Thursday, November 24, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Vincent Parker

Vincent Parker is one of Vancouver’s most prolific and idiosyncratic artists: you’re as likely to find him booked at an ambient show as a noise show as a synth show as a dubstep(ish) show, but there’s a few reasons for that.  First would be his versatility: the dude can do everything from, well, drone to noise to hip-hop to something resembling other forms of dance music without ever quite conceding to their conventions.  While his sets can often devolve into torrents of noise or exploratory synth odysseys, especially lately he’s been casting at least one careful eye over the dancefloor.  It might be a consummately fucked-up, misfit dancefloor, but there’s room to dance there nonetheless.
It was Vincent’s set at this past September’s New Forms Festival that finally convinced me of his cross-platform potential -- I’d had an idea before, of course, but I hadn’t seen anything this direct or bull-dozingly effective in one set from him before.  Preceding a bill that included L.A. hip-hop weirdo Shlohmo and Bristol grime/dubstep lynchpin Superisk, to properly warm up the crowd Parker played an all-originals set completely primed for the dancefloor.  Representing some mutant hybrid of dubstep, garage, and hip-hop, his crashing beats and distorted synths were moulded into recognizable shapes, crash-landing in captivating configurations before doing it all again, shifting subtly over the course of an hour without too many of the wild changes in direction that might be expected from Parker.  It was exciting to hear him so capably play to a dancefloor crowd like that, and sure enough the material he’s been working on lately runs along the same thread -- sacrificing none of his edge or energy, Parker has been crafting genreless bangers, notably unleashing them on the self-released (and absolutely fantastic) collection of cosmic hip-hop Respecanize.

Friday, November 18, 2011

araabMUZIK in Vancouver

I’ve told a few friends that my favourite musical instrument is the drum machine, only to be faced with dumbfounded looks or even derision.  An artist like araabMUZIK, however, is exactly the kind to prove my point: one of the year’s most interesting figures, he’s slowly rising to prominence in the hip-hop world -- certainly beyond his original Dipset associations -- but has also become a sort of indie darling, though his aesthetic incites as much frothing rage amongst the musical elite as it does wagging praise.  His solo album Electronic Dream was an instant earworm and a consummately guilty pleasure, taking entire trance songs and demolishing them with his MPC drum machine -- it was cheap, way too easy, and way too fucking effective.
For me, anyway, Electronic Dream has managed to firmly stand its ground in the rushing dialogue of dance music, staying in rotation for months and months beyond so many of the year’s mostly highly-touted albums.  Something about the album’s rigid but springy rhythms and the spongey decadence of its sample material is irresistible, exciting, and thrilling: pure musical indulgence, so-wrong-it’s-right-kind-of thing.
Of course, it would be wrong to subtract araabMUZIK’s own considerable talent from the equation: even when dealing with other people’s material as on Electronic Dream, his ear pummeling hip-hop beats that nevertheless place as much emphasis on melody is rare in his world, and his emergence is well-timed, taking advantage of a mainstream rap scene obsessed with the shittiest of lowest common denominator music.  Electronic Dream is merely a way to take this obsession to the extreme, literalizing the hints at trance that so many prominent producers, rappers, and singer succumb to now.
Beyond just his own productions -- whether Electronic Dream, the super fun Dipset Trance Party mixtapes, or his beats for numerous rappers -- araabMUZIK also has an engaging live show, where he goes nuts on an MPC and runs wider than the scope of Electronic Dream.  Suffice it to say it needs to be seen to be appreciated, but below you’ll find an extended clip to get the gist of the kind of drum machine heroics he supplies.  I’m particularly excited for his show in Vancouver this weekend at the Electric Owl, where he’ll be joined and well-matched by Fool’s Gold associate Party Supplies, who has a similar mastery of the MPC but under a different umbrella than araabMUZIK’s cotton candy melodic tendencies.  Whatever your feelings on araabMUZIK, it’s worth a gander. I’ll be there.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Taal Mala

We've already had a great deal of talent featured on Futureproofing Vancouver, and a diverse breadth at that, but there's perhaps no better singular representative of the truly inspiring, fearless and diverse nature of Vancouver's electronic scene as one Taal Mala. A junglist at heart, his music has and does encompass pretty much every genre you could think of coursing throughout the hardcore continuum, from rave to jungle to techno to dnb to garage to grime to dubstep and a little house as well -- enough that you could mistake him for a UK producer that grew up on all that stuff in its natural habitat. His music is separated from the pack by a keen musicality missing from so many North American "dubstep" producers, an ear for melodies that are catchy and memorable without being simple or predictable, and an elastic flexibility borrowed from jungle that makes them eminently danceable to boot.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Monolithium

Maybe this one should be titled Futureproofing Victoria.  Monolithium, aka Longshanks, aka Chris Long, is perhaps the "head" in Victoria -- bawse-man of the city's prominent Subdiv crew, promoter extraordinaire, and one hell of a DJ to boot. He's arguably responsible for building one hell of a dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate scene in a relatively tiny city, one that might be said to rival anything Vancouver could offer.  He's part of this series not only because of Victoria's incredibly close proximity to Vancouver but because his impassioned and precocious efforts have had a mutually beneficial effect for making both cities hotspots in Western Canada for underground electronic music, and his endless support for local talent has helped to nurture the kind of overwhelming roster I'm presenting to you with this very series.