Trackpacking: Emancipator

by Keith Savage

The Crowd at an Emancipator Show

Trackpacking is a recurring series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel.

A little over two years ago I wrote my first Trackpacking post, an ode to Thievery Corporation. In the 26 months that have elapsed since then, I have received tons of music recommendations from readers of Traveling Savage, including many that are exactly the type of music I gravitate toward. Today’s focus, Emancipator, is one of my favorites.

Dustin Main, the man behind Skinny Backpacker, recommended Emancipator to me and confidently stated that I’d love his music. I met Dustin amidst the internet swirl of travel bloggers, and we actually hung out in Buenos Aires back in December 2010 and again in Vancouver last June.

And you know what? He’s got excellent taste in music. Allow me to expound.

Emancipator is Doug Appling, a Virginia-bred one-man band who now hails from Portland. The music of Emancipator is beat-driven electronic music, but such a staid description doesn’t do justice to the beauty of his compositions. Strings, choirs, eerie voices, dusty samples, and global instruments inflect the songs, weaving in and out of house beats, and seem to always elicit an emotional response (at least from me). Emancipator’s songs are a windfall of haunting, soaring, and cinematic melodies.

I’m a total sucker for music of this caliber. The first time I listened to his album Soon It Will Be Cold Enough I had trouble wrapping my head around it because it sounded too perfect. The song structures and melodies and sounds fit together so effortlessly. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised to learn Mr. Appling is a classically-trained violinist. As a body of work, Emancipator’s music fits into a class anchored by Bonobo and Thievery Corporation with its emotionally-invested rhythms and melodies, chilled out vibe, and use of world instrumentation.

Appling mentioned in an interview that much of his music is inspired by the natural world. I can feel that in the songs, and it resonates with me since much of my writing is also inspired by the natural world. It’s a small detail in Emancipator’s backstory that increases my appreciation for his music tenfold. I’m kicking myself for missing his show in Madison this past February.

Emancipator has two albums out and the tracks below provide a good overview of what you can expect to find on them. I leave on my next trip to Scotland in one week and you can bet there will be some Emancipator on my iPhone. Good call, Dustin!

Pack These Tracks

  • First Snow, from Soon It Will Be Cold Enough.
  • Lionheart, from Soon It Will Be Cold Enough.
  • Maps, from Soon It Will Be Cold Enough.
  • Anthem, from Soon It Will Be Cold Enough.
  • Nevergreen, from Safe In The Steep Cliffs.

Create a Moment with Emancipator

  • Tramp the countryside and appreciate nature.
  • Stare out the window on an extended bus or train ride.
  • Let it serenade you while working on creative pursuits – it’s like brain fertilizer.

Let’s keep the sharing going. Pop music suggestions in the comments!

Photos by Michael Holden via Flickr/Creative Commons

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