Douglas Appling, the Portland based electronic musician known to electronic music enthusiasts as Emancipator, takes a natural approach to his art. The classically trained violinist, and veteran of more traditional bands during his college years, grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Listening to his parents’ wide-ranging collection of albums – Kraftwerk, Orbital, Fleetwood Mac – as well as the African sounds his mother discovered during her years in the Peace Corps, profoundly influenced his expansive approach to music making.
“So much credit goes to my parents and the music they curated at home,” Appling says. “My father had a tasteful, largely indiscriminate record collection. Instrument wise, there were dulcimers that he himself built, kalimbas and shakers that my mother brought back from Africa, an upright piano from my grandparents, and an infamous Casio keyboard. That says a lot about my sonic DNA. The folk elements come from growing up listening to bluegrass, and all kinds of music, on the radio.”
Appling’s ideas about music are influenced by a degree in psychology but, while he was in college, he was also studying music theory. He began revisiting the multi-layered sounds he was creating on Acid Pro during high school and expanding upon them.
“I was a second year college student when I released my debut album, Soon It Will Be Cold Enough. I was performing at the Meridian Coffeehouse in Williamsburg and taking handmade CD-R’s to the post office every day. I was getting orders from around the world on my Myspace page. During my junior year, Hydeout Productions, a label in Japan, owned by the legendary producer Nujabes, contacted me. He released my album on his label. I got an offer to tour Japan just a few months after I graduated.”
After graduation and his Japanese tour, Appling moved to Portland, lured by the promise of a thriving electronic music scene. After relocating, he released four more albums, slowly evolving toward the sounds he created for Mountain of Memory. “To me, the music feels like a wave of memories, a geological archive of sounds. These songs were created layer by layer, each element a sedimentary piece of the bigger picture. The songs have become stronger over time, throughout various waves of creativity and entropy. There is a of feeling of building upon the past and looking toward the future. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Since that release, Appling has been musically active and releasing many collaborative albums with respected artists in his inner circle, such as CloZee, 9 Theory, Cloudchord, Asher Fulero, and most recently with his close friend and touring violinist Lapa. Appling says this of their album 11th Orbit, “We decided to write the album entirely in the realm of house music tempos, which opened up a lot of room for creative instrumentation. It was inspiring to explore new instruments, effects, and timbral combinations as we stacked, blended, and sifted layers of cosmic analog synthesizers, melodious tones, and acoustic instruments into these worlds of sound. The process of writing this album was different from previous projects of ours in that it is a from-the-ground-up fusion of our songwriting and production styles.”