The first time I saw Nosaj Thing perform was in 2007, and I was supposed to be doing visuals for the night. I showed up with my gear at Cinespace in Hollywood to learn that the A/V tech was out sick that day. His replacement knew nothing about the video system and how I might connect my computer, and he wouldn’t let me into the control room. The only thing he knew how to do, my only option, was to play a DVD that would appear on the screens in the club. Since the only DVD I had in my car was R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet, parts 1 – 12, I played that. It worked perfectly.
You might think this says something about Nosaj Thing’s music, but Trapped in the Closet on 15 screens can’t avoid perfection.
You can actually hear his set from that night here, although his sound has evolved in the time since.
So Nosaj Thing was first up at Le Poisson Rouge last night, and he started right on time to a sold-out, attentive house. As you can hear in the MP3 above, Nosaj plays electronic dance music within a hip-hop beat framework — an appropriate opener for Flying Lotus. Los Angeles is the unrivaled leader in this arena (with Glasgow making its own moves), and Nosaj’s live set has evolved into an undeniable representation of the typical Low End Theory sound. His hard and heavy beats worked well on the audience (while exposing the limits of LPR’s bass). Mastery over live tweaking and pads, along with an energetic stage presence made for an exciting presentation. Unfortunately the effects became a bit familiar and predictable as he worked through somewhat transparent Ableton sequences. Nosaj was smart to save the best for last and let shine his developed album cuts, which feature compositional elements beyond the usual chopped beats and remixes.
Next up was Kode9 (Hyperdub head), who played a diverse set of dubstep, UK house, and international vocal cuts. This was definitely a change of pace, and the crowd only seemed interested when he would drop massive hits like “Poison Dart” or “Pon de Floor.” A sold-out LPR is an uncomfortably packed space. By the time Kode9 went on there was no room to stand, let alone dance, so being packed in for this music was awkward (though not atypical here in NYC).
Around 1:30 Flying Lotus appeared to much fanfare and proceeded to deliver a set of his well-known releases, bootleg remixes, and upcoming material.
Flying Lotus has two strong weapons in his live performance arsenal. The first is that he’s worshipped. He makes great music that a lot of people respond to, and he receives a lot of love for it. When he points, the crowd goes wild. When he smiles, the crowd goes wild. A hype crowd and confident performer go a long way.
What actually makes his performance special is the music for which he’s received the attention. Flying Lotus’ sound transcends the genres to which it’s related. It sounds like it’s from LA, but it doesn’t sound like he’s following The Glitch Mob, Madlib, Daedelus, or anyone else. This comes through clearly in the live setting, as he takes a multi-dimensional approach to the same software that everyone else is using. The music is unmistakably his own, but familiar enough to alienate few listeners.
The most unique aspect of his set is an organic movement from rhythm to rhythm. Instead of locking himself into a constant BPM and occasionally derivating, he lets the beats fall apart and reconstruct over passages of ambiance or noise.
It wasn’t really that long ago that I saw Flying Lotus play on a single monitor for about 15 people in the middle of the day. Now he appears on magazine covers and sells out shows worldwide. It’s an explosion well-deserved.
Tonight: Attack of the Jazz Vocals