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This dance party is powered by a 50,000-watt hi-fi

LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy helped create a towering system from components usually seen in a hi-fi.

Ty_Pendlebury.jpg
Ty_Pendlebury.jpg

Ty Pendlebury

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James Murphy at Despacio

Five years ago, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and brothers David and Stephen Dewaele of Soulwax teamed up to create a PA system that sounded as good as an audiophile hi-fi. 

The Despacio touring show, which I attended Thursday night, is playing this Easter weekend in Queens, New York. It was born from this idea of an audiophile PA. It's designed to deliver great sound at what is essentially a massive dance party. Here's what it looks like.

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Three towers

The Despacio system consists of eight columns, each housing custom-built speakers and a huge rack of American-made McIntosh amps, an audiophile favorite.

The dance floor of the Knockdown Center in Queens is surrounded by these huge rigs for an 8-hour marathon session, run by the LCD Soundsystem-Soulwax trio.

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Stars on 33 1/3

Despacio means "slowly" in Spanish, and the idea behind the night is that all of the music is played on specially pressed 45s that are slowed down to 33 1/3 rpm. This, coupled with the sombre blue lighting scheme, gives the evening a Gothic atmosphere. One of the only real uptempo moments is when the trio cuts in 10 seconds of ABBA's "Dancing Queen."

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The ghost of David Bowie

At the start of the night it was Murphy's responsibility to get the reticent dance floor moving. Having worked with David Bowie, he paid tribute to the Thin White Duke with a slowed-down version of "Young Americans."

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The wine bar

Almost attractions themselves, the huge venue hosts "thousands of bars" according to one chalkboard. It's more like 10, but the standout is a pop-up version of Murphy's The Four Horsemen restaurant. 

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The DJ booth monitors

Like the rest of the Despacio system, the monitors in the DJ booth were custom-designed by the DJs themselves. They are powered by McIntosh amps, naturally.

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The Four Horsemen

With a mirror ball and glasses of wine starting at $11, the pop-up bar is another focal point of the night.

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McIntosh amps

The Despacio towers use three separate sets of amplifiers to power the custom speakers: one set for bass, one for mids and one to power the tweeters.

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The 'birdhouse'

Another custom design, the "birdhouse" features four tweeters and a horn in the center. The whole unit is able to be moved forward and back in order to "time-align" it with the rest of the system.

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Bass bins

The made-to-order bass bins, with 15-inch woofers, slightly resemble the Klipsch La Scalas they replaced from the original system.

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1.21 kilowatts!!!

The soothing blue glow of McIntosh power meters.

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Let there be light

About halfway through the 8-hour session, the lights finally came on. A little bit.

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Behind the curtain

At the back of the rack you could see how one of the McIntosh MC1.2KW monoblock amplifiers was connected.

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More rack gear

I'm not sure what this is, but it looks like a DAC? A digital audio converter in an analog-only system? Curiouser and curiouser!

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There is nothing to see here

Soulwax's Stephen Dewaele staffs the DJ booth.

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