Last weekend, the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival took over Williamsburg. While not as expansive as other festivals like CMJ, the close proximity of the venues made it easy to jump from show to show. You could start the night watching an unknown up-and-comer at Cameo, go across the street for one of the headlining acts at Music Hall of Williamsburg, then go a few blocks and finish the evening with a late-night set at Glasslands.
Since you had to have a pass to get to any of the shows, crowding wasn’t really an issue. The only line we even spotted was outside Music Hall for Nicholas Jaar.
That’s not to say the shows weren’t packed. There was barely room to breathe, let alone dance, during FaltyDL’s set at Cameo Gallery on Saturday. He masterfully mixed house beats with soul and funk samples, like Four Tet subbing in for ?uestlove’s Bowl Train.
Whether drawn by his buzz (FaltyDL has been remixed by the likes of Jamie xx, Four Tet and Gold Panda) or the music itself, festival goers poured into the tiny venue that had been mostly empty only minutes before.
The producer’s set was preceded by Virginia’s Ki:Theory. With guitars and live drums, the duo had a big sound, like a darker Does It Offend You, Yeah? that quickly seemed to turn from electronic into some sort of emo arena rock. A homemade setup of under-hood lights added to their stage presence, but it wasn’t enough to save their set.
The night before, Cameo hosted another artist with a heavy stage presence: Mykki Blanco. Stuck with an early set and a crowd expecting mostly DJs, the audience wasn’t as electrified as at the rapper’s CMJ performance at Cake Shop. Even still, Blanco never let up on the intensity — sweat dripping, often performing kneeling on the floor in a fit of passion. In addition to being a rapper, Blanco also plays the poet, cutting the music to let the power of the words fully connect with the audience.
The only performer to match Blanco’s passion was producer/singer Will Wiesenfeld, aka Baths. Wiesenfeld was one of the few musicians to man the electronics and vocals at the same time. His late set at Glasslands was one of the highlights of the weekend. Wiesenfeld’s glitchy bedroom pop and falsetto vocals sound like where Passion Pit should have gone after their debut EP.
Baths and Mykki Blanco definitely weren’t the norm for the festival, though. On Saturday at Public Assembly, Salva cranked the bass while he remixed hip-hop tracks. Somehow, his labelmate Shlohmo managed to pump it even louder. Shlohmo’s normally quiet, pretty electronic turned into an almost unbearable bone-shaking bass you could feel through your whole body.
The night before at Music Hall, The Rapture’s Vito and Druzzi spun a mix of disco and upbeat house. Photek faded the duo’s DJ set right into his own. The drum-and-bass pioneer has expanded his sound over the years, but beneath the swirling synth textures, the beat goes on.
Without a doubt, the best performance of the festival was Gold Panda. The British producer is much more than a laptop musician. In fact, the crew at Music Hall had to carve out a whole new stage setup to make room for all the beat-making gadgets he used to create his live songs.
Punching out the rhythms of his beats and samples, looping and building, Gold Panda showed a fascinating amount of skill. Sticking mostly to songs from his excellent debut, Lucky Shiner, he could easily recreate the lush landscapes of songs like “Same Dream China” and “Snow and Taxis.” But his process allowed for quite a bit of improvisation, like slowly speeding “You” into oblivion, before introducing new samples for the next song.
Panda offered something most of the other musicians only hinted at: creating. While the others were playing and mixing their tracks, Gold Panda’s music was built and shaped on stage.