GoldLink, Trippy Turtle innovative and electrify at first Bandersnatch show

Review: Charismatic rapper GoldLink matched the energy of electronic DJ Trippy Turtle at the semester's first small concert at Schine Underground.

A slowly growing crowd clusters together in front of a small, dimly lit stage, the glare of neon spotlights in their eyes. A DJ puts the final touches on his onstage setup, press people mill about to the side of the stage and the excitement in the air mounts as showtime approaches.

Suddenly, the night’s first performer, rapper GoldLink, appears, gripping the mic close to his face like a boxer with his glove, eyes sliding furtively across his audience. After a brief hesitation, he launches into an opening track, a club banger with the emphatic chorus: “Bounce with me!”

At the song’s conclusion, GoldLink, an up-and-coming rapper from DC, seems more relaxed and warmed up, remarking to a receptive crowd, “I like this s—. It’s all small and cute.”

It's Tuesday night, and the semester’s first Bandersnatch concert is underway.

The venue, Schine Underground, may be small, but GoldLink’s music is not. It dominates the room, striking a noticeable balance between strong backbeats and instrumental variety as the show goes on. GoldLink’s cries of, “Who here likes real hip-hop? Like the ‘90s?,” segue into a heavily boom-bap-inflected track that makes the huge speakers on either side of the stage shudder.

An hour later, GoldLink’s set, containing a dazzling mix of hip-hop sounds ranging from the crackling synths of electro-house to the thuds and grooves of futuristic boom-bap, is over. While the instrumentals varied, the things that did not were both the integrity of the beats, mostly produced by L.A. beat clan Soulection, and GoldLink’s ability to ride them with a versatile and energetic flow. Explaining his beat selection process to reporters after the show, he said, “If I hear a beat and it makes me feel a certain way, and I can play that beat 50 times and feel the same exact way, then I’ll choose the beat.”

In GoldLink’s live act, lyrical content is far from the focus, though flashes of profundity and wit slip through occasionally. More impressively, every line seems to unfold perfectly within each verse. A highly proficient MC, GoldLink dispatches tight groups of bars in irregular, fluid song structures tied together by simple choruses.

Seeming unconstrained even by the styles of his past work, GoldLink performed two new songs midway through the show. The first, a vicious barrage of trap drums and shouted vocals, could not be more different from the second, a punchy club beat layered with spacey synths that take over halfway through, briefly morphing the song into a melodic R&B jam.

GoldLink discussed this unorthodox musical approach with reporters after the show as well, saying, “I don’t know if I have ADD, but it’s like I can’t just rap. I try to make it more interesting for me and the listener.” This involves experimenting with different flows and song structures in ways that haven’t always fit traditional rap industry norms, he said.

Pitched-up soul samples howled over a trap beat as GoldLink performed his last offering of the night, making way for the headliner, electronic dance music artist Trippy Turtle.

Trippy Turtle rocks out during his set. (Photo: Katy Beals)

Trippy Turtle’s music is a particularly psychedelic and bizarrely warped brand of EDM, marked by rapid beat rates and samples both ethereal and screeching, which sometimes seem to verge on explosion.

A notable example was the chorus of Chris Brown’s hit “Loyal” being broken apart to form one song’s sputtering lurch of a beat. Next, the audience heard the sound of a line from Lil Wayne’s 2008 hit “Lollipop” being bent in on itself in between deafening barrages of drums. Over a dozen artists’ songs got similar treatments, with contributions from Miguel, the Spice Girls, Drake, Trey Songz and Justin Timberlake, among others. Standouts included popular track “Trippy’s Theme” and a remix of Big Sean’s “Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay.”

The most fascinating and entertaining thing about Trippy Turtle’s live act is the visceral experience of feeling his numerous samples warp in the air and crash down to earth in waves of manipulated sound. The center point of Trippy Turtle’s artistry lies in his ability to utilize such a wide variety of samples and marry them to his often violently frantic brand of synth-laden EDM. Trippy’s postmodern willingness to experiment with preexisting forms puts him alongside star producers like Hudson Mohawke and Diplo, who also weld together brash beats and wildly manipulated samples to craft their music.

At one point in his set, Trippy Turtle leapt up from his laptop grinning and dancing feverishly, driven to ecstasy by his own compositions. That’s how you know it’s good.

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