Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Decibel Festival of Electronic Music: Sept 26 - 30

The end of Summer rolls around again with what is the best lineup we've possibly seen to-date as Seattle plays host to the second-largest electronic music festival in the United States, the Decibel Festival of Electronic Music and Visual Media. Decibel's whole raison d'etre is about being the global showcase for all things electronic, in the most progressive, all-inclusive sense, regardless of genre or style, whether on the dance floor or in the seated auditorium. This year, not only bigger names, and larger venues hosting sold out dancefloor spectacles, but a return of the fringe, adventurous and unclassifiable in the form of five Optical Showcases featuring two DB Film showcases of live film & soundtrack screenings. WEDNESDAY Starting off with quite a bang this year's opening night immediately bringing the dense ambiance of Monolake's Robert Henke and the Echospace label's Brock Van Wey in the first Optical 1. Simultaneously Demdike Stare present their live soundtrack score to French post-New Wave genre filmmaker Jean Rollin's surrealist erotic-horror classic "La Vampire Neu" at Broadway Performance Hall. A second performance by Robert Henke follows in the Decibel in Dub showcase this time as the duo, Monolake along with Brock Van Wey turning in a second set of his own under the bvdub moniker. The founding stalwarts of the UK electronic music explosion of the 90's Warp Records represents with a collision of forms both dancefloor and experimental by Chris Clark and Jimmy Edgar. Closing out the night, Global Selektors showcases the angular rhythmic fusions of FaltyDL and the UK's Appleblim bringing his bass heavy hybrid of deep Techno and Dubstep.  

THURSDAY Decibel's second night opens with Optical 2 hosting the avant-pop collaborations of Julianna Barwick and Dead Texan's neo-classicist Christina Vantzou and the abstracted songwriting of Maria Minerva. The second DB Films presentation featuring the return engagement of Jon Wozencroft and Christian Fennesz' "Liquid Music" of cascading abstract guitar and sublime hydro-landscape photography by the Touch label founder. In what will likely be one of the festival's highlights, the UK's Modern Love showcase brings the night back to the dancefloor with the brutalist Techno diffusions of Andy Stott, the madness of William Bennett's (yes, Whitehouse's William Bennett) Cut Hands African rhythm inspired noise-fusion and Demdike Stare's own mutation of Early Electronic Music and contemporary rhythmic propulsion.  Closing out the evening, one of the defining innovators of 90's electronic sounds, Orbital, presents Halcyonic a night of motoric rhythms inspired by the Aoutobahn, Krautrock and the UK's own M25. FRIDAY The weekend begins with Jon Wozencroft's return, Optical 3 being a celebration of his UK label's three decades of avant-garde adventures in sound, photography and aesthetics, playing host to tonal heavyness in the form of Eleh, ambient electronic depths in Scandinavia's Biosphere and Seattle's own The Sight Below and visuals by Wovencroft and the Touch artists themselves. The Grandfather of Techno, Carl Craig returns to Decibel along with Octave One in the Motor City Masters. Another likely pinnacle of the festival, Germany's house of visionary aesthetics Raster-Noton make their Seattle return with sets of glorious audio-visual hypermodernism by founding member Byetone, Bristol's Emptyset and the analog meets digital interplay of Kangding Ray.  

SATURDAY The likely highlight of all the Optical showcases volume 4 features a wider genre diversity spanning of Classical, neo-Classical and Ambient Pop, if you've only got the finances /inclination to check out of of the five, this will likely be the wisest investment. Berlin pianist and producer Nils Frahm turned in a stunning solo piano performance in last year's Substrata festival, expect nothing less here. Playing alongside Belgian neoclassicist Sylvain Chauveau and ambient-pop wondergroup Orcas (a collaboration of Kranky's Benoît Pioulard and Miasmah artist Rafael Anton Irisarri) it's likely to ad up to more than the sum of it's parts. Ghostly International have continue their label evolution over the past decade with mutational advancements made by acts like HTRK and Justin Broadrick's Pale Sketcher. For their label showcase we get Matthew Dear's pop/techno swagger and a rare (these days) set of ultra-streamlined techno from Seattle's Lusine. Pioneers of Rhythm delivers some classic Ninja Tune beats in DJ sets from Shadow and Bonobo and closing the night Resident Advisor hosts a afterhours of propulsive Techno/Microhouse fusions by Bruno Pronsato. SUNDAY Closing day performances begin with Optical 5 focused on acoustic, electric and classical sounds by longtime Kranky label duo Windy & Carl, Christina Vantzou in a solo set of her own sublime compositions and Canada's Loscil returning after last month's Substrata for another evening of hushed electronics and piano. By this point, I'm sure myself and company will be needing a good lay-down in the park, getting some sun and enjoying a trek out around the city, having seen the inside of performance halls and nightclubs over the previous five glorious nights. Hopefully having found some surprises, shocks, jolts to the viscera and intellect along the way, Decibel will by then seem like a endless stream of cultural ideal, made real. And as with every year, I'm sure it will seem premature by the time it's conclusion comes. Ushering in the end of Summer here in the Northwest as it does every year since 2004.