Middle East Downstair | Cambridge, MA
Earthy, melodic electronic dance music dipped in Jamaican rum and drowning in dub
It was a late night at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, MA. Three DJs graced the stage before Ott. himself came out to play. The last of them was Plantrae, an unforgettable producer / violist from the Pacific Northwest. Plantrae is doing something unequivocally unique for the electronic dance world, using his viola as a siren to call to the ancient drifters of the EDM world and say, come to me, fall in love, lose yourself.
Plantrae has been quoted to refer to his soundscape as “a trio of wandering minstrels playing mandolin, lute, and ad drum machine while strolling through a sentient forest of ancient subwoofers.” With roots in glitch-hop, folk, and electronic music, his soundscapes weave between deep, bass-laden, head-knocking vibes, a variety of blips, squeaks, zings and bazoings, and the emotive, trembling sound of his wailing viola.
Self described as “Midtempo Folkbass”, Plantrae’s beats are funky, diabolical, and euphoric. They are as earthy, as they are ancient; as entrancing as they are inspiring. The slow sway and grinding bass of “Dance of the Insect Soldiers” is a guided meditation through Plantrae’s other worlds, where bass swells and drops like water from a leaky faucet, and a viola can pull your heart into a million pieces at once.
By the time that Ott. entered the stage, the tiny club was packed. Barely legal college girls with dark black X’s slashed across their hands danced beside crunchy hippies and burning man aficionados. The producer opened his set with a song off of his new album Fairchildren, “A Gentle Place By Birth Is You”. The track thundered to a start with what sounded like a horde of Tuvan throat singers moaning over an unwavering harmonic chorus of a thousand angels singing as one. The track preambles through a dense, overpowering forest of trancelike sound, bright green and sparkling with magic. As the drums drop slowly in, the heavenly voice starts to distort and fall into the background, and a steady pulse begins to form – from Ott.’s fingertips to the audience’s hips.
Ott.’s music is infectious – a combination of the classic dub sounds from Jamaica’s not-too-distant past, and the pulsing, spacey electronic music that has been coming out of Europe since the Grateful Dead were still on tour. Ott. invokes a certain hopeful spirituality out of his listener. His music is melodic, transcendent, and bass-centric, organically compelling you to sway and groove along to his otherworldly rhythms, whether you mean to or not.