by Dave Segal
on Tue, Sep 30, 2008 at 5:10 PM
Sean Horton, Decibel Fest director. Photo by Sami Khoury.
UPDATE: See additional photos below.
Youve heard Eric and me blather on at some length about Decibel Fest on this blog; now absorb what fest founder/director Sean Horton thought about it.
I asked Horton about attendance figures, but those arent available yet. However, he said, the following showcases hit capacity and were massively successful this year.
dB in the Park (easily a 1,000 people through the day, which was what we were permitted for)
dB Afterhours (Friday and Saturday at CoB)
Horton cited the following showcases as personal artist highlights (with comments in parentheses), adding that he sadly "missed several acts that I heard were mind blowing."
Carl Craig (Perfect mixture of old and new house/techno. Favorite set at Neumos.) Dixon (Favorite DJ set of the festival.) Flying Lotus (Most animated performer of the festival and incredibly nice guy to boot) Helios (One of the most talented producers and performers we've had at the festival. Highlight of the ambient showcase for me.) Santiago & Bushido (Totally outshined Deadmau5, IMO.)
dB in the Park (The entire showcase was inspiring as well as eclectic. Def will be bringing this back in 2009 and possibly extending it.) Cubenx (Best surprise of the festival.) Balún (Next to Cubenx, 2nd best surprise.) Stewart Walker (One of the best live dance PAs of the entire festival.) The Sight Below (Absolutely gorgeous.) Deaf Center (My 2nd favorite performance of the ambient showcase. haunting and beautiful.) KiloWatts (Only act I caught from the Native State showcase. One of the most underrated producers in NA.)
"No real disappointments this year," Horton added. "Wish I could've caught the OPTICAL showcases, bRAVE NEW WOLRD, dB BBQ and more of Sole Repair and Baltic Room. Really sad I missed Jahcoozi, but I was performing at the same time across the street."
Irritating, fruitless cash-ins to the '90s Big Beat success, these are the same people who milked the formula inside bog-standard rhythms and the most hollow theatrics in dance music without ever wondering why they couldn't get any of it right. And here they are missing the point again.
As election time nears, THE CRYSTAL METHODwho are Ken Jordan and Scott Kirklandhave remade the song utilizing a sample of Obamas Now is the time statement from his speech.
The Crystal Method, though, are the Alan Keyes to the Chemical Brothers' Barack Obama.
None of the charisma, none of the talent -- a bad cover version -- but thrown into the face of the public in the Senate race of 2004 by a political party that thought people wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
In 1994, THE CRYSTAL METHOD released their first single Now Is The Time which sampled the title, a prominent slogan of the 1960s civil rights movement. More than a decade later, the same slogan was used throughout Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obamas speech at the Democratic convention held in Denver, CO last month.
As election time nears, THE CRYSTAL METHODwho are Ken Jordan and Scott Kirklandhave remade the song utilizing a sample of Obamas Now is the time statement from his speech. Fans will be able to obtain the song as a free download through The Crystal Methods website at: www.thecrystalmethod.com. Corresponding artwork for the song by Shepard Fairey, a revision of his popular Obama portrait logo, can also be viewed at the site.
Like 38 million other Americans, we were transfixed listening to Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. It reminded us of the creative process we went through all those years ago, listening to samples of inspiring old civil rights speeches and creating the original Now Is Time," states THE CRYSTAL METHOD. We don't often revisit old songs but we've been spending so much time looking forward as we work on our new album it seemed appropriate to take a minute to look back at the beginning. Plus, right now no American could be hurt by hearing another inspiring message, whether it's on the morning news or at the club later that night. This is a song we just want people to hear.
The original, you may recall, sampled Rev Jesse Jackson.
Update: Just to clear up any confusion, this is a laughably cheap retread of an already cheesy would-be rave anthem, but you should still vote for Obama.
(Tractor) Is it heretical to like Hater more than Soundgarden? I don't care. A psych-garage unit featuring the 'Garden's Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron, and Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain, Hater put out an undersung self-titled gem in 1993, right before Superunknown blew up. The album ranges from delicately gorgeous folk meditations ("Lion and Lamb") to fuzzy, clenched Cat Stevens covers ("Mona Bone Jakon") to brawny ballads ("Roadside") to ill-tempered garage pop ("Circles," "Who Do I Kill?"). The three principals later formed the similarly inclined Wellwater Conspiracy and also recorded Hater's sophomore full-length in 1995 (The 2nd, unreleased until 2005), but their profile has remained low for over a decade. A pity the same can't be said for Chris Cornell. DAVE SEGAL
All the rest of tonight's events can, as always, be found here.
by Jeff Kirby
on Tue, Sep 30, 2008 at 12:28 PM
Sure, there's supposed to be one more day of nice weather before the rain comes in, but if youre so inclined you can jumpstart your impending seasonal affective disorder by watching the new Antony and the Johnsons video for Another World. Only Antony could take modern dance, something I have never once in my life thought of as anything but silly and hilarious, and make it sad and pretty. Antony was put on this world to make people think twice about their happiness. Its incredible really - he can even take an upbeat song like the one he sang for Hercules and Love Affair and make it a downer. The video for Another World could have been set to anything cheerful hot air balloons, dogs tussling in a grassy field, a childs birthday party and Antonys heartbreaking warble would have transformed them into scenes of despair. That balloon is going to crash into a mountain. Those dogs are actually trying to eat each other. Those kids will never really know what love is.
The Another World EP is out 10/6 on Secretly Canadian. This song is also the first single for his upcoming full length The Crying Light, due in January.
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- For five years, Apple's iTunes Music Store has been the Internet's most successful music store. But now that music publishers are seeking a higher share of its proceeds, Apple is threatening to shutter iTunes.
The Copyright Royalty Board in Washington, D.C. is expected to rule Thursday on a request by the National Music Publishers' Association to increase royalty rates paid to its members on songs purchased from online music stores like iTunes. The publishers association wants rates raised from 9 cents to 15 cents a track - a 66% hike.
Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) declined to discuss the board's pending decision. But it adamantly opposes the publishers' request. In a statement submitted to the board last year, iTunes vice president Eddy Cue said Apple might close its download store rather than raise its 99 cents a song price or absorb the higher royalty costs.
"If the [iTunes music store] was forced to absorb any increase in the ... royalty rate, the result would be to significantly increase the likelihood of the store operating at a financial loss - which is no alternative at all," Cue wrote. "Apple has repeatedly made it clear that it is in this business to make money, and most likely would not continue to operate [the iTunes music store] if it were no longer possible to do so profitably."
The Copyright Royalty Board is a three-judge panel that oversees statutory licenses granted under federal copyright law. That includes setting royalty rates for music sales. The current proceeding followed the expiration last year of a 1997 decision that had governed sales of so-called physical music products like CDs for a decade. The board's forthcoming decision, its first affecting digital sales, will set royalty rates for the next five years.
It's hard to believe that Apple will actually shut down iTunes if it doesn't get its way. Apple has shrewdly used the store to help sell iPods, its most popular product. Before the computer manufacturer opened the store in 2003, there was virtually no place for iPod owners to purchase digital music on the Internet. So iTunes helped grow the market for the device by appealing to people who didn't want to patronize illegal file-sharing services and risk a music industry lawsuit.
Publishers don't seem to be buying the bluff either.
They argue that the digital music market is growing and that they should get a higher rate because all parties in this squabble will ultimately prosper. "I think we established a case for an increase in the royalties," said David Israelite, president of the National Music Publishers Association.
Israelite said he opposed any attempt by companies like Apple and its record label allies to do away with the fixed royalty rate. "Apple may want to sell songs cheaply to sell iPods," he said. "We don't make a penny on the sale of an iPod."
by Dave Segal
on Mon, Sep 29, 2008 at 3:10 PM
I cosign on what Eric said about Randy Jones/Caro and will add that hes one of the most unlikely-looking soul men working today. And that he achieves the remarkable feat of making house music sound fresh in 2008. And that he probably has an amazing cosmic-disco EP (at least) in him.
Detroits Jeremy Ellis surprised the hell out of me with one of the most enjoyable sets of this years Decibel. While I dont have the same qualms about Ellis voice as does Mr. Grandy, it is the least impressive aspect of his skill set. Besides the discussed mad MPC abilities and beat construction Ellis displays in real time, hes also a deft keyboardist with enough soul to play with Parliament-Funkadelic member Larry Fratangelo and Carl Craig. Another thing that marks Ellis as a huge talent is his gift for imaginatively arranged cover versions. He played revamped renditions of Princes Nothing Compares 2 U, Hot Butters Popcorn, James Browns Mother Popcorn, and John Coltranes A Love Supreme, all of which made you appreciate those classics in a new light. Plus, he paid extended homage to the late, legendary hiphop producer J Dilla. During Ellis set, a respected Seattle techno producer astutely noted, Somebodys going to get their fuck on if he keeps this up.
Later that night at Neumos, the Decibel Finale got off to a lovely start with Mexicos Fax (Ruben Tamayo). Using guitar, laptop, and effects, Fax launched My Bloody Valentinesque plumes of lavender fuzz tones and alternately languorous dub and brisk techno beats. The bulk of Faxs set blurred shoegaze rock into dubby techno, and the result was music of understated exhilaration.
Winnetka, Californias Flying Lotus, by contrast, brought a post-Dilla jaggedness to instrumental hiphop, informed both by IDMs scabrous textures and astral jazzs lofty atmospheres. And he brough some heavy, heavy funk. Amid his own tracks from Los Angeles and new cuts, FlyLo dropped Lil Waynes A Milli, something by Kode9, and that TI$A/Daedelus song with the refrain, fuck what ya mama say/Ima vote Obama way. As much as the crowd dug it, nobody is more into Flying Lotus music than Flying Lotushe really radiates an infectious glee behind his PowerBook.
The Bug (London producer Kevin Martin) done fucked my mindand probably my very atomssomething fierce. His apocalyptic bass pressure battered and fried me like so much human tempura. Martin essentially turned the entire venue into a vibrator. The material off London Zoo had incredible torque and the beats carried a crushing force. While the heavily FXd rewinds that punctuated every (truncated) track got on some attendees nerves, I couldve listened to that rippling, bleepy sound for hours. When Warrior Queen got on the mic, her rapid patois upped the energy level. I couldnt understand a word she saiduntil, crazily enough, she started rapping in Spanish. The Bugs dubhall/grimestep assault wasnt everyones cup of hemlock, but no one could deny that this set stood apart from the rest of Decibel like a nuclear missile among Colt .45s.
Neumos emptied a bit after the Bug finished (maybe to catch Noah Pred, who inspired several texts to the effect that he was killing it), but SupermayerKompakt Records mainstays Superpitcher and Michael Mayer, playing vinyl and CDspatiently built up the dance floor again with some Mr. Oizo, House Master Boyz House Nation, Lindstrøms I Feel Space, and some funky techno tracks and sweet cosmic/kitsch disco cuts. This wasnt the devastating climax that past Decibels delivered, but it felt celebratory nonetheless. Director Sean Hortons traditional closing speech didnt happen (he reportedly lost his voice) and the lights went up around 2 am. People walked around dazed and smiling, some scheming about the afterhours gig with yet more Supermayer action, others angling toward their beds or perhaps the hospital (thanks to the Bug).
Decibel v.05 provided many indelible memories, plus some deep regrets from the amazing shit I missed. Sean Horton again went all out to book a diverse, high-quality lineup and make Seattleover the past four days/nightsthe epicenter of electronic music in America. He and his able crew of volunteers deserve utmost respect (and, one hopes, some financial reward) for their strenuous efforts.
By the time last night's big Decibel Finale at Neumos rolled around, I was in serious need of a second (or fourth, or fifth) wind. I eventually got back into it, but it took until the very last act of the night.
Which isn't to say the opening acts were sub par by any means. Flying Lotus played a set of immaculate hip hop instrumentals surrounded by dubby effects, gunshots, and Wilhelm screams. Steven Ellison (aka Flying Lotus) rocked back and forth, bobbed his head, and flashed a wide, open-mouthed grin throughout his set (according to some laptop spotters, he didn't do much else though, only tweak effects while a pre-planned set played out.) That grin, though, was hard not to rally behind. Ellison played Mr. Oizo's "Stunt" as well as possible another Oizo track; he played his Robo Tussin remix of Lil Wayne's "A Milli," Daedelus' "Hours:Minutes:Seconds," Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker," and TI$A's "Vote Obama Way"all fused together with his own instrumentals, warped to his own style. For the Obama track, he tried and largely failed to involve the crowd in some call and response; Seattle or perhaps just Decibel crowds not so much feeling the call and response this weekend. Still, he maybe had the biggest, most obviously enthused crowd of the night.
I missed the first half of the Bug's set, which sounds as though it was somewhat marred by Kevin Martin's far too frequent rewinds on the CD decks (a staple of the style, sure, but apparently he was spinning tracks back after only 30 seconds or so). By the time I arrived, though, MC Warrior Queen was on stage, and Martin was providing her with minutes of music at a time. I've had trouble with patois before, but I think Warrior Queen was harder to translate thanks to some extra fiery craziness on her part. She kept talking about doing a song for "all da real man in da house," but Martin either wasn't into it or couldn't find the right track, so that the song was introduced and diverted multiple times before finally landing. She rapped in Jamaican accented Spanish. She called for the legalization of marijuana (shock horror). Dancehall, even of this digitally distressed variety, isn't exactly my scene, but Warrior Queen was an entertaining MC, and more importantly Martin's bass was just unbelievable, probably the heaviest rumble of the whole festival.
But it was Supermayer who really got my spirits back up for one last dance at Decibel (much of the crowd, though, took off after the Bug; either Supermayer don't have the same level of hype as the previous two acts, or else people just had to work the next morning). The duo, looking elegantly elfin as always, entered to orchestral fanfare and started their set with a Mr. Oizo song (was yesterday his birthday or does he just make universally beloved tracks?), all analog synth bass and beat, and they kept things simple like that for some time, hard, thumping beats with truly minimal action in the spaces between. I suppose I had expected them to hit more of the fey disco acoustics of Save the World or their recent killer remix of Hot Chip's "One Pure Thought," but this was much more like Speicher territorythey played Sascha Funke, possibly Closer Musik, and "House Nation," all in this vein. They took turns selecting and mixing records and maybe CDS, and when either of them wasn't busy DJing, they were lithely dancing, Superpitcher sometimes waving his hands around as though beckoning or hypnotizing the crowd. It's cute. After a seemingly interminable, drum-less breakdown lit by monolithic strobe light, they finally got into some more euro disco territory with Baxendale's epically cheesy "I Built This City For You" and a dub of the Foals' "Olympic Airways." They played on after the club brought the lights on, and the crowd kept dancing.
Afterwards, there was a private party for the Decibel staff, volunteers, artists, and whatever press could beg their way in. A lot of people do a lot of work to make this festival happen, many of them as volunteers, and it was great to see everyone finally unwinding, happy in a job well done. It was maybe the first time I saw Sean Horton looking relaxed and dancing all weekend. Earlier in the festival, a friend observed that Decibel is great because it makes you feel, for a weekend, like you live in some other city (one Decibel built for you, I suppose), where the parties go all weekend, full of people from different places with different foreign accents, headlined by high-caliber international artists. With each year's increasingly successful Decibel run, though, one imagines it feeling less like a departure for Seattle and more like a part of its regular fabric. Here's hoping.
A Moment of Drive-By Synchronization that Spun the Earth
Driving North past the bus stop on Rainier Ave. under the I-90 overpass, I saw a man yawning. He was seated, waiting for the bus. It was one of those all consuming yawns. He was a hefty Asian chef with silver slicked back hair. His head was tilted back, eyes were closed, and his apron was still on.
Stevie Nicks Edge of Seventeen was playing on the radio in my car. Just like the white winged dove sings a song, sounds like shes singing / Ooo baby... ooo, said ooo.
As I drove by the bus stop, the mans yawn coincided exactly with the end of the songs fourth of fifth verse. Stevie sings a long oooooaaaaaaahhh. The timing of the yawn perfectly matched the singing and the mouth movement of the oooooaaaaaaahhh. The guy couldnt have tried to match it any more perfectly.
A hemisphere of realization came over me and I knew I was alive. Too much alignment was there for the instant to have occurred by chance.
Seven thats: That song on that radio station, during that part, driving by that well lit bus stop? That man sitting there, happening to yawn at that moment, with identical mouth movements and duration to the singing of that of the part in the song?
It may have only lasted for three seconds, but it cracked me on the head.
Sometimes the littlest things have the largest resonance.
It may have only lasted for three seconds, but for those three seconds, it spun the earth.
Saturday's Decibel in the Park may go down as the single coolest event of this year's festnot necessarily the best sets, or the wildest party, but just a really great time. In similar spirit, but with sunny parking lot asphalt instead of grassy lawn, was Sunday's Decibel BBQ. Hosted by Sun Tzu in the Havana parking lot, with chicken or brisket (and sides) for sale along with drinks, the event was a fine way to ease into another day of Decibel (in fact, the one complaint I heard at Decibel in the Park was that there should have been food vendors). It was sparsely attended for Kid Hops' enthusiastic set of sunny dubafter some weakly realized "whoa-oh-oh/yeah" call and response Kid Hops asked over the PA if Dixon had really killed it so hard at the previous night's afterparty that we all just couldn't even talk. Basically, yeah.
The place began filling up a bit for Caro, though. I hadn't seen Caro (aka Randy Jones) for a while, and either he's become really impressive in that time or I just wasn't paying close enough attention before. Jones played lightly buzzing electric piano, a miniature analogue synth (Yamaha CS-01 for the nerds), and laptop. He sang in an overdriven, slightly clipping funk croon. He built rhythmic loops out cowbell, shakers, and his own ohs, ahs, grunts, and exhalations. As one breakdown gave way again to a thumping beat, he deadpanned, "C'mon now," to the slowly warming, moving crowd. It was a great set, combining a touch of Jamie Lidell's vocal tics and live looping with Matthew Dear grooves. He played some new stuff, and apparently he's at work on another album; based on today's performance, I predict that record will be ace.
Next up was Jeremy Ellis, wearing a pale yellow cotton suit and a black leather cap out of which emerged a long red ponytail. Make no mistake, Ellis has some fancy fingers when it comes to the MPC, tapping out busy improvised break beats and drum fills with real skill, as well as summoning up samples and bass and melodies. It was like watching some savant playing Simon. I've previously praised local ER Don's facility with the ubiquitous sampler, but Ellis is in an entirely different league here (although the bit where Ellis plays the MPC with his chin just doesn't look as bad-ass as, say, playing guitar with your teethsorry). That said, every time he got on the mic to do some ska scatting or sing a pinched, "soulful" version of "Nothing Compares 2 U" I wanted him to stop. Technically, he's tuneful and skilled on the mic as well, but his style there is just not my bag by a long shot. Still, the music was fine, ranging from soul bounce to loping reggae loops to a drum filled finale that sounded like he had the entire JBs and James Brown in his sampler, which he very well may have.
Sun Tzu did their thing next, combining funky house with live congas and the occasional spot on the mic with the kind of easy skill that has made them an institution around here. It was a perfect way to wrap up the BBQbreezy, fun, and groovy enough to get the crowd loosened up for the night's big finale at Neumos.