Like a microcosm of our ever-morphing music culture, electronic duo TNGHT stands squarely between the traditions of EDM and hip-hop, reaping the benefits of both musical forms, and generating something new in the process. Comprised of Lunice (from Montreal), and Hudson Mohawke (from Glasgow), the pair stopped by the Mezzanine this past Saturday after a two-weekend Coachella run, bringing their shiny, brassy, bass-loaded grooves to a sold-out crowd of ecstatic 420ers.
On paper, Lunice and Hudson Mohawke seem like natural collaborators. Both musicians specialize in an oversaturated, hypermelodic brand of electronica, often resembling the glossy tones of the Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack, if it were layered atop big, punchy drum loops. However, the pair’s self-titled debut EP as TNGHT is impressive in its lack of melodic drive, relying on huge bass and punishing hip-hop beats to do most of the heavy lifting. Although the lack ear-candy melodies left something to be desired, this groove-based approach resulted in the danciest output of either artist’s career so far: five songs, waiting for a hyped-up audience to whip into a frenzy.
Saturday’s show got off to a rocky start with two sets from DJ Dials and DJ Bogl. While both DJs spun a decent, eclectic selection of tracks (ranging from trap music to Flying Lotus-esque wonkiness), neither of them displayed the showmanship necessary to justify a combined four hours of stage time. Watching someone stand in front of their MacBook is only engaging for so long.
However, when it took the stage at 1am, TNGHT made up for the enthusiasm deficit, and then some. For two guys poking at electronics from behind a desk, their crowd-pleasing skills were extraordinary, with Lunice leaving his workstation every five minutes or so to run to the front of the stage and rev up the audience, crowd-surfing twice before the night was over. His infectious stage presence, combined with the duo’s relentlessly thumping beats, and seizure-inducing, strobe-laden lightshow, made for a vitalic, completely immersive performance.
For a duo with just one EP under its belt, TNGHT churned out a remarkably fluid, hour-long set, alternating between original tracks (“Higher Ground,” “Bugg’n”), a few Hudson Mohawke numbers (most memorably, “Cbat” from 2010’s Satin Panthers EP), and a number of hip-hop songs from the likes of OutKast and Rick Ross, with original productions layered on top. The sequencing of the set was basically perfect, with no dull moments to be found.
The crowd was befitting of TNGHT’s crossover appeal, ranging from snappily dressed urban professionals, to 420 bros, to hip-hop heads, to hipsters resembling the guy on the Zig Zag logo. Everyone seemed equally intent on dancing their ass off, though: a welcome alternative to the stiff, self-conscious audiences that populate all too many shows in this town.
As long as the musical landscape remains in its current state of flux and uncertainty, we should be thankful for projects like TNGHT, bent on exploring the grey area between disparate genres. The fact that Lunice and Hudson Mohawke can contribute so meaningfully to the conversation, while remaining so effortlessly, viscerally likable, is no small achievement.