BEAT LIFE Takeover: Blockhead, MONO/POLY, The Difference Machine in Asheville
This month’s BEAT LIFE is a chance to see two exceptional nights of music in downtown Asheville. BEAT LIFE is hosting a takeover of The One Stop and the Asheville Music Hall to present the illest beats in town. The Friday night headliner is the Atlanta-based hip hop group The Difference Machine, who just opened for Run the Jewels at the sold-out Georgia Theatre. Saturday night’s all-star lineup features NYC’s Blockhead and MONO/POLY, who hails from Los Angeles and is on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label. Along with these heavy hitters, local talent will, of course, be a major focus of the weekend’s events.
Friday, 4/10 at The One Stop
The Difference Machine is a 4-person hip hop supergroup whose distinctive sound, described as “psychedelic hip hop,” owes as much to musicians like Pink Floyd, Cream, and King Crimson in the heights of their experimentation as it does to classic hip hop outfits N.W.A, Run-D.M.C., and Public Enemy. Their most recent EP, Clocks (2014), is a deftly crafted blend of beats, effects, samples, and rhymes about subjects like the mythical philosopher’s stone, the makeup of the universe, and the nature of time itself. The group’s name, which alludes to one of the earliest proto-computers, Charles Babbage’s difference engine (used for calculations), is a testament to the place of technology in their craft and a nod to their own unique place in hip hop–the way that they themselves are creating their own revolution in sound. The group’s efforts have been widely acclaimed. They’ve toured with Del the Funky Homosapien, opened for Ghostface Killah and Kool Keith, and in 2013 they won the Creative Loafing Throwdown and earned a spot at the CounterPoint Fest. The Difference Machine’s alchemy is made possible through the combined efforts of lyricist DT, beat-maker Dr. Conspiracy, turntablist Obeah, and drummer Radley Fricker. Their high-energy set will motivate you not only to move with the beat, but also with the mental and psychic vibrations emanating from the music. Check out their Soundcloud here.
Slums is a producer from Raleigh, NC, who is hitting the scene hard with his progressive, experimental beats. Although his sound is based in hip hop, you can’t pin it down easily—it moves effortlessly between elements of soul, glitch, and jazz. Melodies slip in and between smooth, sampled rhymes and synth notes. Songs like “LameTime” start with a cascade of notes that drops into a satisfying bass before rebuilding up to the next transcendent height, while tracks like “DIFD (DidItForDilla) Pt. 1” are bumping hip-hop homages that redefine the sound time and time again. Consistently groovy and sensual, the sounds of Slums are guaranteed to chill you out and invite you to fall into an exploratory sonic reverie.
Asheville favorite Musashi Xero returns to the stage with his chill blend of jazz-infused raps. He’s a perfect addition to this show because of his ability to bring his own style of intelligent, poetic hip hop to the crowd in a way that always seems effortless. Musashi’s stage presence is energizing and capacious, and his songs touch on local landscapes, heartbreak, and the cynicism of being young in a world on fire. Musashi’s collaborative LP with Panther God, Xero God, is in the finishing stages now, and the songs I’ve heard from that project are seriously some of the best out there right now. Musashi just released a new track, “By Nothing, By No One,” that showcases his formidable talent against a deliciously dark backdrop. Have a listen:
EmE drops dreamy, psychedelic beats that transport listeners to the realms of the visual, the spectral, and the ethereal. His sounds falls over you like a gossamer web of colors. It’s an experience that invites your senses to intermingle until you become lost in the music. Half of the Asheville-based The Emerald Curtain (along with Samuel Paradise), he’s committed to bringing you up into an experience of soaring expressiveness and shimmering sounds.
Constant crowd-pleaser DJ Kutzu is one of the most phenomenal turntablists in the area. His virtuosic scratching motivates audiences to flock to his performances, and his intuition for what’s going to sound the wildest and best never fails. Kutzu has brought the beats to almost every Beat Life event this year, and he typically gets on stage during other sets as well to add some of his infectious sound to the mix. He’s most recently collaborated with both Musashi Xero and Panther God, and the results are oh so sweet.
CARLTOND8R will be tripping us all out with his psychedelic visuals. Don’t miss this show—talent like this in the same place at the same time is bound to start a revolution. Things get rolling at 9 pm. $6.
Saturday, 4/11 at Asheville Music Hall
The groundbreaking Blockhead just released his LP Bells and Whistles last November, and it’s pretty much everything you could ever hope for. While it’s grounded in full-flavored hip hop beats, it pulls from an astonishing variety of other influences and soundscapes, including Middle Eastern instrumental riffs (“Kaput!”), Western soundtracks (“Beach Blanket Bood Bath”), and things that go bump in the night (“Sacrificial Santa”). Vocal samples float above the bumping low notes, making the experience bodily and cerebral. Blockhead’s irreverent humor comes out in song titles and in the music as well, where a playfully dark edge and the seemingly idiosyncratic mashups of cultural and sonic influences complement one another to lift the music into the realms of pure pleasure. This is your chance to see the NYC-based producer in action—don’t miss it.
MONO/POLY headlined a BEAT LIFE event back in November, and he’s back for more. His gorgeous album Golden Skies (2014) is a journey through the ethereal realms, a cosmic exploration of both inner and outer space. But it’s not all free-floating and weightless—the sound pulses deeply through bass-driven beats and carry you with them into limitless worlds of sound. He fits well on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, which seeks out the most cutting-edge, fearless and expansive sounds in new electronic music. MONO/POLY has collaborated with a whole host of groundbreaking artists, including Daedelus, Nosaj Thing, Erykah Badu, and Kendrick Lamar. He brings an effusive energy to his live shows, which take you deep into the heart of the biggest bass grooves.
Ellie Herring hails from Lexington, Kentucky. She recently signed to Autonomous Music, and she makes sweet beats that twist sound into a beautifully wild spectrum of possibility. Her refreshing blend of manipulated vocal samples, trippy beats, and flowing notes make her tracks perfect for both late-night chill-out sessions and impromptu afternoon dance parties or road trips. She just released her third EP, Chipped, a fluid 4-track blend of sweeping sounds, drones, and bouncing beats. Her song “Mickle” was featured on Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs compilation last year.
Things start bumping at 10 pm. Pre-show tickets are $12, the night of they’re $15.