Computer Magic‘s Danielle Johnson gave not just one but two shout outs to Peter Pan Donuts and their egg sandwiches. It’s clear that her love for Greenpoint runs deep. So it’s only fair that all of North Brooklyn should give that love back to her when Computer Magic’s newest album Danz is released on February 23.
Even for the those with shortest musical attention span, Danz is delightful to listen to all at once. The album flows easily from song to song, with each track adding a new element to spark curiosity. The style of combining soft vocals over 80s synth is found in much of Computer Magic’s music, including Danz. This combination is a result from Johnson’s original shyness about her voice, her love for broadcast sound and Girl From Ipanema. What began as an experiment of adding heavier music effects over her soft singing has become a core part of her style.
Many of the album’s tracks deal with a losing oneself, a struggle with identity, some sort of a loss, or a sense of deprogramming—so I asked Johnson’s thoughts on this. She explained that while she keeps her studio in Greenpoint, she’s moved upstate. “Letting go of the city was super hard..and it was a reflection of that,” she explained. Being away from friends and in a less walk-friendly environment led her to spend much of her time alone. This led to overthinking and a sort of identity crisis. Disliking herself only because she was beating herself up. This self-reflection is actually an elegant theme on Danz. The album is personal yet eccentrically fun with a track-exploring artificial intelligence.
Johnson is modest when she speaks about her success stateside. But there is no doubt that Computer Magic is a major hit in Japan. A Japanese record company, Tugboat, reached out to her after hearing Computer Magic online. Since then she has recorded several Computer Magic albums solely for Japan. And those led to Computer Magic making jingles for Japanese Panasonic commercials. Strangely enough, Johnson has never been signed in the US despite her strong work ethic. So she decided to start her own record company, Channel 9, with the money from the commercials. Johnson also produces, mixes and masters every single track on her own, except for her 2015 Davos release (which she worked on with Claudius Mittendorfer).
Johnson’s dedication doesn’t stop at music production. She makes sure to incorporate visuals that resonate with her. Being “nerdy for aliens and that world,” she tells us that “it’s always been the same sci-fi movies” that have inspired her music—Barbarella and Logan’s Run. The album cover for Danz is by beeple (artist Mike Winkleman) whose futuristic space centered aesthetic fits Computer Magic’s vibes perfectly. Her shows retain the sci-fi feel, as she’s almost always wearing a flight suit.
Danielle Johnson first came to NYC to attend Hunter college. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and ended up DJing around the city. Because her mother had moved to Florida from upstate New York, Johnson spent six productive months in the sunshine state. Johnson found herself constantly making music and sharing it online. Eventually this led to a small following and invites to perform shows. Upon realizing that this was her career path, she moved back to New York, eventually finding herself in Greenpoint. She loves walking to Transmitter Park for inspiration, visiting to Peter Pan and biking the Williamsburg Bridge. Her first show was at the now defunct Glasslands so she’s witnessed first hand the North Brooklyn music scene’s changes. Her favorite current venues are Elsewhere (599 Johnson Ave) (by the Glasslands owners) and Baby’s All Right (146 Broadway).