The popularity of Los Angeles producer and DJ Henry Steinway — who plays the Neptune Theatre Tuesday, Jan. 20, and Thursday, Jan. 22 — is a testament to electronic-music fans’ changing and expanding tastes.
Steinway first got attention for a remix of Avicii’s “Levels” that he made under the name Clockwork in 2011. The song and the remix were emblematic of electronic-music trends at the time: The original is an electro-house banger; the remix is built around American dubstep’s signature buzz-saw bass.
Around the same time, he began producing as RL Grime. The new alias freed him from EDM expectations and allowed him to make more-experimental tracks that draw from hip-hop, dubstep and U.K. club music.
In doing so, he’s become quite successful. He’s racked up more than 350,000 Soundcloud followers, collaborated with A-listers like rapper Big Sean, and plays large venues and festivals.
Steinway’s main focus is trap, a genre heavily influenced by Southern rap — minor-key synth lines, overdriven kick drums and rapid-fire hi-hats. It’s become a force in electronic and pop music; two huge hits from last year, Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” and DJ Snake’s “Turn Down for What,” borrow heavily from the style. So to some degree, RL Grime is cresting on popular trends.
He’s also shown a willingness to mix things up. Debut album “Void” is a stylistic grab bag. There are plenty of club-friendly tracks, but there are also beatless interludes, hazy R&B experiments and nods to underground styles from across the Atlantic like grime, jungle and 2-step. It’s uneven to listen to from beginning to end, but unlike other popular producers, Steinway shows a desire to interface with sounds and ideas upon which mainstream dance music is built.
In an interview with Pitchfork in 2012, electronic musician Matthew Dear speculated that the new wave of electronic-music fans from the early part of the decade would eventually grow tired of the formulaic music at big-budget EDM events and “start finding avenues toward Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk and Basic Channel.”
The rise of producers like Steinway proves him half right. Though he’s certainly not an Aphex Twin-level innovator, he’s an intermediary between EDM’s biggest names and electronic music’s underground. Fans come to his shows for the bass; with any luck, they might leave curious about where that bass comes from.
With Lunice, Tommy Kruise. 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20, and Thursday, Jan. 22, at The Neptune Theatre, 1303 N.E. 45th St., Seattle; $21.50-$25 (206-784-4849 or stgpresents.org).