Emancipator Baralku Tour Spellbinds At Brooklyn Steel [Event Review]
With the release of his fifth studio album Baralku and the announcement of a major accompanying countrywide tour, as well as an extensive number of festival appearances at Electric Forest, Backwoods and Lightning in a Bottle, it is easy to see why Doug Appling, better known by his sonic moniker Emancipator, is considered one of the hardest working artists in the electronic music scene.
His trip-hop pedigree established Emancipator as one of the early forces in a movement that would change the landscape of “EDM” and challenge the notion of what dance music truly is. Since his debut over a decade ago, Appling has moved from strength to strength, adapting to an ever-changing world but never diluting his groundbreaking work.
On the first of February, Appling brought his often lauded Emancipator Ensemble to New York’s Brooklyn Steel. As a part of Emancipator’s highly anticipated Baralku Tour, the Brooklyn Steel performance featured a notable supporting performance from the immensely respected New York native Blockhead. On an unseasonably warm winter night in New York City, droves of supporters made their way to one of the Big Apple’s most influential new venues. In contrast to the usually conspicuously youthful throng that attends the concert hall’s brazen weekend bangers, an older more discerning crowd formed as Blockhead kicked things off with a deft and cerebral performance.
Blockhead’s bewitching blend of instrumental hip-hop filled his hometown crowd with the storied producer’s unmistakably viscous and heady style. Thick bass lines and precocious samples created an inviting and intimate atmosphere. The stage was perfectly set for Emancipator’s five-piece ensemble to take center stage. With the critical acclaim that Baralku received since its debut at the end of last year, expectations for the live rendition of the album were understandably quite high. There was a palpable buzz within Brooklyn Steel for the night’s main event, not quite an electricity but more akin to the welcoming heat of a smoldering campfire. As the stage throbbed to life the glow of the lights was reflected in the smiles beaming from the crowd.
From the onset, Emancipator created an enigmatic push and pull balance with the audience. Intimacy, improvisation and ethereal musicianship are the hallmarks of any Emancipator Ensemble performance and those three tenants were on full display at Brooklyn Steel. New songs like “Baralku” and “Goodness” seamlessly interweaved with timeless classics like “1993,” “Valhalla,” and “Dusk To Dawn.”
In recent years, drum and bass has become a prominent element of Emancipator’s live show. Blistering yet incredibly smooth sections of liquid DnB inject an effusive and pulsating energy into the ensemble’s melodic and at times even methodical style. Appling has the uncanny ability to capture seemingly opposing tones and combining them to great effect. Improvisational forays meld with familiar salvos while pulse-quickening drum and bass breaks mingle with meditative downtempo reprieves to create a sonic experience that both captures the imagination and possesses the body.
As the final chords hung heavy in the air amidst an absolutely jubilant Brooklyn Steel crowd, it was safe to say that the Baralku tour more than delivered on its promise. Hugs were given out freely and a sense of community underlined the entire experience. Music lovers often search for those shows that leave us both fulfilled, rejuvenated and challenged but seldom do we truly find them on Thursday night with work in the morning. However, Doug Appling and his five-piece Ensemble showed exactly why they are still one of the most sought-after acts in the world of electronic music and why the music of Emancipator will stand the test of time.
Don’t miss the Baralku Tour when it passes through your city. Check out the remaining dates at Emancipator’s website. On May 26, Emancipator Ensemble will be taking their phenomenal live show to the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre for a show you will definitely not want to miss.