Photos by Kelly O

Genius Awards 2016

The 2016 Stranger Genius Awards!

Barbara Earl Thomas

Rob Rhee

Mario Lemafa

Silas Blak

Sandy Cioffi

Hardly Art Records

Mel Eslyn

Noelani Pantastico

Tracy Rector

Emily Chisholm

Wave Books

Lindy West

That'swhatshesaid

Robert Lashley

MAKES:

Sponsored
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Richly layered shoegaze rock, hiphop, and electronic/orchestral film music that's infused with an air of profound sensuality and mystery.

HAS:

Helped to elevate Shabazz Palaces to the summit of the experimental-hiphop world with innovative production techniques.

WANTS:

To score more films and produce more artists whose music he loves.


Erik Blood and his guitar-playing/singing partner Irene Barber recently cast a deep spell on the Bumbershoot crowd at KEXP's gathering space with a set of beautiful, angelic rock, drawing heavily from 2016's excellent Lost in Slow Motion LP. It was a dreamy deviation from the madness and blandness that afflicted some of Bumbershoot's other stages. After the last song, Blood removed his costume, which made him look like Alejandro Jodorowsky's alchemist character in The Holy Mountain, to reveal a T-shirt with slogans advocating to Block the Bunker (the proposed expensive police compound in North Seattle) and to assert that Black Lives Matter. Blood's music may be soothing, but he also displays an understated militancy for righteous causes.

A week before the versatile multi-instrumentalist's moving Bumbershoot performance, he welcomed me to Black Space Studio at the Old Rainier Brewery building, which he rents with Shabazz Palaces' Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire. In the studio, Blood uses both analog and digital recording methods, but when it comes to drums, he insists on going with tape. That preference pays off when you hear the vividly punchy beats on his solo releases and those of Shabazz Palaces, with whom he's a key auxiliary member.

One late August night, Blood is painstakingly working in ProTools with snippets of Seattle R&B band Pickwick's forthcoming album, which he produced. The process is called "bouncing stems," which Blood describes as "selecting specific tracks from the recordings and making isolated versions of them that they can load onto a sampler or any sort of triggering device and use them at shows." He admits this can be "pretty tedious," but he accomplishes the task good-naturedly. You sense that any time Blood spends in the studio—whether toiling on other artists' music or his own—is treasured.

What makes Blood such a revered producer is his easygoing manner and his ability to locate musicians' strengths and then augment them. Pickwick implicitly trusted Blood enough to let him contribute to the songwriting on a couple of tracks—an unusual occurrence. Blood says that he took songs that "didn't talk to my body in some way" and tweaked them so that they would. "Everyone got really energized during those sessions, because it's fun when you're working with a band and you open the flower petals and show them there's more to this than you knew. You brought me this closed piece and allowed me to peel it back and expose all these other wonders that live inside of it. It's a cool record and it's super-funky and real weird... just like I like it," Blood says, smiling.

His back catalog of music imbues rock, electronic music, and hiphop with poignancy and exquisitely detailed atmospheres. He is one of the region's most adept musicians at transporting listeners into fantastical realms. Nothing he touches sounds mundane.

"You absorb everything you take in—and when you work in this medium and that's how you express yourself, it's like expanding your vocabulary or learning new languages," Blood observes. "It's like being able to speak to larger or different groups of people, or a newer language that old folks don't get or young people don't get. I've always existed in my own kind of thing with that." And that's partially why he's a genius at creating enduring works.

Watch Erik Blood's acceptance speech here, and look at photos from the party here.