[Sprawl of Sound] Getting Wowed by Autechre's Live Show, Gaslamp Killer at the Now-Open Crosby

Two Kinds of Next Levels
Getting wowed by Autechre's live show and Gaslamp Killer's DJ set

Autechre have the arrogance to plunge audiences into darkness at their live performances. By denying visual stimuli, the British producers (Sean Booth and Rob Brown) force you to focus exclusively on the sounds emitting from their battery of synthesizers, modules and drum machines. This is difficult for people who can't go 90 seconds without checking their PDAs or cell phones (i.e., almost everyone in America).

But these veterans of the electronic-music wars have earned their confidence and stubbornness, as they proved April 4 at Los Angeles' Echoplex. (They've been following this live regimen at least since the mid-'90s, when I first saw them.)

The duo come on to no fanfare and do not acknowledge the audience. Ever. They simply manipulate their gear like genius mad scientists (in the freakin' dark), and somehow, they sell out sizeable venues across the land without an iota of compromise—while creating music that's like trying to figure out advanced calculus problems while the sound of Humvee limousines tumbling down jagged mountainsides reverberates in your hapless noggin.

Autechre are touring to support their latest album, the excellent, relatively accessible Quaristice. This night's sold-out show found them emphasizing their rhythmic and textural elements and definitely not regurgitating album cuts or old favorites from their two dozen other releases.

From go, Autechre were in attack mode, forging nefarious, neck-snapping electro with whomping beats and swarming bass frequencies that could coax confessions from war criminals. You could see some bold souls trying to dance but not really finding the groove; these mischievously elusive rhythms would sporadically flicker with funkiness, then swerve abruptly into some limb-baffling time signature, like 7/4 or 13/8.

Autechre's hourlong set moved from the aforementioned electro—all sputtering engines, grinding metal and monstrous orchestrations—to a rarefied strain of auto-demolition techno. It was some of the most agitated, infernally detailed music ever, if somehow not as transcendent as their 2005 show I caught in Seattle.

Think of the sounds health spas use to relax patrons from the horrors of civilization: Autechre's productions diametrically oppose those. Minds fry trying to follow their perverse progressions, which emanate not from laptops, but rather from ye olde drum machines and synths. Hardware for hard sounds.

The crowd at Echoplex was perplexing. People were typically LA blasé but unexpectedly diverse. Some exceptionally beautiful people in elegant black clothes seemed to have mistakenly wandered over from Avalon. Also in the house: Goths, burners, IDM geeks, fiftysomethings and a smattering of elite producers (Boom Bip, Eight Frozen Modules, AntiMC). But the oddest sighting was a white guy with an old-school-punk Mohawk standing next to another Caucasian dude with blond dreadlocks. Autechre: uniting disparate tribes, one chest-caving beat at a time.

First person I see as I enter newly opened Santa Ana hot spot The Crosby for the first time last Thursday is Joey Mendes—co-owner of Proof Bar and an ostensible competitor. He was beaming about the venue's overall greatness and even persuaded this non-beer-drinker to try the organic Heiferweizen. It was excellent. (The Crosby is still working on obtaining a liquor license.)

It's the opening week for the Crosby, and clued-in clubbers have been swarming to it. One senses that proprietors Chris Alfaro, Phil Nisco and Marc Yamaoka are happily overwhelmed by the fantastic turnouts.

The place looks distinctive—a between-the-World Wars décor predominates, all muted-ochre lighting and dark wood, with an anachronistic collection of '80s-vintage boom boxes adorning one wall. The menu sports dishes that look healthy and delicious, with ample vegan options. The bar is stocked with beer, wine and a Korean faux vodka.

As people cross the Crosby's threshold, they seem to glow (although that could be the flattering lighting), overjoyed that this joint is finally open after several months of delays.

Besides the food, drinks and hip art-book selections (Banksy's Wall N Piece, Shepard Fairey's Obey: Supply and Demand, etc.) stashed in the Crosby's front left chamber, the main draw is the music. First Thursdays are devoted to Spit, helmed by LA DJs Gaslamp Killer (yeah, him again) and Kutmah.

“We're gonna take it all over the board tonight,” Gaslamp Killer announced as he commandeered the decks, “but it's all gonna be fonky.” He started his Serato DJ set with some stately prog/psych that threw people off-balance. Ballsy. That segued into a holy/hallucinogenic, sitar-based track, then some super-slow, blissed-out psych pop and a spirited cover of “The Man Who Sold the World” (David Bowie's, not Nirvana's).

Spinning ridiculously rare psychedelic sides and scratching on 'em like a hip-hop turntablist, Gaslamp Killer deftly bridged eras. He also mixed in old-school reggae, hard rock and new Southern rap (the last of which he mocked). “One thing you'll learn very fast—we do what we want,” Gaslamp Killer proclaimed.

Thankfully, what Gaslamp Killer and the Crosby crew want is what you need.





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