By: Sanjay Gopal
“For every dark night, there is a brighter day.” Machiavelli’s words from yesteryears somehow return to me, guided by this new track by Portland's Emancipator.
“How?” you ask.
While the track seems to have an obvious shadowy, phantasmic and chillng demeanor, one can hardly miss the solicitous air, and quasi-spirited grace and elegance of this “clip-hop” (classical trip-hop) piece melodically driven by a motif that revolves around a clever amalgam of a soulful violin ostinato consummated by crescendos of piano arpegios in andante.
It is mainly this integration that gives away a mildly effervescent ethereal mood to the listener and may evoke an empathic familiarity along with a sweet swirling sense of sorrow.
Doug Appling seems to have told a story of his own feelings, clearly having developed a certain level of sensitivity, understanding, compassion and empathy in addition to his production skills.
The purpose of this track may be to gently uplift a bruised soul, subdue pain or evil intentions, or to spur a demoralised human back into life…?
The consistency in his ability of translating a very organic and live sound and an impressively subtle yet effective use of electronics to develop and nourish musical ideas while maintaining the essence and spirit what could be believed to be the originally conceived emotion is the hallmark of this stellar and highly reliable artist.
In fact, Appling shares with us that this lead single was born from a field recording of a ping pong table while on tour, and the relaxed backbeat of its sublime snare (reminiscent of a ping pong racket hitting the table or a large knife on a chopping board) with a notable reverb, the very so slightly swung beats, a deeply meaningful delay (Audio nerds…try and find it!) and other technical tidbits are freeze frame testaments to that fact, and also possibly the very unassuming grace of the sport itself.
Gently beckoning voices and coaxing vocal cuts contribute to perhaps a sort of reflective melancholy or nostalgia?
A wide range of sounds, allegedly field recordings, snippets of foley, and other textures masterfully arranged in the backdrop constitute the mildly ambient downtempo atmosphere; a sonically realistic, open and laid back landscape creating a beautiful sense of natural space.
Though he may draw comparisons to Bonobo and the likes, I feel that he has developed his own comfortable niche where his unique expression thrives con anima.
“Ghost Pong” released on his very own Loci Records off the forthcoming 2017 album (his first since 2015’s Seven Seas) leaves us hanging on a hopeful note; I am personally in quiet anticipation of the rest of the album.
Could this track also be inpspired by “Table Tennis” by the inimitable Flying Lotus? Because, well, I must admit I have thought of sampling the back and forth rallying of a ping pong ball and using it in a musical context, solely based on that very genius track!
Well we won’t know unless one of us gets the opportunity to ask The Emancipator in person, possibly at one of his upcoming shows: Luna Light Music & Arts Festival around a month from now where he is headlining. He will also make an appearance at San Diego’s CRSSD Festival on Saturday, September 30.
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