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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Decibel Fest Director Recounts His Highlights

posted by on September 30 at 5:10 PM

Sean Horton, Decibel Fest director. Photo by Sami Khoury.

UPDATE: See additional photos below.

You’ve 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 aren’t available yet. However, he said, “the following showcases hit capacity and were massively successful this year.”

Native State
dB in the Park (easily a 1,000 people through the day, which was what we were permitted for)
Dirty Dancing
Detroit Techno
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."

Flying Lotus. Photo by Donte Parks.

Supermayer. Photo by Donte Parks.

Balún. Photo by Nathan Feder.

Santiago y Bushido. Photo by Nathan Feder.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Decibel Festival v.05, Night 4

posted by on September 29 at 3:10 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,” Lindstrøm’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.

Decibel Finale: Flying Lotus, the Bug, Supermayer

posted by on September 29 at 12:50 PM

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.

decbugjpg.jpgThe Bug by Ken Roeder, Soulful Elements Photography

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.

Unknown.jpgSupermayer by Ken Roeder, Soulful Elements Photography

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 territory—they 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.

Decibel BBQ

posted by on September 29 at 10:43 AM

Havana%20BBQ-2%A9%20Brian%20Geoghagan.jpgSun Tzu photo by Brian Geoghagan

Saturday's Decibel in the Park may go down as the single coolest event of this year's fest—not 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 dub—after 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 teeth—sorry). 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 BBQ—breezy, fun, and groovy enough to get the crowd loosened up for the night's big finale at Neumos.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Decibel: The Sight Below, Audion, Carl Craig

posted by on September 28 at 1:53 PM

2895472379_a5cf7192c0.jpgCarl Craig photo by Jeanine Anderson from the Strangr Flickr pool

Seattle local and new Ghostly signee The Sight Below got off to a late start at the Baltic Room's Ghostly International showcase last night, which already had a line out the door at 9:30. Once he got started, though, it was sweet—slow motion, television tube distorted video clips looping above his head while he drew washes off smeared guitar sounds and minimal beats out of his laptops. The comparison that's coming up most with this act is the Field, and while there are some similarities to their dreamy, shoegazy sounds, their methods and their results are markedly different. Where the Field builds his ambiences out of discrete, finely-chopped microsamples, the Sight Below generates his using guitars and pedals, leading to one indistinguishable mass of sound just punctuated by bass, kick drums, and hi-hats. The Field is pointilist, creating the illusion of a constant sound by getting your ears to fill in the blanks, while the Sight Below is impressionist, blurring sounds together with no space left over to fill in. It was a good show to start the evening with, as conducive to spacing out as it was mildly warming to the dance floor.

Up at Neumos, Audion took over from Orlando Voorn, who left him with some low volume loop (and one sudden, jarring stab of sound), practically dead air and hard to tell if it was the tail end of Voorn's set or just some fiddling around between sets music. In any case, Audion had to bring the room up from almost nothing to peak hour, and his set was sensibly one long, unfurling build-up, starting with the more minimal sound typical of Audion's most recent releases and transitioning into harder and more acidic material in the end. The set did its job, stirring the dance floor in anticipation of Carl Craig, but I think it peaked early during a passage where a vocal sample saying, "Burn it down" looped just off time with Audion's bass pulse, beats, and synth lines.

Carl Craig took the stage to some big, bombastic classical fanfare. He dropped the beat and his set was instantly on 10, jumping right into peak hour thump with no delay and staying there for the entirety of his set. He played "Spastik" and "the Bells" and a lot of techier tracks in the first half of his set, switching to housier numbers marked with perfect piano chords, like "Strings of Life" and "Good Life," towards the end. A lot of times you don't know what to expect with the "legends" of a genre—will they lean more on their status than on the sharpness of their skills? But there was no need to worry about Craig; he was fantastic. It was honestly just the most relentless DJ set I've seen in a long time—it wasn't the longest set in the world, but it still never, ever let up for even a minute, it was just on. Afterwards, Sean Horton hopped on the mic to thank the performers and the crowd and direct revelers to the afterparty, and his voice was just shot. One more day left, and it looks like it's going to be gorgeous—time to go get me some BBQ.

Decibel Festival v.05, Night 3

posted by on September 28 at 1:34 PM

What Eric said about Decibel in the Park. Plus, er, respect to the 60something free spirit with boils on his back who was rocking nothing but orange mini-briefs and a tangled, gray, white-man ’fro. I will never forget you (damn it).

Dazed and almost recovered from that traumatic sight, I later headed to Northwest Film Forum in time to catch headliner Akira Rabelais’ performance. Hunched over his gear stage left, he began extremely quietly with keening tones, pings, wispy drones—all of it somnolently engaging. That piece segued into crystalline flakes of Budd-Eno piano plangency, undergirded with microbial susurrations. Rabelais’ lowercase pica music somehow wrung exquisite beauty from the tiniest gestures.

Over at the Baltic Room, the Ghostly International Records showcase drew swarms of fans; a long line stretched far down Pine St. Recent GI local signing the Sight Below hustled over from Rabelais’ set, breathless and a bit late, but he showed us why GI honcho Sam Valenti IV’s a savvy judge of talent. The Sight Below laced his velvet-lined, 4/4 kick drums with vaporous textures and spectral luminescence. His bass tones seemed to bulge the Baltic’s confines in a manner that made me think of those garbage-can icons on your computer screen when they’re full. The accelerated hippo heartbeat rhythms and choral sighs and murmurs recalled Gas and, as Seattle icon DJ Eddie noted, Gustavo Lamas. Sadly, I missed most of Deru’s excellent glitch funk excursions and all of Lusine and Tycho’s sets, but reports from trustworthy sources were glowing.

Audion fed us weird things. Photo by Donte Parks.

To Neumos, where the Detroit Techno showcase was gathering momentum. DJ Chuck Flask ably set the table for Audion (aka Matthew Dear) to tear it up, live. Audion’s shit was so tight, I decided it would be blasphemy to try to take notes. Suffice it to say, his tracks were demonic, druggy, and disturbing, treading into his False style for M_nus Records while keeping the floor thrumming with acidic gusto.

Carl Craig appeared to be using Serato for his DJ set, but nobody cared, because he proved why writers reflexively precede his name with “legendary.” His selections ranged from deep and soulful to accessible and sing-along (Goldfrapp) to twitchy and highly percussive (the way he chopped up Plastikman’s “Spastik” was the sickness) to classic Day-twa techno nostalgia (Derrick May’s “Strings of Life” still instantly provokes arm-waving and cheers). From start to finish, the audience (a way more of serious but kinetic techno-head bunch than was here for Deadmau5 Friday) was putty in his skilled hands. The response bordered on charismatic-church-goer OMFGness.

Carl Craig: People quite liked him. Photo by Donte Parks.

In fact, two of Seattle’s finest electronic-music producers—Jon McMillion and Splinters—told me that they were so inspired by Audion and Craig that they went home and immediately started working on tracks. And those are only the ones I know about...

I’m sure the afterhours party with Dixon was awesome ("Best set ever," according to Jeremy B.), but after the Detroit Techno shebang, anything else would’ve seemed anticlimactic… except maybe tonight's Decibel Finale at Neumos.

Decibel in the Park

posted by on September 28 at 1:24 PM

2894233844_231eaba1bd.jpgJacob London photo by Jeanine Anderson from the Strangr Flickr pool

Yesterday's free Decibel in the Park at Volunteer Park was ideal. It was sunny and warm, with a big crowd spread over the lawn and in front of the band-shell, from goofy looking ravers to park regulars. Jacob London kicked off with samples of an audience cheering at what sounded like Bobcat Goldthwait grunting and growling and whining and stuttering. Good as Jacob London's productions are, their sense of humor is perhaps their strongest suit. They warped the vocal tics to a rhythm, dropped a beat under them, and got rolling into some bumpy techno. Maybe a half hour into their set, they blew a fuse or something and lost all sound; they did a little Ashley Simpson jig while waiting for it to come back on. After a few minutes, the sound came back, and someone named Sonic MC came on to reheat the crowd while Jacob London powered back up; he said "fuck" and then apologized because of all the "tots" that were around (there were a good amount of kids and families there). Starting over from dead air, Jacob London switched gears to slower tempo, hip-hop and dancehall inflected tracks, with an MC on some tracks and a clipped Modeselektor sample on another. They worked their way back up into some housier territory for the final part of the set. One wonders if the set was going to be so ranging even before the power out; it worked well for the situation.

Truckasauras kicked off with a new song, full of Korg MS 20 bass burps and digital-sounding keys, followed by a few new-ish songs, all of which sound really promising for another record. Tyler Swan wore a Legend of Zelda NES cartridge around his neck as a medallion; maybe some nerdcore dude somewhere has already done this, but I'd never seen it before and it was kind of a perfect look for the Truck—a little bit hip hop flash, a little bit (8 bits) nerd. Adam Swan rocked a big Pepsi cup instead of the usual bottle of whiskey. The other Swan brother stalked the stage in a red, white, and blue top hat, looking like he might try to sell you a used mattress, attempting to get the attentive but stationary crowd's hands up. The Truck also lost sound for a minute, but they were able to recover quicker, gear still dialed in, right on the same beat as where they left off. They played the usual older songs, smoothly transitioning from one song to another where they usually pause between songs, the bass booming rich and deep over the lawn.

2893579411_52cc8711ea.jpgGlitch Mob photo by Jeanine Anderson from the Strangr Flickr pool

The Truck may not have elicited much physical reaction from the crowd, but headliners Glitch Mob sure as hell did, the whole crowd suddenly filling the "pit" as soon as the band took the stage and dancing enthusiastically for their whole set. Today, Glitch Mob was two guys behind a laptop and mixer, one of them an affable, confident MC on the mic. Their set started with a deep, muddled voice intoning about "next level shit," "west coast," and "the future" before a rap-rock big beat dropped followed by layers of crunchy, distorted synths. Soon a vocal loop—the MC?—was repeating,"One love make the world go 'round," then "the game is not over" (sadly not a tease for some T. Raumschmiere)—it was like they were nailing every lyrical/sloganeering cliche possible. Brandon Ivers observed that they sound like the music that might play while Xzibit yelled at you about how he installed a playstation in your car. They played a mix of "Lollipop" by Lil Wayne. It was all like Ed Banger for dummies, which I think is saying a lot, the kind of techno you'd expect Zach de la Rocha to drop a "fiery" politcal verse over, perhaps. Kids—literal little kids—were bouncing and flailing around stage alongside candy ravers in fishnets and platform boots. B. Shorty was there with a little dog. All in all, it was about as next level and futuristic as the Space Needle. The crowd sure dug it, though.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Decibel Festival v.05, Night 2

posted by on September 27 at 2:41 PM

Stark contrasts marked Friday’s slate of Decibel events.

The afternoon panel discussion on the future of music journalism (titled “Wasted Words?”—upbeat!) in which I participated, touched on Lester Bangs, the difference between blog writing and writing for print publications, the dearth of good editing these days, Lester Bangs, Luigi Nono, adjective depletion syndrome, critics as shills for labels, Lester Bangs, press sheet flaws, artist responses to criticism, shrinking editorial space, dwindling attention spans, approaches to writing reviews, and Lester Bangs.

Following that event, I somehow fended off suicidal tendencies and made it to Northwest Film Forum's Optical 1 Audio/Visual showcase to catch the last five minutes of Jeff Greinke’s set. He was finessing out elegant wafts of heart-rending, Eno-esque tone breeze and sonic dust motes. You could hear a pen click (that was mine; sorry!).

William Basinski—an artist who commands utmost respect from me—took the stage next. He solemnly handled half-inch strips of tape as if they were sacred eels and examined them under a small lamp. Then he either put them in a beaker or threaded them around some implements whose function I couldn’t discern. It was very ritualistic and baffling.

Decayed, murky drones gradually emerged from his arcane setup, which also included a PowerBook plopped between two ancient tape decks, I think. Gently wavering waves of seashell roar—first tidal and tranquil, then amplified and intensified—filled the small theater. It sounded like an orchestra from a half-mile away slowly sinking into the sea. On the screen behind Basinski were reeds in a pond, placidly rippling. The performance was fairly static, and after 35 minutes, I’d gotten the gist. It wasn’t The Disintegration Loops, but it was delicately entrancing enough.

At Neumos, by contrast, the Dirty Dancing showcase was packing in the well-heeled condo dwellers, who seemingly were rolling on their monthly Ecstasy binge and absolutely mad for it. They were rushin’ and largely Russian. Eastern-bloc immigrants, represent.

Luca Bacchetti at the controls. Photo by Kelly O.

Luca Bacchetti had his share of haters among the Decibel hardcore, but he had me thinking Italians do it better. His tracks were psychedelic, sexy, and clattering—and, yes, repetitive. Hello? Techno is pretty much by definition repetitive. To diss it for that is like bitching about fire being hot. It’s what you do with those samples and loops that separates good techno from meh techno. And when you bring in pitch-shifted woodblock hits, you fucking own, as pitch-shifted woodblock hits are currently the best sound in the universe. Bacchetti’s main-room business set my notebook on fire. So I’m going to have to wing it from here on out. Wee!

Over at Sole Repair, Derek Plaslaiko was playing ballistic, acidic techno—will-to-power, Motor City motherfucker stuff, bassically [sic]. However, points off for using CDs. Former Seattle/now Berlin jet-setting superstar DJ Jeff Samuel muted the shuddering-teshno assault a notch with his patented true-head cuts, subtly pummeling and expertly contoured with state-of-the-art percussion touches. Any time one can hear Matthew Herbert on a fine sound system is a treasurable moment. Believe the Jeff Samuel hype.

Derek Plaslaiko after going ballistic. Photo by Kelly O.

Speaking of which, I had to see if Deadmau5 deserved his share of it. Nearing 1 am, he had the packed Neumos crowd raising arms and “woo”ing on cue. The body heat generated by this nouveau-riche rave was impressive. I also saw Donte Parks front and center getting his groove on. Consider that a feather in Deadmau5’s cartoon-mouse head thingy.

This rodent-masked Toronto producer perfectly calibrates his tracks for predictable build-ups and breakdowns (we humans are eternal suckers for tension and release). But for mainstream hanz in da air tranz and progressive houz, this is about as good as it gets. Hundreds of weekend E warriors may not be quite right, but they sure boosted Decibel’s coffers last night. And only a terminal curmudgeon would begrudge that.

Decibel: Ten Minutes of Deadmau5

posted by on September 27 at 11:10 AM

dead1.jpgDeadmau5 photo by Kelly O

Comeback kept me from attending all of Decibel last night, but I did make it down for a few minutes between my sets—long enough to catch a bit of Derek Plaslaiko's acid-tinged, hard-stepping techno early in the evening. A couple police officers dropped by and surveyed the still roomy Sole Repair; one of the officers leaned over and said something to a dancer, then they both laughed, the dancer and the cop held their arms in front of them and swayed like zombies for a minute, they laughed some more, and then the cops took off. It was cute. I wonder what the cop said.

I also made it down to see a few minutes of Deadmau5's Seattle debut. I like what I've heard of Deadmau5's original tracks and remixes—nice, dark techno just bordering on the progressive—but I'm a sucker for a good gimmick, and Deadmau5 totally takes the Best Use of a Helmet Since Daft Punk award for his giant, maniacally grinning mouse head (blue this time, with Xs on the eyes). His eyes lit up and flashed in time with the music, cycling through different colors. I could only stay just long enough to hear "Sometimes Things Get, Whatever"/"Complicated," which sounded great on the beefed up soundsystem, inspiring much movement despite the sardine-like conditions on much of the dancefloor. I wish I could've stayed for the whole set—Dave? Donte? Please tell me it was all downhill from there.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Decibel v.05, Night 1

posted by on September 26 at 10:56 AM

Stewart Walker @ Sole Repair. Photo by Kelly O.

My night began at Grey Gallery to catch the Oi Vay! disc jockeys (Eddie, Struggle, and D’Jeronimo). They had me trainspotting the whole time I was there, always a good sign. These guys know their high-quality techno and house (Michel Ho, STL, etc.) and dig deep in the crates for your pleasure. Recognize.

Zipped to Sole Repair to catch the Peloton DJs transitioning into Matt Corwine’s epic set. As Eric noted, Sole Repair has a killer vibe: think boxy warehouse crossed with sleek, urban lounge, accentuated by attractive wood paneling. Corwine (aka Mister Leisure) instigated dancing and smiles with his patented bumpin’ house accented with PhD-level sound design. After his stint, he was sweatier than any of the folks he magnanimously inspired to dance.

Stewart Walker clearly has years of experience making Europeans and other farflung peoples shake their asses till sunrise. He immediately swung into peak-time mode (130+ bpm and mesmerizing) with maximally pleasing minimal techno full of precision propulsion and hedonistic percussion. His tracks were surprisingly sexual and tribal—maybe because he looks like a mid-sized corporation’s accountant.

Sole Repair filled to capacity (120) and had a long line forming outside of it—very impressive for a Thursday bill of uncompromising techno and house. Though I wanted to catch Tujiko Noriko, I didn’t want to risk being shut out of [a]pendics.shuffle. Anybody catch her or any of the other Deconstructing Pop acts? How was it?

Las mujeres enjoying/enhancing the Peloton Records showcase @ Sole Repair. Photo by Kelly O.

[a]pendics.shuffle (thickly bearded LA party monster Ken Gibson) maintained Walker’s sexy-as-fuck techno steez and added an ominous undercurrent to it. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed as if every kick-drum thump and snare crack ratcheted up the libidinal temperature in the room. Was Sole Repair pumping Ecstasy through its air vents? Seemed like it. I kept flashing back to early-’90s Detroit warehouse parties. The dance floor filled up and throbbed. A dude twirled rainbow-colored balls (later at Neumos, someone doing the same hit a magazine photographer, according to one eyewitness). A young lady told me to smell her hairy armpit (I did; it was kind of rank). Nearly everyone seemed to be cruising at high altitude, despite the imploding economy and extensive exposure to Sarah Palin’s please-kill-me-now voice and words.

[a]pendics.shuffle made me feel as if I had consumed a hallucinogen cocktail, neat. As his set progressed, the percussion and textures became stranger (were those the shrieking strings from Hitchcock’s Psycho, warped almost beyond recognition?). He didn’t even bring his weirdest material to Decibel, but Gibson sent bizarre erotic shivers through the joint.

I cut out of Sole Repair to hit Neumos shortly after Sean Horton, Decibel director and birthday boy (when asked how old he was later, the dazed multi-tasker said he “thinks” he just turned 33), was starting a live INCITE! set. I wanted to see Jahcoozi, a Berlin duo featuring a Sri Lankan female vocalist/trumpeter and a white, dreadlocked bassist/laptop operator dude. They peddle an M.I.A.-like, polyglot beat banquet, plus extreme bass and bleep splatter that makes you wish your ass were bigger and rounder. Jahcoozi did their hit “BLN” (a riposte to Lily Allen’s “LDN,” according to one fan). Later Jahcoozi played this metal/Big Beat/industrial techno hybrid that was incredibly galvanizing. They built up the dance floor pretty well, from sparse to halfway full—a considerable feat after 1 am on a school night.

I had to bail after that and missed Jeff Samuel’s special afterhours DJ slot to celebrate Mr. Horton’s birthday, which went down at a new Seattle collective-run space. How did it go, Donte?

Decibel: Peloton Showcase @ Sole Repair

posted by on September 26 at 9:04 AM

d-corwin.jpgStewart Walker taking over for Mister Leisure, photo by Kelly O

Last night, the fifth annual Decibel Festival kicked off with—among other showcases—a record release party/showcase for local upstart label Peloton at Sole Repair (more on Peloton here). It's hard to tell this early into the fest, but Sole Repair may turn out to be the hottest venue of the weekend. It's small and vibey and the sound is, as always at Decibel, killer; it also hit capacity at about 10:30 last night and had a line down the block for much (all?) of the rest of the night (meanwhile, the Deconstructing Pop showcase over at Neumo's was practically empty). The door guy was letting one in for every one person out—you walked outside you were back in the line—at one point he told Decibel Festival director (and performer) Sean Horton that the place was at capacity and he would have to wait in line. Horton was not pleased. But between Sole Repair's small size, it's wealth of talent this weekend (especially tonight's party with "The Trinity"), and its proximity to the main events at Neumos, expect this to happen again this weekend.

Inside, though, everyone seemed to be having a blast. Mister Leisure (aka sometimes Stranger writer Matt Corwine) stirred up the crowding dance floor with an hour-long set in which Corwine, a friend observed, seemed to be cramming in as many songs as possible ("It's been an hour and I've heard like 10 songs"). Still, the rapid mix worked, especially one track whose every bar seemed punctuated with the sound of glass breaking (another friend said ice tinkling, but I like to imagine everyone's dancing so hard they're dropping a drink every four beats—although of course that would make for a pretty treacherous dance floor). At the close of his set, Stewart Walker seemed eager to get going, but Corwine wanted to squeeze in one last song. They eventually, through a series of terse nods, negotiated a take over, in which Corwine's filter house played out and faded while the Walker's much deeper kick drum took over. Have I mentioned that the sound was great—thumping and clean and only really overwhelming if you're right up front in the speaker—and this next guy really gave the sound system a work-out. Too bad I had to take off, but even the truncated first night has gotten me completely excited for the rest of the long, awesome weekend. As they say, Happy Decibel!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm Starting to Get Really Excited For Decibel

posted by on September 24 at 9:48 AM

The weird thing about editing a weekly newspaper is that it totally throws your internal calendar. You're planning two or three weeks ahead at any given time, and sometimes it can be hard to remember what's coming up right in front of you. So it has been with Decibel Festival, this weekend's massive electronic music festival, which takes over multiple venues in Seattle from tomorrow through Sunday (full schedule available at Decibel is an overwhelming, exhausting, world-class marathon of electronic music of all stripes, and in the last few days (with a little help from a hype-inducing mailing list thread) I've finally started to get appropriately stoked. For your own stoking, in the issue of the Stranger that hits stands today, Donte Parks interrogates Detroit techno godfather Carl Craig and Dave Segal provides a guide to Decibel Festival's many showcases, parties, and BBQs.

In the meantime, some of my own highlights:

Dirty Dancing Showcase - Friday, 9/26 @ Neumos
Segal's not so into Deadmau5, but he's Beatport's most downloaded artist, and on multiple occasions I've found myself asking a DJ what's playing to be greeted with one or another Deadmau5 track. His stuff undoubtedly sounds better in the club than on Segal's or my own home stereo systems.

The Trinity - Friday, 9/26 @ Sole Repair
Jeff Samuel, Derek Plaslaiko, and Jerry Abstract = the truth.

DB in the Park - Saturday, 9/27, 1pm @ Volunteer Park
Techno pranksters Jacob London and Truckasauras blasting their ample beats mid-afternoon on the Volunteer Park lawn. Genius (and all-ages).

Detroit Techno: Past, Present, & Future - Saturday, 9/27 @ Neumos
Carl Craig is a legend, yes, but Audion is hard (or lately more minimal) techno fire. Put your hands up.

2008 Decibel Finale - Sunday, 9/28 @ Neumos
This may be the most eclectic all-star blowout Decibel has ever had, with Kompakt kings Supermayer providing minimal house and tongue-in-cheek disco satisfaction, the Bug trashing dancehall, dub, grime, etc, etc with help from MC Warrior Queen, and Flying Lotus providing his much buzzed-about sun-stoned LA hip hop inflected instrumentals.

And these shows are only the tip of the proverbial ice burg—there's also Dixon, LA Riots, Eluvium, Caro, the Sight Below, Barbara Morgenstern, and countless others. Do yourself a favor and go check out the full schedule and roster of performers over at

Monday, August 18, 2008

Supermayer Added to Decibel Fest!

posted by on August 18 at 1:22 PM



Supermayer (Cologne) : Debut Seattle DJ Set - Kompakt

The Bug featuring Warrior Queen (London): Debut Seattle Live Set - Ninja Tune, Rephlex, Tigerbeat6

Flying Lotus (Los Angeles): Live - Warp, Plug Research Records

Fax (Mexicali) : Live - Static Discos

Sunday, Sept. 28th @ Neumos - $20 presale / $25 at the door - Doors open at 8pm / 21+


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rest Up, Decibel's Coming

posted by on August 5 at 3:46 PM

Decibel06 - Thomas Fehlmann

The Decibel Festival announced the showcase schedule for the event today. Unlike last year, there have been no statements about scaling back, with the festival instead going bigger than ever for their fifth iteration, with a metric shit-ton of music, flanked by a conference, visuals showcase, BBQ, and day in the park. Decibel is serious business.

August 5, 2008 - 2008 marks the 5th anniversary of the Decibel Festival, an annual event held in Seattle that has now become one of North America’s preeminent electronic music events. To coincide with this landmark year, Decibel has planned its most ambitious festival to date; featuring more than 100 acts from 12 different countries, organized within 24 showcases at 11 different venues over four days. The lineup is not only massive but also the most diverse yet, increasing the international stature and range of artists, representing everything from underground dance to experimental audio / visual performance. Adding to the traditional club events, this year’s program will feature a two day dB Conference, Optical Multimedia showcases, a BBQ, an outdoor park event, an ambient dinner theater and an overall theme of sustainability in the arts.

The four-day Decibel International Festival of Electronic Music Performance, Visual Art and New Media will take place September 25th - 28th. Visit for travel info, tickets and additional info about the 2008 Decibel Festival.

The rest of the release after the jump. It's long, but definitely worth a read.

Image from flickr user basic_sounds.

Continue reading "Rest Up, Decibel's Coming" »

Monday, July 14, 2008

Preliminary Decibel Festival Lineup Announced

posted by on July 14 at 11:41 AM


Today Decibel announced the intitial lineup and pricing for the September event, Decibel's 5th edition. There have been rumors about who's playing for weeks now, but this is the first official word. Decibel will be held from September 25-28 in venues all over the city (most on the Hill). Full release after the jump, but here's the initial lineup (emphasis my own). I never thought Carl Craig would ever play Seattle, but looks like that day is coming.

PRELIMINARY LINEUP (final line up TBA mid August):
Carl Craig (US) – DJ Set
Deadmau5 (CA) - Live
Jahcoozi (DE) - Live
The Bug featuring Warrior Queen (UK) - Live
Dixon (DE) - Live
Audion (US) - Live
Burnt Friedman (DE) - Live
Luca Bacchetti (IT) - DJ Set
Tujiko Noriko (JP) - Live
Santiago & Bushido (US) - Live

Barbara Morgenstern (DE) - Live
Deaf Center (NO) - Live
William Basinski (US) - Live
Jeff Samuel (US/DE) - DJ
Library Tapes (SE) - Live
Akira Rabelais (US) - Live
Mike Monday (US) - DJ
Eluvium (US) - Live
Tycho (US) - Live
Noah Pred (CA) - Live
Derek Plaslaiko (US) - Live
Eskmo (US) - Live
Kilowatts (US) - Live
Alland Byallo (US) - DJ
Jeff Greinke (US) - Live
Welder (US) - Live
Jacob London (US) - Live
Deru (US) - Live
Lusine (US) - Live
Craig Kuna (US) - DJ
Nalepa (US) - Live
Nikola Baytala (US) - DJ
Sammy D (US) - DJ
Truckasauras (US) – Live
Balún (US) - Live
M. Quiet (US) – DJ
Let’s Go Outside (US) – Live
Alala.One (US) – DJ
Attentat (US) – DJ
Les Freres Courvoisier (US) - Live

Continue reading "Preliminary Decibel Festival Lineup Announced" »

Sunday, September 23, 2007

News Flash - I Love Techno (and Decibel)

posted by on September 23 at 6:02 PM

There's one more night to go, but it's safe to say my ass has been officially kicked by this year's Decibel. Every time I change venues I'm being assaulted by more and more quality music. It's wonderfully exhausting.

Robert Babicz @ Neumos
Robert Babicz @ Neumos

I skipped the ambient showcase at Town Hall but heard good things. Taal Mala at The Baltic Room kept things dubby, dark and moody, but there was pressure as the night went along for everything to get cleared out for the Bollywood night. I heard I missed a great Jerry Abstract set, but I was excited to hear Lowfish's electro, so there was little I could do there.

Once I made it to Neumos, Drumcell was kicking the evening off in fine form down in the VIP Room. The crowd was just trickling in, but he luckily had enough time to play to close out with the dancing crowd he deserved. I only caught the beginning of Robert Babicz, opting to take a nap (meaning I missed what I heard was a great 3 Channels set). Oh well.

Jeff Samuel @ VIP Room
Jeff Samuel @ VIP Room, Decibel Festival, 9/22/2007

I got back just as Jeff Samuel took the stage for his ultimately triumphant return to Seattle. Speedy J had things going upstairs, but Jeff Samuel had the crowd from the start, and there's no place I'd rather be than the VIP Room when the party's poppin'. It's dark, hot, and the room sweats on you as you sweat on the floor. Jeff's spent the last year off in Europe, and he certainly brought the dirty European vibe to his set. People clapped, cheered, and danced for the entirety of his set, easily the best of the entire festival thus far ("Now that's what I'd been waiting for!" said a friend of mine). As a side note, I'm glad Jeff didn't meet the challenge I posed to him - I told him if he played Efdemin's "Just a Track" I'd rip my shirt off and rock the fuck out. As it was, the only foolishness I suffered was telling damn near everyone I saw at the afterhours that I loved techno, loudly and repeatedly. Guess I was high on the music.

It's true though - I love techno. And I love Decibel. If for some reason you still haven't made it down, tonight's your last night. I'll see you in the basement for the Mothership showcase.

Again, more pics available in the Decibel Flickr Pool.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Technical Difficulties

posted by on September 22 at 2:02 PM

Rage and the Machine Showcase - Neumo's

Decibel is a hell of a festival, but like any fest, it has its peaks and its pitfalls. Last night, Decibel suffered one unexpected low—Motor was denied at the border— but also one impressive high point in Truckasauras, whom I've most recently gushed about here. Seattle's resident A/V geeks delivered a fun, confident set as always. They debuted a new track made for Decibel that had more pulsing techno thump than anything the Truck has done so far—it was a more linear, less swaggering Truckasauras, a promising glimpse of the band's range and potential. They played two tracks with DJ Collage on the mic, the first of which, "Hold On," wins the award for best bass of the festival so far. Under the new Funktion 1 speakers (a welcome permanent addition to Neumo's), the low tones rumbled up through the ground, vibrating my whole body. You forget how much of a difference those physical tones make until you feel them running through you—that bass instantly liquefies bones and loosens limbs, and suddenly you're moving. It's a good feeling.

It sounds like I should've then gone up to Chop Suey for Jacob London, but I screwed up and stuck around for Kill Memory Crash's vintage goth industrial show. Kill Memory Crash has always kind of confounded me. They're on Ghostly International, one of the most prestigious, frequently forward-thinking electronic labels in the country, yet they are a total throwback. There's nothing about their sound that couldn't be done in 1992. The band has been around since 1997, and they met in the mid '90s Detroit rave scene, so maybe their just purists, rather than revivalists. Still, there's just nothing fresh about their sound, and, I'm not old enough or of the particular disposition to feel any nostalgia for industrial's first wave. I won't get into the band's aesthetic, 'cause whatever, for some reason I like the militaristic goth thing when Adult. do it (irony, maybe? maybe). I will say that the electronic drums (you know, the ones with the black rubber hi hats) were entirely unnecessary—they would've sounded better with traditional drums and just a Roland spd-20 (or similar drum pad) or sequencing for the electronic drum sounds. They did have one song with a pretty hot acid bass line, though. But I wish I'd seen Jacob London's electro wizardry, or at least checked out the party in the basement.

Finally, there was a DJ set from one half of LA's electro duo du jour, Guns'n'Bombs. Maybe it was the bad taste left in my mouth from Kill Memory Crash, the small crowd, or some lingering exhaustion from Thursday night's massive blowout, but I just couldn't get down with dude's "all-bangers" assault, so I split. That said, their remix and production work is fun, well worth checking out.

Ah, but today is another day of Decibel, with an Ambient Landscaspes at Town Hall, Sensory Effect's showcase of impressive local and regional talent at Baltic Room, and the always satisfying Dirty Dancing showcase at Neumo's. You can check out some recommendations here and here.

Pics From Decibel

posted by on September 22 at 1:35 PM

Two nights down, two more to go. This is yet another banner year for Decibel - the talent's been incredible. If you haven't made it to anything yet, tonights a good night to do so - it's sure to be another hot, sweaty mess down in the VIP Room. After the jump you'll find some of my pics thus far - more (and far superior) pics are available on Flickr.

Jacob London @ Chop Suey
Jacob London @ Chop Suey

Get thee to Decibel!

Continue reading "Pics From Decibel" »

Friday, September 21, 2007

It's the Beat

posted by on September 21 at 11:14 AM

Decibel Kick-Off/Death of the Party Showcase - Neumo's

First off: Congrats to Decibel Festival. It's only my second year attending, so I can't speak to 2005 or 2004, but I can't imagine any previous year of the fest kicking off with as raucous a party as last night's. Neumo's was packed—sweat on the walls, etc, etc—the crowd was as energetic as most any I've seen in Seattle, the sound was top-notch, and the music was relentless.

I missed all but the last couple songs (the "Shoulder Lean/"No More Conversations" mash-up, "Percolator") of Fourcolorzack and Pretty Titty's 2x4, but they seemed to have the crowd warmed up nicely.

I was initially disappointed that Simian Mobile Disco wasn't playing a live set. The pictures of their live set-up—a giant modular patchbay, a Korg MS-20, rows and rows of knobs—make it look pretty impressive, and it would have been cool to see. But their DJ set was still a blast (I'd rank it as at least the second best of the night).

smd%20donte.jpgSimian Mobile Disco (and Angelina Jolie from Hackers) by Donte Parks

They kicked off with Attack Decay Sustain Release opener "Sleep Deprivation," and throughout the set mixed about an even ratio of originals and other people's material. Highlights included the wildly fun "It's the Beat," the new Soulwax remix of LCD Soundsystem's "Get Innocuous" (as usual, a dance floor killer from the brothers Dewaele), and the one-two punch of "Hustler" and Laid Back's "White Horse" set to a montage of a slow-motion galloping white horse and several vintage shots of some serious-ass coke dealers. The duo's mixing was confident and tight, and they looked to be having some fun when they weren't gently arguing over their cd booklet. (Best overheard e-talking: "I've only known you for, like, an hour!")

I was pretty thoroughly exhausted by SMD's set, so I spent much of Switch's set watching from the sidelines. Switch stuck mostly to his own productions (as both Switch and Solid Groove), including his awesome remix of Spank Rock's "Bump" and his ridiculous, pleasure-center assaulting rework of "Apache," "A Bit Patchy," but also played some other choice cuts such as Digitalism's "Juptier Room (Martian Assault)." Switch's productions are flawless, boasting some truly sick beats (Sean Horton says the trick to Switch's solid grooves is that he builds house beats out of live drum samples, thus keeping a little swing and funk in his 4/4) and some of the gnarliest bass lines around. All that said, Switch is a better producer than a DJ—his mixing was functional, not impressive, but it was actually nice to hear him noticably adjust the occasional off beat, it gave his twitching robot house an affable, human element.

Then there was Diplo. Diplo's set last night wasn't the most technical I've seen out of him (his last Neumo's appearance, with his DVD scratching and beat-matching was probably more impressive in that regard), but it was definitely the most fun. Kids rushed the stage to a remix of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Diplo showed more Seattle love later dropping "Baby Got Back").

diplo%20donte.jpgDiplo and crowd by Donte Parks

He mixed Simain vs Justice's "We Are Your Friends" into the Hollertronix-released remix of Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al." He played technotronic. He played "Young Folks." He layered the Smashing Pumpkins' "Zero" over Bonde Do Role. He wrapped up with a mix of "Bombs Over Baghdad" into LE Tigre's "Decetacon." It was that kind of a crazy, populist party. And it was awesome.

There's so much more good stuff coming up at Decibel this weekend (see some recommendations here and here), so be sure to get your ass out.

First Impressions of Decibel Festival 2007

posted by on September 21 at 2:25 AM




(more to come, stay tuned)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some Last-Minute Decibel Recommendations

posted by on September 20 at 4:45 PM

Decibel is here. I make my recommendations in this week's paper (after adding to the Flaming Lips gushfest), but I also asked some of the artists and organizers what they were excited to see - I was curious. Here's a sampling of the responses. If you're looking to stalk any of these people, consider this your cheat sheet.

Rebecca West (Red Pony) - Artist: Mike Shannon, Biosphere, Harold Budd & Robin Guthrie and Switch are at the top of my list.

Kris Moon - Db Staff: In all honesty, I haven't gotten that excited about any particular act, because I'm probably not going to get a chance to see much...Speedy J fuckin' blew my mind last year, that's all I know...

Jeff Samuel - Artist: My nuts. And Frivolous. Not necessarily in that order. And home-baked cookies.

Patrick Hanaelt - promoter: Taal Mala - his set at Oscillate last year was off the hook and he almost won the Laptop Battle this year. Really good bass heavy,dubby electro. Very danceable but still deep.

Steven Severin - Neumos honcho: Diplo/Switch/Simian. Are you kidding me with this lineup? Quite possibly the best electronic lineup of the year. Justice is giving them a run for their money, but three, count them three killer acts. That's what I'm saying.

Recess - Shameless: Obviously, we're stoked for our afterparties. Knowing who the secret surprise headliners are just makes us even more excited.

Kristina Childs - Db Staff: Phon.o & Chris De Luca are hands-down the artist I'm most excited about this year. Their latest mix bridges the best of so many genres... who'd have thought top 40 techno idm crunk could ever be married in such a fun way? It's like a funner version of Modeselektor, which is another thing I didn't think was possible.

and keeping it real...

Adam Swan of Truckasaurus - Artist: I think I can speak for the entire Truckasauras crew when I say we are excited to not only see, but drink the free beer Neumos has in their green room.

With that, it's time for me to step away from the computer and get down to the festivities. It's time for you to do the same.

One Last Decibel Download - Jeff Samuel

posted by on September 20 at 3:02 PM

For all of the exciting music coming through town over the next few days, the one artist I'm most stoked to see is Jeff Samuel. That excitement has incredibly little to do with music, and more to do with the fact that for the months before he left for Berlin he was my regular lunch companion and we're looking to pick that back up while he's in town (current plans involve a tour of Seattle's Philly Cheesesteak spots).

The less lunch-centric among you should be excited to see Jeff for different reasons. His debut album Step was well-recieved by critics when it was released, as were the singles and EPs he'd put out prior. His DJ sets pull from the same minimal sound he's typically lumped with, but his crates have plenty of breadth, and he's not afraid to go harder or more mellow depending on what the room can handle.

Jeff Samuel @ Ovest (Oristano, Italy) - Pt. 1 - [mp3]
Jeff Samuel @ Ovest (Oristano, Italy) - Pt. 2 - [mp3]

Jeff Samuel plays the Dirty Dancing in the Bassment Showcase at the VIP Room, Saturday, September 22. With Mike Shannon, Mikael Stavostrand, and Drumcell.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sean Horton on KEXP

posted by on September 19 at 3:24 PM

Right now.

Decibel Festival starts tomorrow!

Decibel Download of the Day - 3 Channels

posted by on September 19 at 2:23 PM

It's another two for one today, courtesy of 3 Channels, a duo I appreciate simply because I didn't have to scour the far reaches of the Internet to find these recordings.

The two members of 3 Channels hail from Poland, bringing some techno attention a little farther east of techno's current Berlin capitol. The pair initially met because of their shared musical tastes and started throwing parties together before they started producing. There was initially a third member (the third channel), but he was booted for what sounds like creative differences. In any case, the duo have releases on Trapez, Crosstown Rebels and their own Channels label. Another reason I like these guys (besides their minimal tech-house productions) is their sense of humor. Here's a snippet from a Resident Advisor interview:

Besides electronic music, what else do you channel your energies into?
We both like sports such as: sleeping, sitting in front of a computer, catching a train. We especially like extreme sports like taking a big record bag to the airplane as hand luggage.

(You'll have to be patient with these links - both are pretty sluggish)
3 Channels - Live at Watergate - [mp3]
3 Channels - Catz & Dogz September Mix [mp3]

3 Channels play the Dirty Dancing Showcase at Neumos Saturday, September 22. With Speedy J, Robert Babicz, Alland Byallo, and Jerry Abstract.

Move Over, Tired Clichés

posted by on September 19 at 10:58 AM

I'm not sure which part of this Metro Times article deserves more attention--the Detroit-focused look at the Motor City boys behind Seattle's Decibel Festival, or the excruciating premise that the writer uses before getting to the real story.

At Pike Place market, sleazy vendors peddle Nirvana T-shirts just like they would Statue of Liberty snow globes in New York. In a Seattle bar, Mudhoney, Soundgarden or Pearl Jam will come on the jukebox in one drink's time. In that bar's bathroom, expect a Sub Pop sticker emblazoned on the stall door. Because of grunge, Seattle went a decade without a major music movement.

I'm a relatively fresh transplant to Seattle, but even I can smell the burnt wafers in this dude's logic (though I'd like to know if someone is peddling Tad merch at Pike Place). After that open, though, the rest of the piece is interesting enough, especially since people still feel compelled to compare Decibel to Detroit's Movement Festival...and especially since this line about the meeting of Decibel's Sean Horton and Jerry Abstract cracks me up:

"I remember him bringing down a six-pack of Pabst. It was one of those rare male bonding moments that only the combination of beer and techno can really facilitate."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Decibel Download of the Day - Frivolous

posted by on September 18 at 5:28 PM

Today's download is a two-for-one deal from Frivolous. I couldn't find a working link to a live set (like the one he's performing at Decibel), but I found one I can embed and a downloadable DJ set. Someone with more time could probably find a way to find the mp3 source from the embedded link.

Frivolous is the production moniker for Berlin-based Daniel Gardner. He's known for his experimental house and techno (he makes use of some incredibly quirky vocals), but what I'd like to call attention to is his DIY ethic. If you look on his home page (in the Contraptions section) you can view some of his constructed instruments, including a washtub bass, an electromagnetic knife, and a bike powered reverb unit. Based on reports from this past weekend's New Forms Festival, it looks like the knife will be making an appearance. Wonder if that piece gave him any problems in customs...

Daniel Gardner - House of Glass Mix [mp3]

Frivolous Live @ Cafe Moskau, Berlin [ mp3-stream]

Frivolous plays the Headfuk Showcase/DB Finale at Neumos on Sunday, September 23. With Wolfgang Flur, Chris De Luca & Phon.o, Amm, Kris Moon, and DJ Struggle.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Decibel Download of the Day - Derek Plaslaiko

posted by on September 17 at 1:57 PM


I'm slammed with work so I can't do too much of a post, but today's download arrives courtesy of NYC's WNYU and Tim Sweeney (who killed at his Club Pop appearance a few weeks ago), source of the highly recommended Beats in Space podcast/archive. The music is provided by NYC by way of Detroit's Derek Plaslaiko, Bunker resident and Spectral artist. If you haven't seen Plaslaiko play, know that the man knows his techno. His mix here starts with Carl Craig, so he's already got my support, but he can take tours through Detroit, minimal, and any other nerdy techno subgenre you care to call out. Plaslaiko plays good tracks, and that's what really matters.

Derek Plaslaiko on Beats in Space [mp3]

Derek Plaslaiko plays the Beyond Booking/NYC Showcase on Friday, September 21 at the VIP Room. With Wolf + Lamb and Spinoza.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Decibel Download of the Day - Biosphere

posted by on September 16 at 6:15 PM


It's Sunday, it's gray and a bit chilly outside, making it a perfect time for staring out the window and watching the world go by. Fitting the chill mood (and the download of the day slot) is Biosphere.

Biosphere's Substrata is considered one of the best ambient albums ever made, placing Biosphere (Geir Jenssen) in elite company. I haven't heard it, but today's download does make for an interesting exploration of sound, space and texture. Jenssen is based out of the Arctic Circle's Tromsø, Norway, and his signature "arctic sound" is all over this Fluxgate recording. It's icy and isolated, with occasional flourishes to keep from descending into a boring sameness and a jarring beat that kicks in halfway through. I'm not usually into the ambient side of things but today, this recording works for me.

Fluxgate by Biosphere - [mp3 - more of the same]

Biosphere plays the Ambient Landscapes Showcase at Town Hall on Saturday, September 22. With Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie, and Rafael Irisarri.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Decibel Download of the Day - DJ Spinoza

posted by on September 15 at 2:34 PM

Yes, the "Go to Decibel" beat drumming continues even on the weekend. Today's download is from New York's DJ Spinoza.

If you're a techno fan in New York, you're probably familiar with DJ Spinoza (Bryan Kasenic), and if not him, you're probably familiar with the Bunker, the weekly formerly held in the intimate basement space subtonic. The night built a reputation for bringing through some of the world's finest underground talent, with a lot of techno, but extending beyond that as well. Lately Kasenic has focused his attention on Beyond Booking, the agency he set up to spread the techno gospel of himself, his friends, and his allies (he represents Seattle's own Berlin-based expatriate Bruno Pronsato).

DJ Spinoza - Afterhours at Ari's [mp3]

DJ Spinoza plays the Beyond Booking/NYC Showcase, Friday, September 21 @ The VIP Room. With Wolf + Lamb and Derek Plaslaiko.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Decibel Download of the Day - Diplo

posted by on September 14 at 4:30 PM

I thought I would go with something more minimal today, but then I remembered it's Friday and I'd rather kick off the weekend with something more party-centric. So instead, today's download is from masher-upper, party DJ and beat plunderer Diplo. It's a recent mix that was done for Pitchfork. In expected Diplo fashion it's all over the place, with little regard for genre.

Diplo: Pitchfork Mix 02 [mp3-zip - more info]

Diplo plays the Decibel Kick-off Party/Death of the Party Showcase Thursday, September 20 at Neumos. With Switch, Simian Mobile Disco, Pretty Titty and Fourcolorzack.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Decibel Download of the Day - Orac Records

posted by on September 13 at 2:01 PM

Decibel is but a week away(!), and in anticipation I'm planning to do at least a post a day with music from some artist or in today's case, collection of artists, that are going to be playing. As with many of my posts, it's really just an excuse to share some free music. At least now it's free music with a greater purpose.

Today's download is a mix put together by Minneapolis' Jamespatrick. Featuring cuts from various Orac Records releases, the mix is a celebration of the Seattle-based label reaching the milestone of their 25th release (Quenum's "Acalanto / Glasgow," coming out September 17). In that time the label has earned itself a very good reputation as a home for experimental techno, from both new (Jon McMillion) and more established artists (Sutekh, Bruno Pronsato). It's hard to get any release out the door so to do it repeatedly and with such a high quality bar is admirable. Congratulations Orac.

“Dance All Night, Ponies"-- an Orac Megamix by JamesPatrick [mp3 - more info]

The Orac Records Label showcase is Thursday, Sept. 20 at the Baltic Room. Music provided by Strategy, Caro, Jon McMillion, and Konstantin Gabbro. Free with Db Pass, otherwise $7 adv. or $10 at the door.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Full Decibel Lineup Announced

posted by on July 25 at 12:11 AM

After releasing a subset a few weeks ago, the Decibel Festival organizers have released the full lineup for this year's edition, to be held September 20th-23rd. Scaling back didn't happen in the slightest, with Decibel even finding new collaborators in Death of the Party (nice work on both sides for that one). They've managed to build a lineup that avoids the overlap you find in the rest of the festival circuit, setting this festival apart from its peers. So here's the list (emphasis my own):

Simian Mobile Disco, Speedy J, Harold Budd & Robin Guthrie, Diplo, Biosphere, Switch, Robert Babicz aka Rob Acid, Guns N' Bombs, 3 Channels, Bender aka Byetone, Motor, Claude VonStroke, DJ Heather, Chris de Luca vs. phon.o, Jeff Samuel, Frivolous, Kangding Ray, Mike Shannon, Lusine, Mikael Stavostrand, Monty Luke, Max Volume aka Jerry Abstract, Alland Byallo, Truckasaurus, Jacob London, Wolf + Lamb, Drumcell, Strategy, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Derek Plaslaiko, Acid Circus, Scott Pagano (Visuals), Caro, Taal Mala, Jon McMillion, Lissome, Overcast, Papa Slang Bass, Kristina Childs, Mat Anderson, Pretty Titty, Kris Moon, fourcolorzack, CHiKA (Visuals), Novatron, Nordic Soul, Ramiro, ndCv, Mori, KillingFrenzy, Logic Probe, Scott Sunn (Visuals), Hakea, Seiche, Electrosect, Scott K. James

Time to go buy a pass (only a limited number, so you won't want to wait on that).

Full press release after the jump.

Continue reading "Full Decibel Lineup Announced" »

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Decibel Fest Announces Initial Headliners

posted by on July 17 at 9:40 AM


The 4th Annual Decibel International Festival of Electronic Music Performance, Visual Art and New Media will be happening September 20th through the 23rd in Seattle. This year's program will be featuring artists from 9 countries in 14 showcases across 7 venues, each of which will be outfitted with custom sound and video.


Wichita // Kitsuné Records

SPEEDY J (Netherlands)
Novamute // Plus 8 Records

Touch // Rune Grammofon Records

3 CHANNELS (Poland)
Trenton // Crosstown Rebels // Trapez Records

SWITCH (Great Brittan)
Freerange // Dubsided // M.I.A.

MOTOR (Germany)
Novamute // Shitkatapult

DIPLO (US - Philadelphia)
Mad Decent // Big Dada // M.I.A.

GUNS N BOMBS (US – Los Angeles)
Kitsuné // Turbo Recordings // Ima Robot

BENDER (Germany)
Raster-Noton // aka Byetone

FRIVOLOUS (Canada / Germany)
~scape // Background // Karloff Rekordings

JEFF SAMUEL (US / Germany)
Pokerflat // Trapez // Spectral

ALLAND BYALLO (US - San Francisco)
Floppy Funk // Dirtybird Records


WOLF + LAMB (US – New York)
Wolf + Lamb Music

SCOTT PAGANO (US – Los Angeles)
Neither Field // Speedy J collaborator // Video Artist



This year Decibel will be offering one "All-Access Db Festival Pass". There will be a limited number of $75 discounted passes going on sale July 15th through August 15th, after which time the pass prices will increase to $100. Also on August 15th, tickets go on sale for individual showcases.

Once the limited number of total passes are sold out, you will need to purchase individual showcase tickets the day of or on line through various ticket vendors (tba).

$75 DISCOUNTED FESTIVAL PASSES can now be purchased on line at