Review and photos by Joseph Ritrievi
Portland Trip-Hop guru Emancipator returned to the Wonder Ballroom Friday, March 8 seasoned and ready to unveil grooves from his newest offering, “Dusk to Dawn.”
Renowned for his ambient textures swirling over complex drum cadences, Emancipator delivered a
biorhythmic live set over a stage design back-dropped with a sea of chromatic lights that refracted over
green-screen triangles reminiscent of India’s Shree Chakra. “Dusk to Dawn”’s live melodic unfolding
showcased a maturing artist who has learned the delicate balance of allowing space for his instruments
to breathe over intricate layers.
Unlike many of today’s dub-step party DJs who pretend to move their hands vigorously over turntables or synthesizers in hopes of looking busy to the crowd, Emancipator showed his laid-back Portland style by “doing him.” Accompanied by violist Ilya Goldberg, Emancipator perfectly demonstrated his
propensity to conduct a symphonic movement while remaining in the background in order to allow the
pieces of his musical imagination to play harmoniously. Blended amid an incredible stage set, the duo’s
music rippled from the “heart” of the room like an electric current awakening the crowd as it pulsed.
Emancipator blessed the grooving crowd with staples “Greenland,” “Black Lake,” and “Wolf Drawn,”
amongst others. However, it was his newer tunes that really catapulted the room to the eighth chakra
and beyond. The gentle dropping of “Galapagos” bounced through the speakers as the words of Mobb
Deep’s Prodigy rapped classic lines from “Shook Ones.” The night reached its crescendo as Emancipator
unveiled his New Age opus “Valhalla” to his hometown contemporaries whose dancing signaled an
overwhelming acceptance of “Dusk to Dawn.”
Odesza and Little People opened the night on strong notes. Despite technical difficulties requiring a
last minute time switch, Odesza journeyed on a technotronic odyssey traveling through the old school
house days fresh up to some good ole’ head-thwomping dub-step. Little People continued right where
Odesza left off and catalyzed a 45-minute dance-a-thon with plenty of hard 808 kicks thumping chests.
With set breaks full of neo-classics like “Scary Monsters,” I didn’t catch a breath until I opened the
Ballroom door back out to North Portland.