Monday, April 28, 2014

Live review: Moogfest, Asheville

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 12:32 PM

After taking a hiatus in 2013, Moogfest made its return to Asheville this past weekend, boasting a revamped arrangement for an already impressive festival.

Flying Lotus
  • Flying Lotus

Spanning five days, Asheville was filled with innovative artists of all varieties performing eclectic dance music and giving educational panels on everything from electronic composition to video projections to synth building and more. To label Moogfest as an electronic festival is a bit inaccurate, it's an event that celebrates the diversity of dance music as a whole while paying tribute to one of the most influential names in the genre, Bob Moog.

Through this five day marathon I saw four-hour durational performances from acts like Bradford Cox and Dan Deacon, had my brain rattled by pounding sub-bass and most importantly soaked in more cutting-
edge music than I ever could have imagined. There was countless highpoints to this musical extravaganza, but here are five that topped the weekend:

5. Saul Williams
This visionary hip-hop artist/poet/actor has been an enigmatic, genre-bending musician for decades, and his performance this past weekend at Moogfest proved he's still got plenty of innovating left in his system. Williams was backed by Dragons of Zynth, a full band with gritty, distorted guitar, pounding percussion and a bombastic rhythm section. Whether Williams was churning out old favorites like "List of Demands" or newer tracks from his dance-oriented Volcanic Sunlight, the songs were delivered with an all out onslaught of intensity. Williams most definitely brought the punk to this Afro-Punk showcase in a way that few expected from the prolific artist.

4. RJD2
As one of the most diverse electronic acts on the lineup, RJD2 helped to close out Moogfest on a euphoric note to say the least. Of all the acts throughout the festival, RJD2 had one of the most intensive stage set-ups of the weekend as he bounced to and from multiple turntables and an MPC, mixing everything on the spot and gradually implementing live instrumentation. Blending smooth mixes of old-school hip-hop, instrumental beats and his prodigious Mad Men theme song, RJD2 kept a packed Orange Peel dancing to his infectious rhythms and most impressively made it all seem effortless.

3. Marley Carroll
If I had to pick a single act at Moogfest that left me floored it would be the Asheville-based producer Marley Carroll. Carroll has been heralded as the "producer's producer" and after seeing his live show it's clear why. Carroll is a jack of all trades, utilizing live vocals, turntables and analog synths to produce incredibly dancey yet melodic tracks. Whether he's bringing out remixes of esteemed acts like The Polish Ambassador and Lotus or his own intricately crafted originals, Carroll perfectly tows the line between IDM auteur and dance-pop prodigy.

2. Daedelus
Coming into Moogfest, Daedelus was an act I'd heard of, but never actually heard. Getting the chance to see something so innovative and entrancing in a live setting was easily one of the best parts of Moogfest weekend. Daedelus crafted dance music that was as mystifying and smooth as it was grimy and bass heavy. His classical persona brought a unique twist to the electronic landscape, donning Victorian attire he appeared to be more of a conductor than a DJ, twisting knobs and triggering samples with an unparalleled ferocity.

1. Flying Lotus
Although he was the first set I saw of the weekend, I immediately knew that nobody would be able to top the awe-inspiring set that Flying Lotus brought to the Orange Peel on Wednesday. The capacity crowd was treated to a set filled with hypnotic visuals from his layered 3D set-up and chest-rattling bass. FlyLo mixed in remixes from artists like Danny Brown while bouncing between old and new tracks from his own catalogue. Periodically he'd come out from behind his Oz-like curtain and perform a track from his hip-hop alter-ego Captain Murphy, displaying a level of crowd engagement that was never matched throughout the weekend. Despite difficulties with the monitors his performance brilliantly displayed his production mastery, and by the time he brought out Thundercat for their collaboration "Oh Sheit It's X," the crowd damn near exploded with excitement. Few electronic artists can hold a candle to Flying Lotus in terms of craftsmanship, and this late-night performance was an undeniable example of that.

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