SXSW: Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus – a.k.a. Steven Ellison – has been at the forefront of the electronic music scene for nearly a decade; his recent March 12 show at the Amoa Arthouse on Tuesday was one of my most anticipated performances and an unmistakable representation of his unique musical intersection of hip-hop, trip-hop, jazz, blues, and psychadelia. The performance, though true to Ellison’s unique style, was a further departure from his hip-hop roots, instead adopting more jazz sensibilities and heavy instrumentation. Fly Lo founded Brainfeeder, an L.A.-based record label that focuses on electronic music and has signed artists such as Daedelus, Thundercat, Martyn, and Mr. Oizo (you can see a complete list of their producers here: http://www.brainfeedersite.com/); Tuesday’s showcase featured three openers from the label that I am personally unfamiliar with: B. Lewis, Teebs, and Tokimonsta.

Teebs (the stage name of Mtendere Mandowa) played a set that involved recording, layering, and altering soundscapes built on harps, shakers, and drum taps. The shrouded, dewy beats perfectly complemented Amoa’s artspace, the filters and clipped loops like the smudged watercolor paintings on the surrounding walls. In totality, his set was a pleasant deviation from the more upbeat DJs that followed him. His album Collections 01 is a good starting point for new listeners; not too daydreamy, it is structured, confident, and accessible.

Tokimonsta (Jennifer Lee) is another L.A. native and Brainfeeder producer known for her indie electronic, R&B, and dance music. Her music selection was notably more upbeat than Teebs,’ incorporating aspects of experimental and trap-inspired tropes. Lee is no newcomer to the world of experimental electronica and has enjoyed limited overseas exposure – she toured the UK back in 2009, and has released through London-based label Ramp Recordings. Her album Creature Dreams is the latest evolution of an artist steadily developing a very singular voice; indeed, Lee seemed to appear at almost every other electronic showcase that I went to over the course of the week. While I wasn’t as inspired by her performance at AM Only on Friday, her set was a perfect transition between Teebs and Fly Lo. Her ability to navigate organically between electronic subgenres was a highlight of the night, and I recommend checking out more of her beats here: https://soundcloud.com/tokimonsta.

Finally, Fly Lo: Flanked by sheer monitors, the artist decided to experiment with the idea of his presence being just one part of the spectacle by projecting trippy images onto overlapping screens. The next hour and a half was filled with transitions and layer blending that would enthrall any EDM fan, and I suspect that most individuals in the audience will remember his choice of curative audio and choice samples (including Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” and his own “Astral Plane”). The driving force of psychedelic emotion that Ellison evoked in his performance was largely due to his sample choice and manipulation. Like Amon Tobin, Fly Lo is capable of re-contextualizing samples in creative and distinctive ways, often producing entirely new instrumentals by rearranging existing musical parts. “All the Secrets” from Until the Quiet Comes, for example, does an excellent job of subtly altering piano melodies to bring about more dream-like, abstract themes that are echoed in Thundercat’s vocals in “DMT Song” (with a nod to the psychedelic drug of the same name). Though numerous overlapping patterns saturate his songs, he has a penchant for using a number of samples and vocals without cluttering his arrangements.

Graceful, humble, and enthused, Flying Lotus finished his set in a way that many did not expect: calmly. There was no final drop, no loud explosions of confetti or laser lights, and no gratuitous into-the-mic shouting matches. If anyone understands the flow and energy of a show, it was he, and he knew that we had just danced ourselves into exhaustion for two hours. Lulling us back into a relaxed state (as he is known for with his Adult Swim produced beats and bumps), Ellison left the stage to the chants of “One more song!” and faded into the background – letting the audience reflect back on what they had just experienced.

Tuesday’s Brainfeeder showcase was by far one of the best that I saw at SXSW. For any who have the opportunity to see any of these artists live, I would not pass up the opportunity: Brainfeeder has consistently released flawless and well-produced albums, and I look forward to delving deeper into their cache of artists and DJs.

Post by Chloe Lula.


SXSW: Disclosure

Disclosure – brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence – aren’t merely revivalists. What’s impressive about their music isn’t so much its fealty to golden-age two step, but the finesse they bring to their productions, suggesting the panache of far more experienced producers. They appeared more or less out of nowhere two years ago when their first MySpace demos were picked up for release on London’s Moshi Moshi label, and have continued to hone their skippy, melody-soaked take on house across a pair of EPs and their remix of Jessie Ware’s “Running” (one of my favorite tracks of all time). One listen and its universal appeal is immediately obvious: the effortless way they turn Ware and her co-producers Dave Okumu and Julio Bashmore’s elegant homage into zippy, synth-drenched soul feels like a particularly dizzying sleight of hand.

Original:

Remix:

VIP remix:

I was lucky enough to see the duo perform a live set on Wednesday the 13th and a DJ set on the night of the 15th. The live set at Hype Hotel was breathtaking, featuring drum sets, electric bass guitars, keyboards, and mixers. The show pulled heavily from their most recent four-track release (The Face, perhaps their best and most varied record), delivering retro hallmarks and a high-energy mood that demonstrated their skill at crafting electronic pop songs. The vocal cuts in “Boiling” (featuring Sinead Harnett) and “Control” (featuring Ria Ritchie) were particularly good examples of their capacity to re-contextualize classic tropes into tracks with more modern sensibilities.

Though their DJ set on Friday was less exciting, featuring none of their own songs and no live instruments or mixing, it was still imbued with their trademark electronic croons and swollen synths. The darker rendition of their personal brand was a refreshing departure, especially as it took place in a small club (La Zona Rosa) that seemed to cater only to those few that had heard about the show through friends and friends’ of friends.

The Lawrence brothers are currently recording their debut album and participating as support groups for Hot Chip and SBTRKT in the U.S. and the U.K. At 21 and 18 years of age, respectively, Guy and Howard are only at the outset of a promising career in music production.

Be sure to check out more of their music here: https://soundcloud.com/disclosuremusic.

Post by Chloe Lula.


SXSW: Andy Stott

Andy Stott has always been a stylistically agile artist. His performance at Resident Advisor’s official showcase on Wednesday evening during SXSW was a dark and dubby representation of his techno-inflected approach, displaying much of his more recent remixes and Luxury Problem releases. Lo-fi production and dirge-like rhythms chugged along somewhere in the 100 BPM region, incorporating odd elements of existential dread that recalled old Joy Division records.

For those unfamiliar with Stott’s work, it is haunting and atmospheric. His 2012 album is laced with vocals from his old piano teacher, Alison Skidmore. In equal parts mournful and seductive – sometimes even operatic – she gives his music a sexy and haunting feel; her lyrics and Stott’s own applications of reverb and delay made his performance particularly wistful. While his melodic layering and deep basslines may not have been suited for everyone, those interested in techno (and experimental electronic music in particular) would have been taken with his live interpretations of his own work.

To fully appreciate Stott, it’s crucial to have subwoofers or a good pair of headphones cranked up to 11. The venue, Elysium, was perfectly suited to the artist’s visceral bass lines, and I was only able to garner a better understanding of his music by being immersed in that environment. That being said, listeners and newcomers to the experimental techno scene should still give him a shot. I recommend beginning with his remix of Blondes’ “Pleasure,” as well as his latest album release, Luxury Problems, which you can stream here: http://stereogum.com/1185972/stream-andy-stott-luxury-problems/album-stream/.

Post by Chloe Lula.


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