DJ Seinfeld is one of the most prominent figures in the controversial lo-fi house scene – as popular for his crunchy vintage house jams as he is reviled. As the Swedish producer prepares for the reaction to his debut full-length Time Spent Away From U, David Glickman wonders if there’s more to DJ Seinfeld than a cheeky moniker and a tape saturation plugin.
Armand Jakobsson, aka DJ Seinfeld, already knows you have an opinion about him. “Some DJs come up to me, usually older and a bit more established, and they’ll say ‘you’re making really good music, but you should change the name,’” he tells me with a small laugh. “Yeah, maybe I should but I’m not going to do that, and it’s fine. But I personally don’t care too much about what people think about the name.”
The Sweden-born, Barcelona-based producer says he’s recovering from both a “small flu and small hangover”, but he’s in good spirits, despite the constant chugging of Vitamin Water throughout our conversation. And why wouldn’t he be? I’m speaking to him on the eve of his first-ever North American tour and six days before the release of his debut album, the triple LP Time Spent Away From U, on Lobster Fury.
“When I made those tracks they weren’t intended to be on an album”
Jakobssson has been releasing a series of EPs under the name for over a year now, each one drawing from a different inspiration, exploring acid house to old school rave. Time Spent Away from U, however, is a collection of some of the earliest material Jakobssoon made under the moniker, the “lo-fi house” tracks he first uploaded to the internet that drew him into the so-called scene with similarly “provocatively” named producers like DJ Boring and Ross From Friends. It’s an album of full of crunched drums and despondency, made to soundtrack lonely, 2am solo bedroom dances on a Saturday night.
“When I made those tracks they weren’t intended to be on an album, I didn’t really have any release plans for them at all,” Jakobsson says. “All those tracks on the album come from that time period, maybe two to three months of me just making a lot of music, and what’s coming out on the album is 20-30 percent of what I was making at that time.”
Jakobsson and his label pared the track selection down and found a sense of cohesion in the songs. The result is a gorgeous collection of dance tracks, interlocked by similar production styles: sandpaper hi-hats, squashed snares and simple yet stunning piano lines that float in and out of the tracks, all bathed in a warm, faux-analog filter that gives the songs an old, dusty crackle. More so than sonic touchstones, the album is connected by a deep and self-confessed sense of melancholy.
Longing for someone permeates the entirety of the album, from the vocal samples to the song titles. It’s clearest in album closer ‘U’, as the synth and drums swell higher and higher before dropping out, making way for a voice, speaking plainly and candidly about the pain of loss. It’s uplifting and heartbreaking all at once, which becomes clear when Jakobsson sheds light on the origins of the project.
“I don’t see why people call me a lo-fi producer.”
“For me, it was completely innocent at first, and it still is,” Jakobsson explains. “I just made it because I was watching Seinfeld a lot after a break up; it was a comfort show. So my ambitions for the ‘Seinfeld’ project was just keep it anonymous, focus more on my main moniker [Rimbaudian], but then I didn’t foresee it was going to take the turn it took.”
That laissez-faire attitude, coupled with a seemingly ironic sense of humor from the litany of ’90s references, caused many to write off DJ Seinfeld and his cohorts in the lo-fi house scene as a joke. Basement-dwelling jesters, getting by more on viral attention, than the merits of their music. And Jakobsson understands that point of view, to a degree.
“I know that there are some people who are on the edge about [lo-fi house], and forever will be, and I don’t blame them,” Jakobsson says. “I’m not going to promote lo-fi as ‘this is something everyone needs to check out, this cool new thing’ because in my mind this is something that has already happened.”
Like many who have genres thrust upon them, Jakobsson is a little wary of being pigeonholed. He hesitates to describe his sound as lo-fi and his other material already demonstrates his willingness to explore different styles and moods. He goes so far as to say he’s not concerned about whether or not lo-fi fans will always like the music he makes. He’s been put in a box and is starting to push against the edges.
“Personally I don’t see why people call me a lo-fi producer,” Jakobsson says matter-of-factly. But he doesn’t intend to disavow the lo-fi movement, either. He speaks highly of the other producers in the scene, how they deserve attention and how the hype everyone has received has allowed for “more liberty to do what they and what expresses themselves.” He’s at his most gleeful when he talks about some of the fan mail he has received.
“I’m going to try to make this Seinfeld alias a bit more curious, a bit stranger.”
“I think there are a lot of young people whose introduction to dance music came about through lo-fi, and I think that’s an amazing thing because it lets them explore the dance music history in further detail,” Jakobsson says. “I’m just happy to have been part of that… whatever makes people happy and hopefully develops more interest around dance music culture and history.”
Time Spent Away From U is a statement. From its colossal size to the nostalgic beauty it encases in every beat, the album is a victory lap for Jakobsson, finally presented with an opportunity to showcase some of his best work, free from the trappings of internet memes and snooty dance music purity. It’s hard to imagine anyone, even lo-fi house’s harshest critics, to listen this album and not find a glimmer of euphoria in ‘U Hold Me Without Touch’ or ‘Too Late For U And M1’.
As Time Spent Away From U serves as a nice bookend to everything Jakobsson has accomplished so far, he is already working on the future, planning an album and EP, hopefully removed from anything he has done before.
“I’m going to try to make this Seinfeld alias a bit more curious, a bit stranger,” Jakobsson says. “Just a bit more thoughtful, and a bit more subtle than I did before. I think I’ve carved out some kind of space for myself and my music now and I’m just going to try to refine it and see how far I can go with it.”
Eventually I ask him point blank if all the jokes and snide internet remakes have been worth it. If he has any regrets: about the moniker, the style, the aesthetic, any of it. Jakobsson responds without hesitation. “I don’t,” he says, with a smile.
David Glickman is a freelance music journalist. Find him on Twitter.