Philadelphia's King Britt is so far where he started from, he can hardly see through the trees. And not just because he moved from the West Philly of his childhood to Fishtown.
The house-hop producer/DJ behind 1998's groovy When the Funk Hits the Fan and 2005's electro-swamp blues Sister Gertrude Morgan has become quite the experimental music provocateur and curator, roles highlighted on his new album, Other Sides, and his new once-monthly live event, the Buddy System, at Johnny Brenda's on Monday.
Britt played host to an avant-garde electronic variety show, starting with his icy, ambient set that gave the Buddy System its sonic agenda. A somber reptilian, 40-minute soundscape occasionally touched by Sakamoto-like synth sweeps, Britt played a slow series of repetitive melodies touched by whooshes, plinks, knocks and a de-tuned whirr that sounded like an unbound theremin, all with a dub reggae vibe without its rhythm. This genuinely moving, emotional and hypnotic electronic music was quiet and cosmopolitan, a far cry from Britt's funk and hip hop of yore. The set was perfect for the 4/20, the unofficial celebration of marijuana.
Not all of Britt's Buddys were gently stoner-centric and without deep beats. Like Britt, Buddy System co-curator Hprizm (from hip hop collective Antipop Consortium) has eschewed big rap dollars for slithering weird atmospheres. Marked by sampled Blaxploitation-film strings and a helicopter blade's hum, Hprizm's groove was like Isaac Hayes' Shaft produced by Brian Eno.
Composer/sound designer Bhob Rainey designed his laptop-programmed electronica to sound like the apocalypse with earth-shaking low, loud bass noises and thunder bolts, all degenerating into a sonic cavernous swell. Rainey used people, planted motionless in the audience and bathed in spotlight, as a visual counterpoint to his growling doomy soundtrack.
As Rainey faded out, SCRAAATCH - made up of E. Jane and chukwumaa - faded up with church bells bonging before transitioning into a buzzing, soulful sound-collage of voice samples (like the alphabet recited backward), reverberating piano, and cello tones reminiscent of Bruce Haack's work.