After years of working, partying, and "searching for meaning" in New York City, Jordan Lieb—professionally known as Black Light Smoke—is now comfortably at home in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a move he'd considered for some time: a deep immersion in the New York party scene had fostered both an urge to explore new pastures and a fear of being forgotten if he were to get up and go. But now settled in the US South, he's more content than ever, enjoying the open spaces—and with this has come a flurry of new releases. Up first is the City Life EP, a marker of the turning point in his life when his priorities changed, scheduled to land via Francis Harris' Scissor & Thread label on March 1.
Originally from Chicago, Lieb studied recording at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, before moving to New York in 2001 to pursue a career in music. He filled his early time there by composing for the soap opera One Life To Live, for which he received two Daytime Emmy nominations and a Daytime Emmy Award, and writing music for television commercials—before a discovery of the city's underground scene inspired him to begin making electronic music. He crossed paths with Harris who invited him to release on his label; 2011's Switchback / Black Stripe marked his debut, and it was followed by four more solo EPs of raw, atmospheric house. Included within are some of the imprint's most recognised works: "Lovework," with its dusty analog feel, appealed to many, as did "That's My Yes." He last appeared on the label in 2014 but now returns with six tracks of affecting deep house vibes that soundtracked his time on the East Coast.
Lieb's mix aims to capture the essence of this latest EP. It's gritty, hissy, and noisy, but with a melancholic undertone, featuring tracks from Mall Grab, Piezo, and many from Lieb himself. It's 60 minutes of raw, swinging house that's as fit for a drive as it is an after-hours. Grab it now via the WeTransfer button below.
What have you been up to recently?
I'm living in Nashville, TN, which has a small but exciting DIY electronic music scene. I've been playing and DJing a bit here, and I recently helped start a monthly party with two other resident DJs—Facsimile (Tyler Jacobsen from Medical Records) and Daniel Holt (who just put out a record with L.I.E.S.). It's been really cool to be part of a scene that hasn't yet hardened its ideas or identity. People here are still open-minded and just want to dance and have fun. I've been playing house, techno, minimal synth, and Italo disco, and the response has been super positive.
What’s the story behind the City Life EP?
This record is my retrospective on living in New York City for 16 years, and my reflection on why I left. I learned so much about myself in those years. I dove into the techno/party scene, I made a lot of music, I had a lot of adventures that one can only find in New York during the strange hours of the morning. I have immense gratitude for those experiences. But today I need nature and space and family. The lyrics in the title track, "City Life," are about the artificial lights, the tight spaces, the crowded feelings. In my 20s and 30s I loved these things. Today I'm in a different place in my life.
When and where was this mix recorded?
I recorded this mix a few weeks ago from the safety and confines of my home studio.
Is there a particular theme or idea behind it?
The theme is really just the vibe, a sense of cohesion for an hour of music. I also wanted the tracks to compliment the sound of my record.
How did you choose the tracks that you included?
I start with the music I've been loving lately, and then I'll jump online to search for new music that can help the mix along. As with the City Life EP, the aesthetic of this mix is gritty, hissy, and noisy, but with a melancholic and melodic undertone. The tracks from Mall Grab and Deejay Astral, for example, really exemplify that. The challenge for me when putting together a mix is crafting something the never feels generic or lazy. If I myself don't feel compelled by each moment in the mix then I won't feel good about releasing it.
There's also a balance to strike as far as the energy level of a mix. If it gets too sleepy than it just disappears. If it gets too epic than it starts to impose itself. I am always conscious of the question: What is the purpose of this mix? What is its utility? In this case, I wanted something laid back but interesting—good for an afternoon drive or an early morning after-hours.
What’s next on the horizon?
I feel really excited about the records I'm putting out this year. They represent an honest variety of my musical interests lately. With Scissor & Thread, I explore more of a deep house sound. Stay tuned for my other records on Cut Mistake Music and NEIN Records, which adventure into darker, more synth-laden tracks, even some proper songs, and non-dance music.
I'm also planning some touring gigs for the year in cities like New York, Miami, D.C., Houston, and more. Since I last toured I've revamped my live set, adding more hardware, and challenging myself to play in a more improvisational way. It's important to keep things fresh for myself, and I think that really translates to an audience.
These days I'm more focused on the quality rather than the quantity of the gigs. Finding the balance between music and life is crucial for me. If something's not working anymore I let it go. At the same time, I feel compelled to get out there and reconnect with old and new fans. I still get such a charge from people enjoying my music. My intention this year is to bring some new energy and confidence to those situations.
I'll also be continuing with my Death Decay Magic podcast series. I've had mixes from some really great DJs. I try to stay open to both DJs with some name recognition and to those who are just starting out. That was me once and I was given some great breaks. I try to pass that on in whatever little ways I can.
Due to issues regarding the GDPR, EU readers can download the podcast here.
We've compiled the tracks from the podcast that are available on Bandcamp and listed them on Buy Music Club here.
01. Black Light Smoke "In Gold" (Scissor & Thread)
02. Infiniti (Juan Atkins) "Skyway" (Tresor Records)
03. Deejay Astral "Duality" (Who's Susan)
04. Mall Grab "Never" (1080p)
05. Black Light Smoke "City Life" (Scissor & Thread)
06. Lowjac "Hatfield Junk (XDB Goodtimes mix) (BLIQ)
07. DJ Barbo$$a "Make It" (Cactus Traxx)
08. Thingamajicks "Patrick’s Last Trip" (Vernon Felicity Remix) (BLIQ)
09. Betonkust "World of Pain" (9300 Records)
10. Nørbak "Otr" (Edit Select)
11. Piezo "Parrots" (Ansia)
12. Møzaika "T-T-Tool" (Public Possession)
13. Black Light Smoke "Without You" (Scissor & Thread)