It was a night of filtered lights and oblique love songs. at Saturday's (May 11) Downtown Music Festival -- a young, Downtown Records-owned event that dispatches emerging artists across Manhattan’s Lower East Side -- two leading lights of a new wave of R&B offered alternative takes on the genre, playing back-to-back sets for a room full of incidentally intimate strangers.
The R&B of Autre Ne Veut, the recording project of Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter/producer Arthur Ashin, refracts Maxwell and Prince through post-modern, glitchy electronic music. His excellent, recently released album “Anxiety” was co-produced by maestros of ‘80s ambience Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin (of Ford & Lopatin), and the songs are possessed of decadent atmospheric flourishes and beats that shift and expand in unexpected directions.
On stage, though, Ashin is much more primal and uncalculated. He belts his lyrics -- mostly about longing for love, sex, or understanding -- with untempered agony and ecstasy. Occasionally he’d break from a long stretch of frayed falsetto to gaze directly into the audience, which returned his unself-conscious emoting in kind.