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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

AraabMUZIK creates percussive hip hop

Published: February 10, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc.

Usually when you think of a concert, you think of guitars, drums, a jazz band, an orchestra. That wasn’t the case Thursday when Basic Physics and AraabMUZIK took the stage at Levin Ballroom, complete with six-foot-tall speaker towers and spinning light projections, blasting waves of synthetic hip hop sound that left concert-goers half deaf and begging for more.

The two unconventional electronic music artists drew a crowd of approximately 350 students, raising more than $1,500 toward Springfest according to Student Events.

Director of Concerts for Student Events Bryan Flatt said afterward, “I thought it was an unbelievable show. There was clearly high energy in the room. Both Basic Physics and AraabMUZIK commanded the crowd, it was an extreme success.”

Basic Physics, a.k.a. Alex Syse, only put out his first song in 2010, but since then he has played with A-list artists such as Chiddy Bang, Steve Aoki and DJ Logic. More than 74 of his tracks that are available online (though Googling him is a pain—you’ll find a lot of introductory textbooks that way) include mash-ups of Daft Punk, Skrillex, even Coldplay, as well as original works.

For his performance, he created a continuous flow of Top 40 pop song remixes and mash-ups. The Wisconsin-based music artist sped up vocals into higher registers and interspersed them with electronic verves and techno pop. It was light, fast-paced house music with artistic flow and trance vibes in the background. Halfway through his set he dropped his first bass-heavy remix, the oddly-choiced “Play That Funky Music,” but he made it work, and for the second half of the night he pressed forward with dubby bass-hitting music. Throughout his performance he could be seen with a smile on his face, obviously enjoying himself.

Part of that enjoyment may have been because Syse also released his new album “Lift Off!” earlier at 2:30 p.m. on the same day, featuring 16 tracks lasting more than an hour with each track flowing into the next to be listened to from beginning to end. The songs are labeled as mash-ups sampling more than 160 songs in total. The entire thing is available online for free on Facebook—definitely worth checking out if you missed the concert or enjoyed hearing Basic Physics perform.

Headliner AraabMUZIK, a.k.a. Abraham Orellana, took to the stage with a more serious face, allowing someone else to introduce him and hype up the crowd. While his music is impressive, what he’s best known for is his live show. The video projection set up on the wall at the back of the stage was for him, or more specifically, for his hands; watching his fingers glide over the MPC, or Music Production Center, a boxy contraption covered in gray buttons, was watching an artist at work. He’s not just a man with a machine—his background as a drummer and pianist was clearly evident in his performance.

Orellana began with some slow hammer-stroke beats that quickly evolved into an experiment of percussive power, oscillating between rapid-fire key strokes and high-pitched repetitive trills and the occasional scream. The vivid drum and bass beats pumped intensity into an atmosphere of synthetic trance waves. He maintained a deft sense of control, if less engaged in the audience; while Syse included callouts to the crowd in his performance, Orellana instead had a recorded “This is AraabMUZIK!” play on his MPC. While his tracks online showcase a variety of different music styles fused together, for most of the night he kept playing similar-sounding beats, ratcheting the energy up toward the end of his concert to the delight of the audience.

With a metal detector and a no coats or bags policy, it was no Pachanga, with hijinks kept to a minimum. And the concert started late—not such a grievance considering Brandeis time—and ended a half hour early, which was more disappointing. But with stellar music and high energy from the crowd, that’s just as well.