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Coachella 2012: A sample of araabMUSIK

April 15, 2012 | 10:39 pm

Pop quiz: Who was the most technically adept musician at Coachella this year? Radiohead's guitarist-composer Johnny Greenwood? Bass savant Thundercat? St. Vincent shredder Annie Clark?

Nope. Try the young electronica producer araabMUSIK. The beatsmith and Rhode Island native is new to the hype cycle at Coachella but has already gathered an impressive production coterie, making tracks for the Dipset crew and Busta Rhymes, among others, along with remixing adventurous indie artists like The Big Pink.

But his Mojave set was a masterclass in pure skill. All he needed was three MPC samplers and two video cameras to document his hands while he played them.

COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

And holy mackerel, can he play. His hands hovered like sea creatures stalking prey, lunging and squirming and beating the bejeezus out of his three boards. Each hit cued a sample, be it a washed-out synth, a ravey keyboard line or a martial drum patter. His drum work alone was otherworldly -- I've never seen human hands move that quickly.

He diced bits of tracks from his breakthrough "Electronic Dream" and spread them across every genre of electronica -- machine-gun hip-hop beats, trancey hands-up anthems, dubstep breakdowns. But the crowd moved between cerebral astonishment at what was happening on the monitors and the rush they got from all that sound. Pure skill is often an overrated virtue in pop music, but sometimes virtuosity makes its own sound. AraabMUSIK has found a great one and made it incredible to watch.


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Photo: Light reflecting off chains of balloons makes EKG-like trails in the sky above the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Saturday. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times