Glitched out beats producer Eskmo headlined a night of experimental electronic music at the Independent on January 17. A happy crowd broke out their festival outfits and gathered at the San Francisco venue, excited to get an early start to the weekend with some mind-bending and thoughtful beats.
Berkeley based producer Yalls (AKA Dan Casey) warmed up the crowd with a chilled out set of blended synths and strings. Cryptic samples of singing voices and distant whispers complemented his own soulful vocals in tracks such as “Outerbanks,” giving his set a deep and textured feel. I couldn’t help but think that this music would be a great soundtrack for a Planet Earth episode. Different tracks bled into one another with deep bass slurs and scattered xylophone taps, the perfect accompaniment for footage documenting coral reef synthesis or howler monkey social structures. The many layered beats and quick clapping patterns spawned jittery moves from the audience that gradually softened as heavy piano chords and organ synths came back in to mellow things out. Yalls delivered a solid set and built up a great level of pulsing energy at the Independent before handing it over to Eskmo.
If you see an Eskmo performance once, you’ll be magnetically pulled back for more. Not only is the music dynamic and captivating, but also getting to watch producer Brendan Angelides in his element is truly something to behold. His hands are always full of auxiliary instruments and household items that he uses to record additional percussion that is fed into the constantly churning beats. In between turning knobs and banging out rhythms on a full sized garden shovel, he also takes the time to add some twanging vocal echoes to the already fierce whirlpool of sounds. I had been waiting the last few years to see him headline his own show with an extended set time, and this night did not disappoint. Getting to experience a solid performance of both classic and new Eskmo material (including a variety of tracks from his EP Terra that was just now released on January 22nd) was just a soul lifting experience.
Angelides wasted no time in getting started after he popped up from behind his equipment on the stage and jumped right into a performance of “Moving Glowstream.” He recorded the sounds of his finger tapping on a plastic party cup, a ripped a piece of paper, the opening of a soda can, and his own hissing voice manipulations. He then assembled all of these elements together in a loop to supplement the deep sweeping beats that formed the foundation of the song. On top of this, Angelides was manipulating the earth and human themed visuals that were projected over his body and onto the wall behind him. It’s safe to say that this guy is a very advanced multi-tasker. The audience responded wholeheartedly from the very beginning as Eskmo had already seized the opportunity to take everyone along on a wild ride through sound and space.
One of my favorite songs of the night was “Buffalo,” the first of the new tracks from Terra. The track has a big sound already when you listen to it on headphones, but the live experience bumped it up a notch. Arpeggiating and distorted synths quickly darted up and down to form a solid foundation of sound. The grumbling bass could be felt all over your body and physically attacked the audience as it blasted from the speakers. The background visuals up until this point had been peaceful scenes of flowing water or the human brain, but for this track, the view changed to an active image of crunching static. The mood shifted in a more intense direction and the fans danced all the more wildly as they synced up with the escalating rhythms.
Another peak moment was during “Cloudlight.” This is arguably Eskmo’s most well known creation, and he went all out with an extended performance of the track. The song starts off slow as a crawling heartbeat and as the pulse escalated, Angelides would start aggressively bouncing back and forth to the beat. It was as if he was a boxer warming up and priming himself to deliver the next blow of bass to the audience. He looped and manipulated the lyric “pieces of sky” until it morphed into high pitched indecipherable gremlin chatter that made you think he had moved on to an entirely different song, but then the bass and sweeping synths came back as the recognizable hook of the track, and things were equalized again.
The show ended with hugs and handshakes from Eskmo to the crowd up front while the people shouted for an encore. He actually pulled out an entire milk crate of more noisemaking objects to experiment with as he closed out the night, and the crowd danced as hard as they could for this last song. There was a lot of love in this room, and the mutual gratitude from both the audience and Angelides could be felt in the air. If you get the chance to see an Eskmo show, I can’t recommend it enough. He always brings something special to the performance and you’ll be left dazed, amazed, and just all around uplifted, so keep an eye out for dates that could be scheduled in your area.