All is not going well for Jason Chung: his soup tastes like water, the hotel is “pretty ghetto”, his backdrop “looks horrible” and the speakers “sound like hell”. By the end of the night however, the record has been set straight, and it is clear why Jason, aka Nosaj Thing, has got every reason to be pleased with himself right now.
Despite numerous technical difficulties, including support act Free The Robots losing most of his frequencies for the entirety of his set, there is no doubting that Nosaj Thing is set for big things. On the back of the release of his immaculately formed and critically acclaimed album Drift, he is taking his new visual show around the world. Even for those uninitiated in the LA experimentalist’s minimal, hip-hop inspired sound, it is clear from opener Fog that this is no production line dubstep. This is intelligent, informed, musical dance music. By the time he drops the slow, dark, heavy three minutes of euphoria that is Lights #1, everyone in the room is with him. Combined with the sensory magic of Julia Tsao and Adam Guzman’s visuals the experience is genuinely something special.
A true child of Orange County, Chung is not your typical beat prodigy; he looks more band geek than international DJ. The fact that he played clarinet, among many other instruments in his school years, is no doubt a significant factor in his meticulous approach to music making. On album highlight 1685/Bach he muses that “it just sounded kind of mathematical, like a lot of Bach’s music.” I would go further than that: it’s practically fugal; contrapuntal melodies and bass lines toy with each other over innovatively sampled beats – the rustling of change and peeling of masking tape.
However uninspiring his California home turf may have been, Chung soon found himself in good company. Noticing his talents shortly after first release Views/Octopus, he was taken in by the notoriously good LA experimental scene. With the Low End Theory club as its focal point and Flying Lotus and Gaslamp Killer as just two of its figureheads, this is a uniquely nucleated musical happening. Chung and Chris Alfaro (Free The Robots) happily confirm the tightness of the scene: “The Low End Theory’s out spot. It’s where we go every Wednesday… you’ll see everyone there.”
Despite being part of such a close knit musical community it has been observed that his minor-key, bass heavy sound bears more of a resemblance to some of the UK’s best electronic talent. Parallels can be drawn with Burial, Four Tet, and the heavily hip-hop centric Hudson Mohawke perhaps more easily than with the ultra-experimental Flying Lotus et al.
Whilst still in the early stages of a potentially meteoric rise, Nosaj Thing certainly has a keen eye on the future. Imminent plans include collaboration with Swedish singer Elin Kastlander of jj; no doubt a highly suitable match. As for right now though, despite a shaky start to the UK leg of his tour, everything seems to on course. The visuals for his show look incredible, everything he plays sounds great, and he’s got some of the most talented friends in the world right now. All things considered, everything is looking pretty good for Nosaj Thing.