“Underground dance party in a downtown New York loft” sounds a lot artsier than it is. “I’ve never slept with a black girl before,” one guy shouted over the din and Luke Slater‘s four-on-the-floor beat, right into the ear of the pretty girl he apparently hoped to seduce. “I never really find them attractive, but I really want to try it right now.” She looked at him like this.
Although some audience members had less tact than an 8th grader at a rec dance—more than one stocky guy in a backward baseball cap was ready to pat a butt as he squeezed by—Berlin-based DJ Scuba played a connoisseur’s set. By the time he took over the colossal soundboard at 4:30 a.m. (which, because of daylight savings, was actually 5:30 a.m.) the ratio of guys in No. 44 John Riggins football jerseys to tall, skinny guys in Turbo cutoff T-shirts had evened out somewhat.
Scuba’s set was an immediately different vibe than Slater’s. Slater had left the crowd on a high note, molding arcs of crashing cymbal-like synths over murderous drum beats. Instead of riding the energy Slater had built, Scuba chose to bid the crowd good morning with a beatless wall of sound—probably Sepalcure‘s “Outside,” the melodically drum-free song that he told the Guardian he likes to open DJ sets with.
In addition to starting with a track released on his Hotflush label, Scuba DJed in a Hotflush T-shirt, deftly and constantly moving his hands across the soundboard. Each tweak of a button or knob had an immediate and noticeable effect on the sound, and his hands seemed to calmly intuit the bulky terrain of the laptop-free board. Scuba’s is a methodical, tactile process—he’s not a DJ to bang his head into whiplash or boogie down to his own tunes.
In the overwhelming environment of a rave, Scuba’s concentration and scientific cool is soothing. As “Outside” began to fade, he tried drum sounds like he was waking up an enormous machine and testing the controls. In front of a huge screen projecting hardcore visualizer effects, Scuba did seem to be operating inside of a computer screen, a cold and mechanical image for such an abrasively human experience. The loft smelled of moist down feathers and body odor, and all around people were squirming and making out and sweating on each other, and up on the screen GIFs of Paula Dean laughing and shoveling decadent foods into her head hole flickered, and probably all those people were whacked out on something, and the MUSIC WAS LOUD—but Scuba was in charge, and he certainly is a composed professional.