A perfect complement to the cooling Denver temperatures, Emancipator orchestrated a wonderful symphony of downtempo electronic music at the Ogden last night, offering us an ideal soundtrack for the transitioning seasons. His long, fluid productions, layered with Ilya Goldberg's electric violin, captivated the spellbound floor for the entirety of a set that extended nearly thirty minutes past schedule, which ultimately just meant more dancing.
Douglas Appling, also known as Emancipator, has hit Denver a few times this year, so while headlining a show at the Ogden was almost a no-brainer, it still left some to question its necessity. What brought Appling here, however, makes it obvious why a show like this would do so well. After being bombarded with intense, in-your-face-bass electronic music all summer (Global Dance Festival, Global Dub Festival, Kaskade, Skrillex and more), the downtempo movement embodies its name, drawing people to a more relaxed, wintery state of mind after the frantic chaos of summer.
Appling and Goldberg kept things incredibly chill, with the kind of melodic lullabies that you can either move and flow with, or play quietly as you pass out in front of a fire, and although the site of a nearly full Ogden moving in pastoral harmony was quite a change from the raised-hands raging that typifies many EDM shows, the energy levels were the same, just displayed differently.
Both Goldberg and Appling looked comfortable on stage, with Goldberg strumming gracefully while Appling controlled the tracks and occasionally finger-plucking along, depending on what the beat called for. This finger-plucking is a very distinct noise, noticeable on any track, so Goldberg uses it at choice moments to accent the tracks, rather than making it an oft-used part of the repertoire.
The simple stage design, which consisted of nine diamond-shaped clouds, each mapped with congruent visuals, was arresting without taking away from the music. There is no distraction needed while Emancipator is playing: The ambient tracks have your eyes half-closed anyway, so the visuals are merely atmospheric lighting for a crowd much more impressed by the music than easily distracted by shiny things and blasting strobes.
Blockhead, another highly anticipated act for the evening, played between Inspired Flight and the headliner. Keeping with the theme of the night, Blockhead's sound is much more jazz-based, or so it felt, and with tempos just outside the realm of chill, it made for easy dancing and got the crowd warmed up for Emancipator's set later. That's right: getting warmed up to relax more. It made sense last night, and Blockhead's set was welcomed and for the most part had the whole place grooving along.
Personal Bias: I think I'm always pleasantly surprised by an Emancipator set and how different they always are. No predictability.
Random Detail: This show could've easily done just as well if we were all in a dark room without any production and just music.
By the Way: The vocal tracks during Inspired Flight must have been mixed/sound checked wrong, because they were distorted and hardly recognizable on certain songs.
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