Electronic Spotlight: Soulflex Solid State Lazer w/ Shigeto

Words By Stevie Tee
Photos By Joe Quang


I reached the historic Blind Pig at 9:30 as the show was already well under way. The transformed rock club was dimly lit with colored lights and all sorts of devices designed to capture stares. Soulflex’s resident lighting expert Scott Sutterfield provided the environment that set the perfect mood for this evening of beats and spaced out electronic textures. The entire back wall behind the stage was covered in psychedelic, geometric designs that were provided by Austo Design. Canvases flanked both sides of the stage for live painters Seymor and Mary Maz. Grassroots California, Deepblip Records and the respective artists all had merch tables set up in the crammed hallway just inside the front door of the club. Full show production has been a defining characteristic of Soulflex Entertainment, Cirque Du Womp, Deepblip Records and other related promoters.


K@dog

Grant “K@dog” Jackson has been making a big name for himself after more or less acting as a local ambassador of dubstep in Detroit. Even as recently as 2008, dubstep had remained quite underground in Detroit. Few international dubstep producers/DJs were even able to reach Detroit or land a spot on Movement: Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival. K@dog, with the help of the Cirque Du Womp Crew, brought dubstep to Detroit clubs in a big way and started a local sensation with the Dubstep Circus. This evening was my first chance to see K@dog mixing it up on vinyl. Disappointingly, he’d been playing since 8:30 pm and dropped eight original tracks before I arrived.

K@dog’s use of vinyl controllers allows him to use his laptop to play tracks from his collection of MP3s or Wavs, but control them as though they were spinning on the record. Now K@dog can mix new originals with vinyl without ever having to press a record or dub-plate. It resembled J-Dilla influenced hip hop as K@dog was cutting in a capellas, drum breaks and other tracks in true turntablist fashion. After a few tracks he faded out and dropped into the last part of his set began as deep, dancehall influenced dubstep that teased and eventually led to huge womp tones. It was quite enjoyable to hear the movement of vinyl during Cirque Du Womp’s resident DJ’s set.



Shadow Attack + Jaws That Bite = Shadows That Bite

www.soundcloud.com/shadowattack

www.soundcloud.com/jawsthatbite

The next set of the night was Jaws That Bite and Shadow Attack hybrid. Founders of Deepblip Records and former members of the local livetronica band Inkface & The Digital Dream, they’re now teamed up as individual producers. They played a Live PA set that was similar to dueling DJs going back to back every few songs. However in this case, all tracks played were produced and being played in live mode by Jaws That Bite or Shadow Attack. Both producers were hard at work on their MIDI controllers, drum pads and guitar. Jaws That Bite’s tracks were a glitchy, trip-hop that contrasted well with Shadow Attack’s heavier dubstep and bass influenced hip-hop. If you are a fan of pulled-apart, glitched-out hip-hop beats, this was your set. Through an auditory forest of sounds, blips, and glitches, the tracks and grooves still had a lot of room to breath. The two producers were doing an excellent job of exploring with their mixes but not stepping on one another or having the main tracks or clips get lost in the mix. Aside from the evening’s headliner, this was my favorite set of the night.

Charles Trees & Kadence

www.soundcloud.com/musiquelarge/charles-trees-the-dream-ep-snippet

www.myspace.com/kadencemcasheis

Charles Trees & Kadence’s set stood out for a number of reasons. Many of the undercard artists on the line up tonight spoke very highly of Charles Trees and respected him as a local producer of prominence. Charles Trees appeared on stage first, dropping a couple tracks of his own by himself, then was joined by Ann Arbor MC Kadence for nearly twenty minutes. During Charles’ last track, he welcomed onstage the evening’s headliner Shigeto. Charles Trees’ tracks were also hip-hop influenced but was much more spaceious, floatier, tech-ish hip-hop that was more subtle than the rest. Once he switched from originals to dropping the bed tracks for Kadence, the movement and live feel of the produced tracks was gone. Charles was now playing the bed tracks as is, with only some minor DJ-like mixing at times.


Kadence had a great flow and delivery that was well rehearsed with his backing tracks, but I found myself wishing he was flowing over the type of tracks Charles played. Kadence put these songs together and wanted his live performance to be representative of his recordings, but the presentation of the set drained the momentum. It’s uncertain if Charles Trees produced any of the tracks for Kadence, but working out a more fluid DJ-style delivery could have helped to maintain a higher level of energy. If these two had separate sets or if Kadence started off the set, the performance would have been better. I’d still recommend checking out each artist’s respective work despite these minor criticisms.

Ill.So.Naj & Freddy Todd



While both of these producers had individual sets, they combined their set time and kept things moving along quite nicely. First, Ill So Naj came out and dropped all original tracks from his rig that resembles a rock star command center from the future. While only having a few items, Ill So Naj rocks a gigantic Mac monitor to help him navigate through massive Ableton Live sets, a fairly simple looking drum pad, knob/fader MIDI interface and a home engineered mixing device made out of a Guitar Hero controller. From his setup, it was clear that he is anything but an inside-the-box performer. Ill So Naj’s producing style is a psychedelic hip-hop that conjures up images of J-dilla, Prefuse 73 and many electronic jam bands. With his technical mind that can engineer new performing devices and frequent collaborations with the following producer Freddy Todd, don’t be shocked this if this producer starts making a bigger name for himself in the electronic music community.

By this time, the club was quite crowded, forcing me to miss a good chunk of his twenty minute set after I stepped away for a few mintues. When the two producers switched off, Ill So Naj jumped on the drum kit to play drums along with Freddy’s set. The drums were not properly mic’ed and all you could hear in most of the club was a steady snare beat and the occasional flourish of tom fills. If you got up close enough to the stage you could hear the whole drum kit chiming away in time to Freddy’s pristine set.


Something about this producer’s music makes ladies lose inhibitions and apparently clothes. Suddenly out of nowhere, two females stripped down to underwear and began to dance on stage during Ill So Naj’s and Freddy Todd’s set. One of the girls was dancing around on stage earlier during Shadows That Bite’s set with considerably more clothes on. This was clearly a very planned and orchestrated move, not a random girl from the audience. The stage looked like a suburban gangster rap music video making me wish that the ladies would make themselves useful by mic’ing the tacet drums. While I worried about catching gonorrhea of the eyeball, Freddy threw down a very tight, compact set that justified the whole scene.

Freddy was the only producer of the night dropping hip-hop samples that were clearly recorded for his tracks. He’s been working with many different producers and MCs from all over the US and has been picking up new tricks for samples and tracks. Recently, Freddy collaborated on a drum break with percussionist Chuck Morris from Lotus while gigging in Colorado. Freddy built a track around the break and dropped it for the first time on everyone at the Soulflex show that night. His set was heavier than the last time I saw him but still resembled the same upbeat, club-ready hip hop with lazer synths. The inaudible drums left more to be desired but did little to derail Freddy’s set.

Purchase Freddy Todd’s new double album “Neon Spectacle Operator”

Shigeto



Amidst all the local talent that was showcased in spades, Shigeto is a former Ann Arbor local, who has relocated to Brooklyn and is currently represented by Matthew Dear’s Ghostly International record label. Shigeto had the same drum kit on stage from the previous set but now everything was properly mic’ed and mixed with his computer’s output channel. His setup was fairly simple aside from the drum kit as he rolled with a computer with one large Ableton Live set open and MIDI controllers with drum pads. Even when he would leave his computer and controllers to accompany his tracks on drums, everything was fluid and seamless.

Shigeto’s set was a nice change of pace. While some of the raver crowd was exiting at the mere mention of slower tempos and drum solos, I was digging the more ambient-tech turn. The sound had the funky, polyrhythmic sample swagger like Flying Lotus and J-Dilla, tasteful ambient glitch work like Telefon Tel Aviv and free form jazz drumming breaks a la Steve Reid’s work with Four Tet. A live performance of Shigeto’s remix of “Adrift” was the biggest highlight of the set. An excellent aspect to his performance was his gift of significantly different output as opposed to what can be heard on his album. The tracks remained 100% recognizable yet contained energy that can only be felt in the live musical setting. I highly recommend checking out this one-of-a-kind live set the next time Shigeto rolls into your town. Until then, check out the new album “Full Circle” along with his other EPs and singles featured on the Ghostly International and Moongadget labels.

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