Futuristic fusion duo DOMi & JD Beck have officially dropped their highly anticipated debut, “SMiLE”, along with a short film directed by Anderson .Paak and starring Mac DeMarco.
The young keyboardist and drummer have built an international buzz over the past few years since meeting through Snarky Puppy and Ghost-Note drummer Robert Sput Searight, who mentored Beck, an 18-year-old drum prodigy from his native Dallas. Domi Degalle, who goes by DOMi, graduated from the prestigious National Superior Conservatory of Paris before attending Berklee School of Music in Boston. She emerged as a featured soloist with funk fusion powerhouses KNOWER and Ghost-Note, astounding crowds with her blazing chops, sophisticated voicings, and musical sensibility. The two quickly earned individual notoriety (and endorsement deals), with both receiving spots in Jammcard‘s 20 under 20, but something special happened when they came together.
“I was doing these JD Beck and Friends shows in Dallas, and I invited her to come play,” Beck said in an interview with Modern Drummer Magazine. “[After] we played with other people, we realized that we were the ones communicating the most. We had this connection.”
The duo’s strong musical connection was immediately apparent. Over the past couple years, they have developed a large online following and an impressive roster of A-list collaborators including Anderson .Paak, will.i.am, Skrillex, Thundercat, and MonoNeon. After moving from Dallas to Los Angeles, the pair became a fixture of Hollywood high society, earning the respect of world-class creatives like the late fashion icon Virgil Abloh and receiving profiles in the New York Times and Vice.
After hyping up an album that was allegedly finished but never released, DOMi & JD Beck announced last week that they had signed to Blue Note Records and Anderson .Paak’s Apeshit label. On Friday, they released their debut single, “SMiLE”, along with a short film. Directed by Anderson .Paak, the video stars Mac DeMarco as a curmudgeonly jazz musician who has lost his hearing. In an attempt to cheer him up on his 100th birthday, DOMi & JD Beck throw a party whose guests include Thundercat and Anderson .Paak. At the end of the video, they gift him a new set of ears and play a tune that brings a “SMiLE” to his face.
The new single is chill and slumpy in comparison to the duo’s usual racing tempos and blazing chops, though there is one part of the song where Beck shows off his speed with a burst of off-kilter linear drum fills.
Despite their youth, DOMi & JD Beck have already established a unique style that is a perfect blend of their two distinctive voices. DOMi’s playing is very technical and precise—influenced by her conservatory training in both jazz and classical—but she also has a sense of groove fit for hip-hop, funk, and neo-soul à la Robert Glasper. She often plays multiple parts at once, sometimes on two different keyboards, but she tends to stick to a simple palette of classic piano and Nintendo-esque synth sounds without lots of effects, which helps give her playing a clarity that prevents it from overwhelming the listener.
JD Beck likewise keeps the sonic landscape uncluttered by restricting himself to a very minimal drum set consisting of a couple muffled drums, dry, muted cymbals, and a few percussion effects. His drums are intended to sound “as electronic as possible,” and his playing is notably influenced by the electronically programmed beats of producers like J Dilla, Madlib, and Knxwledge.
He says, “It was something about this gritty, off beat, but quantized kind of feel that made my sound,” yet his style goes beyond the capabilities of your everyday drum machine, demonstrating creativity and expressiveness comparable to that of jazz greats like Tony Williams and Eric Harland. He is also known for his explosive breakbeats, which are reminiscent of Louis Cole‘s aggressive drum & bass style.
Each a maverick on their instrument, when you put these two virtuosos together, the result is an extraordinarily cohesive duo. Their eclectic musical voices are entirely complementary, and their perfectly matched technical abilities allow them to push the limits of what is physically and musically possible while remaining completely locked in with each other. The burgeoning duo has already experienced meteoric success and earned widespread acclaim, but with both members still under legal drinking age, it is clear that this is only the beginning.
DOMi & JD Beck will perform at Blue Note Jazz New York on May 31st and June 1st as part of Blue Note Jazz Festival. They will also appear at Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa on July 30th. Watch the video for “SMiLE” below.
DOMi & JD Beck – “SMiLE” (Official Video)