RE:Creation Denver – Phutureprimitive, ESKMO, VibeSquaD [3.10.12]

Summit Music Hall, hosting it’s second straight RE:Creation event, was amped and ready to go on this Saturday night – March 10, 2012. Anybody who knows electronic music understands the magnitude of a lineup with this type of depth. Brought to us by Denver based Euphonic Conceptions, RE:Creation is a project that has gained some steam & notoriety as of late. How could it not, when it continuously pairs together some of the most popular and respected producers in psychedelic, electronic, and bass music scene to date? Case in point: Heyoka with Random Rab and R/D on February 18, and the highly anticipated Ott with Govinda and DVS* Friday, March 16! In the current frenzied state that EDM is in, with an abundance of shows happening every single weekend, this is a show that will prove hard to forget!

With a lineup consisting of two artists that legitimately can be headliners in their own right (and in certain settings Phutureprimitive can be as well), how does one decide how to order the bill? Each one of these producers constructs music in their very own way, manufacturing unique beats that are immediately recognizable when you hear them. However, all three have a common element or theme: intricately produced bass music.

First up, a great friend of Lost in Sound and one of the fam’s favorite musicians, Rain Phutureprimitive. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Rain flew out for this one-off evening as he diligently prepares for an IMMENSE national tour with Shpongle. {Props! And we’ll see you then!} Rain took the stage and played all the tracks we have come to know and love off the album Kinetik. However, unless I am mistaken, he did not play either of the two tracks that feature Alyssa Palmer on vocals from Luminous EP. (For those that are not familiar, Alyssa P. is one of the most amazing, emotional and talented voices I have ever heard. She’s got a similar appeal to Michele Adamson and I never get tired of hearing her sing over sexy, smooth, suave, and even heavy electronic beats. Hence the reason I am infatuated with the Phutureprimitive tracks in question, “Burn” and “Luminous.”)

Towards the latter part of the set, he played the remix that everyone loves: “Mad World.” Surprisingly, I heard two “new” tracks. To my knowledge, Rain did not clarify what album they were off of, or where they were coming from, but I didn’t hear them when he played in Denver at the Sculpted Sound 11/11/11 party. The tracks had some heavy and full sounding bass, something the crowd obviously loved whether they were familiar with the tracks or not.

His mixing and his set have improved since the last couple of times I saw him. Using flashes of beat repeat and stutters, as well as drawing out some of the transitions and layers in his songs, added some flavor to the mix. Based off of seeing him multiple times as well as talking to Rain himself, his DJ sets are always a work in progress (which by no means implies they are unenjoyable, it’s quite the opposite actually). He is learning and evolving as he plays more, as all producers should be. I’ve talked to Rain about this personally and there is a pinnacle I’d love to see his live performances reach. Hopefully, just maybe, the Phutureprimitive live show will eventually return full circle to include performing with a few other people as a live act or band! Who knows… maybe I might have a wish granted and Alyssa P. will be center stage. One can only hope!

The middle slot- similar to the most important part of a sandwich- was reserved for the most epic display of the evening: ESKMO (Brendan Angelides). Immediately introducing himself over the mic, the crowd could tell this was going to get interesting (to say the least). His voice was heavily distorted but not in the way you might imagine. It had this warehouse type quality to it hammered with an echo or delay. With a slight robotic tone to the output, it was different than your typical electronic computer voice you hear plastered all over mixes these days. In fact, nothing about this set was typical. Even some Eskmo fans were thrown for a loop. However, I had seen him play at Electric Forest Festival (2011) and got a taste of his fondness for vocals and live sampling. This set had even more ingenuity than EFF.

Some people were not feeling it, although everybody else was eager to express the fact that they could not get enough! People were fascinated by what was happening on stage. The visuals (I will touch base on the amazing LED boards later in the article) almost felt secondary to staring at Eskmo in awe. All the while attempting to guess what he was going to pull out from the magician’s hat next. And by a “magician and his hat” I mean the slew of surprise homemade instruments that were consistently being plucked from behind the DJ table of tricks. Amongst the instruments you’d find a street musician playing were (keep in mind, all of these things were used in a variety of fashions, sometimes each thing struck or “played” in multiple different ways creating completely different sounds each time): milk crates, water bottles (metal and plastic), symbols, a shovel, mini-egg shaker, bird chirping mouth pieces, cracking open beer cans, ripping pieces of paper, a “tambourine bracelet”, and only Eskmo knows what else.

Who knew that a giant metal snow shovel could be transformed into some sort of rainforest rattling/“tsk tsk tsk” sound?!? (For evidence, please see video#2 below. Also, if you are the type that needs to see to believe, please check out video#1 to see how intense Eskmo’s singing actually is). In a very talented way, he utilized natural singing effects to coincide with the digital EFX. Similar to many singers you might know or have seen, Eskmo achieved different vocal tones, sounds, and depths by moving closer to or further away from the microphone.  With his crunchy, slow churning, atmospheric ensemble of noises, this method allows him to yell without it sounding like a death metal show to the audience. At about 0:50 seconds into video#1, you can actually hear Brendan belting away. Due to the distance from his mouth and the mic, the sound you are initially hearing is the camera’s mic picking up his naked voice rather than his stage mic. Now that’s powerful singing!

His tracks were seamlessly fused with rhythmic claps and choppy smashes of his various tools (aka instruments). Many of the tracks were recognizable from his most recent release which happens to be self-titled – a perfect title when you think about how self-reliant, reflective, and performed the entire album is. It’s incredible to see him transfer that studio produced album into a live show. A true testament to the incredible live nature of the set, the tracks were constructed differently than what you would find on the album. The random rhythms would be looped to keep the groove going, while Eskmo was gearing up to cue in the next drop of bass and melody. This is how it went for a few “tracks” and then he’d bring the beats to a silence to which the crowd would scream in delight. At times his set is actually improv, which in today’s Ableton ridden performances, is extremely rare for a one person “DJ” set. Similar to Tipper in this fashion, he is using sounds, clips, samples, and loops from a giant catalog of material and piecing it all back together. In my opinion, Eskmo takes it above & beyond to another whole level. The vocals clearly add an element of difficulty. But it’s the tripped out psychedelic feel, as Brendan is stripping it down and piecing together an array of these sounds to make a song. One that has never been played before and will never be played in that exact same form again. On a side note, it is quite amusing to see the vast array of reactions that the tripping, rolling, drunk, and sober people have throughout any Eskmo or Welder set. 

Starting as a venue that didn’t feel full at all, time progressed and sure enough the crowd started to fill in by the time Eskmo was nearing the end of his set. In part due to the weirdness and abrasive aspects of Eskmo’s set, some people had dispersed around the venue and others saw this as a time to catch their breath, ironically with a cigarette outside. By the time Vibesquad was queuing his set at 12:30 the venue had filled up, but not sold out. It was clear that Aaron is a hometown hero of sorts and this show was featuring his Orphan Alien Pt. 1 release from Fall 2011. Immediately the psychedelic, hip hop based, party anthems had the crowd assaulting the dance floor as if the entire squad was on a mission to command and conquer the bass waves with their mile high vibes. I couldn’t shake the image of “space crunk” out of my head: The squad exiting the atmosphere with one thing on their minds, bass destruction, and we all know whose at the helm of that bass shuttle.

The crowd was packed in as close to the stunning LED boards as possible with comfortable dance floor space still open. It was a nice change from the fence rattling, bone crushing, packed mad houses that we’ve almost come to expect in the EDM scene. Clearly VibeSquaD family understands the desire for freedom of expression when it comes to exploring the things your body can do when given a little help from psychedelic bass waves. Props!

In regards to things becoming more common at shows, EDM producers and venues are starting to realize the importance of an immersive experience, bringing the visual aspect up a notch. From the silks dancer at Heyoka and Random Rab and now to the stunning LED boards that were hard not to find yourself entranced by. The visuals displayed fresh content for each respective artist and wasn’t some pre-arranged visualizer. It’s obvious that currently the money is within the show experience beyond the sound systems. While we are on the topic, Summit needs to improve their sound system. Or at the least they should “do something” about their sound guy, who instead of cherishing every detail about his job has been seen watching movies such as Braveheart. On this night (and most others) the high end was uncomfortably piercing. By going out on a limb and assuming, I am going to say that it is probably due to the fact that he is an older guy who can’t hear the highs as clearly as people who haven’t been exposed to this for 40 years. Fortunately for the rest of the show, a sound engineer friend of mine chimed in to the sound guy and helped fix the problem that within ten rows of the railing Phutureprimitive’s snare and symbol hits were unbearable. Regardless, the man on visuals was just as on point as the musicians, and this made for a fantastic evening.

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