The Body Electric

Pedal power: Electro-rockers Sonmi Suite blend traditional instrumentation with electronic elements such as synthesizers, vocoders, samplers and computers. Photo by Jonathan Welch.

At first glance it might seem that Asheville is stacked in favor of roots music, what with a guitarist on every corner and an Americana band in every bar. But there's also much to suggest Asheville as an electronica hot bed, despite that scene's apparent underground status.

Exhibit A: Asheville is where Robert Moog — pioneer of electronic music and inventor of the Moog synthesizer — worked as a research professor of music at UNCA, based his electronic musical instruments manufacturing company and lived out his final years.

Exhibit B: Asheville has (perhaps in spite of itself) embraced live band-electronica fusion acts like Telepath (since moved on to Philadelphia) and electronic music/arts festivals like Trinumeral.

Exhibit C: Take a walk around downtown and check out the posters affixed to power poles and displayed in shop windows. Every other one is for a DJ show. Same thing with Facebook events. Many electronic artists eschew conventional publicity methods in favor of new media. Not seeing many electronica shows? Go online.

Exhibit D: Even the rootsiest of venues is booking electronic acts. The Rocket Club is home to a free weekly Super Dance Party (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.), with DJs Crick Nice and Adam Strange (GFE) and DJ Mark Davis (who has been spinning underground dance music in Asheville since the '80s). Mo Daddy's welcomes its first-ever hip-hop show with local artist Foul Mouth Jerk, PyInfamous from Crystal Springs, Miss., and Charlotte's One Big Love on Friday, March 5. The Grey Eagle hosts Baltimore duo Beach House on Friday, April 30.

But even with new developments — and nearly everyone seems to agree the local electronic scene has grown exponentially in the past few years — electronic music isn't a new phenomenon. Its roots reach back to '70s-era disco, dating the genre older than not just its current practitioners, but many of their parents.

Fueling Asheville's newfound fondness for electronica is certainly the live band/electronic fusion — anything from the live instruments-meets-computers of The Nova Echo to live sequencing of engineered loops and beats as performed by Freepeoples Frequency. But more than sonic accessibility, it's technical accessibility that brings new fans to the multifaceted genre. Music makers no longer need to be piano or guitar virtuosos — computer proficiency and a desire to create are the instruments of this under-represented but increasingly available art form.

Want to know more about local electronic music? Read on …

 

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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8 thoughts on “The Body Electric

  1. JC Tripp

    Thank you for this cover story which affirms my belief that Asheville is an electronic music hotbed for the South. There are some amazingly talented individuals here in addition to promoters, clubs and supporters. No reason why Asheville can’t be known for more than bluegrass and jam bands. As the article states, most venues in the city are now involved in promoting electronic music in all its forms. As the Editor of Mundovibe.com (http://www.mundovibe.com), an international music website, I chose Asheville for its burgeoning scene (relocating from Brooklyn), and with our first Mundovibe Fest coming this summer we are excited to be part of it.

  2. Psycover

    Wow Mountain Xpress not even a mention of the one scene that has been going on for over 12 yrs in this town. Good to know its still underground.

  3. dep

    I grew up in this area but I’ve been in Chicago for the past several years. I’m an electronic music producer, musician and performer as well (http://justdep.com) and have done a couple shows here in Asheville since I moved back last November, another at Fred’s Speakeasy March 12, and am also behind a newly forming collective here in Asheville called Electronic Sunset (http://electronicsunset.com) — Looking to put together a recurring event called Electronic Symphonie that is a mish-mash of local electronic performers, playing simultaneously in an improv-style event which I think would be amazing.

    My stage performance is one-man driven, but includes a combination of live gear, keyboard, drum machines, theremin, fm radios, circuit bent toys that i’ve made, as well as vocals and the whatnot. If anyone knows of anyone else in the Asheville area that might appreciate it, let me know.

    http://justdep.com has my new stuff and links out to lala.com, itunes, pandora, etc.

    later!
    dep
    http://justdep.com/

  4. sys-hex

    Nothing to make you feel like you live in a small as a feature on a high school kid doing mashups in virtual dj.(not to diss him as you have to start somewhere but really pretty embarrasing) Really what an incredible fail. No mention of the countless people who have been making amazing electronic music in this town at least since I moved here in 2000. I appreciate the effort but why bother if you are just going to plug the same rotation of acts you always plug.
    (I have to ask is somni suite dating someone on the mountain xpress?) Ha…rant over.

  5. Clark Barre

    Good to know you guys have such an amazing understanding of electronic music in Asheville.

    Do your writers even live in Asheville? I’m seriously starting to wonder. And I don’t think it’s far off to say Take 5 could write a better cover story form McLean, Virginia on a off day.

    Learn to use google and myspace there great when writing book reports!

  6. concerned citizen

    the grade for body electric unfortunately, is a D-minus at very best- unfocused, undefined, poorly researched & misrepresenting. this article is an obtuse appeasement to a subject long since ignored by Xpress and a myopic approach to encompassing such a significant contribution to asheville’s art community & tourist economy at-large. Xpress failed to mention or under-represented too much to list without rewriting the article altogether. next time do the homework, attend performances, investigate, be journalists. find out that this town has depth, diversity and history rooted in the EDM/DJ community and that Asheville happens to have one the strongest EDM communities on east coast. this article reeks of complacency and condescending remarks such as “human pandora program” & “cheaper than a band”. do you consider yourselves to be human photocopiers? cheaper than the citizen times perhaps? vj’s, event promotion & teenagers are separate issues and deserve dedicated features of thier own. there is enough Dj/EDM activity here in Asheville to profile individually to fill Xpress issues for years to come. yadda yadda yadda…

  7. Ezra Naughton

    D for effort. Way too little, way too late. I do appreciate you finally recognizing what is a vibrant and beautiful community here in Asheville, but WAY under researched and poorly articulated. It seems to me as though you failed to actually talk to those that have lived, loved, and played this “scene” for many years here in our beloved little town. I hear so often that from my patrons that there is no good danse music in this town and I look at them in complete and utter bafflement. On any given night of any given week, you are dang near assured of finding some amazing local DJ who spins from the heart to make people move. Olof, Rasa, Rama Lama, La Morte, Brett Rock, Bowie, Candice, Xist, Kri, Medicin, Joshu, who is briefly back in town, just to name a very few. My deepest apologies for not mentioning all of you lovely shamans of the danse floor. I was once one of those who scoffed at the electronic genre as “noise” or “not real music”. Then I moved to Asheville. I dare any of you to come to a Full Moon or any other event that our amazing DJs put together and not lose your mind at the bliss and beauty that these incredible musicians create nightly for us. Again, I give a small nod of thanks to the Xpress for their attempt to bring this beauty to the community at large, but am more than somewhat hurt that they did not do justice to a community that strives daily to bring bliss, serenity, and contentment to all who would open their ears and hearts to it. I sincerely hope to see you all on the danse floor very soon. I’ll be one of the five dansing the hardest wherever you find yourself. Much love. Namaste.

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