"I like the way your body's movin’/ I like the way you spread confusion."
That’s a good line for any dance record, but there was something particularly apt about hearing it at the Skyway Loft last Friday night. It’s from “9 (After Coachella),” played early in the Norwegian producer Cashmere Cat’s headlining set. (Though he DJs, this was a live set.) Obviously, nearly every body in the sold-out crowd was moving. But for long stretches the rhythms would be implied more than stated, then Mr. Cat (Magnus August Høiberg to his moren) would drop a beat just different enough from what you were expecting to make a splash. Not exactly confusing -- this wasn’t Aphex Twin dropping the needle on a sheet of sandpaper -- but definitely woozy.
Granted, some of that “Wha? Where am I? Oh yeah. [smiles]” feel wasn’t just coming from the music. Mr. Cat himself has a dreamy demeanor, and not just onstage -- the photos accompanying a recent feature in Thump will give you the idea. He looked much the same at the Loft -- gray hoodie, half-asleep expression, black cap with the logo of the British label Fade to Mind, whose tweaked output has heavily informed Mr. Cat’s own music.
Friday was the release date of Mr. Cat’s new album, 9, on Mad Love/Interscope, so for the show’s first 25 minutes, he performed behind a bunch of balloons, including a couple shaped like nines. He also played on a short catwalk in front of the stage’s speakers, 18 inches off the ground -- his request. “When I was making that music,” he told Thump, “I was thinking more of a girl or a boy alone in their bedroom listening to it than a crowd full of people going insane.” The re-staging allowed some of the bigger fans to get closer -- though not too close.
One reason this guy has a major-label deal is that he produces for other big acts, including Ludacris and Kanye West. So why not play those tracks, too? Hence, early in the set, we heard the Weeknd’s “Die for You,” with Mr. Cat’s tinny ear-slicing riff (very '92-rave) over cavernous 808 kicks and ghostly Goth-spel organ chords. The Weeknd’s Auto-Tuned voice mewled the title, corny but effective -- and apparently emotional for the headliner, too, who got up on his equipment. Then he took a selfie. (Awwww.) Then he walked atop his equipment some more. What showmanship.
Then again, what Mr. Cat was doing onstage was hardly what anybody concentrated on. He played a generous amount -- on at 12:20, off just after the venue’s 2 a.m. closing time -- and for most of it he kept the on-and-off groove undulant rather than herky-jerk. But around 1:32, he pulled a trick. Suddenly the whole thing crashed: beats, music, lights suddenly cut out, a false ending almost no one riding the wave was expecting. The crowd went nuts, of course. When Mr. Cat brought it back up after about 30 seconds, the drop back in felt less climactic than the stop. But it was plenty.
The Crowd: Young and genuinely diverse. Hip-hop fans for whom EDM is lingua franca, and vice versa, with a surprisingly large number of tie-dyed t-shirts. Seriously, I didn’t even see that much tie-dye at Tycho on Thursday, and Tycho makes what amounts to psychedelic rock. Oh, and Allan Kingdom was hanging in the VIP area near the stage.
Critic’s Bias: To this old man’s ear, Cashmere Cat is on the good side of the EDM spectrum. It’s probably slightly unfair to lump him in as EDM, but I do so because his timbres tend toward the cutesy and squeaky and hyper-clean: Vocodered vocalese, cuica-like percussion, zooming timbres. But he does it with way more flair than most, and he doesn’t belabor his ideas too much. Still, I was expecting a DJ set rather than a live one, and suspect I might have liked the former more.
Random Notebook Dump: 1:02 a.m.: Slow and low rumble with alien twinkly Theremin-like lead line, then a descending pearly synth a la Raymond Scott for Sprite. He has them in his palm. Some slow grinding going on, but it’s not gross. The vibe's too delicately peaky for that.