214's Electro Modernism and Nobody's Psych/Hiphop Fusions
Seattle producer 214's Cascadian Nights harks back to the '90s era of electro, when the genre began to acquire a darker tone, taking on some of the more inventive textural and rhythmic traits of vanguard IDM producers like Cylob, Phoenecia, and Ceephax, and Detroit mavericks like Drexciya and Dopplereffekt. (Andrea Parker issued Cascadian Nights on her esteemed Touchin' Bass label [www.touchinbass.com] digitally July 19 and on vinyl July 27. The former has eight tracks, the latter four.)
A major part of electro's appeal is its ability to sound both funky and inhuman, sexy and stiff-limbed as fuck. Some of the most effective electro sounds as if it's the work of very horny automatons. This essential paradox lends electro its peculiar retro-futurist appeal, especially in the 21st century, long after the style's early-'80s genesis. Nowadays, creating fresh-sounding electro is one of the greatest challenges an electronic-music artist can face. 214 (aka Chris Roman) attains that arduous goal on Cascadian Nights. Case in point is "Lost in Place," a nearly 11-minute excursion that recalls the tensile, springy rhythms of early-'80s electropunk pioneers Liaisons Dangereuses, but launched into deep space via some Model 500–like tone science. "The Manglers" is another highlight, racing at a swift pace down some exhilaratingly ominous alleys in a Blade Runner–esque cityscape.
On Cascadian Nights, 214 has done the damn near impossible: made a contemporary electro album that's neither in thrall to Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" or Kraftwerk's "Numbers" nor so abstracted that you can't get down—in all senses of the phrase—to it.
Don't be deceived by Nobody's modest-to-a-fault handle; he's a formidably distinctive musician and selector. In recent years, Nobody (Los Angeles producer Elvin Estela) has worked some board magic for motormouthed MC Busdriver's RoadKillOvercoat and Jhelli Beam and SoCal battle rapper Nocando, and put in some quality time behind the decks at the fecund and fiery beat laboratory that is the Low End Theory weekly. He's also remixed artists as diverse as the Postal Service, the Free Design, and Phil Ranelin. On top of those activities, Nobody's cut five solo albums and released an excellent full-length with Niki Randa as Blank Blue titled Western Water Music Volume II that exemplified his rhythmic and head-trip-tic inclinations in one focused blast.
All of this creativity seeps into Nobody's DJ sets. He's extremely knowledgeable about old psych and garage rock, astral jazz, and hiphop from all eras. The man's taste is irrefutable and his pedigree unimpeachable. I once called Nobody a "Timothy Leary of the Technics," and that description still holds.
DJ Nobody performs Tues Aug 3, Lo-Fi Performance Gallery, 9 pm, $5, 21+ (with WD4D, Introcut, Hideki, Sean Cee).