Well, what can I say. Things like this make me fall in love with trip-hop all over again. Just a couple of hours and a dozen songs in the middle of Chicago winter, and just like that – no more “whys” , no more “who even cares” and no more “I getting tired of this shit”. I’m high on trip-hop again, my friends, I just needed that one dose, one hit, and this show was just it. Of course I showed up too late for Rocket Miner and left before The Dry Season – damn day job. I waltzed in right at the beginning of Scarlet Monk‘s tripped-out set (at least I hope it was a beginning). As I said in my review of her debut LP AnnaBella, Scarlet Monk‘s music isn’t exactly “trip-hop”. After seeing her on stage, I think that trying to determine what exactly is her music is pretty much impossible and needless anyway (nonetheless, she will be performing at Tripnotic Downtempo Lounge in Santa Monica on January 19th, as well as at various locations in LA around that date – and all LA folks reading this – don’t miss it!). Scarlet Monk‘s live set this evening was different from what I’ve heard on the album and I’m sure her every live performance will be different from this one. Heck, even my own impression of it had already changed since last night. When I was watching the show, I kept thinking that this set should be experienced in a small theater, with no background noise and with the audience actually paying maximum attention to the performance. Crazy visuals repeating their hallucinogenic pattern in the background, Scarlet Monk breathing out her songs with the only light source being the video projector and the only part of the “orchestra” being a bass player hiding in the darkness, and the dance with the mannequin torso at the end – this requires what they call “a prepared audience”, right? Well, yes. And no. After I said all of the above to a friend at work today, I got this snapshot in my head – the stage, Scarlet Monk‘s voice, the shadows, and all that bar noise – chatter, clinking of glasses, laughter… – and realized that it all fits. Scarlet Monk managed to include all that “interference” and make it part of her act, which is incredible and at this point I feel dumber than that mannequin and at a total loss of words. You have to discover Scarlet Monk for yourself – on CD, live, any way possible, she is an Artist to the core.
And then The Atomica Project came up and blew me away. They have a new vocalist now, Isabella Farrell, whose voice is as gorgeous as she is herself (that’s her on the poster. Yep.) But even before she appeared on stage (people like that don’t just come. They appear), when the trio started dropping some serious trip-hop tunage, I knew that my evening was going to end on a very satisfying note. But when she started singing… Man, I’m going to bring in some heavy trip-hop artillery in here now, but it’s all true, and if you don’t believe me, well, you should have been there last night! Think Hooverphonic at the very peak of their glory with some of the darkest of Portishead darkness thrown in. This was one of those performances when you’re holding your breath thinking “oh my god, she’s gonna screw up now”, ’cause no one can possibly be that perfect – but she doesn’t. It didn’t just sound good, it felt right, which is to me way more important. That last track – the dubby and super-intense version of “Forecast” almost brought tears to my eyes (no, I wasn’t drunk, I had to drive home to burbs). Whatever you want to say about trip-hop – this is what makes it different and this is what keeps it alive – most of the electronica played live is pretty much this guy pushing the same buttons, only on stage. Trip-hop live is an experience, and buttons pushed are of your very fucking soul. The Atomica Project last night with their (too) short but sweet set pushed all of them. I really hope to keep in touch with them, so the interview is quite possibly will follow soon.
I apologize for the awful pictures – I’m hopeless with a camera. There were quite a few people in the crowd though who seemed to know what they were doing – care to share? I started recording a video at one point, but then I stopped – I wanted to absorb every millisecond of the performance instead of looking at it through a tiny camera screen.