Our fantastic Moogfest voyage

Image 1. Santigold.
Image 2. Squarepusher.
Image 3. GZA.
Image 4. Killer Mike.
Image 5, 6. Ahleuchatistas.

Damn that was an awesome weekend. Here’s some of what we experienced.

Santigold

Santigold’s voice was flawless as she jumped and danced around the stage, owning the big cavernous building like only a true master of ceremonies can. She somehow even managed a few wardrobe changes without disrupting the the flow of the set, at different points wearing a lime green romper, glow-in-the-dark socks and an elegant black dress.

She was joined on stage by a duo of awesomely talented singers and dancers who performed a nonstop choreographed routine. Like the music, they integrated moves from West African and modern dance traditions in to a highly entertaining performance-art extravaganza. For a while, a group of costumed fans were invited on stage to join in the dance party. — Jake Frankel

Thomas Dolby

Let me say up front, Thomas Dolby’s set was thoroughly entertaining. … Dolby may release an album only once every other decade (so he joked from the stage), but he’s been in the music business in many capacities for longer than the average Moogfest performer has been alive. The guy knows how to put on a show. …

One of the great things about Moogfest, and about electronic music, is that while both are connected to youth culture, they also recognize and embrace roots that go back 40 and 50 years. And those players, those innovators from the ’60s and ’70s, are doing work that’s completely viable when held up against the rest of Moogfest’s roster. — Alli Marshall

El-P and Killer Mike

El-P was one of the shows I hadn’t planned to see, but circumstance led me to the Orange Peel, and it turned out to be one of the best accidents of the night. First of all, I’ve never felt bass so intensely at any show, dance party or club. Ever. The floor was literally shaking beneath my feet, and I could feel my ribcage on the verge of collapsing under the sonic assault. El-P’s delivery is forceful and aggressive, but beneath the tremendous bass, the beats were psychedelic and surprisingly melodic. Midway though the set, the Brooklyn-based MC was joined by Killer Mike (and his now infamous “Do dope, F–k hope T-shirt), who cracked a mamma joke and proved a highlight of the set. El-P also gave a heartfelt shout out to Moog and made a point to thank the audience repeatedly, giving the impression that he’s a real nice dude, which is always a nice takeaway. — Dane Smith

Ahleuchatistas

Much has been said about the feral nature of percussionist Ryan Oslance’s onstage presence. I myself have said much about it — it’s hard not to. He shows up to his kit barefoot and shirtless, in gym shorts, looking ready for a workout. And that’s pretty much what happens. Oslance approaches drumming sort of like one would approach a parkour course. And, in a sense, Ahleuchatistas’ music is something akin to sonic parkour, a race of immense speed and skill, physical prowess, mental fortitude and ninja-like reflexes.

And breathtaking beauty. A beauty both pristine and savage.

The thing is, Oslance is the yin (or yang) to guitarist Shane Perlowin’s yang (or yin). Where Oslance is wild, unfettered and undressed, Perlowin is tidy and methodical, his complex guitar work mapped out and precise. Even his clothing and haircut are precise. But there’s something to this dichotomy and its resultant whole. Something beyond opposites attracting, something more like the law of magnets.

Ahleuchatistas are magnetic. Their sound is the culmination of a decade of experimentation and refinement, and on stage at Diana Wortham Theatre they look fully comfortable at this point in their evolution. At ease with both the algorithms and organic science that they marry into, but at ease with the experimenting still to be done, the paths still to be explored.

Long guitar notes meet a stampede of drums. Hints of Eastern ragas nudge Old West textures. Oslance triple-stacks his cymbals, plays his drums using rattles and mallets. Tightly woven rhythms and melodies are accented by explosive bursts.

Oslance’s space is a garage sale of paraphernalia, from cymbals and sticks to bells and chains that he dangles from his body so every movement is a percussive rumble. Perlowin’s space is sparse — loop pedals and a single stool. In the heat of a song, he stands, guitar worn high on his chest, finessing the notes with deft fingers.

The finale of the evening involved Oslance covering his drums with tarps and then throwing things at the set. Arms full off chains and bells, metal pieces, whatever he could grab. A cacophony to match the steady guitar. Melodic and dissonant, rhythmic and arrhythmic, all facets of the same shining thing. — Alli Marshall

Squarepusher

Better than God, better than Jesus, we have Squarepusher. The show was excellent, like having free-jazz artists in the world of Tron. Even Amon Tobin’s cubeshow last year wasn’t as good, I think. Squarepusher always kept it very musical, interlaced with ultra data-bit noise, futurism, hi-tech, impressive and improvisatory, and the result: Should be the soundtrack to this new, super hi tech movie Upside Down from France, that will be here soon. — Asheville-based experimental artist Kimathi Moore, from Facebook.

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