This Little Underground: The hip-hop dream team of E-Turn & SPS 

click to enlarge 1000w_e-turn_and_sps_photo_by_tipso_photo.jpg

Photo by Tipso Photo

When you're as individually talented as both MC E-Turn and DJ SPS are, it would be easy to be a prima donna. E-Turn's rapping is so dazzling that she could electrify as just a track act. Likewise, as a decorated battle champ who can ignite a room by himself, SPS doesn't necessarily need a partner either. So credit them both for seeing the greater possibility beyond those nominal solo baselines.

While E-Turn and SPS already add up to a dream team of Orlando hip-hop on paper, the duo is absolutely exponential in reality. I say this even though I believe they've only begun to actualize their collective potential. The special creative and presentational power they pack together is the kind of formidable alignment that only comes around once in a long while.

They're no ordinary twosome and the unveiling of their second joint album, ESP, was, fittingly, no typical rap show (July 10, the Social). Besides having a full live jazz-funk band (Leisure Chief) among the opening parade, Swamburger & Rubox – another mighty marriage of hip-hop talent – added a fresh, conceptual fold to the mix. With turntable, MPC and film projector, the two scored the visual, non-narrative documentary Samsara with ambient beat voyages designed to match the striking imagery.

The closer it got to the main event, however, the kind of energy singular to significant hometown events gathered visibly. During the final intermission before the headliner, a nice break circle opened up. Bodies were popping, DJ Sureshot was peaking, cameras came out and things got hot. Once E-Turn & SPS came out and dropped, the room lifted off.

The Beat

The first showcase tour for pioneering area music label Illuminated Paths just wrapped with a finale event (July 5, Will's Pub). A much more elaborate production than the tour kickoff (June 21, Uncle Lou's), this homecoming show reconfigured the rock club to become an ad hoc theater with rows of chairs and a giant video screen in front of the stage.

The setup was apt since the headliner was Film Speak, the audio-visual project by Broken Machine Films (video artist and IP label boss Joshua Rogers) and local experimental musician Maximino that premiered at the conceptual music monthly the In-Between Series back in March. Reversing the arrangement of that debut performance, Maximino was situated behind the screen to create an experience that this time emphasized the ambience of Rogers' live-mixed, lo-fi, nouveau-psych visions. This optical prominence made the important visual side of Illuminated Paths itself a central feature, an element that persisted throughout and defined the event.

The only act to go in front of the curtain was Trotsky's Watercooler, the solo noise vehicle for Orlando musician Dan Reaves (of Moonmen From Mars, the Rot Guts, etc.). The best live noise acts go beyond basic electronic doodling (snore) and dive into more visceral waters with real hardware or performance art, or both, if you're really lucky. On that count, check and check. With an arsenal that was part device and part scrapyard, Reaves wove haunting, escalating soundscapes that relied as much on a sheet of corrugated metal as it did electronics. The floor performance began with all "instruments" neatly laid out on a table. By the end, the artist had strapped himself to the metal sheet with duct tape and was punishing it with heavy gauge chain, the entire transformation occurring without a sonic pause.

Northeastern band Field Mouse is a promising act that's been popping up on bills here alongside some notable headliners, back in 2013 with Laura Stevenson and recently with Mewithoutyou (July 5, the Social). Although they possessed both lovely music and aesthetic early on, they were limited by their youth at that previous show with a passable but tentative performance. Luckily for them, however, experience is easier to attain than taste and melodic instinct.

This time, their footing was surer and their shoegaze-kissed dream-pop measurably fuller. They'll need a little more certainty and crispness to really arrive, but it sounds like that's only a few short clicks away, and it looks like they're already on the case.

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