Friday, August 6, 2010

LoKey LoEnd FlyLo (Review of Flying Lotus and Take @ Low End Theory, 7/28/2010)

So Low End Theory is this weekly event at the Airliner club in Los Angeles. If you follow the LA Beat Scene, you'll probably know what Low End Theory is. For those of you that don't, it happens every Wednesday night, and it's where such experimental electronic beat-masters as Flying Lotus, Daedelus, Take, Shlohmo, Ras G, and (more recently) Baths go to showcase their work and live skills.

Their schedule for last Wednesday just said "Very Special Guest." This was my first time going (I wanted to attend the show a week before featuring Asura and Jonwayne, but I couldn't), so I wasn't sure whether I wanted to take a chance with whoever this was. But my friend Jeremy did a little facebook stalking, and the facebook profile of one Steven Ellison said he intended to play the Airliner on Wednesday. For those of you who weren't aware, that man also goes by the moniker Flying Lotus.

So Jeremy and I flipped a shit and made our plans. Prophet Zachariah, of the anti-pretentious music/film blog The Boy And Colors, was also in attendance. And man, was it a night.

So we walk in the door in the middle of Take's set. Take is one of my favorite beat music producers, his most recent record Only Mountain was incredible. Aside from programming some of the most innovative, non-repetitive drum patterns I've ever heard, he's a synth master; his production style just saturates you with them, from these thick, heavy bass sounds to all the little high-pitched blips and arpeggios riding on top of the mix. And on the legendary Low End soundsystem, all of it (especially the bass) just came to life.

Parisian Goldfish (Take Remix) - Flying Lotus

I've posted this gem before but I felt it was appropriate for this review. Also it might be my favorite Take track.

By the way, there's a reason they call it "Low End Theory." Those subwoofers are on another level. This is bass that you can feel pouring into your ears like hot wax at the same time as you're feeling it rattle your ribcage. And not in an unpleasant way, it's really quite awesome. Even though it sometimes would eclipse other elements of the song playing, I have a feeling that's the point of seeing music in such a venue.

But yeah, Take's set (or what we caught of it) was fucking fantastic. Couldn't see much of it because the place was PACKED, but damn did we hear it. We got better positions for the rest of the acts, though.

Next up were some of Low End Theory's resident DJ's (Nobody, Daddy Kev, The Motherfucking Gaslamp Killer, and D-Styles), who pretty much all played dubstep sets, with some hip-hop in there for good measure. Nobody had the best set aside from Take and Flylo, he's a fantastic DJ. The others were definitely awesome too (can't speak for D-Styles cuz we missed his set), except that I think the crowd just got tired of dubstep by the end... Also: Gaslamp Killer was fucking RAW. He has the most fantastic stage presence ever, he pretty much physically acts out the bass sounds, which is really how I think you ought to DJ dubstep. Also he used a fucking iPad as a MIDI controller of some sort, manipulating beats on the fly. Pretty damn awesome, good to see the stupid gadget is good for something... Here's some video of Gaslamp killing it earlier in the evening.

Well, in the middle of Gaslamp's set Flying Lotus started wading through the crowd, and after another 15 or so minutes he'd finished his setup, and the show began. It took that long because he had a live bass player (Stephen Bruner aka Thundercat) and drummer (Ronald Bruner) to set up as well. Researching this post, I just realized the two are brothers. And they are tight as hell.

Thundercat is a fucking fantastic electric bass player with legitimate jazz chops. He riffs like a mofucka, which you can hear on FlyLo's last album, Cosmogramma. Specifically on "Pickled!", though he helped write and sang on "MmmHmm" as well; that's a more downtempo track and one of the more beautiful on the album in my opinion. Ronald Bruner is a jazz drummer of epic proportions. He's played with Austin Peralta, an alumnus of my school who is coincidentally signed to FlyLo's Brainfeeder label. Just watch this if you need proof of his chops.

Well, needless to say they fucking killed. They played in sets of about 10-20 minutes, with little breaks to orient the musicians (the drummer had never sat in with FlyLo before, which didn't even matter because he caught on in seconds, and nailed every pause or break. ah, the power of jazz). Mr. Ellison played about 50% new or unfamiliar material, 40% Cosmogramma, and 10% of his older stuff. Every once and a while he would cut out almost every element of the track that was playing and just let, say, a hihat or keyboard part play while the brothers Bruner just tore it up. Those breakdowns to just live bass and drums were fucking transcendent. Just wow. Brilliant musicians doing what they do best on the was like watching live jazz. Even when FlyLo was playing a song over the live music, all three of them were interacting and giving and taking and fuck was it awesome.

The best set by far was the fourth one. The rest had been at a hip-hop/dubstep sort of tempo, and then after a break flylo just brought out "Do The Astral Plane." The crowd went insane, and this was in a room about the size of my living room, mind you. And that set just went on in the same vein: he sped up the vocal from "Tea Leaf Dancers" and played it over "Astral Plane," then he kept dropping experimental electro house, banger after banger, and the brothers Bruner just rolled with it, keeping up that same intense jazz energy they'd had the whole night.

Do The Astral Plane - Flying Lotus

On the whole one of the best live shows I've ever been to. Anybody who says that playing electronic music live is essentially just DJing needs to see Flying Lotus. He plays with a live band a lot nowadays. And if you really want to have an epic Wednesday night, go to Low End Theory. The vibe there is amazing. The producers and artists are there to showcase their work, and they're just hanging around during the show so you can freely interact with them. The audience is there to see the work and have a good time, so weed and alcohol consumption, while still extant, is at a really reasonable level. People just seemed very chill and friendly. I think my work here is done. Til' next time, folks...

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