I can’t get a good photo of Jacques Greene. It isn’t a matter of due diligence; having already jostled my way through the crowd gathered tonight at the Los Angeles club Resident, splashing a few drinks (including my own) and miming a few mea culpas on the way, I’ve found a good vantage point from which to snap a few pictures of the Montreal native. But after having gone through several iterations of point-shoot-review, I realize it’s a lost cause: There’s a manic energy behind the booth tonight that my phone can only render as blurs, approximations of frenetic undulations timed to the drops and tempo changes featured on the DJ-producer’s new album, Feel Infinite. Greene paces the club’s ten-foot stage like a madman, an avatar on how to move to the album, which is as much dance floor music as it is a paean to the dance floor itself.
“Making a record is a big process; going into it without any thought of where you fit into the world is kind of foolish, and it’s probably harder,” Greene says a few hours before the show. Sitting in a green room above the stage that’s confined by glossy red walls, he projects the same vivacity that the sold-out crowd will soon experience for itself. He’s wearing black Reeboks and a camouflage T-shirt, emblazoned with Cyrillic script, that he admits with a sigh is, yes, Gosha.
“That kind of soul-searching, knowing where I fit in, it allowed me to work, and through that I had to kind of intellectualize my relationship with the club and with dance floors. And I found out that my favorite shit about them is that it’s so primal and real-world, and physical, in a sense.”
Greene’s revelations come as the product of more than ten years spinning and producing around North America and Europe, starting out in Montreal clubs at the age of 16 and releasing a bevy of singles and EPs that garnered international attention. They also earned him a reputation as a producer able to meld house and R&B influences into a glittering brand of electronica that’s just as much at home blaring from laptop speakers as it is booming from a club system.
Feel Infinite is Greene’s long-awaited debut, coming after years of work and more than a few aborted attempts at adhering to the album format. After struggling to string together a full-bodied collection, and shuttling the artifacts into critically acclaimed efforts like 2014’s Phantom Vibrate EP, Greene has found cohesion in the inner workings of the dance floor, producing an album that illustrates all the chaos, indiscretions, and joys of the club with affection.
“The club community that comes out in Montreal, which is more loft-based and illegal after-hours in people’s apartments and shit like that, was always really inclusive, really fun, really freaky,” says Greene. “In those moments, the club is absolutely a utopia.
“Some of the best parties I’ve been to in Bushwick were like that, too. It’s a good variety and a good representation of everything we have in society. And, in its best moments, a real safe space. Is the club really escapism if it’s where, on one Saturday out of the month, you feel comfortable to be the one person who you really are?”
What the clubgoer is treated to with Feel Infinite is a meditation on his surroundings — the dance floor, the club, whatever you want to call it. The picture is clearest on the album’s opener, “Fall,” where Greene’s patent vocal chops run amok, abstracted in sonic space alongside dancing synths and aural club ephemera: the clink of ice in a glass, the deep breaths of a woman separating from the crowd.
At most, Feel Infinite is illustrative, mainly devoid of the narrative strands required for any concept aspirations. One notable exception is the minute-long “Cycles,” a near-maudlin lament punctuated by spaced-out claps and arpeggiated synths, and the shortest stylistic exercise on an album populated by them.
“ ‘Cycles’ is that moment where you’re following someone out for a cigarette, and taking that little breather from the party and then going back in,” said Greene. “It comes in right before the record kicks into higher emotional gear and more intense songs.
“With this record, stylistically, keeping you on your feet and always hitting you with different things is part of the stimuli. The sequencing in the narrative is kind of just that, really. It’s just wanting to hit you with different stimuli in the way that a night out would take you in a bunch of different directions.”
If there’s any sort of narrative to be gleaned from the album, it’s almost certainly not linear, and it almost certainly is centered around the voices — dreamy, warped, electric — that permeate both the album and the rooms Greene plays them in.
The inclusion of voices has been a mainstay in house music for practically all of its history. Feel Infinite’s masterstroke is transmogrifying the role of voices, shifting them to the background and expanding their presence. Voices constitute the low hum of conversation that suffuses the club air; they provide a lush foundation for the night ahead. There’s a physicality to the indiscernible voices that Greene deploys in the club tonight, and we’re its referent: impedimenta becomes setting.
As I make my way back into the crowd, a version of the album’s “I Won’t Judge” riddled in grime and haze blasts from a speaker directly above. Bodies force their way by, creating seams in the crowd before it swallows up the precious space they’ve left behind. We move forward an inch at a time, and the music gets a little louder. There’s a commotion in the opposite corner, a few yelps of confusion that soon dissipate as Greene mixes into Feel Infinite’s “Real Time.” I see a multitude of bodies in a series of tableaux vivants, bathed in lights flashing in different colors. Red, blue, red, blue, purple. Kids standing on couches, clamoring for a better view, a better shot, while holding a drink for a friend. For a few songs, there’s nothing outside of these walls, and I feel completely, vigorously, blissfully alone.
Jacques Greene plays Good Room on Thursday, April 13
98 Meserole Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222