Review & Photos | Burning Man 2013 | Black Rock City

From the outside looking in, the artist known as Random Rab would seem to be an enigma. A 16-year Burner, a driving force in the Oregon-based El Circo scene that transformed Burning Man and the entire Western seaboard to the Rockies, Rab unwittingly (but certainly not unknowingly) carries the hopes and aspirations of a generation of dreamers (and doers) at his fingertips. The incredible devotion and religious fervor that surrounds him might lead one to believe that atop that perch exists a person beyond reach. Yet there he was, alone, savoring an American Spirit outside of the Fractal Planet dome art gallery, merely minutes after his mesmeric set at Fractal’s camp. I professed my rapidly sizzling adoration for his music, and the cerebral spirituality embedded in its human code. Rab was happy to chat for a few, graciously gifting me an unidentified Playa crystal (In the Bay Area, they call them “Hella-Tight”), and we kept it moving. The man holds a certain fragile tranquility that is so emboldened by the source, and his light, that it is difficult not to come away profoundly affected from an interaction with him or his enchanted sonic art.

[Photo by Brendan Jaffer-Thom]

Random Rab:

“I always just feed off of what the crowd wants. I never really plan my sets. I like to toss out a few types of tracks in the beginning and then feel the pull in one direction or another. I've certainly noticed that songs in a major key work best at sunrise and minor key is best at night.”

A radical departure from the normal bass gymnastics on display in the dubstep and post- dubstep eras, Rab presented spiritual séance and devotional chanting, mixing in subtle sensuality and humble self-effacing truths, thru minor and major chord changes, softness and aggression in tone, and most of all the vocals from and through his heart. He picked up a guitar, and seduced drum skins with animated verve. He reverentially welcomed the euphoric vocals of Amae Love, psalms both solemn and celebratory, as well as the mournful, somber, and chilling violin work of Hanna Thiem, both sisters’ hurled sounds toward the stratosphere, which somehow was now visible deep Playa. “Once the eyes of self are open, the no-other is revealed.” Rab’s original music was emboldened with purpose, providing an ethereal tranquility betwixt hymns “The Spice,” the magnetic “Shishala”: Thiem and Rab’s unity on the floating “Clairvoyer” maybe the holiest music emanating from within the hallowed annals that lined Fractal Planet’s sunrise mass. Undeniable warble-bass grooves were swimming beneath “The Riddle,” Rab’s scat rap modestly laying down a steez and serenity. “The Touch” laced foreboding, bass-driven dribbles that metastasized into a clarity, then proudly surrendered to the joy fantastic, we floated into far more powerful sonic fascinations, and Rab coaxed the sun over the mountains in yet another heroic sunrise.

Random Rab:

“Originally I was drawn to the Burn because that seemed like the biggest party on the planet and I had to be there. Over the years it has definitely gotten bigger and the chaos factor has been tamed somewhat. More than anything, I love this event because of all the amazing people. Old and new friends are everywhere and everyone is feeling really raw. It enables a certain style of connection and conversation that is unlikely to happen elsewhere. Of course, I also simply love to play music out there. It is so beautiful and unique. People are super open to having a life changing experience. I am too. Together we all can reach that place of real personal change and elation. As a performer, it is amazing to feel that connection. People throw the word "epic" around a lot, but out there that is the norm.”

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