After several years of attending Decibel Festival,its position as one of the most well run, tasteful electronic music-focused events in the United States is pretty much set it stone. From the top on down, the festival is run by professional employees and volunteers who go above and beyond to make the most out of the experience. After a few blow out years that included larger lineups and more adventurous venue choices, Decibel narrowed their purview slightly for the 12th edition of the Festival, focusing more on the clubs around Bell Town, Downtown, SoDo and Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to catch the entire range of the festival, arriving late Thursday night, which meant missing acts like Jlin, The Black Madonna and Kid Smpl.

Despite a general adherence to what are, by-and-large, considered underground sounds, the remainder of the festival did come off as fairly monochromatic, featuring beats-oriented trap (or trap-oriented beats if you will) at the Beat Alchemy, Sublime, TeamSupreme and, we assume, Soulection nights on one hand and fairly banal tech house on the other. Of course, seeing acts like Function, Vril and Recondite broke the monotony somewhat, but compared to past years when the lineup seemed to reflect what sounds would arise over the next several years, Decibel 2015 only seemed to encapsulate the white bread sounds of the past half-decade. Granted, living in Los Angeles, where trappy beats and techy house rule all, certainly has a good deal to do with our distaste for a good portion of this year’s lineup, but we would argue that it’s more to do with the extremely high expectations that the Decibel team has built up in the past.


That all sounds quite negative of course, but we do have to say that the festival itself was a blast, from the first opportunity on Friday night to reacquaint ourselves with Seattle’s dancefloors and dancers to the weekend stealing performances from Dasha Rush and Tim Hecker at The Triple Door. Having come down with a cold the day before the festival, the meditative, futurist sounds of Rush’s performance at the Dark Overtones showcase early Saturday night proved especially impressive, the Russian impresarios brief vocals and bleak, swarming drones having an indelible effect on our memories of DB 2015. The fact that her performance sticks in the mind more than Hecker’s isn’t a slight to the Canadian artist either as his live set, heavy on materials from Virgins, was absolutely breathtaking, bringing a physicality to the album that couldn’t exist in a home listening environment.

As for the rest of the weekend, Function and Recondite brought special performances to their respective showcases, proving that fairly straightforward techno and house can still be loads of fun and, at The Showbox on Friday night, Laurel Halo ran through a remarkably confident set, bridging the gap between squeaky noise experiments and full bodied, four-on-the-floor numbers. On the downside, our brief appearance at Bonobo made us realize why we don’t attend most American festivals anymore, the neon-clad crowd fighting hand-over-fist to be on the floor for an upbeat set that hardly fit snuggly on the British artist. The unveiling of each Decibel Festival is always a special process and, despite not being able to participate in full this year and not feeling totally engaged by the lineup, we eagerly anticipate the 2016 edition, sure to involve plenty of curve balls and fascinating left-field programming. We’ll see y’all in the six next year.


A key member of the formidable Staycore crew, Gothenburg, Sweden-based Toxe (FKA Tove Agelii) has asserted her position as one of the most forceful, talented artists in the club music world over the past year, pushing an aesthetic that is as raw and unforgiving as it is delicate and inspiring. With a year left of high school and her debut Muscle Memory EP out on October 16 via Staycore, Toxe has seen a remarkably quick rise into the popular consciousness, first garnering attention for tracks like “Martial Arts” and “Offense” and further bolstering her credentials via collaborations with fellow Staycore members Dinamarca and Mechatok. Meanwhile, Tove started the ever-growing Sisters Facebook group, an in increasingly influential space for female producers, DJs, writers and label employees to share music, discuss sexism in the dance music world and occasionally work to take down a repugnant label head. And while Tove doesn’t like to take credit for founding Sisters, her role in instigating the movement is undisputed and her place as a positive and motivating presence for other female producers is well known.

With Muscle Memory out next week and a move from Gothenburg planned for next year, it’s easy to see Toxe’s name spreading like wildfire in the not too distant future, especially considering how fully formed and considered the EP is. Her Astral Plane mix is also remarkably consistent, showing off Toxe’s ability to switch up tempo with ease and utilize a range of vocals (from Missy Elliot to Jandro) over tracks from Muscle Memory and efforts from producers like v1984, Kamixlo and Zutzut (not to mention a host of her Staycore co-conspirators). It’s an all-enveloping listen that, despite changing speed several times, always seems to be moving at an energizing pace, smacking the listener with brusque, machinic kick patterns while soothing those hits with brief flits of angelic melodies and addicting hook work. We spoke with Tove via email about the mix, Sisters and the concept behind Muscle Memory, which is about as sure a thing as we’ve heard all year, words which can be found after the jump/below the fold. Also check out the full track list below the interview.

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A little while back, Los Angeles-based Letta sent Tomas at Coyote Records a few demos. The London-based label head became enamored with the works and hit Letta back, starting a process that would eventually become Testimony, his debut album out next week on Coyote. Nominally a grime outlet, Coyote works to break artists (Spokes, Silk Road Assassins, Forever Forever, etc.) with a left field approach to the London sound, melding tradition with wildly inventive approaches to melody. In that context, Letta’s inclusion in the Coyote fold makes all too much sense, but it’s been far from a linear path to this point, a story of addiction, rekindled inspiration and long lost family ties that we outlined in our interview with a few weeks ago. Last night, Letta took to the decks at the Coyote Boiler Room in London (still looping to our knowledge), sharing the stage with Last Japan, AJ Tracey and more and strutting Testimony and other material on his biggest stage yet. And while a record like Testimony isn’t exactly the banging club record that most Boiler Room audiences prefer, it fit seamlessly with performances from the rest of the Coyote roster, belying Letta’s status as a consummate outsider and snuffing out any doubts as to why he has been brought in for the label’s first full length release.

Listening to Letta’s Astral Plane mix a few days before his departure for the London, it becomes clear that his love for outsider music, whether that be Gang of Four or Mr. Mitch, seems to mesh easily with the weirder strains of modern rap and R&B. It’s not ever day that Ciara and Akira or Loom and D-Lo sit side by side, but through his own bootlegs and a few additions from Purple Tape Pedigree’s own Geng, the mix seems to come together with a somewhat jarring cinematic grace, topped off with well chosen and well placed dialogue snippets from The Wire. It shows off a more mischievous side of Letta’s repertoire as well, seen in his past bootleg work and hidden just below the surface throughout Testimony. This is most apparent in the way he works banger/big room quality vocal work over decidedly introspective beat work, drawing out qualities in both components that might otherwise have lied dormant. Letta will be hitting a good deal of radio while he’s in London so be on the lookout for those announcements and don’t forget to pre-order Testimony (out October 7)!

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A little over a month ago, we decided to take a short hiatus from our weekly mix series. The series is the crown jewel of our operation and as we get busier, it gets more and more difficult to maintain. In this case, it became something of a burden and the fun of placing mixes from our favorites artists every week almost felt like a hassle. Luckily, we’ve got the verve back now and will actually be expanding the series by including interviews with as many of the mixes as we can. Hope you enjoy.

The marriage of the pristine and the rugged can be throughout the history of electronic music, everything from acid house to hardcore to bassline smashing together beatific vocal samples with clattering breakbeats, roaring sublo frequencies with exquisite keyboard work. Some of our favorite music takes that ethos to another level, blurring the lines  between traditionally beautiful sounds and unadulterated noise, forcing the listener to face the scraping, banging, dragging characteristics of computer music. Arca, Fis and Rabit achieve this with particular aplomb and it appears that a whole wave of producers are willing to not only include, but embrace, industrial characteristics, whether derived from the hardware and/or software they use, the urban environment they reside in, or the literature or film they imbibe.

Across two EPs, for Slime Recordings and Clubwerks respectively, York-residing artist SHALT has built up a strong case to be mentioned in the aforementioned conversation and his forthcoming work should only cement that place. Built around crackling, disintegrating percussion and widescreen melodic work, abetted by disembodied vocal samples, SHALT’s work has a distinctly tactile feel, building out from techno, the darker side of garage and other UK club forms into an aesthetic distinctly his own. SHALT refers to science fiction as a means to investigate themes of life extension and extraterrestrial exploration and it’s not difficult to imagine tracks like “Callisto” or his edit of Tim Hecker’s “Stab Variation” soundtracking those advancements. That being said, SHALT’s work isn’t just some bland futurist statement or appraisal, its function as much body music as it is a science fiction statement. His Astral Plane Mix acts as a prologue for future work and considering the all-encompassing nature of the originals within, alongside work from Fis, Pinch & Mumdance, Cristobal Tapia de Veer and more, SHALT’s next step will be a further example of how to match the dissonant and sonorous forms.

Hit the jump to read our interview with SHALT and to check out the full track list…

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Since last year’s Malfunction EP, Tsvi’s sound has seemed to condense and expand in equal measure, his sparkly overtures into boogie funk-inspired work have mostly gone by the wayside in favor of halting metallic efforts like “Something” and, more recently, the London-based producer’s edit of Scratcha DVA’s “The End”. The cut up synth work and shimmering surfaces are still there, but in some cases, Tsvi has gone in another direction, offering up banging four-on-the-floor techno (see: “Aquaflush” and his remix of Drones Club’s “Changeling”). Maybe it’s the dialogue with DVA, Mickey Pearce and other likeminded artists, but Tsvi, and Nervous Horizon in general, has been delving into increasingly bizarre, entangled forms of club music and the results are jaw dropping across the board.

There’s no release date yet, but Tsvi’s Set You Free EP will mark the second solo release on Nervous Horizon (after Wallwork & RZR’s Don’t Panic EP) and, if you’ve been listening to Tsvi & Crack Palace’s Radar Radio slots or the Swamp81 Rinse show, you’ll recognize much of the direction the artist and label are beginning to embark on. Across several solo tunes, a collaboration with Luru and remixes from Lokane and Luru, raw, machinic noise is the modus operandi on Set Me Free, whether that be scraping snares or pulses found throughout. The Nervous Horizon crew is packed with talent these days and yet Tsvi still manages to shine through each and every time, delineating exactly what makes the label so unique while pushing it further. Be on the lookout for more news regarding Set You Free and check out a radio rip of Luru’s edit of the title track after the jump.

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Back in June, web outlet/community Classical Trax released two volumes of grime compilation Architecture in quick succession, bringing in artists like Maribor, Morten_HD, Archer, Korma and more to show off just how many different mutations of the UK sound has arisen. And while it might be a stretch to consider everything on Architecture: Chapter One and Two as following format established by the genre’s forefathers, the nomenclature still seems to fit in a vague sense. On September 30, Classical Trax will release a Deluxe Edition of the Architecture tapes, another stab at the London-centric sound with a new group of talent involved. Today, we’ve got Sugur Shane‘s Jeb1-produced and Deshawn Timothy-assisted “Vintage Rebel”, bringing together the two Philadelphia MCs with some classic-sounding sample chop production. Less an attempt to shoehorn a ballroom production template into grime or vise versa, “Vintage Rebel” features Sugur Shane and Deshawn Timothy spitting at their finest over Spooky-esque production, Jeb1’s cut up beat providing the perfect backdrop for the MC’s verbal acrobatics. Look out for Architecture: Deluxe Edition on September 30 and be sure to check out The Levels Are Very High‘s promo video for the tape after the jump. Artwork for the tape is by Jared Leopard.

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Photo by Euseng Seto

If you’ve been lucky enough to hear and/or own some of Malaysian artist Moslem Priest‘s many dubs, you’ll know the man born Farhan Yassin has a load of talent and a twisted rhythmic sensibility. One of the hardest working producers in the general club music sphere, Yassin’s Soundcloud is chock full of one-offs, remixes and other sonic goodies and despite a lack of official releases to his name, you could easily derive three to four albums worth of material based only on what’s already public. Next week, Rushmore‘s Trax Couture label brings Moslem Priest in for the second to last World Series, a slight derivation from the past few efforts in the serial, but a fit nonetheless with regards to its ruthless percussive sensibilities and functionality in the dance. World Series Vol. 11 is comprised of five sub bass-heavy efforts from Moslem Priest, an exercise in unconventional arrangements and robust, metallic noise. “Can I Get A” is an undulating, rolling techno number that contorts into a maelstrom of paranoiac synth work over its six minutes. It’s a track fit for warehouse play that doesn’t fit into any existing “warehouse techno” format, a divergence from past four-on-the-floor that draws from grime’s sparse arrangements and in-your-face attitude. World Series Vol. 11 is out September 28 on Trax Couture. Hit the jump for clips from the full EP.

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Next week, London outfit Tobago Tracks will release Organ Tapes‘ debut mixtape, the vocal-heavy WORD LIFE. First grabbing our attention via his collaborative (with Pitcheno) cover of Future and Kanye West’s “I Won”, Organ Tapes has become one of our favorite artists over the past few months, both for his beatific, slightly androgynous vocal work and for his bizarre, ambient-noise heavy beat work. “心雨”, from WORD LIFE, recalls Mario Winans and Chief Keef in equal measure, a track with a slightly underwater feel and one of the strongest vocals to date in the Organ Tapes catalogue. Be sure to check out Organ Tapes’ Astral Plane mix and look out for the release of WORD LIFE on September 23.

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It’s another blistering day as Letta and I sit outside the Arts District warehouse he’s currently staying at. Los Angeles’ famed beat scene is the topic of conversation, or, more accurately, the lack of recent innovation in Los Angeles’ beat scene. “I can’t fuck with anymore 404 drum machines or those god damn jazzy seventh chords that sound like Nintendo. How long can you do that?” Hailing from the Northwest, Tony Nicoletta has followed a roundabout path to his current location, a path rife with internal struggle, addiction and violence. Letta is also sick of the deluge of kids following outfits like Team Supreme and Soulection. “If I were that positive I would be married and be a real estate agent and have a huge house. All this shit that makes LA seem so laid back and peaceful gets to me.”

With his debut Testimony LP out on October 9, Letta has a lot on his mind and while LA’s hoards of teenage trap DJs are a drag, the album’s background soon takes over the conversation. “I did the hip hop thing for a really long time. Always slower than the boom bap-y stuff, more on a Portishead tip. I was always making shit at 65-70 BPM. I just sampled shit for years.” The conversation takes a detour to the tragic passing of legendary Brownsville rapper Sean P, one of Letta’s favorite MCs and an immensely relatable figure. Nonetheless, Nicoletta later laments that “words are dead” and, at least for now, he’s working almost entirely with the instrumental format, blending the occasional sample into the mix but largely letting his pensive, harmonically thorough productions shine on their own.

Letta first came across grime in the early 2000s, initially attracted by the sparse arrangements and dark minimalism of Wiley, Ruff Sqwad and Tinchy Strider. The MCs reminded him of East Coast rap’s rougher streak, the cold, no-fucks-given attitude that would also attract him to Portishead and Gang of Four. In fact, Letta’s dad was in several Seattle and Bellingham-based synth pop bands, an uneven (but unsurprising) musical lineage that included the passing down of an Ensoniq ESQ-1. Years later, after a long stint in a methadone clinic, Letta would utilize a Casio-101 to begin to realize the sound found throughout Testimony, a cavernous blend of twisting, heart-wrenching synth lines and punchy drum programming loosely based in classic grime, but more akin to the style pumped out by other Coyote artists like Spokes and Last Japan, as well as much of Mr. Mitch’s Gobstopper roster.

Hit the jump to read the full Letta feature interview…

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The trip back to my hometown of Seattle for Decibel Festival almost seems like routine at this point, an annual late-September jaunt back to the Northwest to see what the festival has to offer and how it has adapted to the city’s rapidly changing landscape. While past festival’s have proven to be fertile party zones, highlights coming from after hours events and day time boat parties, Decibel 2015 looks to have a healthy dose of the more cerebral side of the electronic music spectrum, acts like Laurel Halo, Tim Hecker and Kid Smpl standing out more than the deluge of house, techno and beats acts that make up the rest of the bill. Of course, Marcel Dettman, The Black Madonna and the indomitable Jlin have us all a flutter, but there’s something about sitting in the Triple Door at 6 PM or catching the early sets at Neumos or The Crocodile that seems especially cathartic this time time around. Maybe it’s the time of year or maybe I’m getting older, but there’s only so much tech house one individual can take. Without further ado, our three most anticipated acts at this year’s Decibel Festival. See you out there.

1.) Jlin – Discwoman – Thursday, September 24 – Re-Bar

As Chicago’s footwork movement has gone worldwide, more and more artists from the city itself and the surroundings have begun to attract critical attention. Jlin, a Gary, Indiana based steel worker, released her debut album, Dark Energy, on Planet Mu in March and the album still stands up as one of the genre’s most nerve-bending experiments and a record that can hardly be called footwork. Angular, paranoid and full of pent up, raw movement, Dark Energy fits almost seemingly in the void between “body” music and “mind” music, binding a vicious approach to mind numbingly complex drum programming and an almost unrivaled spacial awareness. Jlin wil be performing at the Discwoman showcase, alongside Natasha Kmeto, Young Ejecta, Raica and Experimental Housewife, on Thursday night on Re-Bar.

2.) The Black Madonna – Bottom Forty – Thursday, September 24 – The Crocodile

Resident at Chicago’s legendary Smart Bar and now international auteur of all things good and holy in the world of house, techno and disco, The Black Madonna is someone we can all look up to, for her skills on deck, her multifaceted production work and her constant struggle for gender equality in the dance music sphere. One of the most exciting American deejays, the woman born Marea Stamper is something of a jack of all trades, playing party starting sets without coming across ostentatious, work that can be heard in her recent Bunker and Boiler Room podcasts. The Black Madonna plays at the Bottom Forty showcases, alongside Daniel Avery and Nark, on Thursday night at The Crocodile.

3.) Tim Hecker – Optical: Dark Overtone – Saturday, September 26 – The Triple Door

Everything I could say about Tim Hecker has probably already been said, but the chance to see his full ensemble (I just missed his performance with Tyondai Braxton in Los Angeles) is one of the main reasons for attending this year’s festival. Slated to play in Seattle jazz club The Triple Door, Hecker’s synesthetic, fever dream-esques compositions are truly one of a kind, bringing ambient into the noise world and vice versa. At once deafening, soothing and hallucinogenic, the Montreal artist’s past few albums, especially Virgins and Ravedeath, 1972 have been immensely important to me personally and have served as an entry point to the more abstract, sit down part of the electronic music world. Hecker will be performing at the Dark Overtone showcase, alongside Dasha Rush and Alexander Lewis, on Saturday night at The Triple Door.


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