Drunk At A Show: Northern Natives
Buzzed on a couple bottles of cheap wine, two girlfriends and I head out from U District for Ballard. The trek is well worth it; we’ve been stoked for tonight’s show at the Sunset Tavern for weeks.
The Northern Natives Experiment, a collective of (mostly) Seattle-based producers, is the bill tonight. Its members are as talented as they are diverse in their musical genius. As individual artists, their tracks have reached global audiences on KEXP’s and Soulection’s online radio waves. And they’re certainly making waves locally as well, bringing their live sets to the likes of Q Nightclub, Crocodile main stage, and Barboza.
In contrast to the hipper Cap Hill and Belltown neighborhoods, Ballard’s crowd is always funny mix of people. The Sunset’s bar is full of raucous older Ballardites clinging on to their pints of beer nearly as tightly as to whatever remnants of their youth they have left. My friends and I quickly dip into the dark back room, where the stage sits before a younger, more subdued crowd. We grab a drink at the back bar- Portland Cider on tap.
Admittedly, we had arrived mid-set; where I missed out on live performances I turned to Soundcloud to fill in the gaps. Now, for the music-
A rapper from Spokane. Earlier this year, he released a mixtape – Alone By Choice. The production is utterly fantastic, with his flow oscillating between brooding and defiant. He speaks to depression, loneliness, helplessness.
JARED RUBENS (OF SOULTANZ)
Ruben laid down some melodic beats to set the mood for the evening. He’s half of the genre-bending duo Soultanz – Rubens produces, while counterpart Shayhan Mashayekh handles beats and vocals. Soultanz’ debut album – Tangents – was released in June and at once defies and defines genre; there’s jazz, hip hop, r&b, funk, soul, psychedelic...Think Fly Lo with a tad more hop.
Kyo-Ken is an absolute standout producer, and one of Seattle’s most brilliant. It’s definitely been a minute since Kyo-Ken graced the U District house show scene with his vibey tunes. Every time I hear him live he blows me away, and tonight’s no different. He has an exceptional knack for interweaving original beats, samples, and vocals, skillfully layering it all to create a solid future-soul/electronic-ambient track – one that I guarantee will have you grooving. His latest single “Most Beautiful Ride” is an incredibly impressive testament to his talent, a summery tune featuring Mista DC and Oakland rapper Elujay. Give it a listen; it’ll help you get through Seattle’s gloomy months. My only complaint is that he skipped out on playing his classic 2 On remix live, but that’s pretty minor.
This producer adopts a more classic EDM approach, though I’ve heard the word “neo-trap” thrown around. The most memorable bit was when he brought out local r&b artist Moia Bri to sing along to his remix of her single “Disguise.” A couple months ago, CiDi released his Love Hate EP; there’s buildup, there’s breakdown, and there’s trap.
The founder of the Northern Natives Experiment, Samurai Del, is an ambitious musician who’s determined to make his mark. And he’s already done so in the Seattle scene. Hodgepodge, his debut album released in the spring, proves this point. Nearly every track is borne of collaboration with other Seattle artists, such as Paris Alexa, Travis Thompson, and the aforementioned Mista DC. His production is eclectic and constantly evolving, keeping listeners on their feet. He continues to branch out with his latest single “blvck,” distinctly more EDM-y than his past, more jazz- and ambient- influenced work.
All in all, a solid night. The very existence of the Northern Natives Experiment reminds me how thankful I am to be living in Seattle. The collective is a rare physical manifestation of a niche community – one that usually exists only on Soundcloud. So show up and support these artists, we’re really lucky to have them laying down their tracks in our city.