enver better watch out because Chicago has been getting some of the most well curated lineups in the left field U.S bass scene in the past year. NSW Presents has been going off lately with shit like free Pheel shows at Primary, 360 sets with Coki & Mythm, upcoming shows with HEDEX, and an epic Lunar Tide lineup for this December. But this show takes the cake for me. As a fervent fan of the emerging left-field bass/ weird bass/ space bass/ glitch-hop scene (essentially inspired by Tipper and other Funktion one and Hennessey nerds that also produce), this line up was like a dream. Spoonbill, Easyjack, Goopsetppa, and more in one night.... It sounds like a stacked festival lineup but it was really just Saturday at the Chop Shop, one of my favorite venues in the country nestled in downtown Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood.
The night began with a house set from Mindy Fresh which is always nice to hear in Chicago (the birth place of house music). The second supporting act was a duo by the name of Machine Elvis. This group featured Danny from Zombie Manana playing abstract electric guitar riffs over trippy trap beats provided by Cason of R34L. The integration of live improvisation gave this set a real edge. At times the Pink Floyd type solos were clearly overlayed over the booming beats but at others the guitar sounds were enveloped in pedals and effects letting the guitar sounds dissolve into the bass.
Then it was time for Easyjack In Dub and this set honestly stole the show. Easyjack is the codename for Jack Whelan, a music producer who also does Funktion One rentals and installs. AKA he is a huuuuge audiophile. He's also opened for artists like Detox Unit, Mickman, Thought Process, Resonant Language, Bogtrotter, Ovoid, UltraSloth, and played at Tipper's famed 4321 event. He also recently played the official Pretty Lights after-party in Philadelphia.
In typical cool-guy fashion, Easyjack hasn't released any music in the last two years, but his 'Easyjack In Dub' set is becoming increasingly in-demand and I found out why in Chicago. The giant visual screen operated by the legendary Ivy Visuals at the Chop Shop paired incredibly well with the slow psychedelic bass. It was a match made in heaven.
I may be biased towards Easyjack because I saw Spoonbill one week before in Portland, OR at the Get Down and he sort of blew my mind with that psychedelic circus party. The Australian mastermind played tunes off his new album and fulfilled my secret wish of playing one of all time faves, Driftwood Palace. This track is a perfect example of how elusive the left-field bass scene can be. This song combines samples of tribal flutes, flawless bongo type percussion, and ethereal bass in the background. Another track in a similar downtempo style is Hammock Therapy by Shpongle.
There are so many diverse sounds that fit into this genre yet there is a psychedelic secret ingredient that sews them all together in this patchwork community of the most talented sound engineers in the world. Despite the incredibly challenging task of categorizing a genre like this I see two major factions growing in the left-field bass scene:
1. Incredibly Intricate Sound Design ( Tipper, Somatoast, Vinja, Base2, etc.)
2. Downtempo/Lofi Bass (Pheel, Chmura, Goopsteppa etc.)
These broad categorizations are just my opinion but these two sectors of left-field bass do share similarities in terms of audience while also having many nuances to revel in. They also can be jointly distinguished from other bass genres like Mainstage Dubstep (Ganja White Night, Liquid Stranger, etc.), Deep Dubstep (Truth, Khiva, Ternion Sound, etc.), and Riddim (Bommer, Svdden Death, etc.). In many ways, this proliferation of artists exploring this certain sound reminds me of the birth of impressionism and painters from all over the world trying to make their stamp on it.
Spoonbill is a major hero in many circles as one of the only artists to have an official collaboration with "Dave" aka Tipper. His sound design is on God level and Emerald Hooves proves that. It was such a treat to see this talented artist two times in one month. This was also my second time seeing Goopsteppa this year. I saw him in May 2023 and that was one of his first shows back after a two year hiatus. It was obvious that his on-stage swagger had been perfected over the last few months of touring. Not only did he play a killer set but he was also seen dancing in the crowd for Easyjack. Boss move.
If you are in Chicago, tap in with NSW Presents to see some of the coolest left-field bass shows in the United States. You may just see a beautiful new music scene evolve and it could be the psychedelic journey you need.
Main Image: Spoonbill & Ivy Visuals (VJ) Chop Shop October 14, 2023