Flagpole attended the inaugural Mountain Oasis Electronic Music summit last weekend. Here are some highlights.
Friday, October 25
Neutral Milk Hotel
Topping off a week that included a three-night stand at the 40 Watt, Neutral Milk Hotel gave an awe-inspiring performance at Asheville's Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Frontman Jeff Mangum sounded sublime, clear and confident and showed none of his purported agoraphobia during his hour-and-a-half set. He opened by playing “Two Headed Boy” alone before transitioning to “The Fool” with his full band.
As usual, Julian Koster amazed with his instrument-agnostic histrionics, jumping from his trademark singing saw to strumming his banjo with a bow and playing his brand new Moog synthesizer (“I'd like to thank Moog for replacing our Moog with a new Moog,” he quipped).
The audience was respectful and reverent as Jeff Mangum asked everyone to “live in the moment and put down your camera phones.” It was the first time I was able to see a show without being distracted by the annoying glow of a iPhone in years.
The set leaned equally on the landmark In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and on its lesser-known but equally classic precursor On Avery Island. And after two uproarious encores, Neutral Milk Hotel closed with a pair of unrecorded B-sides. Simply beautiful.
Saturday, October 26
Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor, looking more muscled and thick-necked than ever (a friend said he looked "old and tired"), gave a blazing set at the Exploreashevillearena.com stage. Reznor's performance was heavy on material from this year's Hesitation Marks, but he really shined with “Sanctified” and an all-too-brief piano rendition of “The Frail”—both hits from his golden age.
Sunday, October 27
When Mount Kimbie started performing live a few years, there was little precedent for what they were doing: rather than playing strict DJ sets, they took their left-of-center bass music and added live drums, prepared piano and processed guitar. Since then, they've maintained those elements, but have sanded down the edges, transforming themselves into a dance/post-rock hybrid. It's amazing, really, and somehow it works.
Going from post-dubstep (a genre they arguably invented) to post-rock, and sounding somewhere between Fuck Buttons and Mogwai, Mount Kimbie introduced several new songs that brought the bass and rushes of guitar noise and feedback. After the colossal achievement of Crooks & Lovers and this year's Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, I'm excited to see where these minimal experimenters will go next.
“I'm such a fan of the North Carolina accent. It's really nice.” That's Jessie Ware, and with her sweet, South London drawl, I could say the same thing about her. Sleek, with her hair slicked back and dressed monochromatically in black, Ware looked beautiful and mysterious, commanding the smallish crowd that gathered at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Her music was dark and similarly sophisticated, treading the imaginary line between Sade, Milosh and Adele.
At one point, Ware introduced her drummer Dornik Leigh (already signed to PMR Records) and sung a brief duet. Her love songs sounded warm and soulful, even more so than her dazzling 2012 debut Devotion.
Halfway though her performance, Jessie Ware opined, “This lineup is fucking wicked.” We agree, Jessie. We agree.