Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit 2013

Slick Shows and Sweet Synths
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

At the end of October, Asheville, North Carolina, hosted the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, which took over the same times and locations as Moogfest had over the past three years. This year, more than 50 artists performed at five venues across town, with daytime activities that included Dr. Bob’s Interactive Sonic Experience, featuring a big Moog modular system built in 1967; Roger Powell’s custom Moog controller from his days with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia; and an ongoing demo of Percussa AudioCubes. Smaller venues featured local music, and synth-related artwork was everywhere. Here, some highlights:

Image placeholder title

One of Friday night’s standouts was Purity Ring, with captivating vocals and sparkling electronic arrangements. A small orchestra joined hip-hop supergroup Deltron 3030, fronted by Dan the Automator, Kid Koala, and Del the Funky Homosapien. Indie rockers Neutral Milk Hotel made a stop on their worldwide reunion tour, their first since 1999. And Bassnectar was in top form, assaulting the gathered masses with earsplitting bass and dazzling them with spectacular lights.

The activities started early on Saturday, beginning with a well-attended panel of inventors specializing in music technology. Paul Vo, developer of the Moog Guitar and the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer, appeared alongside modular synth maker Tony Rolandoof Make Noise, Pyradym inventor and former Bob Moog protégé August Worley, and first-call sound designer Richard Devine. World-class studio Echo Mountain Recording played host to Waves, inviting the public to try their hands at mixing using a variety of Waves plug-ins.

Saturday night, started out with King Britt’s edgy dance music and the passionate, soulful vocals of Zola Jesus, who appeared onstage with a string quartet conducted by producer JG Thirlwell. But the act that really brought down the house was electronic pop pioneer Gary Numan. Musically and performance-wise, it counts as one of the best rock shows I’ve seen, and his new material is easily his finest ever. No, I’m not biased just because he joined me onstage that afternoon before an audience of nearly 500, where we chatted for an hour about his career path, his family life, and his music. (Want more? Catch the entire video HERE.)

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

At midnight came the band everyone was waiting for: Nine Inch Nails satisfied the audience with more than an hour and a half of new and old material; like all NIN performances I’ve seen, it was killer.

On Sunday afternoon, Richard Devine and NIN’s Alessandro Cortini and Justin McGrath joined a packed houseful of modular synth geeks at a synth meet and manufacturer demo. Later that night, German downtempo electronica master Ulrich Schnauss gave a high-decibel performance that was certain to win over new fans. Composer and sound designer Alan Howarth played an hour-long retrospective of his soundtracks from John Carpenter films such as Halloween and Escape from New York. Meanwhile, nearly half a mile away, Derek Vicent Smith’s Pretty Lights kept the energy high and the audience on their feet as the festival drew to a close.

Geary Yelton is a contributing editor at Electronic Musician.