Pop & Hiss

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Damian Lazarus' freaky house fantasia

June 5, 2009 |  4:40 pm

Damian Lazarus - "Neverending" from David Terranova on Vimeo.

If you're like most of the kids we run with here at P&H, right now you're probably asking yourself, "Self, where can I go on Saturday night where I can listen to a deranged smattering of live experimental techno in a jerry-rigged nightclub built up like an indoor jungle, whilst fighting back recurring nightmares of sexy evil nurses in animal masks?"

Lucky you stopped by then, because we'd like to introduce you to producer Damian Lazarus. The U.K. native and recent Echo Park transplant is hosting what looks to be one of the most intriguing parties in L.A. techno of 2009, with great minimal acts like Matthew Dear and M.A.N.D.Y. performing and a one-off live set of his own work rounding out this Saturday night at Avalon.

As the video above for single "Neverending," makes clear, the tracks on his new album "Smoke the Monster Out" have a sinister sense of humor that creeps along the edges of his productions and visual aesthetic.

"I wanted to do something like a Ministry of Sound video with greased up girls and a bizarre dance routine," Lazarus said. "It's kind of an ironic take on a pop song."

There are a few genuinely frightening moments of creaking, hissy ambiance that fans of the new "Fever Ray" record could get behind, but the real pleasure is in the fork-tongued melodic tracks that revel in their own noir-ishness. See, for instance, the Nick Cave sample on the svelte "Come and Play," or the wry Auto-Tune in-joke of "Neverending."

"I knew I wanted to do something poppy, but I'm pretty left of center in my tastes. I'm a happy person, but a lot of my music is pretty twisted," Lazarus said.

If "Monster" is twisted, it is so in the kinetic sense of the word. His tracks writhe around and double back on themselves in strange ways, where hissing samples give way to gossamer female vocals, only to crumple into a menacing four-on-the-floor. It's heady stuff, but there's more than enough on "Monster" that belongs on the floor. And at the Avalon on Saturday, that floor will be one of the weirder spectacles in the weekend's club scene. "We're going to try and lower the ceiling and make the club into this enchanted garden," Lazarus said. "I'm bringing the twins over who sang on the record, and I remixed the whole record to perform it live from the stage."

That's a formidable task, but Lazarus has equally fearsome challenges ahead as well: finally passing his L.A. driver's test and making peace with our city's brutal house pet ecosystem.

"My cat just caught this poor little bird this morning," he said. "I tried to save it. It was so, so sad."

-- August Brown