In this column, we cover songs for you to nod your head to in the EDM scene [electronic dance music, not extra dancy music, for those not in the know]. There is enough dance floor pressure here to get you out of the tryptophan malaise with a quickness.
1. Grenier “Here Come The Dark Lights”
If your idea of dubstep is Skrillex–and shame on you if this is the case since Skrillex is brostep, it is time to edumacate yourself. A far cry from the Shrillex sound, dubstep originated in South London, with singles usually landing on the B-sides of garage records [btw, it’s pronounced ga-ra-dj like a proper Brit]. BBC Radio 1 DJs John Peel and Mary Ann Hobbs brought the genre fully into the mainstream, but its hallmark has always been heavy bass lines–in other words, not the kind of “wobble wobble” abuse/overuse in dubstep-by-the-numbers would have you believe.
Grenier, aka DJG, has been toiling in the bass trenches of San Francisco producing quality music for a while now. His show in DC in 2011, brought by the bassxperts of 88DC, was a testament to what good dubstep sounds like–dark and heavy and mercifully free of screeching girls.
2. Lana Del Rey “Ride” [MJ Cole Remix]
Speaking of garage and dubstep, UK producer MJ Cole has churned out a solid catalogue of garage hits, including Sincere. On this latest remix, he takes Lana Del Rey’s languid Ride and makes it shimmer and seethe with the traditional syncopated garage beat. This is one very rideable hot beat.
3. Jodi & Hosta “My Life”
Time to talk about drum’n’bass, my ever-present love. Drum’n’bass has more offshoots than Bob Marley, all with different Moms too. There is liquid d’n’b and its close brethren, chillstep. Some might argue chillstep is more of the dubstep ilk, with producers like Sierra Leone and Mount Kimbie as an example, but this track is just straight up chill drum’n’bass. Lush and pure aural delight.
4. Little Dragon “Sunshine” [Shlohmo Remix]
In the immortal words of Dave Chapelle, everything is better in slo-mo and downtempo purveyor Shlohmo proves this to be the case indeed. Taking Little Dragon’s effervescent Sunshine–oh, and btw, Yukimi Nagano can do *no* wrong in my book–and layering it on top of a wistful and wispy beat produces a shining sonic delight. You will be flying high on this particular lotus.
5. Alexander Spit “A Breathtaking Trip”
I first chanced upon this rapper when I noticed Alchemist appeared on his “Getaway Car” track. When asked who he wants to work with, San Francisco rapper Alexander Spit references Portishead and Kanye. His languid yet sharp delivery is definitely trip-hop-worthy and no less trip-worthy. Psychedelic explorations and phantasmagoria abound. “Bodies feel like costumes after I ate the mushrooms.” This is one hazy breath-taking trip to the other side. “I stay gone, my chick thinking we long distance.”
Saturday’s sold-out Little Dragon show at the 9:30 Club was an exuberant, percussion-propelled, lush feast for the senses—a ritual union, if you will, presided over by the high priestess of unbridled soul, Yukimi Nagano.
The band and the crowd swelled with a riotous, jubilant energy that is so rare to see at most concerts. Yukimi Nagano literally bounded about the stage in her impossibly adorable, pixie-sprightly way, cutely bantering, dancing even more than the crowd, and contributing to the percussion-heavy sound with her tambourine and drum pad-playing.
One could hardly imagine a more unlikely candidate for a “jam band” than an electro-soul-downtempo outfit, yet Little Dragon’s show had a funky, beat-happy sensibility that was positively soul-stirring and authentically organic in its pure celebration of just playing for an audience. It’s through this dogged dedication to their live show that Little Dragon has built such a huge following, without a “big fancy record label,” as Nagano put it.
Nagano has lent her unique vocals to a number of tracks, including the Gorillaz’ “Empire Ants” and “To Binge,” SBTRKT’s “Wildfire,” and DJ Shadow’s new “Scale It Back.” From her old days in singing for downtempo-neo jazz band Koop (whose hit single “Waltz For Koop” appears on almost all chillout compilations), Nagano has a knack for infusing the songs with a soulful vibrato that keeps the ears guessing and sets her apart from other figure-head female vocalists—she is a musician in every sense of the word. She was definitely the epicenter of the show and she did it with an effortless and impossibly infectious flair.
Little Dragon played the ebullient title track “Ritual Union” off the new album, as well “Little Man,” and the dubsteppy-glitchy “Precious.” There were also tracks off their previous two releases including “Feather,” “My Step,” “Never Never,” and “After The Rain.” Interspersed with occasional jam sessions, the band stayed away from their more atmospheric, melancholic tunes and kept the tempo up and the dance sensibility more prominent. Only their final song “Twice” hinted at their more somber material, and Yukimi’s vocals took on an ethereal, almost other-worldly quality.
In a word, the show was the perfect embodiment of a band-crowd synergy that builds and truly doesn’t leave an unmoved soul or body in the crowd.