Music » This Little Underground

Swamburger’s Advanced Listening debuts hard with DJ Abilities; True Widow deepen their post-metal creds; Mary Lattimore pushes the harp beyond classical



If you're reading this then that must mean America hasn't been reduced to rubble and ash. So maybe now we can get sober and serious again.


Even though he earned his street laurels long ago, Swamburger remains one of Orlando's most meaningfully restless scene movers. The rapper-impresario's latest venture is Advanced Listening, a concert series that celebrates hip-hop as a culture, not a commodity. The debut (Nov. 2, the Social) splashed down with a couple of heavyweight names – DJ Abilities and Blueprint – from definitive indie-rap label Rhymesayers. No half-stepping here, son.

Topping the marquee was decorated Minnesota trickster DJ Abilities, who's shined alongside star MCs like Eyedea, Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic. When there's no one in his way like this time, however, the flash that earned him multiple DMC battle titles explodes like the Fourth of July. There is nothing like seeing a master at work – and with mammoth jams, razor cuts, blinding scratches and no headphones, this is the kind of fireworks that only a premier turntablist can drop.

But beyond his technical dazzle, Abilities can be a floor-shaker for the people with a song selection that reached far to weave in the Ramones, Helmet and Metallica among his own underground sounds and rap classics. Dude made even Foreigner sound dope. Though he has the chops and cred to be legit in serious hip-hop circles, his sheer excitement and accessibility could probably ignite an Applebee's into a dance mob. His spectacular amalgam of turntable technique, connoisseur sensibility and party instinct makes Abilities one of the most electrifying live DJs you'll ever see.

Of the locals, E-Turn was the one to truly awaken the room. With her strafing vocal precision, this tremendously gifted MC will light up anyone in earshot. But watch the way she activates the ladies in the audience and you'll see something potentially much bigger than just a talented contender.

Women can love rap as much as men, but it's no secret that they've been historically secondary in this culture. That's why there's something palpable that happens whenever E-Turn takes the mic. The way women immediately plug into the pulse of the night gives the room a sudden, vivid glow of unanimity that you may not have noticed was missing before but will henceforth. She's already proven time and again that she can wreck anybody in rap's male-dominated world. But for a female class that's underrepresented, hungry for a voice and ready to rise in hip-hop, E-Turn is becoming a hero.

As great a one-time assemblage of major-league talent as this debut of Advanced Listening was, the fact that it was the beginning of a procession of such events makes the deal even bigger. The next one is happening Jan. 12 at the Social and features even more Rhymesayers gold with L.A. rapper Abstract Rude. Come see what could become the city's best new hip-hop series.

Dallas trio True Widow (Nov. 5, Will's Pub) describe their sound as "stonegaze." It's a tidy portmanteau that's pretty accurate, if only just a snapshot of what they do. Indeed, the music's got the hanging, narcotic heft of stoner rock – heavy enough to be on Relapse Records – and some textural gestures evocative of shoegaze. But in full panorama, their mood-rock is a dark, rich state of being that renders slowcore atmosphere with leaden metal gravity. Live, they lay it on thick from some deep abyss between Low and Earth. It's a very particular aesthetic, and True Widow is carving it with increasing clarity. And as the crowds confirm, they're etching their prime post-metal status even deeper with each outing.

Opening was avant-garde Philadelphia harpist Mary Lattimore. Besides pointing her instrument in decidedly non-classical directions, her list of creative associations includes indie icons like Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile, Jarvis Cocker and Sharon Van Etten. Though it has the requisite gates-of-heaven beauty associated with the instrument, her playing isn't just some easy Baroque zephyr. It's an experimental flight using loops, layers and effects to weave a crystalline web that's beautiful, tense, even unsettling. Even when things get traditionally lovely, it's only a matter of time until the edges start to warp.

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