Friday, October the 1st was a great night for LiveWire, a popular venue space snugly sandwiched between River Street’s various restaurants and shops.
I made my way through the narrow brick-walled music hall, past the glowing bar and live painters, and absorbed the underground-like atmosphere.
While AZ-IZ, Adrian Zelski of Dubconscious, warmed up the crowd with some house-influenced global beats, I got the chance to casually talk with Douglas Appling aka Emancipator. With his signature camouflage hat and neutral-colored clothing, he spoke just the way he looks and the way his music sounds: natural. His down-to-earth demeanor was refreshing, given that so many artists in the music business have overly-inflated heads.
Andrew Swanson aka St Andrew and David “Fuzz” Streit were also very friendly and humble, even though they had just flown from California’s glitzy and poppin’ west coast just hours ago. Stereotypes laid to rest; let’s get to the music.
St Andrew played his heavy blend of electro, French pop, and electronic hip-hop (ghettotech). He is an expert at channeling 80s synthpop into his music, all the while putting a twist on the genre by adding grit and acidliscious distortion via wobbles. In turn, you get sound that’s roasted like a marshmallow until it’s all crunchy-textured, like a delicious carcinogen for your sonic consumption.
On Friday night, he mixed “Blowin’ money fast” by Rick Ross into an even more danceable piece by garnishing the song with shimmery electronica elements like metallic synth lines. St Andrew even figured out a way to transform Bjork’s bombastic voice in “Hyperballad” into something pretty and holy.
St Andrew’s hour-long set was woven with heavy bass and heavenly choir vocals, vocals that reached church steeples and above. Holy bass! Think Coolio’s “Gangster Paradise” but gentler.
Fuzz seamlessly transitioned to his own music, a kaleidoscope of electro, hip-hop, funk, and everyone’s favorite, dubstep. Envision retro sound waves, bubbly beats, and whompy synthesizer stabs, and you’ve got Fuzz.
Of course, Fuzz’s music is more complicated than that, as all electronic music is. Much of Fuzz’s music reminds me of the genre of Skweee and Finnish producer Eero Johannes, where the aim is to squeeze out the most interesting and ear-shocking sounds. This is where you’ll hear various tones of bleeps, accented by intrusive bass lines.
While subwoofers shook and green laser lights scanned the crowd, as if to spotlight anyone who was ridiculous enough not to dance, Fuzz took out his bunny hat and put it on his head. It was a slightly humorous sight, but nonetheless, might have been a reflection of his dark musical tendencies, like an ode to Donnie Darko, as Emancipator suggested.
Later in the night, Emancipator got on stage to present his fresh mix of electronica, hip-hop, and downtempo music. Influenced by DJ Shadow, Bonobo, and Nujabes, you could hear non-traditional instruments like the mandolin, even the banjo, and I’m not a fan of the banjo, but he made it work.
Emancipator showcased clean production and meticulous mastering from his album “Soon it Will Be Cold Enough.” He also steered clear of any distortion, shooting for layered ribbon-like melodies, instead. It’s difficult to describe, but i’ll try. It was almost like his barrage of electronic equipment was powered by windmills; that’s just how natural and fluid his music sounds.
Though I was expecting strictly organic melodies, I was pleasantly surprised by his integration of smooth hip-hop and R&B. He remixed trip-hop duo Zero 7’s “Crosses” and 90’s pop trio TLC’s “No scrubs”, even gingerly plucking his guitar over the pop tune, creating bouncy vibrations flexed-out towards the crowd.
He also played guitar over his song “Smoke signals”, amongst other selections; it was electroacoustic music at its finest.
By 2 a.m., the music had washed over the crowd, leaving them just as peaceful, comfortable, and refreshed as Emancipator’s hypnotic soundscapes, never mind the drink spills and sweat that the dancing had induced.
In one night, 1320 Records proved their mission statement to be true: “Bring the music to the people.”