by Laura Wasson
As I boarded the crowded ferry heading to Governors Island late Saturday afternoon for MATTE's second-annual Full Moon party, I began to wonder what was I getting into. Could I feasibly cover 15 acts between two stages? The answer to that query quickly turned out to be a resounding "no," but the day was a success nonetheless, and an interesting observational study of the current state of EDM.
I arrived just in time to catch The Deep's set on the smaller Neon Gold stage. The Brooklyn-based DJ collective comprises a rotating cast of friends that took turns spinning their own house-inflected beats for an hour. Even at five in the afternoon, people were dancing—if somewhat trepidatiously.
I then wandered over to the main stage for France’s Yuksek (née Pierre-Alexandre Busson). Busson, a classically trained pianist who also possesses a distinct pop sensibility, has an aesthetic that sounds like a mish-mash of two other noted Gallic bands: Justice and Phoenix (he’s worked with the latter). Eschewing the accessible and light dance-pop of his 2011 EP, the DJ stuck to more minimalist, throbbing beats with scant, repetitive lyrics thrown in for good measure. It nodded to disco, even if somewhat obliquely.
Chicago’s Wild Belle took to the stage next. Formed just a few short years ago in 2011, the comely brother-sister duo have already earned the adulation of the fashion industry, due in no small part to their fantastic sartorial sensibilities. Thankfully, their unique and sometimes strange mix of funk, reggae, soul, and folk with a disco back-beat stands on its own.
They opened with “Trickster” before moving through “Another Girl,” “It’s Too Late,” and “Love Like This,” all songs off their debut EP, Isles. Although not gifted with much range, Natalie Bergman’s voice has a nasally, completely unmistakable tone that lends itself to the melancholy mood of her lyrics. Her brother Elliot was clearly more comfortable behind his stack of keyboards, bass saxophone, and sunglasses, but he did step out of the shadows for “When It’s Over,” a moving and sweet paean to a former lover and her poor taste in men. They ended with “Keep You,” their best-known and perhaps best-loved song that perfectly encapsulates their dreamy, stylishly misanthropic aesthetic.
I missed a few sets due to a 45-minute long line to get a water and/or whiskey at the bar which resulted in me leaving empty-handed out of frustration and an increasing feeling I was going to faint. (Note to self: Hydrate as much as possible before going to any other islands.) (Note to MATTE: Hire more bartenders.)
After procuring a merciful lemonade, I ventured back to the main stage to catch Miami Horror's set. It was a real treat to see them live, considering the facts that the Australian band doesn’t typically get out to the States and they haven’t released anything new since 2010’s masterful and fun Illumination. The quartet was formed by DJ Benjamin Plant in 2008 as a means to explore his burgeoning interest in disco-inflected dance-pop outside the realm of his increasingly popular remixes.
The group is perhaps still best known for opening number “I Look to You,” their collaboration with Aussie sprite Kimbra. Josh Moriarty fronts the live iteration of the band and his charismatic, cat-like dance moves and literal guitar thrusting proved an apt foil to the pulsing undercurrent of spirited songs, like the very fitting “SummerSun” and “Moon Theory.”
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the day was that all of these bands owe a little something to Daft Punk, whether they were trolling the depths of more traditional, clubby EDM or riding the current wave of nouveau disco. A slightly slowed-down and funky “four-on-the-floor” beat that’s easy to like and easier to dance to feels like a logical next step for electronic music, especially after the long, bombastic reign of dubstep. It's nostalgic and uncomplicated and there’s just a touch more soul and artistry in it. Where technology is concerned, a little heart and some semblance of real human emotion counts for something.