Last weekend will go down as one of the best of 2013, that we can guarantee you. If you weren’t in Philadelphia we assume it’s because a relative died or your girlfriend dumped you and in that case we are sorry for your loss. The 2nd Annual City Bisco took place at the gorgeous Mann Center again, featuring some tremendous performances from The Disco Biscuits and other huge acts. Deathwaltz Media showed the people they listen with this year’s official after parties at the Blockley. Last Friday and Saturday saw the first ever performances from Ichisan in the US, something that community of fans just couldn’t have seen coming. Philadelphia residents Brother’s Past performed their instrumental project BpM, along with performances from Plastic Plates, The Swiss, and Kung Fu, all weaved around multiple sets from the guest of honor. What better than a transition from the intensity of City Bisco to the comforting abyss of Ichisan? If there is such a level of satisfaction, it’s likely found in the solace that everyone else present that night was able to experience it.
When a fan is seeing a musician for the first time, there is a lot at stake. There is faith involved. With those unfamiliar the performance then falls into the category of first impressions, but they all might as well be. Everything is crucial. When you’re the type of listener that avidly views the beat through the frame of a spirited live environment, you’re constantly taking a risk in that pursuit. The risk that the musicians you’ve come wrap every spare moment of your day around can’t even perform their music well. For the followers, well…you may have heard the sermon, but you’ve yet to witness the miracle.
Igor Skafar, aka Ichisan respects that faith. He too had something at stake those two nights. This was a new world, a new audience. For all he knew two of his most dedicated fans lived in the USA and counted 400,000 license plates, 5 states, and 3 different gas pump numbers just to be standing in the Blockley that night. He had a responsibility. Friday night transcended above the shallow dimension of your run of the mill DJ set for a collection of reasons. He wasn’t there so much to put on a show, it was more like he was there to love the music with you. No lights, no effects, no costume, just a simple set of turntables, bare and raw and purely a celebration of music. Both parties were exchanging a huge part of each other in a moment of vulnerability. He and the crowd had no idea what to expect.
After The Disco Biscuits played their last set, and the chaos of exiting an amphitheater parking lot in the middle of Philadelphia was nearing an end, the epic theme of the night’s plot continued to unfold. Nestled in the corner of a weathered subdivision in the city sat The Blockely. Upon entering, Ichisan was just commencing his hour long set. I went in with no expectations being his first US show and my first time seeing him live, but I was instantly welcomed to the warm sounds of sonic bliss that he has come to trademark. Akin to his songs, mixes, and his branded flow, the performance resembled a living organism rather than a series of dance tunes. Each note thrives off the last. They breathe. He starts out with one rhythm and goes from there. A rolling synthesizer segment would begin to ascend, augmenting slightly with each step, then dropping back down low with a filter, then coming back up again with more emphasis and perhaps a new layer. The bass follows, snares roll, the cycle repeats until the sounds have fully evolved and you’re thrown into the eye of the storm. The notes continue to build on top of each other, new layers creeping through, and before you know it you’re already 30 minutes into it.
Ichisan’s compositions build patiently on themes and progressions, something that most electronic music doesn’t focus on, not for an entire mix at least. People tend to pool his style in with disco and house, a comparison that barely scratches the surface. Those labels merely serve as a silhouette. There are characteristics of those genres certainly, but the final product is far more intangible. Instead of fast paced, physically demanding dance beats, you’re being told a story. Ichisan is reading the book out loud, and the listener writes the words with each move made, and each place their mind goes when they hear it. This music plays on the emotion of the listener, whether or not you were feeling the way the artist was, the song put you on that plane. It’s powerful stuff. There were times in the set that seemed like a full throttle dance party. Others seemed like a portal to the deepest parts of your consciousness, coincidentally accompanied by a dance beat. It’s all part of a bigger picture, and that is what makes him so good, because he takes the separation out of the equation. Each track hits a specific part of the “soul”, and never hits the same place twice.
Aside from his seamless jumps from one universe to another, he was mixing live and on the fly. Like a good DJ does he played off the vibe off the crowd, improvising his track selection and mixing in different CD’s as the set moved forward. He did this void of any friction. There wasn’t a single point in the show where I heard a track outside his mix catalog and discography. If you we’re looking for an hour of floor-bangers and chart hits then this might not have been the set for you. He tested the crowd’s musical palette, and with great results. His mixture of “untz” and psychedelic atmospheres was oozing out of the speakers that night and he will surely be missed.
The venue itself didn’t pretend to be anything special. The distractions of art, decor, and glamor were not pressing issues. With nothing to command your attention but the music itself, the quality of his performance ventured further into relevancy. Ichisan delivered more than a satisfactory set. I don’t have any doubt that Saturday night’s performance was anything less. We got to speak after the set and Igor is truly a man of his fans. He was sincerely just as pleased to see his fans as they were to see him, and hopefully that connection will bring him back to US soon. Tits & Acid Reviews would really like to tip our hat to Deathwaltz Media Group as well for booking him in the first place. Til next time folks…