2/15/14 – Paradise Rock Club

Snow boots and winter coats abound, people poured into the Paradise on Saturday night, flicking snow off of their hoods and unraveling fuzzy scarves. Outside, winter was in full effect, once again blanketing Boston in inches of fresh white powder. Even as the darkened venue began to fill to capacity, there was a collective shiver making its way through the crowd. Maybe it was the wide open doors, or maybe it was the club’s internal air system — but surrendering those North Faces to coat check all of a sudden didn’t seem like the best idea.

Where body heat couldn’t get the job done, though, Odesza picked up the slack. From the get-go, the Seattle-based production duo of Harrison Mills (Catacombkid) and Clayton Knight (BeachesBeaches) melted the audience in shimmering, bassy electronica. Just two guys with MacBook Pros and an apparatus of buttons and knobs, Odesza piled on the layers of sound as their eyes darted from side to side over nimble hand movements. Their hour-long set — quite literally — warmed up the crowd with a mix of punchy bangers and looping ambience. From the extra bounce on “Keep Her Close” to the distorted vocal samples on “My Friends Never Die,” the duo spliced together a thick collage of sounds and melodies that gushed over you in waves.

But the vigorous head-bobbing and arm-thrashing wound down once main act the Emancipator Ensemble took over. Although lush arrangements remained the theme of the night, the four-piece ensemble took things down a few notches in favor of Emancipator’s mellow trip-hop. By nature, producer Douglas Appling (known as Emancipator) makes background music. It’s orchestral and slow spun, the type of music that goes in one ear and out the other.

That’s why it was so refreshing to see live instrumentation applied to the Emancipator catalogue. The ensemble — complete with a violinist, guitarist, bassist, and drummer — rolled out a seamless set, and all eyes and ears became transfixed on what was happening on stage. It wasn’t just fleeting background music anymore — this was an experience. While yellow and red hues, clouds, landscapes, and wildlife swirled and flashed on the screen behind the band, Appling and his crew recreated Emancipator’s winding melodies in real time. The arrangements were understandably not as tight and crisp as the recorded versions, but the live violin was hypnotizing, especially on Dusk to Dawn’s “Valhalla.”

In different ways, both acts managed to get peoples’ feet moving and blood flowing. Winter raged on outside, but that was no matter for the duration of the show. Odesza brought the fiery energy; Emancipator Ensemble brought the mind-warping, groovy tranquility. No coats needed.

Cranking Up the Heat: Emancipator Ensemble & Odesza
Smooth, lush arrangements and creative visuals.
Audience Interaction6.3
7.5Overall Score

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