Gavin Russom’s Trans Identity Is a Big Deal—But So Is Her Music

In Pitchfork’s new column, Schnip’s Picks, editor Matthew Schnipper identifies unheralded music and sings its praises. For the first edition, he looks at Gavin Russom and Delia Gonzalez’s 2005 album, The Days of Mars.

Watching LCD Soundsystem play “Saturday Night Live” in May, I thought, Who is that keyboard player in the little brown fez? Over James Murphy’s shoulder, she was doing this weird skank, having the time of her life. It was not until the next day, when the world became similarly besotted with her performance through a variety of GIFs, that I realized this new member was an old one: Gavin Russom, longtime LCD compatriot and stalwart electronic producer. I’d failed to recognize Russom, whose work I’d followed closely for the past decade. Perhaps I was not alone. Shortly after the “SNL” performance, Russom told the world she is transgender.

Russom’s statement, and the relief present in it, made her “SNL” exuberance seem even greater. The outpouring of support for her was encouraging and exciting to witness. All the attention she garnered talking about gender is likely much greater than any she’s received in the past for her music. As a longtime supporter, I had to chuckle a little; perhaps this news might draw some attention to Russom’s extensive catalog of really excellent house tracks in a way my various praise over the years never could.

In her interview about being transgender, Russom said her gender identity and her music have always been intertwined. “Retroactively, this is a thread that goes through my entire body of work,” she told us. “It’s an interesting way to listen to it if you weren’t already getting that.” Putting her music through that prism, what changes? With minor exceptions, her music doesn’t have any words. What has she been trying to communicate? Russom said that coming out as trans now allows her to be a “whole person.” Could she have been using a different kind of malleable language, a way to communicate without labels or pronouns? If you don’t have to categorize yourself, can it be easier to be who you are? Perhaps it’s a safe way to share what is secret without having to say it.

Russom has remained present in my mind since her story was published, and I’ve revisited much of her music, including a personal favorite, The Days of Mars, her collaborative album recorded with producer Delia Gonzalez. It’s four songs; on vinyl, it’s a double LP with one song per side,…

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