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Favorite ThisKEYS N KRATES gives trap a much-needed makeover (Vinyl - Denver, CO - June 12, 2014)

Published: June 19, 2014

By: Johnny Jones

Trap music.

I know that just triggered a mental gag reflex for some of you. No 808s or high hat rolls have hit your eardrums yet and already your blood pressure is rising. Perhaps you’ve already decided that this article is a waste of your time. For some of you, there’s little I can do to sway your minds back into giving this burgeoning genre another shot. But for the diehard fans and the more open-minded, I implore you to check out the music of KEYS N KRATES and then go see them live.

The Canadian trio consisting of drummer Adam Tune, synth/keyboard/APC wizard David Matisse and turntablist extraordinaire Jr. Flo have taken their trap-heavy blend of bass music to a whole new level. Its really not accurate to peg Keys N Krates as just “trap,” but it does seem to be the sub genre of electronic music most appropriate for their sound (not to mention their SoundCloud track labels that include “Trap,” “Trap and Rap,” “Trappity Trap Trap,” “Dream Trap,” “Big Room Trap” and “Euphoric Trap”). Regardless of how you choose to classify their tunes, there is no debating that KNK have challenged the rest of the bass music community to keep broadening its horizons.

Critics of electronic music often cite the cold barrier separating the DJ from the crowd as a turn off. They say there’s little improvisation. They say there’s hardly a connection between the fans and the guy staring into his MacBook screen. Some of these criticisms are entirely valid. None of them, however, apply to a Keys N Krates show as I discovered at Sub.mission’s weekly Sub Culture night at Club Vinyl.

Club Vinyl has a classy feel that somehow simultaneously retains a cozy intimacy and a refreshing openness. The dance floor is surrounded by a long bar on one side and a raised standing area on the other. The club’s crisp Funktion-One sound system matches its professional ambiance. This place could house either a horde of teeny bopping trap heads or a crowd of older, more refined disco aficionados. On Thursday, the club was, not surprisingly, almost entirely the former. But the aggressive stench of bro pheromones and girls rolling face that sometimes pervades trap, dubstep and electro house shows was no where to be found. Sure, I felt old as a 24-year-old talking to kids who considered Brillz and ETC! ETC! to be “old school” (until I met a super nice 45-year-old guy who made me feel better), but I wasn’t caught up in the old curmudgeon mindset that sometimes takes over when I’m surrounded by immature EDM fans. Maybe its something about live instrumentation that makes people wise up.

Keys N Krates was preceded by a trio of openers (DJ PAWS, Gyp Dahip, and Vinnie Maniscalco) who mainly stuck to playing generic trap hits and remixes of top 40 songs. Vinnie, however, strung together a multi-faceted set complete with lesser known gems and even some funky house music. Two openers probably would have been enough, but keep in mind this is coming from someone who has a much lower tolerance for trap than the average fan.

When Keys N Krates finally took the stage, the minor irritations I’d felt during the openers’ sets vanished. I was completely enveloped in their music. Matisse uses an Akai MPK61 which allows him to seamlessly switch back and forth between playing the keyboard and manually tapping out samples. Tune’s kit is equipped with traditional snares, toms and cymbals as well as a digital drum pad that allows him to play dozens more instruments. in addition to Jr. Flo’s skillful mastery of his turntables, he also utilizes an Akai MPD 26 to add in samples and manipulate the music with an array of different filters and effects. The combination of these three setups makes for a completely unique live experience. They played everything from their hits “Treat Me Right,” “I Just Can’t Deny” and “Dum Dee Dum” to live renditions of popular songs like Kanye West’s “Clique,” Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard In The Paint” and even The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” They played their collaboration with Grandtheft called “Keep It 100” and an unreleased banger called “Hypnotik.” The sounds pumping through Club Vinyl’s top-notch system were so massive that they blew out the speakers…twice (a feat that David claimed had never happened before).

It’s great to go to a show and hear your favorite songs, but in a culture overpopulated by DJs, electronic music fans are beginning to expect more. What makes a KNK show so special is that every track is tailored to that specific moment. You never know when Adam is going to throw in a fresh drum fill or when Jr. Flo will blow your mind with his precision scratching. Despite trap’s polarizing effect (which I’ve written about before) Keys N Krates dynamic live show appeals to people of all musical preferences. These Canadians definitely earned themselves a spot on my list of “Acts I Absolutely Must See Every Time They Come To Town.”

Tags: Hip Hop