Tag Archives: Decibel Festival


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.


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.


Decibel Festival, like many other contemporary festivals that straddle the dwindling line between underground and overground forms of dance music, was heavy (to say the least) on four-on-the-floor house and techno. In fact, the festival’s adherence to technical linearity was so strong that one could posit that the steady pulse of a kick drum defined Decibel 2014. From the late night Ostgut Ton showcase at Q Nightclub to Phuture’s TB-303 jams, house and techno from the world over could be found at Decibel, but the respective genres’ British and German constructions took center stage. This created something of a dilemma for a team looking for more rhythmic variance and, shall we say, a global purview than your standard techno bro fest. Fortunately, the Decibel lineup provided pockets of brilliance in the form of jungle, footwork, grime and kuduro, allowing us to indulge in gaudy, kick drum-heavy performances from T. Williams, Wolf+Lamb, Nadastrom and more.

On Wednesday night, Arca and Total Freedom, with music video art auteur Jesse Kanda providing visual accompaniment on a huge LED screen, took to EMP’s Sky Church with a vengeance, weaving syncopated kuduro and dembow rhythmic patterns into a number of contemporary pop hits. The Sky Church, a massive room in a corporate music mausoleum, is an odd venue to hold a genre and gender bending performance from three prodigiously talented artists, but a small, dedicated crowd, equal measures repulsed by and smitten with Kanda’s Vine compilation-meets-high concept body art, was up for the challenge proffered by the CDJ wielding deejays. A percentage of the crowd was even made up of holdovers from Max Cooper’s technically proficient, but disappointingly linear performance (the following night’s dancer-assisted showcase featuring Cooper was supposedly far superior) that preceded Arca’s takeover, a less surprising development than one might expect considering the breadth of interests and knowledge among the Decibel crowd.

Hit the jump for the totality of our Decibel coverage…

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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.


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.

Over the past nine years, Seattle’s Decibel Festival has established itself as one of the premier purveyors of forward thinking electronic music in the world. While not quite as recognizable as names like Sonar or MUTEK, Decibel’s focus on live performance and technology, both through its panels and showcases, has elevated it to revered status among fans and artists alike. Like any festival, the lineup poses many difficult choices, but because Decibel is held at venues across the city, discerning festival attendees usually have to choose one or two events to hit a night. To possibly aid your decision making process, we’ve chosen the five showcases that we are most excited about. Of course, it’s impossible to predict which showcases will be the biggest hits and there will certainly be more than a few surprises. With legends like Carl Craig, Orbital, DJ Shadow and Erykah Badu’s Cannabinoids project on the bill, as well as a special visit from The Boiler Room, it is sure to be a special five days. And to be honest, you can’t really go wrong with any of the dB showcases. Without further ado, our recommendations…

Beat Prodigies Presented By LFTF Feat. Dabrye, Samo Soundboy, Kid Smpl, Keyboard Kid and Katie Kate (Wednesday September 26 @ Barboza 21+)

Unsurprisingly, the good folks at Live For The Funk have put together one of the most diverse, eccentric showcases of the entire festival. Beat Prodigies is headlined Beat scene legend and Dilla disciple Dabrye who has laid low for the the past half-decade. The Detroit native has only released one EP (as James T. Cotton), but his left-field sampleology still sounds as fresh as ever. Samo Soundboy is the founder of Body High and one of the foremost purveyors of American club music. His latest release, the 5 Dollar Paradise EP, is an exhibition in acid sounds bridging the TR-303 with contemporary club sounds that should light a fire under the Barboza dancers. Contrasting the upbeat hip hop and club sounds of the two headliners, Kid Smpl will bring the Night Bus vibes to the club. Rounding out the lineup are Keyboard Kid and Katie Kid. Expect tempos to swing wildly throughout the showcase and be prepared to vogue.. or whatever you do.

Find our Thursday-Sunday recommendations after the jump…

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