Friday, October 29, 2:15 p.m., Le Plur presented by Billboard.com
Ever since Jamaican dub-makers discovered the tape delay, the UK electro avant garde’s creative process has been largely a destructive process—a decades-long quest to force overpriced gear to snortle, groan, grind and dog whistle until the whispered voice of Him is intelligible below the fuzz. It’s been a while since any one trickster-DJ exploited that techno-spiritual pursuit so explicitly, or for that matter, so successfully as Rusko: the dub-and-remix vandal who transmogrified M.I.A.’s (sorry, /\/\I/\’s) third record into an aural root canal, including actual dentist drill sound effects. The T.I. and Rihanna producer has a quieter gift for gorgeous soundscapes—something like the nerd who painstakingly pastes together model airplanes, just to shatter them loose with stolen firecrackers.
Friday, October 29, 6:30 p.m., Voodoo Stage
A few discs back, Metric warned us against “Dead disco / Dead funk / Dead rock ’n’ roll.” Be careful where you point your collective crucifix, since the quartet’s latest aluminum platter, Fantasies, finds them, if not dead, then trying to cell phone out from under layers of suffocating sheen. Imagine Nicki Minaj or even Jay-Z, without the bump ’n’ ready dance floor rewards. Singer Emily Haines might be too cool for school behind her retro sunglasses, but here’s hoping a live setting rips them back to some rawness on their surface.
Jakob Dylan and Three Legs
Saturday, October 30, 8:30 p.m., SoCo/WWOZ Stage
Jakob Dylan’s Women + Country finds him driving out away from the intuitive hooks and tension of “One Headlight” and those Wallflowers fellows. A relaxed atmosphere pervades on the surface—not for nothing do folks call the country (territory as opposed to music) good for what clenches you up inside. But wait. T Bone Burnett’s at the board and he’s no simpleton. The songs keep fading out into sinister soundscapes—air conditioning blown through a dented duct in a run-down motel, a shot space heater ready for meltdown. Then you notice how Dylan sings of self-sacrifice (“Down on Our Own Shields”) and suffocation (“They’ve Trapped Us Boys”). The meticulously-constructed subtlety might collapse under festival conditions, but take a chance—and keep this one on your playlist.
Sunday, October 31, 2:15 p.m., SoCo/WWOZ Stage
The interstellar intersection between Science Fiction and Soul has been that fertile lunar crescent lighting up the American imaginative sky for as long as America has been soul-seeking in the cosmos while soul singers question the prospects for intelligent life in the Americas. Maybe this country needs a National Soul and Space Museum: “A Funky Space Reincarnation” is where Marvin Gaye beamed up when his marriage soured; the same vacuum beckoned P-Funk’s “sweet chariot” Mothership to “swing low” on their quest for the Motherland. Same for Big Boi and his fourth millennium bandmate who resolved three records’ worth of creative differences by recasting themselves as ATLiens battling New Gingrich “seven light years” below the Peach State—or something.
At 24-years-old, five feet, three inches high, and so full of songcraftswomanship, I’m not sure what Janelle Monae is escaping to, from, or with. But she may be the most consummate Afronaut that ever achieved lift off. Her 2719 space opera The ArchAndroid—with swooning orchestral suites, equally-scored rhymes, and high-art backstory soaring beyond Ziggy Stardust aspirations—roves across exotic soundscapes that leave Dre 3000’s scattershot “Love Below” feeling like mere Sputnik. Before now, the best any future-fangled concept album could hope to achieve was an A for Ambition (More often, C for Conceit). But Monae has an extra-human gift for follow-through, detail and moxie that George Clinton and Gaye could only lift their doobies to. Give this girl a ticker tape parade.
Sunday, October 31, 5:15 p.m., Preservation Hall
The “Toubab” is a linguistic import, a jesting, well-intentioned slang slung by griots carvings koras in Senegal and Mali, and it refers to foreigners—especially, one imagines, foreigners who buy up the Saharan supply of djembes, koras, balophones and percussive knick-knacks then bounce back to Asheville to jam on exotic modes. In the wrong 10 hands, that project could unearth new depths of human tedium, but the wisp of Arabesque counterpoint and hypnotic Taureg drum flutters evoke endless stretches of sun-parched sand and mystifying village life. Their jesting, well-intentioned cover of “Billie Jean,” on the other hand, evokes the reasons why humankind invented the synthesizer.