Earlier this year, when a certain high-end clothier wanted a DJ to celebrate the opening of a new store, they put their ear to the underground and heard the Plastiq Phantom, the Seattle phenomenon who makes his own sounds with a portable DAT recorder and writes half his material on a portable sequencer while riding the bus to work. The Phantom figured they wanted to impress their customers with, as he puts it, "some experimental artsy shit."
Sure. But the music on his debut LP Enjoy the Art of Lying Down (Sweet Mother Recordings) isn't your typical art wank. Tucked behind the hyperkinetic beats and glitchy sound design are delicate, accessible melodies and a direct approach to songwriting that's rarely heard in the world of "intelligent dance music."
His live shows and side projects are no chin-scratchers, either. His alter-ego Johnny Kawasaki writes naughty glitch cut-ups of *NSYNC tracks, and the shows are rumored to involve lots of alcohol and Walt Disney lip-sync sessions. It's hard to decide whether he's IDM's William Orbit or Andy Kaufman.
Either way, somebody must think it's a great soundtrack for buying pants. Or perhaps not: A few days before the party, they called him again, saying, "We want you to play '80s hits." But out hero, who isn't really a DJ and owns practically nothing from that era, took the misunderstanding in stride -- he took a crash course off Napster, burned a handfull of CDs and rocked the house with no one the wiser.
-- Matt Corwine