N.A.A.F.I. night arrives

James Marlow

marlowja@grinnell.edu

The much anticipated N.A.A.F.I. Night has finally arrived. This Friday night, Gardner Lounge will host performances by musicians Paul Marmota and Lao, founding members of the electronic music collective N.A.A.F.I. Based in Mexico City, Marmota and Lao exemplify the movement’s motto of “Ritmos Periféricos” or “Outsider Rhythms.” N.A.A.F.I. is characterized by a uniquely syncretic take on U.K. grime, reggaeton, industrial techno, Jersey club and cumbia. The movement emerged in 2010 as a series of club nights and since then has grown into a broader collective of 12 international artists. N.A.A.F.I. has gained significant traction, particularly as a result of their month-long radio residency on Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio this fall.

Paul Marmota is a Chilean producer and DJ originally hailing from Santiago. His dark and ethereal compositions are largely instrumental and some tracks feature distorted vocal samples. The track “Baila” from the 2013 release “Nueva” combines a cumbia-inflected beat structure with the dark kitsch of distorted vaporwave panpipes. However, his new tracks released in February 2016 from the “Aire” EP present a distinct directional change for Marmota, with a far more aggressive and industrial production style. “Registro” is reminiscent of the more experimental corners of the Jersey club, as well as the tense drones of similarly inclined artists like Fatima Al Qadiri.

Lao offers a dark yet energetic inversion of electronic sounds more commonly associated with the British underground. Lao’s brooding compositions are a welcome addition to the recent resurgence of instrumental grime, while his juxtaposition of drum patterns with bass drum patterns and roaring sub-bass with Latin rhythms serves to emphasize N.A.A.F.I.’s stance as a label unconstrained by geography or genre. His 2014 track “Catedral” evokes the unsettling minor key scales common to recent experimental grime. Subtle samples of owls and other nocturnal creatures add an atmospheric dread that is at once alienating and irresistible.

N.A.A.F.I.’s performance will certainly stand as one of the most energetic and experimental sets of the semester. With Marmota’s industrial disposition and Lao’s reconceptualization of the U.K. underground, Gardner Lounge is in for an exciting night.