must be discussing the music. He announces he’s going to play one more tune. Danny Howard asks when Afrojack’s DJing later. Afrojack starts opening a bottle of champagne

9.12pm We listen to Afrojack’s Mexico. 

9.16pm Afrojack thanks everyone for coming, poses for photos and hugs fans. Danny Howard makes an exit. Outside in the street, we’re told there are to be supercar rides for everyone. Afrojack gets in a supercar and disappears. No-one else is allowed in the supercars.

9.18pm DT considers going to Boiler Room at Century Club. There’s a queue of girls in mini-dresses.

9.19pm DT goes home.

There endeth the first ever EDM listening party. To his credit, Afrojack stepped up to the plate – regularly picking out audience members, cracking jokes, and attempting where possible to discuss his album in more detail. There’s little doubt that ultimately, EDM’s plan to create an avant garde sub-community will be successful, and this was an interesting experiment. Perhaps, however, unlike the rock listening parties of the 70s, music that is been scientifically designed to make you dance isn’t best suited to a sit down situation. Similarly, whilst the audience was receptive and Afrojack was keen, the pitching and angling of questions remained vague. Surely if it’s to be an avantgarde event, there should be specific points on EDM discussed? The elephant in the room was the entire concept of an avantgarde, a point somehow not discussed. At any rate, credit to Afrojack to breaking the mould on this one. It’ll be interesting to see if the listening party catches on.

Set to arrive May 19th you can pre-order the deluxe version of new album ‘Forget The World’ here. You can check out album cut ‘Ten Feet Tall’ featuring Wrabel below:

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