Saturday, September 14, 2013

Decibel Festival of Electronic Music: Sept 25 - 29

The end of Summer rolls around again as Seattle plays host to the second-largest electronic music festival in the United States! Hard to believe, 2003, the first year Sean Horton and crew, inspired by years of attending Mutek in that gorgeous city of Montreal, conceived assembling something of it's kin on the west coast, and Decibel Festival of Electronic Music and Visual Media was born. This year celebrating their 10 Year Anniversary with 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 4 Optical Showcases of multi-media arts, abstract and experimental sounds, in seated theater performance venues. WEDNESDAY Opening night begins with the spacial sonic installation work of Mileece in the lush setting of the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a showcase of Factory Pop to follow at Neumos, with Peter Hook performing classics from New Order's "Power, Corruption & Lies" and "Movement" along with Chicago's electro-pop pioneers, Adult. Across town the abstract hip-hop beats of Ninja Tune's Blockhead and Wax Taylor can be heard at the Showbox and by night's end, the heavy bassbin assault of London's Hyperdub label bringing you label founder, Kode9's particular fusion of Reggae, Dub, Electronic and Bass Music. Labelmates Ikonika and DJ Spinn round out the bill.

THURSDAY Decibel's second night starting off a slow, gorgeous ramp-up rather than an explosive bang, we get the first of the Optical 1: Kollaborations at Nordstrom Recital Hall featuring neoclassical composer Hauschka and collaborative project from piano virtuoso Nils Frahm and Portland's electro-acoustic folkie, Peter Broderick as Oliveray. Afterwards across town the always excellent Resident Advisor hosts a showcase of that artist we were denied in last year's Decibel, Actress, with Lapalux and Natasha Kmeto supporting. Back up the hill at Chop Suey the solid roster on the Tri Angle label shows their stuff, with Vessel and the dark hip-hop and dub assault of Evian Christ, while at Neumos, Shabazz Palaces represents for Sub Pop's 25th Anniversary at night's end. FRIDAY The weekend begins with Optical 2 again in the prime acoustic setting of the Nordstrom Recital Hall, Friday's showcase being all things Erased Tapes label, with a second solo performance of Berlin's Nils Frahm and Icelandic chamber music composer, Olafur Arnalds. Across town at the Crocodile, Ghostly International celebrate their own 10 year anniversary contributing to Decibel, having been a significant part of the festival since it's inception, this year presenting Shigeto, Lusine, Dauwd and Beacon. Away across the no-man's expanse, the South-of-Downtown Showbox hosts the Cosmische inspired tech-disco of Nicolas Jaar and friends, Warp's Mount Kimbie and Phaelah. Simultaneously, more Ninja Tune beats can be heard at the downtown Showbox WTF Showcase with Machinedrum and XXYYXX. If you're not exhausted yet, Q will supply the delirious Afterhours barrage of Speedy J and multi-media artist extraordinaire, Scott Pagano pushing all levels into the red.  

SATURDAY If Friday hasn't already inspired bodily transcendence, the second weekend night is almost certain to be threshold defining, as it's a looong and diverse one. Beginning with Optical 3: Night Vessel featuring the vamp chanteuse, Zola Jesus and symphonic/big band composer, Jim Thirlwell with the psych/noise abstraction of Margaret Chardiet's Pharmakon. Decibel in the Park will again be a smaller affair this year, basically the ambient 'framing' for the festival's will-call at the Broadway Performance Hall. Speaking of anniversaries and longevity, Thomas Fehlmann and Alex Paterson return! Joined by fellow Cosmic Adventurer Detroit's Juan Atkins across town at the Showbox. Again simultaneous at Showbox Sodo, the Ragga, Rhymes, Beats and Bass of the Mad Decent label will be unleashing their low-frequency barrage. If you're running on superhuman reserves by this point, there's a double-thrashing of alfterhours on offer with Derrick Carter representing for Mixmag at Q and yet another anniversary! The 20th in fact, for Berlin's era-defining techno label Kompakt at Neumos, featuring a second solo set by Thomas Fehlmann, Matias Aguayo and John Tejada... ending at 6:30am. Yes, you read that right. SUNDAY Closing day performances begin with what will likely be a personal highlight of the whole festival, Optical 4: Black Noise featuring the Warp records-meets-Constellation label electro-acoustic dirge, percussion and bass of the UK's Raime, Australian bass, noise and Metal maestro Oren Ambarchi and Seattle's own Rafael Anton Irisarri as The Sight Below at the Triple Door. Across downtown at the Crocodile more stylings of the Brainfeeder, Ninja Tune and Timetable labels with Nosaj Thing, Teebs and the bass n' gloom thrum of Lorn likely being the last venue I find myself in, at the end of a 5 day odyssey. 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.