Keys N Krates bring ‘Cura’ world tour to Belly Up Aspen
The Aspen Times
IF YOU GO …
What: Keys N Krates
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Saturday, Feb. 10, 9 p.m.
How much: $27-$45
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
The Toronto-based electronic hip-hop trio Keys N Krates have been at it for a decade, but finally broke big with 2015’s “Dum Dee Dum.”
It’s the kind of undeniably catchy, club-ready EDM track that makes global superstars out of mere mortals (a clever, viral-leaning music video featuring dancing Mennonites didn’t hurt the cause, either). But on the heels of “Dum Dee Dum,” which recently went gold, Keys N Krates decided to break the mold and try something new.
“We’re trying to pivot out of being known as an EDM act,” the trio’s DJ, Greg Dawson, who performs as Jr. Flo, said from a recent tour stop in Charlotte. “We’re still an electronic act, but we wanted to take a more organic approach.”
They’ve introduced the world to the new approach with “Cura,” their ambitious new album released last week, and a world tour that comes to Belly Up Aspen on Saturday.
“We wanted every song to be beautiful in its own right, so that you could play it for someone who doesn’t even know anything about electronic music — or maybe even hip-hop — and each song would be attractive to them in some way,” Dawson explained.
They started releasing diverse singles from the new record in December, beginning with the enchanting head-bobber “Flute Loop,” featuring Ouici, followed by the party-starting disco track “Glitter,” with Ambré, and “Music to My Ears” — a poppy throwback hip-hop song with fellow Canadian Tory Lanez providing vocals — and the trap song in “My Night” featuring 070 Shakes.
The band’s live show features Dawson at the turntables with Adam Tune on drums and David Matisse on keyboard. They aimed to make something timeless in the instrumentals on the new songs. Like a lot of fans, Dawson and his bandmates have grown tired of the predictable sounds of popular hip-hop today — the 808 drum machines and garbled samples and auto-tuned vocals.
“We like ‘Big Pimpin’’ and those early 2000s records where there were actually mids in the songs, so we wanted to do that,” he explained. “We wanted the quality of the instrumentals to have character and quirkiness and density.”
To make the jump, subtle as it might seem to casual listeners, they decided they needed to make their first full album. Like many young electronic acts, they’d previously focused on singles and EPs. But as they discovered their creative direction was changing, Keys N Krates decided they needed to make a full-length mission statement.
”We wanted to make a cohesive project that hit those points and that was fun and that would bring in new listeners, but hopefully not piss off our existing fans,” Dawson said. “We felt like we needed to come out with a body of work to explain what we’re doing.”
The trio spent about a year making “Cura,” though as Dawson put it they spent the first six months “figuring out what the hell we wanted to do.” It came together in the final months as they went into recording sessions with the album’s many guest vocalists.
Keys N Krates have also reworked their older songs to fit in alongside the new tracks and their new sound on the current tour.
Saturday’s show marks the band’s Aspen debut, though they’ve become well-known through regular stops in Denver and at Red Rocks. Aspen is one of three tour stops in Colorado, where Dawson said the band is bringing a beefed up stage show and the best music of their careers.
“We’re leveled up now, making this album,” he said. “It’s a maturity, growing thing where we were like, ‘Yo, we’ve got to make stuff that we’re not just ok with, we’ve got to make stuff that we love.’”