Better Than: Assyrian Muzik
The joys of, private, unheralded CMJ events: free drinks, no lines, no crowding, and no pressure to challenge yourself and connect with a new artist. It’s a luxury seldom afforded in a world of door quotas, fire-code violations, and leaps of faith.
– Best of NYC, Best Producer: AraabMuzik
– Live: AraabMuzik Bridges The Gap Between Old And New At East River Park
SPIN Magazine rather quietly put together one of the more name-worthy bills of the week for their CMJ party Thursday night, bringing together a live performance from MPC abuser AraabMuzik with DJ sets from Chromeo and MNDR — one of CMJ’s leading ladies this time around.
And whether the audience came for the Cabo Wabo or for the blood pressure spiking, gut-punching assault of AraabMuzik’s haunting instrumentals, we may never know. One Twitter update sent out during the show could shed some light — “Watching Araab Muzik perform for a bunch of white people. Me included.”
The crowd was way more diverse than that, but the bro-tweet probably hinted that it wasn’t chock full of maddened fans either. For the first half of Araab’s set, the audience was bouncy but distant. I’d attribute a decent percentage of the movement to the bass being so loud that you’d have to nail yourself to the floor to stay put. And as the seatbelts loosened midway through the adventure, somewhere past the ghoulish hip hop exit and just before the drum and bass off-ramp, guests started to trickle out to find their next party destination.
All the while though, AraabMuzik was tearing the roof off the old firehouse turned community television center and some-time event space deep in Chinatown. He was without the wild light set up behind him, that all-absorbing ball of serotonin ubiquitous with modern dance music, and the accompanying LED-adorned DJ pulpit. It was just a folding table with some MPC’s, and his ferocious, finger-pounding attack on the drum keypads. Lost in his own world of snare and kick rolls melting into each other like rapid artillery fire, AraabMuzik was fully devoted.
He covered a lot of ground — his own scream filled, horror show creations like “Okay Y’All” and “Whistle” (the later with a head-turning homage to the Tetris theme song), and remix medleys reframing iconic songs from Flux Pavillion, DJ Kool, Nero, and Damien Marley, among others. Before, in-between, and during, it was pure MPC swaggery. Even if he’s a tad overindulgent with his generous skills on the beat-making machine, its something organic to root for; his prowess jumping between two MPCs, his enthusiasm at every perfectly timed drop and every accurately placed bombardment of drum rolls. There was really no build up or come down, no parabolic motion or even anything resembling a climax. It’s not Araab’s style to pander to those particular emotions — he’d rather bewilder and disorient, spin his listener around and leave them lost in a spooked out, nervous euphoria. Which makes his success as a party instigator more impressive. By Araab’s finale — an (surprise, surprise) overflowing and gratuitous drum pummel interlude — the audience was pleading for another crack at his beat-bombing enigmas.
Not to be outdone, MNDR brought her own toys as well, mixing in on-the-spot creations with spacey disco and house cuts to start off the night. And in between, Dave-1 and P-Thugg of Chromeo simply had fun, the thing they do so effortlessly. “Just playing whatever,” as Dave-1 playfully stated after their set, meant a lot of sexed up funk, Italo, and electro that made you want to touch yourself, or others. Example? They kicked off with Moodymann’s “Freaky Mother Fucker,” a five-minute smooth-talking diatribe on kinked-out sex, and a great place to start for a primer on fun-filled, late-night deviance.
Critical Bias: I still remain very much anti pretty much anything Dipset.
Overheard: “This bass is so loud, I can’t see the letters on my phone.”
Notebook Music: AraabMuzik’s MPC madness and droning, percussion pulses inspired visions of tabla ragas. It was almost as if Zakir Hussain took some ecstasy and decided to go thug for the day.