Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Electronic Spotlight: Lazar Tag

Words & Photos By Stevie Tee

Ghostly International artist Deastro and local rising-star Freddy Todd have teamed up to make a new electronic music monthly event in Detroit called Lazer Tag. Their first event was held at the Magic Stick in the Majestic complex. Tonight was also a special night for the local music scene as it was a dual CD release party kicking off a new Michigan based recording label imprint, Deepblip. "Lion, Scorpion" is the title of Jaws That Bite's new release and "The Transit Of Venus" is the much anticipated debut release from Shadow Attack. They are the founding members of the Deepblip label that hosts a wide variety of local talent even involving visual and performing arts.

We unfortunately arrived too late to catch Freddy Todd's first set that opened the evening, as well as Deastro's DJ set. My personal apologies to them for not being able to provide words on those sets. It was also a fairly strange site to the Magic Stick's normal stage and audience space gated off with curtains and all the action going down where I seem to remember there being pool tables. Perhaps some remodeling is going on. I happen to love this venue and have caught many great shows out there ever since I turned 18.

The shakedown street entrepreneurial spirit was in the air with vending booths set up to check out. These extra bits of culture really bring a community feel to shows. Local jewelry artist Caitlin Hurley had a booth set up to display her work, Deepblip records had both of the CDs released available to purchase and Local visual artist Seymor was performing and had art for sale. Seymor has been live painting at local shows all over Ann Arbor, Detroit and has made festival appearences all over the country. Seymor is one of the visual artists that sets Deepblip a part from other record labels. He also made all the art work for Jaws That Bite and Shadow Attack's new CDs.

Even the headiest of all baseball cap companies Grassroots California stopped by with a booth of friendly faces and the slickest custom hats you've ever seen. With the venue sectioned off and vendors at each side the dance floor was full all night at this well attended event. Time to get to the music.

Jaws That Bite (Live PA Set...all of his performances are.)

I came in to see Jaws That Bite already working up a sweat dropping his beats and melting minds with his samples, breaks, synths and guitar playing for that matter. Jaws That Bite is Michael Sabatini, a single creative electronic music force that cut his teeth playing guitar in progressive rock and alternative/indie groups rather than mixing records. His experience with writing songs on guitar definitely contributes to his ability to write interesting, dynamic electronic music. Mike has always dabbled in electronic music production and with his guitar, an arsenal of guitar pedals, MIDI controllers and software he puts on a full set of completely original music that have elements of live improvisation. Really loved the night's set. If you don't like electronic music that is too drawn out or repetitious Jaws That Bite is for you, particularly his live performances. His music is a heavy psychedelic trip-hop that is no stranger to jungle and dubstep rhythms or thick basses.

When Jaws That Bite isn't weaving hypnotic melodies on his strategically effected guitar, his hands are flying a mile a minute on any number of buttons, pads, knobs, faders to produce the blink-and-you-missed-them blips, warps, drops or sounds you really don't know how to describe. I'd also like to point out Jaws That Bite recorded local drummer Jeff Kline in a studio to get live drum samples and breaks in some tracks of his new album. He would also stick around to jam along to Shadow Attack's DJ set where he also turned a lot of heads in the audience. You can stream his new album and purchase a copy for just $5 but I also highly recommend you check this producer out live because it is a very unique experience that is different from his studio productions. 

Jaws That Bite's new album available here

Shadow Attack (DJ Set)

Shadow Attack is a producer and DJ formerly teamed up with Jaws That Bite in the live electronica act Inkface and The Digital Dream. Jeremy Judkins is the man behind Shadow Attack and was the main electronic production element of Inkface. Tonight would see Shadow Attack and Jaws That Bite teaming up once again in Jeremy's equally heavy, downtempo, abstract hip-hop DJ set, as well as in their dual releases and partnership in Deepblip. Shadow Attacks set felt slow and heavy with massive basses and psychedelic hip hop grooves to spare. He is very influenced by the Brainfeeder record label sound, J Dilla, abstract and experimental dubstep and drum n bass and his mixing in skills in Ableton Live allow for him to dip into them all. In support of his new album of original material he also dropped a number of originals. Jaws That Bite played samples and jammed along on drum pads and controllers while Shadow Attack mixed, triggered and controlled the set from his laptop and controller. Some of my favorite parts of the set were when they would play original Shadow Attack material from his new album "The Transit of Venus" but would find it difficult to tell where his song ended and another song mixing in began. This isn't a complaint, but more of a testament to the creative mixing of the artist and his ability to construct an interesting set.

One track that provided a good reference point for me was early on in the set when he dropped Tiga's remix of "Triangle Walks" by Fever Ray. This is a track that I'm familiar with from my own DJing and listening. Shadow Attack used this track in a very different context in his set than I had ever heard it used before. He either edited off the intro or had it washed in effects or pulled back in the mix. When the first verse and arpeggiator synths came in they emerged suddenly out of a floaty bed of resonance, synths and reverb. The preceding track or some original bits of drums and synth productions faintly mixed in with the verse, keeping a steady back beat that is absent from the beginning of Tiga remix. When the beat in the Tiga song dropped he would mix out the other track either gradually or in a direct swtich off. Couldn't tell exactly how. This track was good for giving me some indication of how much was being controlled by the hands of the DJ. I'm anxious to hear another set now that I'm more familiar with all the tracks on his new release.

Shadow Attack's new album available here

Shadow Attack's new album promotional mix

Freddy Todd (Live PA)

Freddy Todd has been having a great year and with a new album "Neon Spectacle Operator" dropping this month, 2011 seems like it is going to be just as good for this young producer. While his new album has a few label affiliations, Freddy considers himself a full-time member of the Deepblip community of artists. Since I first heard his name a year or two ago, Freddy has quickly and steadily distinguished himself from the rest of the local producing and DJing talent. Much like Jaws That Bite and Shadow Attack, he has past experience playing different instruments in rock bands and live electronica jam band outfits.

His sound is a lot less heavy and aggressive than the openers, leaning more towards a sleek, club-ready, style of hip-hop, dubstep and something that I'm told is referred to as "Crunk." Synths fly, warp and envelope in your ear drums and it's about that time when you start to realize why the event is called "Lazer Tag." There is a new prevailing sound in just the right corner of electronic music that focuses on synths that do sound like futuristic laser sounds and Freddy Todd is personifying the sound and feel. At the beginning of his set he introduced the songs as all being from his new, at the time, yet to be released album. The controller set up that he had to play with seemed like one big controller interface that he can do everything he wants. His productions are slick, danceable and sweet as candy. One track that the Detroit crowd found particularly amusing was Freddy Todd's remix of the viral hit "It's So Cold In the D." Clearly, Freddy is at a very comfortable place where he can continue to produce high quality sounding tracks, that are banging in a club setting, and manipulate and rinse his songs out in anyway he chooses.  Listening to his set it isn't any wonder why he got on Eoto's monster NYE line up our in Colorado and is in high demand in Miami, Asheville, Chicago and out on the West coast.

With such a great turn out and a hot sound, another local show phenomenon reared it's not so ugly head. Freddy's hip hop grooves, lazer synths, dubby basses and drum beats encouraged a hand full of girls to get up and dance on stage*. I've been noticing this a lot lately at smaller shows in the area and I'm really not quite a fan of it. While I place no blame on any artist for allowing this to happen, Freddy's only crime was dropping beats so scandalous that it made all the ladies get down like they were in an Axe Body Wash commercial, it just sort of bothers me and alienates certain people in the audience. Aside from many girls who obviously might feel uncomfortable seeing this on stage, many people are put off by it. Suddenly, I don't feel like I'm watching a concert and admiring a musician's work, but that I'm at some weird sleezy peep show. The girls weren't too whored up for the evening so this wasn't quite so bad, but there have been some shows around Detroit lately where you suddenly wind up looking at a girl in a thong and a tutu and hope to God she's at least 18. This is not a complaint to the artists or the people who organize shows like these, but it is just a note from one avid concert goer. That would have to be my only complaint from the younger crowd. I may have been asked for drugs a couple times from those not old enough to hit the bar, but that sort of comes with the territory at electronic music shows sometimes.

To get back to the point, Freddy Todd killed it and his new album is bound to be nasty. Don't be surprised if you start hearing his name everywhere. Expect a him to hit a lot of cities this sping and some festivals in the summer. Details will be posted on the next Lazer Tag event because you should definitely check out these artists live.


Freddy Todd's Debut LP - Neon Spectacle Operator

*Personal Note: The scene at Lazer tag was nowhere near as offensive as some other shows I've been to recently, but I just thought it should be mentioned. I'd like to hope that talking about it may improve ettiquette at shows on some level. For example, when Pnuma came to the Majestic in July, once they finished playing and the headliner DJs were playing their sets, some very scantily clad young women were parading all over the stage who were clearly just audience members moments ago. Also, when the Disco Biscuits made one of their first non-festival appearances in Michigan in years, several people in the audience climbed on stage briefly, threw glow sticks at the stage against the request of the artists and even broke a glass door at the theater. I'd just like to see some better behavior at shows, it makes everyone look better when we act like adults.


  1. Very interesting! Keep the Electronic articles coming!