Waveforms 2.0, the Halloween Episode: Artikal Records Tour
Halloween, that period when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, was also the occasion for the fourth evening of Waveforms 2.0 at the Asheville Music Hall. The lineup was fitting for the holiday, as UK imprint Artikal brought a sampling of its darkest, deepest talent to the stage. The event drew a diverse audience from throughout the region, many of whom had attended the Artikal show in Raleigh the night before. Even though Asheville hosted a lot of events on Halloween, the sizable crowd at Waveforms attested to the continued success of the series. It was also a fantastic opportunity to see some of the creative costumes that people had put together for the evening’s wanderings.
Artikal’s visit to Asheville is part of their larger U.S. tour, which is happening now and continuing through the end of November. Artikal has quickly come to the forefront of the electronic music scene with their production of dark, minimalist dubstep that consistently breaks boundaries to reinvent the genre. Artikal founder J: Kenzo created the label to feature the best of international talent, and the artists on the label work on the cutting edge of IDM. The evening moved seamlessly between sets, and the entire show felt like one organic performance created by a group of visionary artists who have banded together to revolutionize the sounds of underground dubstep.
Mike Folk from Aligning Minds, who updated his look for Halloween by donning a fencing mask, opened for the guys from Artikal, and belly dancer Kristi Wrolstad accompanied the music, bringing her dark, sensual beauty to the stage. Her outfit, which was part Princess Leia and part Queen of the Damned, added the perfect touch to the set. Aligning Minds got us ready to experience the deep sounds of Artikal by putting us in the mood to connect physically and emotionally with the music. Coming back to the music of Aligning Minds this week was like returning to a place that feels familiar and totally new simultaneously. Having seen Mike perform for four weeks now, I can say that Aligning Minds’ music never gets old–in fact, the more I hear it the more new patterns and rhythms become apparent. As Waveforms nears its end, I’m excited to see what’s next for these guys.
After Aligning Minds wrapped up their set, Artikal took the stage and made the space their own, filling it with resonant, dark beats that echoed throughout the room and kept everyone dancing. Artikal has successfully created a recognizable brand by carefully selecting the best talent in dark dubstep. J: Kenzo came up several times to introduce artists and talk with the crowd, who loved the attention. Obviously he’s invested in each of the musicians on his label, but the extra care and time he took to share his enthusiasm with us was an additional step that showed Artikal’s deep commitment to the artists it represents. Although there were four different artists from the imprint performing, their styles were often in dialogue with one another, sometimes even overlapping and proving that these producers are right where they should be in terms of representation. Sets flowed effortlessly into one another, creating a seamless experience of sound.
All of the Artikal artists had a great stage presence and created sounds that were bass-heavy, deep, and experimental. First on stage was Thelem. His set was characterized by inorganic sounds mixed with unintelligible vocal samples, all layered over a dubstep groove. Aggressive, punctuated yells came and went and thudding beats faded and returned in more uptempo variations, bringing a dark energy to the music. One of Artikal’s motivations is to explore the boundaries of dubstep and electronic music in general. Thelem’s set aligned with this goal, stoking the fires of innovation while staying grounded in the kind of beats that make you want to move your body. The influence of dancehall and hip hop were apparent in the sound, though Thelem did something totally his own with these grooves. The music combined higher-toned bells and blips and dark, brooding sounds that would have gone over well in a horror film, a synthesis that would be repeated throughout the night.
Next came EshOne. As with the other Artikal artists, the transition between sets happened effortlessly as he took the reins from Thelem, smoothly seguing into his performance. The set opened with hip-hop beats and sounds of trains and machinery, and a whole constellation of industrial, ephemeral sounds moved through our ears. EshOne’s infectious energy was an added bonus. He was engaging, cracking jokes and talking with the audience. At one point he gave himself a deserved but winking pat on the back, saying “That last track was tight, huh? Watch this shit!” While the music started at a faster pace, it moved through several moods over the course of the set. Some songs slowed down and the sounds became stretchier and more drawn out over the consistent bass and beat. EshOne also brought in sounds of calypso, invoking a Caribbean flavor that didn’t compromise the dark tone he maintained throughout.
Sleeper was up next. This was one of my favorite sets of the night because of its distinctive details. It opened with a truly eerie vocal sample, a man’s distorted voice that filled the room and functioned like an alien voice inside your head. “I know everything,” it intoned. “Those thoughts going around in your head. Trying to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong. [. . .] Don’t ask me. Ask yourself.” This sample set the tone of the set, bringing us down deeper into a darkness inflected with elements that were equal parts science fiction and serial killer. Sleeper maintained this mood throughout as songs mixed elements of hip-hop with industrial, mechanized noises that, in spite of their inorganicism and minimalism, became more than the sum of their parts.
Artikal founder J: Kenzo took the stage last, marking the culmination of an amazing evening. J: Kenzo’s compact, wiry frame holds an unbelievable amount of energy and talent, and it’s no surprise that he’s one of the most innovative and sought after producers working today. Once again, the sound was bass-heavy and bouncing, pulling in hip hop, dancehall, and other sounds and samples that mixed beautiful sounds with clashing, aggressive noises. J: Kenzo never fell into expected rhythms and sounds, instead creating new patterns of noise that pushed expectations while staying true to the dark, industrial core at the heart of Artikal’s brand.
This serving of Waveforms was different than other weeks because it brought together artists whose sound stays pretty consistently in one subgenre. In spite of what the performers had in common, though, each one managed to bring something new and innovative to to the evening. The night felt like one flowing performance that brought in slightly different flavors, all of which were equally exciting. The Artikal gang is on tour through November. Check out the tour dates below if you missed this show. This coming weekend marks the last event of Waveforms 2.0–you should make it a priority to see the end of what’s been a truly impressive series.