Charlie Duff is a Ghost in the Machine of Dance Music

Matrixxman is more than just a production alias for Charlie Duff; it's a full-blown alter ego. Follow Duff's social-media exploits and you get the sense that he's a ghost in the machine, an Internet apparition that trades in Kurzweilian transhumanism, X-rated anime, and hypercontemporary dance music. Underline that last point though, as the past year has seen Duff become an increasingly in-demand producer in the Bay Area and beyond.

Science fiction is at the heart of the Matrixxman identity. Duff tallies his influences as a mixture of "emergent artificial intelligence, critical pedagogy, organic vegetable juice, panspermia, the Singularity, and maybe a little Ron Hardy." His persona comes with a backstory worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, in which he, as a young man, developed and became ensnared in an all-encompassing virtual reality while trying to escape a high school heartbreak.

Naturally, then, Duff's music is futuristic. His breakout moment came last year, when he was recruited by New York's pre-eminent queer hip-hop MC LE1F to pen the beat for "Wut," a track that would go on to become a major underground rap anthem. It was sparse and edgy, with glassy UK bass atmospherics tied to wild blurts of digital saxophone. Though sonically dissimilar from the music he's currently pursuing, it set an aesthetic tone that continues today, with slick production chops informed by a studied knowledge of dance music's past and present.

Duff, presumably conjuring robotic rhythms in his room at Different Fur Studios in the Mission.
Photograph by Mike Koozmin
Duff, presumably conjuring robotic rhythms in his room at Different Fur Studios in the Mission.

But while "Wut" established him as a national artist, Duff's string of techno-flavored releases in 2013 has garnered international support. His Dirty Laundry EP, recorded with fellow local Vin Sol as the first 12-inch of their co-owned label Soo Wavey, was a jumble of subby kicks, contorted congas, and hissing hi-hats that recalled the pure "rhythm track" aesthetic of late-'80s Chicago. Duff's biggest record of the year is The XX Files on New York's increasingly in-demand Fifth Wall imprint. That EP featured "Case Closed," a jazz-indebted house cut with a hooky bass line that's so far proven popular on the global circuit — so popular, in fact, that Duff now finds himself doing remix duties for Crosstown Rebels, one of the largest labels in contemporary club music (his first, a trippy take on Francesca Lombardo's "What To Do," is out this month).

Along with releasing his own music, Duff recently became a house producer and mixer at the Mission's Different Fur studios. And in talking to him, one gets the feeling that many more good things are on the way. "I don't want to jinx anything," he says, "but as a result of the Crosstown affiliation some exceptionally cool labels have come forward asking for releases from Matrixxman." He may be stuck in the Matrixx, but Duff admits that he "could not be any happier for the time being."

 
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