Are friends electronic? Mining Moogfest 2011

by Ryan Snyder

On the surface, Moogfest is a celebration of all things wonderful and weird of Robert Moog’s amazing invention. The Moog Explorer, in its (relatively) compact size took touring musicians of his time down a dark alleyway of psychedelic sounds and possibilities, until they emerged on the other side with a completely new perspective on music. His legacy indeed is the engine of the three-day festival that’s found a home in Asheville, the city he called home for 30 years, though Matmos rocking on Rolands last year undercut the fairy-tale feel just a wee bit. In actuality, Moogfest (Oct. 28-30) is a celebration of all sounds weird, and Halloween is the perfect time for it. This year’s lineup sets the moogerfooger to “weird” and delves deep into the legacy of one of the greatest inventors music has known.

Fine Peduncle — Friday, Asheville Music Hall: Prince is such a bad mofo that he doesn’t need to die in order to be reincarnated. The heir apparent to His Purpleness was begotten in the form of Knoxville, Tenn. native Cole Murphy, otherwise known by the artfully suggestive handle Fine Peduncle. The rail-thin, neo-soul, laptop crooner is all about nature and what’s great about it, though he tends to favor the topic of doing it, whether it be people, animals, bugs or people via floral innuendo. Like early Prince, he composes all his own music and like the Purple One on For You his candied electronica loops are a little rough around the edges for your typical sex jam, but it’s all about the ideas he’s putting out.

Araabmuzik — Friday, Asheville Music Hall: Believe it or not, the 19-year-old producer who is helping to resurrect Dipset from the dead doesn’t build his live sets around Mafioso hip-hop beats. Araabmuzik’s debut album Electronic Dream was pure throwback house — tortuous synth grooves wrapped about pixie-ish arias. But like a lot of producers pulling double duty (i.e. Bird Peterson), he might break out the trunk music treats if asked kindly.

Tobacco — Friday, the Orange Peel: “Hey guys, wanna see ET get f**ked?” There’s but one right answer to the question that Black Moth Super Rainbow leader and witch-house guru Tobacco poses during his so-disturbing-you-can’t look-away live sets. Either way, he’s going to show you via the weirdest of German porn, or at least the PG-13 version, along various other X-rated oddities. He’s also devised the perfect soundtrack for them through his creepy vocodered vocals and chopped, screwed and twisted beats. It’s Halloween weekend at an electronic festival, so chances are it won’t be the only ET getting the business.

Adrian Belew Power Trio — Saturday, Diana Wortham Theatre:

Based on Robert Fripp’s ambivalence toward his pioneering prog rock band, the current King Crimson hiatus may be of a more permanent nature. That’s not going to put a damper on the ostensible ProjeKCts of guitarist Adrian Belew and drummer Tony Levin, however. The lead guitarist and bassist respectively are on tour together, heading up their own bands — Belew fronting the Adrian Belew Power Trio (featuring Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick and his sister Julie on bass), and Levin leading the Stick Men (with former Mr. Mister drummer and King Crimson drummer-of-record Pat Mastelotto). The bands play sets on Saturday night, culminating in a heavily Crim-centric third act.

M83 — Sunday, Asheville Civic Center: On Tuesday, French ambient electronic band M83 offered up one of the best records of 2011. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is not only a great record, it’s a great two records, though the pitfalls of the double album have long been redundancy. What can you say in two that can’t be said in one? In the case of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, it’s plenty. M83 turn filler instrumentals into arena-sized rock incursions in a live setting amidst meticulous, shoegaze-y soundscapes. it’s endlessly listenable, and worth a shot that they can overcome their history of spotty live shows.

Suicide — Saturday, the Orange Peel: What music festival in 2011 would be complete without a band on the play-the-classic-record kick? It’s a misleading to cast the New York no-wavists into the same lot as Helmet and the Lemonheads even if they are currently playing their brilliant self-titled debut — a mass of synth-coated snarl and spit — the first band to ever be advertised as “punk” gets a pass.

Beak — Friday, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium: The side project of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, Beak is so foreboding as to almost be off-putting. Intensely minimalist at times, punctuated by sinister ululations then broken like glass by kick and snare, his 2009 self-titled was an anomaly when it was released. It’s every bit as mysterious as Portishead’s signature sound, yet turns the creepiness and inaccessibility up a few notches. In other words, experiencing it on All Hallow’s Eve weekend is like staying up until 3 a.m. to watch Amityville II with all the lights off just because it’s on.

Fareed Haque Mathgames — Sunday, the Orange Peel: The brilliance of Robert Moog has extended far beyond the synthesizers that bear his name; more and more instruments are being produced that endear to his vision. Some are novelties (see the Moog pedal steel) and others are keepers. The Moog guitar is among the latter. There’s essentially unheard of vibrato sustain blessed into its strings; they practically sing while sitting still. Fusion master Fareed Haque wields one at the forefront of his imposing trio MathGames, a melting pot of multicultural sound propelled by his six-stringed Moog.

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