Bassnectar of the gods
The use of the word "electro" in recent years to describe various dance music tangents has always been controversial.
Much of the contemporary work that gets saddled with the term has very little to do with the early-80s breakdance sound that it traditionally referred to. Unfortunately, "electro" is the term most often used in the new millennium, so we're stuck with it for the time being.
As such, it's an inelegant but useful word for the texture that's infiltrated so many parts of the dance music landscape, from the house and techno worlds to indie rock, not to mention hiphop and pop.
That said, the last place I expected to be struck by how ubiquitous it's become was the NuFunk party at the El Mocambo Friday night, when promoter Jay Cleary described the vibe as "electro-hippy" to me while we watched Bassnectar (aka San Francisco's Lorin Ashton) tear it up for an energetic and appreciative crowd.
And, sure enough, when you looked around the club, there were a lot of people you'd likely have seen at Om Festivals and such, but the tunes Bassnectar was dropping were as close to what you'd hear at a hipster party as at a hippie throwdown.
His take on it is a bit more organic, but you've still got those distorted synth bass lines, the booming 808 kick drums and that ADD-addled cross-cross-genre approach that somehow managed to work in an old swing track along with the breaks and hiphop you'd expect.
To be fair to Ashton, though - who's probably cringing at being associated with the term - he's been doing it this way for much longer than this has been a trend, and there's as much dub reggae as electro in his musical soup. The only reason you can frame it this way is that his brand of eclecticism and appreciation for the raw has become the thing everyone is reacting to, or, in some cases, against.
It wouldn't be that far off to say that the Black Minimal event at Salem's Loft Saturday night had a bit of an electro-hippie vibe as well, although they're likely cringing right now, too. Headlining was Montreal's Deadbeat (aka Scott Monteith), who does something kind of between techno and dub reggae, playing a live set of his own material and remixes.
On record, much of his work has been very downtempo, verging on ambient, so it was hard to guess how it would go over at a loft party. He did manage to put together a set that was decidedly dance-floor, favouring the more upbeat and aggressive dancehall-influenced side of his catalogue.
Things sounded a bit grimier (both in texture and in reference to the genre), which, if it's any indication of where he's going with his sound, may mean we'll be hearing him on more dance floors and less on couches.
Honourable mention to Tom Kuo, who took things in more of a techno direction but kept enough of Monteith's organic feel so the transition wasn't at all jarring. Sometimes techno can be too self-referential, but there were more than enough other influences and flavours to keep it interesting.