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The Scarlet & Black

Let the claw grab you

By Max Calenberg

Electronic Dance Music finds few casual listeners. With more genres (Grime, Diva House, dancehall, UK Garage) and sub genres than obvious sources to find the sounds that fill them, fans rely on obscure blogs and forums to discover the newest synth drum and sample based mixes. Other options include wading through the countless dubstep remixes of every radio hit on to find a few gems or waiting for a major site like Pitchfork to pick up what floats to the top of the EDM world. So when the average Grinnellian sees a Concerts poster for The Claw, a Los Angeles DJ consortium made up of Nguzunguzu, Kingdom and Total Freedom, playing in Gardner Lounge, Friday Feb. 10 at 9 pm, they probably find the event both unfamiliar and overwhelming. They shouldn’t. Despite the foggy, obscuring facade, the work of each of these artists bases itself around new and unique music that caters to the listener’s ears as much as their hips.

The most accessible member of The Claw is Nguzunguzu, made up of Girl Boy duo Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda, who last year released “The Perfect Lullaby,” a 48 minute mix of songs by Ciara (Dance’s current muse du jour), R. Kelly, Ashanti, The-Dream, Nicki Minaj and other popular artists reworked with airy sythns, denser drums and chopped vocals. Sometimes Nguzunguzu’s work drives the listener to dance, sometimes it lulls them to sway, but it is never un-engaging or crass as the music floats between and blends synth and sample. For more mainstream appeal, the duo mastered and worked with M.I.A. on her “Vicki Leekx” mixtape and Maroof currently serves as Maya’s tour DJ.

Ashland Mines, whose stage moniker is Total Freedom, frequently manipulates vocals until they become yet another part of a complex beat. Like the other members of The Claw, he loves and samples heavily from R&B artists including Destiny’s Child and Jhene Aiko.

Kingdom, born name Ezra Rubin, produces equally intriguing sounds. His original works, different than a remix or edit of another preexisting song, are often menacing, with shrill sythns and at least one treble element (claps or snares or hi-hats) hitting hyper BPM marks. This sense of agitation and paranoia excites similar to the way the best Rick Ross or Young Jeezy songs can.

The common thread in all of this is Fade to Mind, the record label to which all three acts are signed, and the US sister label to Night Slugs, the current premier UK EDM label. Each member of The Claw has a unique path to the label. Pineda grew up in Oklahoma City; Maroof in Bowie, MD. Mines was originally based in Chicago. After attending Parsons, Rubin started hosting dance parties with mixes of Dipset, Remy Ma and other songs popular on New York’s Hot97 before he even knew how to blend beats. Eventually someone taught him to use a CDJ (a device used to beat match and mix the music of multiple CDs, much like the traditional DJ setup of two turntables) and he went on to release mixes on A-trak’s Fool’s Gold label and Night Slugs before starting Fade to Mind with another producer, Prince William. Kingdom recruited Maroof and Pineda through the Internet (Myspace!) and Mines through mutual friends, brought them to Los Angeles, where Fade to Mind is based and they all started working together.

Collectively, The Claw has only released one CD and collaborating seems to bring out the more experimental elements of each contributor’s work. The songs refuse to be dominated by any one aspect assignable to Kingdom, Total Freedom or Nguzunguzu as fragmented vocals can serve to build tension instead of polish while quite often the trebles are kept at slower beat than a typical Kingdom song.

Members of The Claw developed their talents DJing “Wildness” parties for two years on Tuesday nights at LA’s Silver Platter club, a queer and transgender club that has since been put on hiatus due to an ownership dispute. On June 23, 2011, The Claw performed an event called The Table, where they assembled their CDJs, MPCs and other assorted equipment (no laptops) on a table in the middle of a room with the crowd surrounding them. What followed was a five-hour experimental DJ set, described by SGA Concerts Chair Pooj Padmaraj ’13 as, “the cutting edge of music.”

It is not certain the performers will replicate this setup in Gardner Lounge, but Padmaraj will accommodate their preference. Considering their genre bending and lack of precedent, it is not clear exactly what The Claw’s show will consist of, but it is guaranteed to be a captivating, experimental and dance inducing.

The Claw plays at Gardner Lounge this Friday at 9 p.m., opening will be Teengirl Fantasy and Grinnell’s own turntablist [wilsonni].

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