hush-hush-showcase

For the next two weeks, we will be featuring different facets of Seattle’s crown jewel of an electronic music event, the consistently excellent Decibel Festival. Considering that Seattle is our hometown and Decibel is one of the most tactful curators of electronic music in the United States, the annual gathering is one of the highlights of our year and more than deserves the praise heaped on it in recent years. The festival runs on a showcase structure, featuring different labels, promotion groups and other tastemakers flexing their creative muscle at Seattle’s best venues. Over the past 11 years, Decibel has grown from a small neighborhood gathering to one of the premiere dance music festivals in the world and over the next few weeks, we’ll parse through the dozens of events to highlight the best and brightest talent the festival has to offer.

Over the past week of Decibel Festival coverage, we’ve pointed our cursors at two showcases, Kinesthesia (Arca + Jesse Kanda, Max Cooper, Total Freedom) and Modern Love (Andy Stott, Millie & Andrea, Demdike Stare), that stopping through Seattle in the midst of truly global tours that will hit dozens of other cities before 2014 lets out. And while Decibel’s growth has allowed the inclusion of highly touted live acts like the aforementioned Cooper and Stott, its roots are still firmly planted in the lush Pacific Northwest and a heartening number of the festival’s key acts hail from Seattle, Portland and the surrounding region. Natasha Kmeto, DJAO, J. Alvarez, The Sight Below and many more local artists will be displaying their numerous talents across a number of showcases, but the single, most condensed collection of local talent at Decibel comes in the form of the Hush Hush Records showcase. Still a relatively young outlet, the discography of Alex Ruder’s label reads like a storyboard of against-the-grain beatwerk, from the fabric (and heart) tearing UK-derived work of Kid Smpl to the richly textured guitar + voice compositions of Cock & Swan.

Hush Hush will be bringing the core of its roster to Decibel and the showcase, taking place on September 26 (Friday) at EMP’s JBL Theater, will feature live performances from Kid Smpl, Hanssen, Slow Year, and Cock & Swan. And while the label ostensibly started as an outlet for the sort of “night bus” sounds intended to soundtrack long, lunar rides on public transportation, this bill has more than enough propulsion to bring any listener out of their doldrums. For a taste a what’s to come next Friday, Hush Hush core man Hanssen was kind enough to contribute a mini mix of key and upcoming label material, all influenced by gauzy hip hop, found sound collage art and rich R&B dynamics. The Hush Hush showcase will not feature the biggest names or stage productions at Decibel, but you won’t find a better representation of the festival’s DIY spirit, inclusive ethos and overall quality control.

If our insistence on attending showcases at EMP seems odd, it’s only because the venue will play host to many of Decibel’s most dynamic performances, dancefloor oriented and not. On any one night, you could witness the hellish choral work of Oneohtrix Point Never, the brilliant harmonics of Cock & Swan and the West African-derived percussive workouts of Millie & Andrea in Seattle’s usual home of rock & roll kitsch. Get single tickets to the Hush Hush showcase here.

decibel-festival-modern-love

For the next two weeks, we will be featuring different facets of Seattle’s crown jewel of an electronic music event, the consistently excellent Decibel Festival. Considering that Seattle is our hometown and Decibel is one of the most tactful curators of electronic music in the United States, the annual gathering is one of the highlights of our year and more than deserves the praise heaped on it in recent years. The festival runs on a showcase structure, featuring different labels, promotion groups and other tastemakers flexing their creative muscle at Seattle’s best venues. Over the past 11 years, Decibel has grown from a small neighborhood gathering to one of the premiere dance music festivals in the world and over the next few weeks, we’ll parse through the dozens of events to highlight the best and brightest talent the festival has to offer.

Coming straight out of Manchester, Thursday night (9/25) at Decibel Festival will feature heavyweights from the Modern Love roster, namely Andy Stott, Mikes Whittaker and Miles’ and Andy’s respective side-projects Millie & Andrea and Demdike Stare. Of course, reducing Millie & Andrea and Demdike Stare, the former Stott and Whittaker’s fellowship and the latter Whittaker and Sean Canty’s effort, to a footnote is silly and the collective’s performance at Decibel is slated to be one of the most explosive, driving events of the week. Born out of the ashes of the Peicanneck record shop (which would later become Boomkat), Modern Love was founded in 2002 and has formed one of the key pillars of the city’s dance music avant-garde. Equal parts grave/minimalist and overblown/maximalist, Modern Love has gone through a number of incantations and the most recent has been dominated by Stott and Whittaker. The former’s dub techno epic Luxury Problems transcended its own genre label and is still percolating through the popular consciousness two consciousness while the latter’s work on Demdike Stare has garnered an affinity from noise fans and dance music devotees alike.

On Thursday at Decibel, the Modern Love-ians will take the stage at EMP Level 3, the upstairs area of the museum/concert space. All three acts are bringing out their live sets and Stott’s solo set will feature a full a/v component. The showcase will surely feature its share of intrigue from the three acts, but expect a hard-hitting, percussive backbone, masterful dynamics between performers and a singular aesthetic defined by a yearning be somewhere else that defies each respective act’s disparate source material. And while Stott’s solo material and the Demdike Stare project have proven to be two of the more captivating sonic projects in recent years, Millie & Andrea’s set has this particular writer impatient with excitement. Ostensibly “less serious” in the musicians’ own words. Millie & Andrea’s performance is sure to feature the percussive acrobatics that have become the sound du jour of club music producers in recent years. The duo’s debut LP, Drop The Vowels, was released earlier this year on Modern Love and is one of the most comprehensive accounts of percussion I’ve heard in a long time, bringing breakbeats, electro, house and techno, played out on numerous classic drum machines, into the same singular melange. After the clanging affect of Millie & Andrea, I have a feeling that Stott’s solo headline performance will sound downright angelic.

Buy single tickets for the Modern Love showcase here.

magic-fades

For many years, artists of the sonic ilk have attempted to forge their way through a landscape of copyright law and appropriation discussion, both issues exacerbated in the Internet-age, with varying success. On the one hand, there’s the owners of the Dope Jams record shop; masters of acerbic banter, but more importantly, unrepentant bootleggers. The two owners, who also go by Slow to Speak, have been pressing classic pop 12″ for years (with the addition of their own edits) and while their CORE series is a completely legitimate business in the eyes of copyright law, they’ve made a name for themselves as anti-ASCAP Robin Hoods of a sort. On the other hand are the countless musicians who have been expunged from the annals of Soundcloud, Pro payment or no, for violating the website’s increasingly draconian rules and algorithms, only to recreate their profile and pull out the credit card at the next possible turn.

On the creative side of the debate, especially with regards to outer realm dance music, lies the conversation on appropriation, sampling and, especially, sound collage art. Portland duo Magic Fades have spent the past several years dappling in R&B, hip hop and the weapons-grade fallout that was/is vaporwave, grabbing onto bits and pieces of pop music ephemera from the past twenty years to craft seemingly tenuous, yet deceivingly affecting collage work. But interestingly enough, Magic Fades started out as an act that seemed to have the potential to fit itself into the singular world of digital-filtered, big room R&B alongside acts like Autre Ne Veut and How To Dress Well. 2012’s Obsession LP, released through Mishka, didn’t necessarily see the duo draft an original sound out of the ether, but the album’s nods to The-Dream, Usher and Prince didn’t overwhelm the project and, in the end, were nothing more than reverent flourishes.

Fast forward a few years and R&B still forms the central column of the Magic Fades sound, but the remaining sonic aesthetic has splintered and broken apart, only to be brought back together in a disjointed frankenstein of influences, effects and digital mementos. Earlier this year, the duo collaborated on an album with Soul Ipsum, the Zirconia Reign LP, which was released by 1080p in April. Sounding more like E+E or Lotic than R. Kelly, the LP featured soundtrack-inspired grandiosity and a drastically improved production value that lifted Magic Fades out of the proverbial bedroom. And Zirconia Reign not only sounds larger than the duo’s previous work, it’s crashing pastiche of flutes, piano, violin and rave digitalism has highlighted, by drawing together disparate elements from across the pop and avant-garde landscape, a distinct Magic Fades sound.

Since the release of Zirconia Reign, Magic Fades have dedicated themselves to elucidating the collective phantasm through club music, drafting a number of edits and blends that bring together key figures in the progressive club music realm (Neana, Air Max ’97 and Sudanim) with the likes of Tinashe, their most barefaced attempts at collage work to date. The result is far more cohesive than the aforementioned E+E, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get across a chaotic, decomposing affect. What started on Obsession as stylistic appropriation has grown into full-fledged aesthetic smash-and-grab, a gravity-less melange of sounds, melodies, riffs and vocal lines that smash into each other as often as they coalesce in harmonic perfection. Coming back to copyright and appropriation, Magic Fades don’t necessarily play the conscious role of insurgent, but their work flies in the face of the traditional, rockist conception of originality. And their Astral Plane mix epitomizes that ethos, a series of edits with no clear start and no clear end, grafted together with apparent slapdash abandon. It’s a channel changing epic that frazzles the mind as much as it dazzles the senses, but this time around it has a function: dancefloor efficacy.

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tsvi

Coming off of a series of intriguing edits, Italian producer Tsvi has garnered placement on b.yrsfl disparate roster, joining a cadre of talented, yet unproven producers. The EP hasn’t been granted a release date quite yet, but Tsvi’s melodious productions have hit more than a few pegs on the club music bulletin board, drawing a pastiche of influences into his own propulsive soup. It’s the interstices of said influences where Tsvi shines though, the points in “Malfunction” where everything seems to fall away, only to be brought back through the stomping, Jersey club-indebted kick drum that has appeared in nearly every Tsvi production to date.

jackie-dagger

Along with Feloneezy, Jackie Dagger heads Teklife’s small cohort of Belgrade representatives, stretching the Chicago sound to extreme new geographic and sonic lengths. Dabbling in footwork, ghetto house, grime, ballroom and other disparate sounds, Dagger and Feloneezy begun to form their own unique sound distinct from the genre hubs they draw inspiration from. And while the debate over whether European producers have any right to rekindle the inner-city sounds of Chicago, Detroit, or Baltimore, Dagger and Feloneezy often partake in the exercise with a particular grace that has endeared the duo to Teklife veterans and brought members of the crew to their hometown of Belgrade. “Buck Dat” is Dance Mania to the core, from the overblown rounded kicks to the vocal sample, and its a brutally efficient effort at that. Based on their mix work, Dagger and Feloneezy have begun to settle into a particular aesthetic, narrowing their tempo to 130-140 and drawing in on an ebullient, laser-focused and percussive sound.

bludwork

Los Angeles has always been a house music center of sorts, spawning innumerable independent scenes since its arrival in the 1980s and drawing in hundreds of emigrant producers from across the country. The dubby, tech-oriented sounds of the city’s warehouse culture have deemed the Los Angeles Sound by some, but that designation short sells everything from the hazy tapedeck productions of the 100% Silk label to the tardy hedonism of A Club Called Rhonda. Hailing from Long Beach, Bludwork has taken the stunted, hypnagogic palette preferred by so many Angelenos and wrapped it in a seedy gauze, infusing a tasteful funk into the noire-leaning draft established by two decades of Southern California producers. Bludwork’s debut EP, titled Venetian Vines, will become the inaugural release on Golden Zed Recordings on September 19 and based on the label’s ever-fresh mix series (Moscow’s Shyam & Tom Depp included) large expectations are in order for this small imprint emerging from the harbor.

OPTICAL

For the next two weeks, we will be featuring different facets of Seattle’s crown jewel of an electronic music event, the consistently excellent Decibel Festival. Considering that Seattle is our hometown and Decibel is one of the most tactful curators of electronic music in the United States, the annual gathering is one of the highlights of our year and more than deserves the praise heaped on it in recent years. The festival runs on a showcase structure, featuring different labels, promotion groups and other tastemakers flexing their creative muscle at Seattle’s best venues. Over the past 11 years, Decibel has grown from a small neighborhood gathering to one of the premiere dance music festivals in the world and over the next few weeks, we’ll parse through the dozens of events to highlight the best and brightest talent the festival has to offer.

The past several years at Decibel have involved what events organizers have dubbed “Optical” showcases, usually involving artists who trend towards the more experimental end of the spectrum, or who involve a strong visual element in their performances. Last year’s events took place in the comfortable confines of a concert hall (Nordstrom Recital Hall) and jazz club (The Triple Door) respectively, venues that were optimal for the piano stylings of Nils Frahm, but lacked the performative oomph that one might expect from an A/V showcase. This year, four Optical events will take place at the Nordstrom Recital Hall and The Triple Door, but the remaining two will be held at the EMP Sky Church, a visually breathtaking space in an otherwise corporate kitsch “museum”. The first of those showcases, titled Kinesthesia (proprioception, hand-eye coordination, etc.), takes places on the festival’s first day (9/24) and features the world debut of Max Cooper’s Emergence project, a joint Arca + Jesse Kanda set, Ghostly International’s Seattle representative The Sight Below, and an always special DJ set from Fade 2 Mind provocateur Total Freedom.

For the better part of five years, Belfast-born multi-instrumentalist, producer, and collaborationist Max Cooper has been at the forefront of experimental electronic music, balancing a dance music career with a desire to transcend the genre’s traditional limitations. Cooper’s list of plaudits are too long to list, but his work with filmmakers Nick Cobby, Dmitry Zakharov and Cedric de Smedt is representative of his invigorating, trans-genre and cross-cultural approach to art. Cooper will bring the world debut of his Emergence A/V spectacle to Decibel, a show that is advertised as melding the “scientific, experimental, musical and visual sides” of the artist’s arsenal into a singular entity.

While the debut of Cooper’s Emergence certainly has us peaked for Kinesthesia, the tandem of Arca’s (born Alejandro Ghersi) beat smashing prowess and Kanda’s visual acrobatics might end up as the standout moment of the entire festival. 2012’s Stretch 1 and Stretch 2 brought Arca to the fore as a solo artist, bringing attention to his collage-like style, innovative vocal manipulations and positively odd influence on the pop music he took influence from for the aforementioned tapes. 2013 saw an alliance with British crooner/dancer/inspiration FKA Twigs and placement on Kanye West’s divisive Yeezus LP, a dramatic rise to prominence for a still-relatively-unknown producer, but one that felt entirely natural. In fact, Arca’s vocal manipulations can be found throughout the seams Yeezus, especially on “Hold My Liquor”, “Blood On The Leaves” and “Im In It”. Arca’s best work has undoubtedly come with Twigs and Kanda, the former the ascendant R&B star; the latter the visual impresario who has melded both Arca and Twigs’ (respective) iconic public images. Ghersi and Kanda are best friends after all and the two live together, work together constantly and, with Twigs in the fold, have come as close as anyone to holding up a funhouse mirror to pop culture. The duo’s performance at the Sky Church will certainly feature music from Arca’s recent “&&&&&” tape and Twigs’ LP1, and fact that Kanda was intimately involved in both processes will prove to be fascinating in the live arena.

Total Freedom rounds out the Kinesthesia bill, representing Fade 2 Mind and bringing the label’s signature flame to the night. It’s virtually impossible to predict what’s to come with a Total Freedom DJ set, but based on his recent spat of dates with Kelela and a number of off-the-cuff edits, Mr. Ashland Mines will certainly adumbrate Arca and Kanda’s set with some magic of his own.

Buy single tickets for Kinesthesia here and be sure to show up at the Sky Church come 9/24 if you have a festival pass.

mila-j

After the official Ty Dolla $ign, Problem & Kirko Bangz remix, and L-Vis 1990’s bifurcated redux, any producer is going to be hard-pressed to innovate on the ground work set by Mila J’s breakout “Smoke Drink Break Up”. Enter Murlo, who, along with Dubbel Dutch, has done more to bring up the collective spirit of the grime/dancehall listening public in recent months. The London producer’s take on “Smoke Drink Breakup” isn’t quite as ebullient as his contributions to the recent Her Records and Madam X comps, but few producers bring the skip and/or bounce inherent in a  Murlo production.

cyphr-ekleipsis

The multi-faceted approach of the Her Records squad is readily apparent in the cycle of new singles/EPs, from each member of the team, that have arrived in the past year. Each release, stylistically divergent from the last, has offered a new prong in the Her arsenal and June’s Her Records Vol. 3 compilation tied the whole endeavor together in neat, singular package. The next project titled Ekleipsis, comes courtesy of CYPHR later this month and sees the London-based producer continue the harmonic backflips we saw on his remix of Zutzut and Lao’s “Momentos De XTC”. The EP’s title track is coliseum large, but also strangely intimate, drawing on battle-drum percussion and vocal-esque pads for a wholly encompassing affect. Ekleipsis is set for a September 30 release date, but can pre-ordered now.

10559957_10152329905523127_3821057916244698196_n (1)

Following recent Mixmag and Boiler Room premieres and leading into tomorrow’s Boiler Room Berlin debut (15:00-21:00 CEST !!! ) She’s Drunk has released the third track off his highly anticipated Physical EP to be released by Liminal Sounds later this month. “Mariah Believes” sees the Berlin-based club producer throwing what sounds like Thugger samples in between Mariah Carey’s (the Mariah in question) choked out ad libs. This is all tossed on top of hectic fried-out bass and Rock The Boat-esque drums to draw the tangible out of a 90’s rnb fantasy. Stream below and purchase the EP to get bonus track “Sluty”.

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