Dirtybird Records head honcho Claude VonStroke has become a leading name in American electronic music in recent years, with his self-ascribed “tech-funk” label evolving into the EDM equivalent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But are you familiar with this tech-house superhero’s alter ego/secret identity? Under his real name Barclay Crenshaw, Father Claude experiments with beats from a galaxy of a much different variety.
Before Barclay was even into electronic music, he had a hip-hop radio show as a teenager at his Detroit high school. His passion for that genre took a seat on the backburner as he moved to Los Angeles and gained invaluable wisdom from interviewing over 50 notable DJs while working on the documentary “Intellect: Techno House Progressive” from 2002-2003. Adopting the moniker Claude VonStroke, he developed into a groovy DJ with a remarkable talent for steering crowds into blissful body-shaking and rhythmic party mania.
At the beginning of 2005, he founded Dirtybird Records alongside Justin Martin and released his debut album Beware of the Bird in May 2006. A decade later in 2016, the Pioneer DJ and DJ Times’ annual poll dubbed Claude America’s Best DJ – an accomplishment he followed up with the debut LP of his Barclay Crenshaw musical side in early 2017 and an ensuing tour. This self-titled album draws from those hip-hop influences of Barclay’s early days while exploring downtempo, metaphysical slow jams with a pinch of funk and healthy doses of melodically moody, mysterious extraterrestrial transmissions, spacey synths and off-kilter instrumentals.
Lyrically, the songs probe close encounters of the third kind and otherworldly enigmas, with elevated ambiance and a fascinating context that these tracks hold cryptic clues to. The long-ago discovery of artifacts pointing to an alien race abducting a group of children and returning them days later – condition unknown – informs this project and the cheeky Crenshaw persona inhabiting it. Things really get interesting upon diving into the Barclay Crenshaw website, where an endless web of weirdness unravels in a digital rabbit hole, taking the mystique behind the music to bewildering depths.
The real exhibition of Claude’s other sonic stylings is seeing Barclay Crenshaw live, where he zips across an eclectic spectrum of sound. He ranges from ‘90s hip-hop, drum and bass breakbeats, deep-bass delirium, tastes of tribal, reggae and relaxed funk, to strange samples, dreamy tempos and collected otherworldly elements. I saw him at Movement Festival 2017 – his debut playing under his own name in Detroit, where he grew up – and finally had the pleasure of once again seeing this compelling concoction outside of the Claude we all know, at Meow Wolf’s Taos Vortex in August. The last third of the set felt like the Dirtybird answer to Space Jesus, which is supremely exciting as a contrast from what we generally expect from the label and its artists.
Even cooler, Barclay will be going b2b with EPROM for the first time for a rowdy set of West-Coast bass this weekend at Dirtybird Campout West Coast, October 4-6. Click here for Dirtybird Campout tickets, which start at $293.46 (after taxes) for a festival pass. I hope to see some househeads drop their bass faces for Barclay’s alien-sound invasion!
*Featured image by Joe Gall via Barclay Crenshaw*