Tonight / 206
Disciples of Dilla: Seattle Future-Beats Wizards Nice&AO Enter the Zone
by Dave Segal
on Sun, Dec 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM
DJAO in excellent Kingdome hat. Nice Nate with piercing gaze.
The plan, as hatched by Seattle producers Nice Nate and DJAO (Nice&AO): I should bring a song to the latter's Capitol Hill bedroom studio for them to sample and then mold into something they can play at their next show at Lo-Fi. I brought three songs instead: Edgar Winter Group's "Free Ride," Et Cetera's "Lady Blue," and Sensations' Fix's "Music Is Painting in the Air"—none of which they'd ever heard.
Nice&AO immediately started working digital magic on them. AO fast-forwarded and rewound the songs on Serato Scratch software, seeking sweet segments to manipulate, like a massage therapist homing in on sore points. When he'd secure a loop, Nice would add beats, rim shots, cymbal hits, and hi-hats as needed. AO instinctively zeroed in on the tracks' dopest elements, usually dropping the pitch way down for maximum poignancy, and Nice quickly improvised new rhythms over the foundations. AO hit the buttons on his sampler with exaggerated torque, as if the surfaces were scorching, while Nice punched out percussion on his Akai MPD24 pad controller. Wholly in the zone, Nice&AO bobbed their heads in sync to the beats, their skinny bodies hunched over the workstation in deep concentration.
Within minutes, Nice&AO had laid the groundwork for three amazing cuts of what they like to call "future beats." Funky and psychedelic, the twosome's music has its head in the clouds and its feet in the gutter. Nice&AO readily admit their allegiance to Dilla and Flying Lotus, but their "zoned" sound isn't outright homage; rather, it's a Northwest, hyper-internet-savvy extrapolation of those artists' techniques.