dEbruit in Vancouver

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  • Walking into W2 for a night of what promised to be experimental bass music, I was bewildered to hear Ryan Leslie wafting out of the small but well-equipped room. It was clear that this wasn't going to be your regular night of wobbles, and over the course of the evening the vague idea of "bass music" was stretched to its limits. A joint effort by LIGHTA!-affiliated Low Indigo, Catalog Pirate Radio and the venue itself, it was a showcase of Vancouver live electronic music with an eclectic European headliner thrown in for good measure. That first set was a sensual and powerful mix of R&B and hip-hop old and new from Vancouver staple Nina Mendoza, and the deeply-grounded bass and sensual synth grooves shared much in common with what would come later. Following Mendoza was a self-proclaimed "left turn" from one of the show's promoters, Michael Red. This time he chose a live set of new material, probing the room with physically assaulting tones, lashing percussion and deep sub-bass. It was a murky, subaquatic experience as drums swam through viscous haze, climaxing in shattered fragments of accessibility, particularly his droning and hypnotic refix of Drake's "Shut It Down." Seizing on the colourful vibes that kicked off the night, Calamalka played a 45-minute live set of twisting funk. All blinding shades of cyan and bright green, the R&B and g-funk influences brought it close to some mutant hybrid of Starkey, Onra and Joker. Toning down the overt colour for something more visceral, Prison Garde delivered a playful live set, dropping spongy clouds of low frequency on the crowd as vintage drum machine sounds rained down onto the chaos, before heading into a more conventional DJ set spanning Jacques Greene and mainstream hip-hop. The crowd, not quite as large as when names like Pinch or Silkie had guested, was slow to get involved but became fully immersed by the time dÉbruit played. The French producer, whose released output so far has been an unclassifiable mishmash of beat music and UK bass influences with a lighthearted sense of Sublime Frequencies ethnography, played a live set where a good chunk of his released discography was a springboard for tangential jamming and riffing. dÉbruit's soupy slosh of unconventional beats poured in and out of each other, trading off samples and melodies (African guitar, saxophones, all manner of vocals and what sounded like breaking glass). Some of his more recognizable tracks made welcome appearances—the snake charming guitar of "Nigeria What," the indigenous funk of "Echtah"—but the peak was undoubtedly an imploded version of "I'm Goin' Wit' You," with its cascading squiggles of synth crashing to the ground and driving the crowd wild. But perhaps what was most intriguing was how dÉbruit's set fit so well into the surrounding local lineup. His colourful and eclectic beats blended wonderfully with the equally colourful wares of the Vancouverites.