The annual Union Park gathering of hipsters and indie-music aficionados known as Pitchfork Music Festival has never been one to follow conventions. Driven purely by the tastes and inclinations of its resident trendspotters, this year’s fest, which takes place Friday 13 through Sunday 15, features a few electronic dance music acts that are particularly interesting, if for no other reason than because each is so different from what you might sample at Lollapalooza or North Coast. Rather than playing up the dance in EDM, the focus here is on electronic. Here are our top picks from each day.
(Friday 13 at 5:15pm, blue stage)
The work of Montreal ambient sound designer Tim Hecker is often described in lofty terms. Last year’s Ravedeath, 1972 was called “musical transcendentalism” and “an examination of music threatened by technology.” His music drones on with swirls of static, the stutter of myriad tones and, on this latest, a pipe organ recorded in Iceland. It’s heady stuff and not much to look at from a performance perspective, but it definitely takes your mind places.
(Friday 13 at 7:15pm, blue stage)
The biggest production name in the cloud rap scene, Jersey boy Clams Casino is one of the reasons this hip-hop offshoot genre has been named in such airy terms. Slow and syrupy, like Southern crunk’s distant cousin, it glides along like a hot breeze on a summer day. His stoner beats have become a bed for indie-rap stars like G-Side, Lil B and fellow Pitchfork performer A$AP Rocky.
(Saturday 14 at 4:15pm, green stage)
SoCal beatmaker Flying Lotus is a leader among stateside artists making bass music of some subtlety. Rejecting dubstep’s bombast in favor of glitchy hip-hop beats, downtempo flourishes and ghostly soul, FlyLo and the rest of his Brainfeeder camp may bear no resemblance to Skrillex, but that doesn’t mean they’re boring. The producer may be one of the more lively electronic acts performing all weekend.
(Saturday 14 at 4:45pm, blue stage)
Brown University comparative literature major and studio whiz kid Nicolas Jaar has spent the better part of the last year basking in the glow of praise for his melodic left-field techno. Working across various tempos, Jaar has an improvisational spirit live, triggering beats, twinkling keys and even sampling his own voice to re-create his stripped-down dance cuts live.
(Sunday 15 at 6:15pm, green stage)
Another hip-hop producer gaining significant notoriety without the help of MCs, araabMUZIK hit it big providing beats for big-league rappers like Cam’ron and Busta Rhymes. As a solo act, he’s best known for his skill on the MPC, the electronic instrument he uses to program beats live. With it, he samples all manner of progressive and house music on the fly, twisting them out as infectious boom-bap headnodders.
(Sunday 15 at 7:40pm, blue stage)
Germany’s the Field (a.k.a. Axel Willner) has long been a Pitchfork favorite. A solo entity in the studio, he makes sprawling and intensely looping melodic techno—the type that slow burns for minutes at a time with only the subtlest of changes. It’s the epitome of intelligent dance music. Live, he’s joined by a full band, making his loopy bliss as much for chin scratchers as for dancers.
The Pitchfork Music Festival goes down at Union Park from Friday 13–Sunday 15.