Already established himself as a downtempo mainstay, Portland-based producer Emancipator, Doug Appling, has been eclectic since the release of his debut album, Soon It Will Be Cold Enough. Appling has always pulled more from Nujabes or even the String Cheese Incident than from his contemporaries – and his lush, atmospheric sound finds new footing on Baralku.
Promoting his album, the Emancipator Ensemble visited Vancouver’s venue. An eager crowd filed in as a purple haze brightly lit up the stage. Bolstering the roster of the night’s event was Little People (Laurent Clerc), a brilliant trip-hop producer hailing from Switzerland. His sound trends more solidly towards the old school – booming kick-snares fill the room well. I’ve caught more than a few of Clerc’s songs, mainly from his 2006 album Mickey Mouse Operation. His most well-known song ‘Start Shootin’ was given an extended mix and a constellatory light show.
Appling and the Emancipator Ensemble were welcomed to the stage. I knew that there was a live jam focus with the Emancipator Ensemble, but Emancipator himself caught me off guard by playing the guitar – and mixing from his laptop at the same time. I loved the energy the group brought; the five-piece ensemble really understood their audience. The album Baralku was played in full and it was great to hear classics like ‘With Rainy Eyes’ or ‘Nevergreen’ played alongside ‘Time for Space’.
Emancipator brings a great ear to his music. He truly does measure up to the great Nujabes’ sampling prowess and has a terrific knack for gummy, mesmerizing bass riffs. However, I still feel as though Baralku is more of the same from Appling. I always enjoy the songs – but a full-length project that leaves me satisfied is something I’m yet to hear. In that way, hearing a live rendition was terrific, the energy of the place and the band gave the songs a lot more life as platforms to be creative on. I tried not to think too hard about it – so I followed Emancipator’s lead.