It was the best of gigs. It was the worst of gigs. Having stood angrily cross-armed through half a terrifying set by some support artist who thought it his job to variously lip-sync, mime and dance to his own slowed-down Drake beats as though that were what he was hired to do (nb: contorting grooves is what it’s all about bro, not contorting your skinny ass body), British DJ and blog hero Star Slinger arrived onto what must have been one of the weirdest stages he’s ever performed on. Tucked away in the back of some acronymized university building was last night’s $1 (ONE DOLLAR) Star Slinger performance where, those in the know, those with a Hype Machine account or those who may have heard the sultry ‘May I walk With You‘ skipping its way across the airwaves over summer arranged themselves into some sort of posse to await the mop-haired, slightly chubby but endearingly English and earnest Star Slinger in all his non-dancing, non-miming, non lip-syncing glory. While I was effusive about RJD2’s humility a couple of weeks back, Star Slinger took it perhaps one step further. Playing to a crowd of (largely) nerdy white guys attempting to crump in a hall only half-filled because of antiquated fire hazard quotas, the natural response would’ve been to give a half-assed performance.
What really got me about Star Slinger’s live show was how much he appeared to be into it. Not in the ‘I’m digging myself and my awesomeness’ fashion (the sentiment that plagues box-fresh blog sensations when all the hype fills their heads a little too rapidly) but in the ‘This is so great that I get to play to a room of people who actually dig my hip-hop influenced, lush, sample-driven beats and remixes’ sense. From the way he composed himself behind the decks, never stooping over his technology so as to isolate a jumpy crowd nor neglecting it to dangerous nonchalance, you could tell that he was genuinely pleased to be performing, cycling through Childish Gambino remixes, harder, thicker originals and this track, a sensational meeting of his lighter, more ethereal melodies and an obvious interest in the grime and aggression of hip-hop. Precisely how much the Manchurian who pretty much dominated the remix scene alongside a couple of others over the last year or so was paid to appear before a ragtag audience of Ivy League misfits is hard to know, but going on ticket estimates (250-300 x $1), the way he threw himself into reproducing Alex Winston’s passive-aggressive underground hit belied his performance fee.
Winston, clasically trained in opera singing in Michigan, brings exactly the kind of quirky cuteness to the jam that Star Slinger’s devotion to fat sound, bordering on over-instrumentation, requires. At times, the sheer aural assault that the layering of synthetic drums, big bass and assorted exra-terrestrial zaps and zongs represented was overwhelming. While you couldn’t help but dance because Star Slinger has engineered his tracks in a way that makes it almost impossible not to, it wasn’t particularly comfortable but occasionally overbearing and burdensome. Not so with ‘Sister Wife’. Where anything more serious or self-interested would suffer from a Star Slinger re-treatment, Winston’s breathiness is aided and abetted by the beefiness that Star Slinger’s attention to detail necessarily involves. As much as I adore Gold Panda, I can recognize that when Star Slinger gets this balance right, and works in vocals so that they are assisted rather than buried by beats, he effectively becomes Mainstream Gold Panda. Judging by the schedule of ridiculous dance moves on show last night (not excepting yours truly), the listening public is ready to do battle with Star Slinger’s vision for pop music. And with ‘Sister Wife’, the DJ has just the right weapon for the frontline.
Alex Winston – Sister Wife (Star Slinger Remix)