Downtempo purveyor Douglass Appling (aka Emancipator) is by no means a static artist.
Since the release of “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough” back in 2006, Appling has produced 5 studio albums, founded Loci Records, and turned his synth/violin two-piece act into a 5-member live band.
But despite his prodigious development, Emancipator continues to be a constant in the realm of trip-hop. The rhythm and flow of emotions from his latest album, Baralku, connects seamlessly with that of his earlier works. All the while eschewing redundancy and preserving novelty.
This level of consistency was clearly reflected in their live show last Thursday at Brooklyn Steel, the third stop in their 2018 US tour.
After Blockhead closed out his opening set with “The Music Scene,” Emancipator took over the night with the comforting, crystal clear notes of “Baralku.” It was apparent from the beginning that improvisation plays a significant role in their live performances.
The 5-piece band, which included a bass, synth, guitars, drums, and a violin, worked seamlessly together to create a unique, vibrant flow throughout the night. It was beautiful to hear the set transition in and out of known tracks into uncharted sonic territories. Drum and bass was surprisingly a consistent element throughout the show. A good portion of the night incorporated smooth, liquid drum and bass beats with their signature downtempo rhythm, keeping the audience alert and anticipating what’s to come.
As Appling mentioned in a statement:
“We carve out parts of the show for improvisation. A lot of the parts that end up being incorporated into the songs later on come out of these improv spaces. We’ll play something live and decide, ‘That sounded great,’ so we start playing it like that at the next show.”
Emancipator’s impeccable ability to read the crowd created an honest, symbiotic atmosphere that’s rarely found in shows like this. The audience was both mentally and physically invested in the show— barely any phones were out, and talking was kept to a minimum.
Like the astral, after-life “island” that inspired the title and theme of the album, Emancipator’s etherial, honest, and nuanced performance transported all of us to a place of clear serenity. We can only hope to return again.
The Baralku tour continues until the end of March, check out the dates below:
Emancipator Ensemble “Baralku” Tour
1/31 – Boston, MA @ Paradise
2/1 – New York, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
2/2 – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts
2/3 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
2/7 – Milwaukee, WI @ Miramar Theatre
2/8 – Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre
2/9 – Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
2/10 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Cafe
2/14 – Birmingham, AL @ WorkPlay
2/15 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Varsity
2/16 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
2/17 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
2/18 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
2/20 – St. Louis, MO @ Old Rock House
2/21 – Nashville, TN @ Exit In
2/22 – Charlotte, NC @ Underground
2/23 – Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre
2/24 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
3/15 – San Diego, CA @ Music Box
3/16 – Los Angeles, CA @ Fonda Theatre
3/17 – San Francisco, CA @ Regency Ballroom
3/29 – Vancouver, BC @ Venue
3/30 – Seattle, WA @ The Showbox
3/31 – Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom