by Dave Segal
on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 10:46 AM
Somehow it wasn't in Tuesday's initial announcement, but it has come to light that ambient-dub legends the Orb will also be performing at the 10th annual Decibel Festival. (That sound you hear in the distance is former Stranger tech guru Brian Geoghagan fainting.) Everyone needs to see the Orb at least once before shuffling off this mortal coil. With the unimpeachable Thomas Fehlmann in tow, it's sure to be an out-of-body experience.
by Dave Segal
on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 10:32 AM
World-class electronic-music/digital-arts festival Decibel this morning announced one-third of its 2013 lineup. The biggest news for many is Peter Hook & the Light performing the New Order albums Movement (1981) and Power, Corruption & Lies (1983) in their entirety. Other exciting names include Speedy J, Kyle Hall, ADULT., Shabazz Palaces, Cajmere, Shigeto, and Ben Klock. Seattle is also represented by 2012 StrangerGenius contenders THEESatisfaction, Vox Mod, Pezzner, and Lusine.
2013 marks Decibel's 10th anniversary, so expect director Sean Horton and co. to up the ante with regard to marquee artists. On June 4 and Aug. 6 they will announce further additions to the bill. Decibel takes place Sept. 25-29 at several Seattle venues.
The rest of the first wave of performers can be viewed here.
Read a message from Decibel founder/curator Horton after the jump.
Those who remember Portland's dub label Bucolic Sound Investigations (BSI) will be happy to learn that two of its key figures, Ezra Ereckson and Tracy Harrison, have launched a new dub label called Zam Zam. A taste of what's in store can be heard on this sample, which features dubs by Bristol's Rob Smith, one half of the groundbreaking duo Smith & Mighty...
Along with the heavy dubs come beautiful album covers...
by Dave Segal
on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 9:35 AM
I’m a pragmatic motherfucker who doesn’t like to raise my hopes overly high or adjust ’em too low. Overall, though, 2012 was a very good year for Data Breaker-y happenings. Decibel Festival alone provided enough highlights to keep even the surliest curmudgeon buzzin’ for weeks. But as this is The Stranger’s annual Regrets issue, we’re obligated to accentuate the negative. So here are the things that harshed my mellow this year (remind me never to use that phrase again.) Data Breaker regrets the following things:
Ill Cosby departing Seattle for Washington, DC. As regular readers know, Cos was an integral figure in Seattle’s electronic-music scene, running the globally renowned future-bass label Car Crash Set, DJing various forward-thinking nights around town, producing his own excellent tracks, webcasting on sub.fm, and promoting shows by artists who rarely made it to Seattle. You could argue that one’s residence doesn’t matter as much in the 21st-century world of interconnectedness, but Cos is also a contender for nicest guy in the world, so his presence is missed.
Decibel Festival lasting five days. This might be one of those cringe-worthy first-world problems, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Decibel seemed optimal at four days, and even then, the last night’s crowds looked like extras from a disaster movie. As Decibel appeared to have its most financially successful year yet in 2012, scaling back likely isn’t up for debate. Still, let’s plant that seed in Sean Horton and company’s collective brains.
Moebius is the pseydonym of Parisian realist, script writer, and comic book artist Jean Giraud. You may not recognize the name, but you've seen his work. His story concepts for films like Heavy Metal and Alien, his wordless adventure comic Arzach, his western comic series Blueberry, and his iconic "Parable" chapter of the Silver Surfer changed the face of science fiction storytelling over the last 40 years.
Vox Mod is the psuedonym of local, but otherworldly, electronica artist Scot Porter, who teamed up with his brother Kyle Porter (Lazer Kitty, The Walking Wounded) to complete their latest installment of their UnSound America Artist Series, which works as follows:
The Artist Series is an ongoing, revolving-door collaboration featuring core members of U/A including Kyle Porter, Vox Mod, and potentially many others. Each album is inspired by and dedicated to a particular visual artist. The process begins with one composer who completes their tracks as desired. This composer then hands their music off to a collaborator. The second person adds their own sounds, taking into account their own personal feelings on the subject matter and the original mix. The end result is a two-stage musical experience designed to expose our listeners to great works of art and the people behind them.
Humanoid is their (unauthorized) tribute to the artist who died earlier this year. It soars with cinematic feel, evincing the extra terrestrial vision Giraud executed so vividly in his oil paintings and illustrations. Vox Mod has hinted to the influence in his earlier works, naming a track "Moebius" on his 2011 work HAZMAT, but the effect is fully realized here in a six chapter series of songs that breath a soundtrack into Jean Giraud's work.
Check out the song "Arzach", originally a wordless comic that relied on illustrations alone to tell the story of a pterodactyl piloting truth seeker. Here the brothers have made escalating arpeggios float over a terrain of beats, and used careening whistle to simulate the feeling of flying, before landing softly on the next track.
by Dave Segal
on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Seattle's world-class electronic-music/digital-arts festival Decibel will take place at various venues Sept. 25-29, 2013. This will be the event's 10th anniversary. If current trends prevail, expect it to be the biggest and best one yet; 2012's dB had over 26,000 attendees, up from 2,500 in 2004. You can purchase discounted passes for $150 (before fees) here.
[Check out DJ Shadow's entire 2012 Decibel set from Showbox Sodo after the cut.]
The local producer Vox Mod has just released Capsule, a collection of beats that draw from contemporary, 90s, and 80s futurism. One beat, 'Neo-Tokyo Pt. 2' does, as Vox explained to me in an email, have the mood of "a dark sci-fi city much like Neo-Tokyo in Ghost In The Shell or Akira." Another beat, "Infinite In Formation," is cruelly short. "Hologram Ghost" is spooky funk. "Queue (Please Wait)" is cinema for a spaceship. "Let Go" is jazz for robots. "Collapse" transports us to the horizon of a massive galatic event. There's lots to enjoy and admire in this work.
On Friday I went on down to Belltown for the Ariel Pink & Friends Decibel showcase. I missed BODYGUARD, but got there just in time for DaM-FunK, which was pretty DaM boring (I KNOW what the little hat he puts on the 'a' means, I'm making that joke either way HA HA). He started off with some promising funkiness, but it turned out to be just repetitive repetitiveness forever, eternally, without end, etc. There WAS a keytar involved though, which did add some points! Always points for keytars!
I saw Ariel Pink having a cigarette outside before his show and really wanted to crack his back and give him some posture tips like an overbearing aunt—"You're so cute! You just need to stand up straight! You're going to be hunched over by the time you're 50!"
by Dave Segal
on Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 4:45 PM
Decibel’s fourth and fifth days couldn’t match its first three, and consequently I suffered from a severe aesthetic comedown, as well as general fatigue. (Will you please sign my petition to scale back Decibel to 4 days?). Still, here are some highlights and medlights [sic].
SATURDAY SEPT. 29 Nils Frahm stole the night, in many people’s ears. I missed the first part of his performance (Orcas’ technical problems with Broadway Performance Hall's infrastructure shifted the time slots; ultimately they never sorted them out and Orcas didn’t play), but he reportedly dazzled by drumming with two mallets on his piano’s body and innards. You could hear a pen click (that was me; sorry!) during Frahm’s gorgeous lyrical impressionism and crystalline melancholy motifs on piano and electric organ. His touch can be extremely feathery or violently percussive; no matter the approach, though, Frahm’s music is wholly inspirational. He provoked the most vigorous standing ovation and cheers I heard all festival.
Following Frahm’s breathtaking show, I flit between Q and Neumos, catching snippets of Dave Aju’s live set and Roman Flügel and Nina Kraviz’s DJ sets. The former’s off-center techno sounded good in Q, but one wished for higher definition to the high and low ends. What I heard of Flügel and Kraviz’s selections was solid, but only catching the early stages of their stints didn’t allow for any definitive conclusions. Matthew Dear’s live performance at Showbox at the Market was beckoning.
Matthew Dear and his three band members looked debonair as hell in black suits, and Dear proved himself to be an exceptional tambourine player. He also wielded guitar and sang like a romantic pop crooner with a range/tone similar to Kevin Ayers and Bill Callahan. (A laptop was kept discreetly off to the side.) The drums were banging and the songs were catchy, leaning heavily on the new Beams and Black City. I prefer Dear in purist techno mode, though, so this show didn’t really move me. It sounded like INXS, if they were really, really good.
Canadian composer Dan Snaith is the maestro behind the icy/ass-shaking synthesis that is Caribou, a live instrumentation, downer disco, psychedelic band/project who have always worn his deeply ingrained electronica DJ ways on their sleeve.
In 2011 Dan began working under the moniker Daphni, an entirely electronic effort that captures more clearly the world beat influences that lay just beneath the surfaces of Caribou's live percussion and keys.
His new album JIAOLONG is available to stream in its entirety for the first time over at Resident Advisor .
Heavy, sustained cello samples clamor with robot winces, claps, and every percussion instrument available on a drum package, from bongos to timbales. The distorted beats become so baptized in their own holy spirit, they break out in sparse vocal sample chants like “Ye-ye-ye.” At times, it’s like a Caribou album played through cheap, tinny computer speakers—that somehow improves their sound—and at others it’s the trance inducing ritual of a tribe of trogloxenes, confined to the darkness of the club, guided by the light of the laser machine, and sustained by the rave cave's slinky, bottomless beats.
Perhaphs my expectations were too high for Decibel Festival’s XLR8R showcase. With the crushing blow of the removal of British sample savant Actress from the bill due to visa complications, I was already let down before the show began. Things got better when some friends from out of town joined the caravan. We made our way into the city talking about Craig Johnson Records, Joe McPhee Music (Seattle shit, natch), Vancouver Jazz festivals gone by, and bop and acid jazz greats like Pharoah Sanders and Elvin Jones shows we were lucky enough to catch years ago.
The DJ set in the car ran from Dead Meadow to The Surfaris, and even some Greh Kihn band for good measure. Everyone was primed for something good.
This is Boe Oddisey of The Boe Oddisey Scarf Dance and Art Company. Boe was basking and doling to the J Rocc, Dam-Funk, Nosaj Thing, and Supreme La Rock of the Decibel Do-Over in the sun at the Broadway Performance Hall Plaza. Boe came to Seattle from Bremerton in 1971. He says, “Celebrate and seize the day.” Boe gives out hugs, and art, and is available for private parties. I love Boe. He’s a beautiful addition to our city. He says, “All fan mail welcomed at PMB B40, 1463 E. Republican St, Seattle, WA, 98102. Exotic and/or all age scarf dancing, comedy, abstract, acrylic painting, massage for you. Clean, sober, tobacco free, vegan option on life. Just do it. The time is now. We are here.”
by Dave Segal
on Sat, Sep 29, 2012 at 3:54 PM
Some incredible shit went down Friday at Decibel. Some of it sounded like this.
BIOSPHERE @ BROADWAY PERFORMANCE HALL Honestly, Biosphere (Norway’s Geir Jenssen) put on a more varied, dynamic show at last year’s Substrata. His set last night wasn’t bad by any means, but the first track’s rhythm remained unvarying for about 15 minutes. Don't get me wrong, it was a fine rhythm (tom/2 kicks & 4 cymbal taps), but some changes wouldn’t have gone amiss. Like a masterly soundtrack composer, Biosphere increased the tension of his teeming, momentous drones in subtle increments. There was something almost classically Hollywood about the suspenseful atmospheres and melancholy grandeur of much of Biosphere’s performance. Toward the end, things became more limpidly ambient until a chilling synth part came in, sounding like Bernard Herrmann’s shrieking strings from Psycho flattened into a monotone EEEEEEEE. Aaaand scene…
ELEH @ BROADWAY PERFORMANCE HALL Eleh is cloaked in mystery. His identity is known only to a select circle of initiates. His music is so minimal, it makes Pan_sonic sound like ELP. Last night, he sat on the floor in the dark, his back to the audience, as he caressed a keyboard and tinkered with a Serge modular synthesizer that looked like it was shipped straight from Morton Subotnick’s studio ca. 1968. (Thank Allah Eleh wasn’t playing yet another fucking silver Mac.) Eleh began with keening, wispy tones that curled over a perpetual, faint universal 60-hz hum. Eventually, booming bass belches, methodically spaced, issued like a belligerent household appliance rebelling against its duties. This was followed by a fluctuating bass tone that felt like a blanket sweeping over you and tucking you in for your eternal dirt nap. Par-TAY. The epitome of an anti-personality, Eleh got up and walked offstage without acknowledging the crowd, as his sound continued to was and wane. Soon after, the lights went on. The end.
EMPTYSET @ MELROSE MARKET STUDIOS If you thought nothing could top Thursday’s Modern Love Records showcase (mea culpa), Emptyset kind of proved you wrong at the Raster-Noton showcase. (Raster-Noton has been one of the best labels on the planet since 1999.) The British duo played techno that belonged in an S&M grindhouse, its vicious tones and vengeful beats meting out punishment for the sheer glee of it. Machismo played a role in this music, but it didn’t come off as obnoxious, even at its most militaristic (beats going off like artillery). Emptyset’s heavy, maximal tekno bore some of the most obese kickdrums ever to give speakers embolisms. At times, their brutalist, abstractions recalled Fred Bigot’s bass-intensive slugfests. At others, the tempo picked up to a swift yet still massively heavy cruising speed, augmented by crazy, serrated, mechanized textures. Often you felt like you were in the presence of an megalomaniacal automaton. Frequently you felt like you were in an abattoir—or a war. “That was original,” someone said afterward. Um, yeah.
The bass in mix for Erykah Badu and the Cannabinoids at the Paramount Theater was overpowering, and there were 17 laptops onstage. Actually I counted seven, with one of the Cannabinoids regularly pressing the “wind chime” button. On the floor, toward the rear of the Fabergé confines of the Paramount, the sound was a swampy mess. Reports from the balcony were that the bass overpowered up there as well. Her vocals were completely indiscernible, washed in realms of reverb and delay, but she still owned it powerfully. In the live context of her show with the Cannabinoids, Badu’s voice slots in more as an instrument, so understanding every word isn’t what I think she’s going for anyway. Highpoint was a Flying Lotus number off Until the Quiet Comes out October 2 in the US. Occasionally she palmed at a drum pad (hello bass) to her left, (with a brain to her right) sometimes topping off the plain of the song with a hand-tied 808 flurry. Projections sailed through seas of animated ganglia and Tron-world dolly shots of the pyramids. Songs mostly stayed on their own mid to down tempo flight paths with few key changes, and when they touched down, for my ears, the bass just overtook too much. It was one of those shows that seemed to drain, not charge. I love Erykah Badu, though; she can do no wrong. Maybe I should have been stoned. (Brain picture after jump.)
It's to the advantage of artists and audiences alike that Decibel discourages flash photography and limits picture-taking to the first three songs of each set (there might be exceptions, but those were the basic rules laid out in the press logistics mailing). It's also why the photos below aren't all that great, but at least you get the gist of Brooklyn's Julianna Barwick and London's Maria Minerva, who both performed solo at the Triple Door as part of the Optical 2: Ascension showcase (I wasn't able to catch Lulacruza and Anenon, who rounded out the bill).
by Dave Segal
on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 4:45 PM
Stranger photographer Jack Newton snapped some sweet pics of Orbital last night at the Paramount. A friend who went said he left after 30 minutes because Orbital sounded "too normal." What's your take?
by Dave Segal
on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 3:42 PM
Last night, my little slice of Decibel was so intense and amazing. It went something like this…
MARIA MINERVA @ TRIPLE DOOR Maria Minerva looked like she was dressed to perform some modern dance, but instead she (wo)manned her gear with one hand and gripped the mic in the other. With these rudimentary tools, she enchanted a sedate crowd at Triple Door, a venue that always seems too posh for the music I go there to hear. Minerva slung her voice like a lasso, flamboyantly swooping up and down her register while coaxing distorted keyboard ululations. Her set largely explored a languid sort of dub and electronic pop hybrid, but sometimes diverged into deep drone zones, sculpted airplane-engine roar, lopsided house music, midtempo funk, and, during the last track, a Moog-like babble that evoked Mort Garson, Dick Hyman, and Gershon Kingsley. Lots of people were leaving throughout the performance (probably to see Orbital, who, according to reports I heard, were weak). Bad choice, people.
DJAO @ BARBOZA I will keep saying this until it happens (or it doesn’t): Local producer DJAO (aka Alex Osuch) is going to blow up, any year now. He led off the Dropping Gems showcase with a masterly set of slow-your-roll hiphop/future bass spectrality that had the crowd transfixed. DJAO contrasted ocean-floor bass pressure with ethereal tone impressionism and angelic croons (his own) to stunningly beautiful and yearning effect. And as the sole practitioner of Chiltonwave™, he scropped and chewed Big Star’s “Thirteen” until it gradually deliquesced into a pool of molasses-y loveliness. DUG DJ Jon François said, “I like [DJAO’s music] because I feel like I’m alone when I’m listening to it, even in a club.” Achieving that sort of intimacy is a special skill.
CUT HANDS @ MELROSE MARKET STUDIOS I hate to be that guy, but if you missed the Modern Love Records showcase at MMS, you fucked up, badly. Cut Hands (William Bennett of Whitehouse, looking like your favorite humanities professor) unleashed a sadistic rhythm orgy, a relentless barrage of percussion and flayed frequencies, for a little over an hour. It was one of the most intense sets I’ve seen at Decibel, and I’ve been going since year 1. Cut Hands’ most recent album is titled Afro Noise, and that’s what the man delivered. An iconoclastic Caucasian Brit messing around with Ghanaian and Congolese rhythms risks accusations of cultural colonialism, but fuck, this shit sounds phenomenal, so loosen up, Mr. Politically Correct. Bennett, now in his 50s, danced feverishly to his own clattering madness, an elephant stampede of kick/kettle drums—or maybe frame drums the size of a satellite dish? Whatever they were, they left you dazed and contused. Frequent metallic tonalities clanged like gangbusters and drums progressively became more weapon-like as the night wore on. You couldn't help feeling thoroughly pummeled. So damn primal...
by Dave Segal
on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 10:20 AM
Motor City Masters, Fri Sept 28, 9 pm, Showbox at the Market: Detroit techno's eternal importance to electronic music gets reiterated with performances by Carl Craig (aka 69, the most talented of the second wave of Motor City producer/DJs along with Jeff Mills and Rob Hood), Octave One (old-school, soulful trackmakers who remain relevant today), and former Seattleite/ex-Detroiter Jerry Abstract, whose DJ sets tap into the hardest and best specimens from back in the day and right now.
Raster-Noton Showcase, Fri Sept 28, 10:30 pm, Melrose Market Studios: Raster-Noton is the damn-near-infallible German experimental-electronic label. Its artists' highbrow aural emanations and severe, geometric visual accompaniments have yielded legendary results at past Decibel and MUTEK fests. Byetone and Kangding Ray bring a shocking rhythmic vitality to R-N's patented op-art minimalism and bleepy pointillism. These eggheads' tracks will stun you with their funkiness and danceability. Emptyset makes minimal techno that's coated in tar and throbbing with primeval vengefulness. Charles Bronson would love it.
Optical 3: Touch 30, Fri Sept 28, 7 pm, Broadway Performance Hall: On this bill of elite atmosphere conjurers, the most intriguing figure is Eleh. This enigma creates some of the most tabula-rasa'd drone that ever droned you into the Zen zone. With Jon Wozencroft, Biosphere, the Sight Below, lissom, and Leo Mayberry.
XLR8R Presents, Fri Sept 28, 9 pm, Baltic Room: The music on Actress's three scintillating albums slithers among pre- and post-dubstep genres with slick friction. Strange textures, eerily beautiful atmospheres, and coiled rhythms send you down fascinating and surprising alleyways. With Gulls, Teengirl Fantasy, and Ghosts on Tape.
by Dave Segal
on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 9:48 AM
This afternoon from 2 to 3 at Broadway Performance Hall I'll be participating in a panel discussion about getting coverage in the media, festivals, and retail outlets. Joining me on this Decibel Festival-sanctioned panel will be Darek Mazzone (KEXP), Shawn Reynaldo (XLR8R), Alain Mongeau (MUTEK), Andrew Ryce (Resident Advisor), and Rachel Gibbs (music curator for Victoria's Secret). If you're a musician who's looking for tips on how to get more exposure (and revenue), you may want to attend. More information here.