Since its inception in 2010, the Boiler Room Sessions series has been the place to be to witness the more esoteric end of the electronica spectrum. To a younger generation of EDM fans (some of whom seem to believe that EDM started with Daft Punk’s Alive tour), it’s an opportunity to glimpse artists at the forefront of new sounds and movements. The lineup for the latest edition in Los Angeles on Friday night did not disappoint, with a fairly remarkable mix of avant-garde producers, performance artists, and genuine headline names from Warp Records and Lucky Me, not to mention the odd surprise guest.
The outside of the secret downtown location was the predictable madhouse, with a huge line of people trying to convince the poor doormen that they had priority over the guy in front of them, but we got in just early enough to catch the latter half of Daniel Lopatin’s set.
The artist better known as Oneohtrix Point Never is a perfect bridge between Warp’s past and its future. His latest album, R Plus Seven, recalled the mid-nineties experimental peak of the likes of Aphex Twin (a 10-second ad for his new album created a fairly huge buzz in the warehouse), and his set was accompanied by images of the kind of hypnotic, geometric album covers that defined the label’s most productive decade.
From there, we had a huge U-turn in mood for the emergence of SOPHIE. The anonymous London producer has just released another mind-boggling double A-side in “Lemonade/Hard,” and his set was a 40-minute sugar rush featuring both of those songs along with a never-ceasing soundtrack to a particularly energetic workout video.
And who is SOPHIE? Probably not the black guy in drag who gyrated and hopped his way through the set. Could it have been the security guy who seemed to hover around the equipment at times? Frankly it doesn’t matter. It’s hard to know how to react to someone who utterly embraces manic, bubblegum excess and turns it inside out, other than to just surrender to it completely and join in the fun. So we did.
QT’s scheduled appearance turned out to be nothing more than a 10-minute cameo, which left a bit of a gap before Hudson Mohawke made his appearance. Unfortunately, due to technical gremlins that gap ended up stretching out to an hour, during which HudMo and his crew tried frantically to figure out why they couldn’t get any sound going. The booing that intermittently started up from the crowd was uncalled for, as this was clearly a case of technology letting the performer down. It killed the energy level of the evening and left HudMo needing to work extra hard to get the crowd going again.
Fortunately, he was up to the task. The last couple of years have seen Hudson Mohawke rise from eye-catching artist through his spectacular TNGHT collaboration with Lunice to being a prominent producer for Kanye West. His brand of maximalist dance music rocked the warehouse, with the likes of Rustie’s “Raptor” and new single “Chimes” (the focus of the evening’s festivities) supplemented by on-stage kabuki theater featuring oversized creatures, geisha girls (who also wandered through the audience throughout the evening), samurai warriors, and rapper cameos.
On that last point, Busta Rhymes’ brief appearance turned out to be inspired, the one final spark needed to ignite the crowd through a head-banging set. The only issue by the end was that it was 1:30am, and Lunice had yet to make an appearance by the time we had to make an exit. Despite the technical issues, this was a fantastic antidote to oversized EDM festivals, an innovative kind of block party, and one that I ended very dehydrated, pretty exhausted, and exceedingly happy.
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