Emancipator – El Rey Theatre – March 16, 2013

By: Rishabh Bhavnani


El Rey Theatre

March 16, 2013

It's not often that an attempt to combine an avant garde club night line up with glossy club vibes manages to leave us fully satisfied. Saturday night on the peripheral edge of West Hollywood, the El Rey Theatre played host to one of The Do-Lab's most anticipated acts, Emancipator.

The Portland-based producer, born Doug Appling, first gained recognition in 2006 for his
album Soon It Will Be Cold Enough To Build Fires. It caught the attention of Japanese producer Nujabes, who strongly supported Appling's work. In late January of this year, Doug released his third studio album Dusk To Dawn (the lead single “Minor Cause” was released as a free download on Bandcamp). The album is an intricate blend of a various instruments; raw electronic samples infused with smooth jazzy melodies and viral drums, perfectly synchronized in glitchy, down-tempo rhythm.


Doug has been touring extensively for the past few months, a string of sold-out shows to promote his new LP. Violinist Ilya Goldberg has accompanied him with the live performance along with acts like Odesza, Little People and Random Rab. The tour has sold out in several cities across the country and Los Angeles wasn't an exception.

Once Emancipator began their set, there was a spark in the atmosphere of the room. The dim and tender lights that had so succinctly added depth to the opening acts performances faded away. The room was dark. Two figures emerged onto the stage. The crowd broke into a roar. As Appling and Goldberg began there set, the large triangular tree-like structures around the stage illuminated in purple and blue. The inimitable sound along with the visuals created a spiritually effective, psychedelic experience. The sound of Ilya's electric violin came to the forefront and had people swaying their hands in the air. The duo played an array of tracks, new and old, such as Valhalla, Greenland, Dusk to Dawn and Merlion.

Their on-stage chemistry seemed psychic. There were rare occasions when the pair actually looked at one another while performing. Doug sampled a rapper's vocals to his beats that proved to be quite effective in getting the crowd moving. Towards the end of the night, their set grew away from the signature, tender Emancipator sound to something with more dark and dubby undertones, showing that the producer is consistently looking to reinvent his sound and why he is a master of his craft.

The great thing about going to an intimate low-key show versus a high-octane, rage-face club setting is that even though they're might be a lot of people; everyone has their personal space. It seemed like a gathering where people to actually go appreciate the music rather than a six-hour session of sweaty booty grinding. The Do-Lab even had live artists doing live paintings for people at the venue.

The night began with Odesza, a young production duo from Seattle. Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight made their official debut in September with the release of their LP, Summer's Gone. Their sparse and hazy experimental sound sets the tone for the laidback atmosphere for the night. They played a captivating 45-minute set while people drank, chatted and swayed to the climatic bleeps and big-room bass lines.

Little People took the stage for the next hour. Judging by the conversations circulating in the theater, many were excited for the London-based producers' showcase. His body of music is an intimate piece of down tempo electronica with hip-hop influences. Laurent Clerc's live performance last night received a consistent flurry of applause and cheers from the crowds. He played many songs from his upcoming release We Are But Hunks of Wood. In fact, towards the end of his set, LA songstress January Thompson joined him to do a live rendition of their track, “Wonderland.” Her deep jazz vocals complimented the dark undertones of the track with precision.

Overheard: “Jah Bless Emancipator!”

The Crowd: An enthusiastic bunch of happy hipsters.

Random Notebook Dump: You know you're at a Do-Lab concert when girls wear gold gypsy headbands.

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