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Monday, September 29, 2008

Decibel Festival v.05, Night 4

posted by on September 29 at 15:10 PM

I cosign on what Eric said about Randy Jones/Caro and will add that he’s 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.

Detroit’s Jeremy Ellis surprised the hell out of me with one of the most enjoyable sets of this year’s Decibel. While I don’t 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, he’s 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 Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Hot Butter’s “Popcorn,” James Brown’s “Mother Popcorn,” and John Coltrane’s “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, “Somebody’s 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 Mexico’s 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 Fax’s set blurred shoegaze rock into dubby techno, and the result was music of understated exhilaration.

Winnetka, California’s Flying Lotus, by contrast, brought a post-Dilla jaggedness to instrumental hiphop, informed both by IDM’s scabrous textures and astral jazz’s lofty atmospheres. And he brough some heavy, heavy funk. Amid his own tracks from Los Angeles and new cuts, FlyLo dropped Lil Wayne’s “A Milli,” something by Kode9, and that TI$A/Daedelus song with the refrain, “fuck what ya mama say/I’ma vote Obama way.” As much as the crowd dug it, nobody is more into Flying Lotus’ music than Flying Lotus—he really radiates an infectious glee behind his PowerBook.

The Bug’s Warrior Queen finds a real man at the Decibel Finale. Photo by Ken Roeder of Soulful Elements Photography.

The Bug (London producer Kevin Martin) done fucked my mind—and probably my very atoms—something 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 FX’d rewinds that punctuated every (truncated) track got on some attendees’ nerves, I could’ve listened to that rippling, bleepy sound for hours. When Warrior Queen got on the mic, her rapid patois upped the energy level. I couldn’t understand a word she said—until, crazily enough, she started rapping in Spanish. The Bug’s dubhall/grimestep assault wasn’t everyone’s 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 Supermayer—Kompakt Records mainstays Superpitcher and Michael Mayer, playing vinyl and CDs—patiently built up the dance floor again with some Mr. Oizo, House Master Boyz’ “House Nation,” Lindstrřm’s “I Feel Space,” and some funky techno tracks and sweet cosmic/kitsch disco cuts. This wasn’t the devastating climax that past Decibels delivered, but it felt celebratory nonetheless. Director Sean Horton’s traditional closing speech didn’t 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 Seattle—over the past four days/nights—the 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.

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