Digitalism clean things up yet provide filthy beats in SF

DigitalismPhotos by James Nagel ~ Written by Mike Frash

San Francisco bass-heads got down to some filthy house-dance-rock with Digitalism at the Independent May 7. Their indie and punk ocular influences are pretty much just a memory now, with Jens Moelle & İsmail Tüfekçi honing in on a cleaned up, dapper visual aesthetic. Since 2012 the German duo has transitioned to a minimalist look, from the clothes they wear to to the amount of instruments, equipment & lighting they surround themselves with on stage.

Instead of looking like grubby college kids, they wore matching suit jackets, black undershirts & jeans, and their stage setup was seemingly instrument-free. All the gear they needed was atop wide podiums with a thin support bar that automatically lifted when the house lights dimmed, revealing a vertical neon light strip that shifted between red and blue coloring. Gone are the drums, keyboards and any other bulky equipment – but Digitalism’s sound remains the same; they curate a high-BPM dance party that is overtly electronic yet poppy, especially when live vocals are utilized. Ultimately the show was an optimized DJ set, not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Digitalism is Jens “Jence” Moelle (left) and İsmail “Isi” Tüfekçi.

Jence & Isi played it cool throughout the set while inciting hands in the air, the swaying of limbs to slow beats and frenzied build ups that gave way to crunchy must-dance bass drops. Isi’s confidence & empowered “loving-each-moment” attitude throughout the evening was a constant call to action to do the same. He even encouraged the formation of hearts using thumbs and pointer fingers, mirroring the stage background and the project’s central graphic motif.

They stuck to their own material most of the evening, with Jence stepping up to the vintage mic for “Idealistic”, “Circles” and the show ending “Pogo”, which instantly became a group sing-along. “Falling” and “Blitz” had mid-week auditory pleasure seekers thrashing away and jumping in place. The surprise of the evening was the truly unpredictable nature of some transitions and crowd expectations mid-set.

This was not necessarily the show to repetitively fist pump or get robotic with dance moves, as the party starters were rather tricky at times. Isi commanded all hands to the sky by doing it himself, and most people in the room obliged. A stressful build approached what felt like an obvious drop, and the two producers were leading the crowd to the release point with their arms even further up. But as the measure ended they pulled a bait and switch, dropping the sound almost entirely, hanging arm-flailers out to dry. They continued to bring the unexpected, keeping the crowd on it’s toes by inverting expectations a couple more times.

Digitalism created an environment mid-show where you couldn’t trust their unpredictable leadership, which actually enhanced the experience and made it more memorable. That helped, along with the arena-sized sound that was packed into a small room that has incredible auditory engineering and lighting.


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