Down-tempo spectrum

Solid: Emancipator, top, and Blockhead are helping build a case for Stella Blue being a new home for a burgeoning electronic music scene.

Over the last several years Asheville has fostered a blossoming electronic music scene. The arrival of Moogfest in October, bringing some of the biggest national names in electronic music, seemed to solidify Asheville as a burgeoning center for electronic music.

Still, the community suffered a loss last year when Club 828 closed. The venue had become the unofficial home for national and regional electronic music shows in Asheville. Over the last several months, Stella Blue has been filling the void left by Club 828. Recently, national touring electronic artists such as Daedelus, Bluetech and Borgore have graced the Stella stage.

This week, Autonomous Music brings its national tour of Emancipator and Blockhead to Stella Blue. Joining them is local Asheville producer, musician and DJ Marley Carroll. Carroll will provide support to Emancipator and Blockhead for the entire run of their tour. He’s also an outspoken advocate of the local electronic scene and eager for the opportunity with this tour to bring a bit of Asheville to a national audience.

“The electronic music scene in Asheville is becoming really vibrant. We’re blessed with a really diverse and extremely talented group of electronic musicians here, and I think there is a lot of reciprocated inspiration floating around,” he says. “Between that and the amount of amazing national and international electronic artists coming through town, including the advent of MoogFest, a national spotlight is bound to be turned on Asheville's electronic artists. I think the key will be somebody breaking out of Asheville onto a national stage. A lot of us are aware of this, and the bar keeps getting raised for local talent, which is great.”

And Asheville’s solidifying its reputation as a place for top-name electronic acts to play. Emancipator was recently signed to 1320 Records, the record label run by the seminal electronic group Sound Tribe Sector 9. Emancipator represents the more down-tempo spectrum of the 1320 roster of artists. His music is heavily influenced by down-tempo and mid-tempo beats and trip-hop music. “My earliest influences were artists like DJ Shadow, RJD2 and Thievery Corporation. These were the artists that made me want to start making beats,” he tells Xpress.

Emancipator, a classically trained violinist, adds an often-missed element to his production: the use of analog instruments. “I play violin on a lot of my tracks as do several other musicians,” he says. “Most of my tracks involve the use of some sort of live instrument. It is a balance between the MIDI production, the live recording and some samples as well.”

It will be Emancipator’s fourth Asheville performance in the last few years. He played at the ninth Trinumeral Music and Arts Festival, performed the closing set after Bonobo Live Band at last year’s electronic mini-festival Luminescence and recently played a show with Boombox at Pisgah Brewing Company late last year. 

Blockhead is most well-known for producing several tracks from independent hip-hop legend, Aesop Rock. Arguably, the Aesop Rock tracks that Blockhead produced are his finest work. But aside from his work with hip-hop MCs, Blockhead’s solo electronic work is quite impressive. His first solo release, Music By Cavelight, is an incredible record.

Blockhead has been recording over the last several years for Ninja Tune, one of the finest labels in modern electronica. The son of the late Sidney Simon, a well-known sculptor in New York City, Blockhead has been a lifetime part of that city’s art and music community

Carroll is maybe one of the most versatile musicians in the Asheville music community. He is an electronic music producer, the lead singer of indie-rock group The Melanaster Band, DJ for the nationally touring hip-hop group Mr. Invisible, and half of the DJ duo for Arcade Asheville’s weekly “No Cover, No Shame” Friday-night dance party (full confession: I’m the other half). Carroll’s performance opening for Emancipator and Blockhead represents his incarnation as an electronic music producer and live performance artist.

“My set for this upcoming tour is kind of a synthesis of all the things I do as a musician and DJ,” Carroll says. “It's all original music, performed live on turntables, electronic controllers, keyboards and vocals. It's somewhere between the one-man-band style of performance, like Andrew Bird, and an experimental scratch DJ set.”

— Par is a DJ, music promoter and freelance writer in Asheville.

who: Emancipator and Blockhead
what: down-tempo beat maestros
where: Stella Blue
when: Tuesday, Feb. 1 ($10/$12.

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