The Decibel Festival, which will be taking place September 22nd through the 26th in venues scattered across Seattle (but primarily in Capitol Hill), has become one of the world’s fastest-growing and most renowned showcases of contemporary electronic music. Created and organized by Seattle’s Sean Horton, the festival is in now in its 7th year and will feature over 140 artists from all over the world playing the widest variety of electronic music you could imagine finding in one place over the course of less than a week. The dB Fest is a non-profit venture, and is committed to the progression of new ideas, innovations, and technology through conferences, workshops, and, of course, performances by the world’s most groundbreaking electronic music artists.
And FYI, the festival’s website is absolutely incredible and features detailed artist bios, links, music samples, videos, schedules, and embedded maps to the venues.
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of the week’s events:
The docket of shows on the mid-week opening day of dB Fest 2010 is understandably limited. We can’t get burned out on Wednesday night! There will be an dB Opening Gala that will run from 5:00-10:00 pm at Pravada Studios and feature KEXP’s own Darek Mazzone. Over at the Baltic Room, the DNB Showcase will get underway a bit later, but the Main Event is the Ghostly International Showcase at Neumos, which is many’s Main Event for the entire festival. Don’t get there any later than 10:15, when London producer Gold Panda‘s set will get underway. He’ll be followed by Seattle’s own Lusine and then Pantha du Prince will be headlining the event from 12:15-1:30. My eyes lit up when I saw these three artists (Gold Panda, Lusine, and Pantha du Prince) scheduled to play back-to-back-to-back in the same venue, and I might be looking forward to this stretch more than anything else that the whole weekend, especially Pantha du Prince. This is from PdP’s website:
For music is always already there, even without humans. On his new album, the producer and DJ, who lives in Berlin and Paris, claims: music slumbers in all matter; any sound, even silence, is already music. The mission, then, must be to render audible what is unheard and unheard of: black noise, a frequency that is inaudible to man. Black noise often presages natural disasters, earthquakes or floods; only some animals perceive this “calm before the storm.” Black noise is something archaic and earthy.
Yowza! How exciting is it for artists to be thinking in these terms!? That’s another great thing about Decibel Festival and the direction in which electronic music is moving in general. It is all about the music, and exploring the artistic bounds and types of emotions and atmospheres that sound and music and tones and effects can illicit. Artists like Pantha du Prince truly fancy themselves as artists. They are not concerned with rockstar showmanship, cliched lyricism, or any of the other mitigating factors tied to popular music that only serve to deflect attention from what music as art should really be about. Of course there are artistic aspects to showmanship, vocals, lyrics, and the like, but so often these things are cultivated solely to appeal to an audience that is already accustomed to something that is familiar and ultimately static, not something that is progressive and pushing the bounds of what music as art can be. I salute you, Pantha du Prince!
…Alright, enough of my rambling bullshit, on to Thursday:
dB Fest is in full-swing by Thursday, which features a number of stacked showcases including festival headliner Flying Lotus closing out the day at Neumos. Thankfully all the venues are contained within relative walking distance of one another on Capitol Hill, so if you have a pass you can hop around.
Starting at 8:00 pm in the Pravada Studios will be the Room40 Showcase. Room40 is an Australia-based label that specializes in experimental music. The Icelandic producer Ben Frost will be headlining from 8:00-10:00. His music can sound like everything from an alien landing to the creaking hull of a ship, and it’s clear that he’s been heavily influenced by Iceland’s desolate and otherworldly terrain.
At Sole Repair will be the Make Like A Tree Showcase, which will feature mostly house music. In addition to performances by Seattle DJs Struggle and Energy Flash, the Austin-based Disco Nihilist will be headlining the event from 12:00-1:30 pm. Disco Nihilist “produces using cheap second-hand hardware, records on tape, and only releases his music on vinyl.” It’s astounding the variety of technological approaches the artists at dB Fest take to making music!
At the Baltic Room will be the Dublo Showcase, which will feature primarily bass-heavy dubstep sets. Renowned British producers Clubroot and Distance will bring the night home starting at 10:00.
If you want a little bit of everything, the two-room Shameless Showcase at Chop Suey will have a number of artists coming from a variety of genres, including German DJ Dan Bell headlining at midnight.
The Main Event on Thursday will be FlyLo & Friends at Neumos. LA-based Flying Lotus is one of the most innovative, diverse, and respected electronic musicians in the world today. This year alone he has released a full-length album Cosmogramma and, more recently, an EP called Pattern + Grid World. Both have been highly critically acclaimed and have cemented Flying Lotus as one of the foremost electronic producers/DJs in the world. This show will be packed. Also don’t miss Seattle group Truckasaurus who will be coming on at 9:00 pm and always put on a great show.
...and DB Fest isn’t even half over. There are even more options Friday and into the weekend:
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday there will be a series of Optical Showcases that will take place in Benaroya Hall (Can this festival get any better!?), and the organizers nailed it by scheduling artists for which venue acoustics can elevate a performance from good to transcendent. Optical 1, on Friday, will feature artists specializing in ambient sound and using space to create a tonal atmosphere. Mexican composer Murcof will start off the day at 6:45 pm, followed by Germany’s Robert Henke, aka Monolake, and the UK’s Mark Von Hoen, aka Locust. Talk about an international presence! I am giddy at the prospect of seeing these guys perform at Benaroya.
The Planet Mu Showcase will be running at the Baltic Room starting at 9:00 pm. The Planet Mu Showcase will feature mostly bass-heavy electronic dance music and will feature female UK producer Ikonika as well hip hop-influenced Philadelphia-native Starkey headlining at half-past midnight.
Friday at Sole Repair will be the Trust Showcase, which will feature a wide variety of genres, including the reggae and expansive styling of KEXP DJ Kid Hops, as well as UK sample-master Trus’me fittingly closing the night out at 12:00 am.
The RBMA (Red Bull Music Academy) Showcase will be at Neumos and will feature renowned Berlin duo Modeselektor headlining at 12:30. Like many artists at dB Fest, Modeselektor are known for their diversity and refusal to adhere to any preconceived boundaries, even with electronic music. This will be one of the highlights of the week.
Down in SoDo, Motor will also be hosting events on Friday. The Art of Rhythm Showcase will run from 9:00 pm - 1:15 am, featuring exclusively West Coast artists, followed by Mi Casa Es Su Casa, which is a dB Afterhours event that will run until 6:00 in the morning.
Saturday will see the first daytime outdoor events in this year’s dB Fest with DB in the Park, which will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Broad Street Stage at the Seattle Center. Saturday’s artists all hail from the West Coast, including 23-year-old LA native Nosaj Thing. Here’s a video of him in action for KEXP:
Saturday will also feature the Mothership Boat Party, which will run all day and into the night, and then into the morning with the techno-house of Catz ‘N Dogz finishing off the event at 3:15 am. And yes, it will all take place on a boat which will cruise around Lake Union and Lake Washington from 2:30-6:00 pm. This is a 21+ event and more information can be found here.
The theme of Optical 2 in Benaroya Hall will be “tactile immersion” and will feature artists who experiment with traditional instruments such as the guitar in new and exciting ways that are sure to sound amazing in Benaroya. This event will be headlined by Oneohtrix Point Never, an artist I discovered through NPR’s KEXP-curated dB Fest 2010 mix, and will also feature acclaimed Austrian composer Fennesz and New York-based guitarist and filmmaker Noveller. It is continuing to look like the Optical events at Benaroya Hall could feature the most interesting, expansive, and mind-blowing events of the DB Fest.
Saturday at Sole Repair will be Fwd Thinking Organisms, which will feature percussion and bass heavy artists such as Boston DJ Tanner Ross and the UK’s Tim Green headlining from 12:00-1:30 am.
The D25 Showcase will be at Neumos on Saturday and will feature Detroit techno legend Carl Craig, as well as other artists from the Motor City. If you haven’t noticed yet, you really can’t go wrong by planting yourself in Neumos for the entire week.
The Beats Per Moment Showcase at Motor on Saturday might be one of the craziest dance parties of dB Fest, which is saying something. The night will focus on the beat-heavy, dance-ready hip hop of Vibesquad, Alex B, Low Limit of Lazer Sword, and Machinedrum, who will kick off the night at 9:00 pm. Motor will also host Late Night Soul Kitchen, Saturday’s Afterhours event which, like Friday’s, will run until 6:00 am.
Saturday at the Baltic Room will feature the Hotflush Label Showcase. The focus here will be UK dubstep. Hotflush label head Scuba will headline the event from 11:30-12:30. Preceding Scuba will be London’s Untold, and New York’s Sepalcure and Incyde.
Just as I’ve grown tired of writing this, you might be a bit worn out by Sunday and choose to use it as a day of rest. This isn’t something I’d encourage, however, (unless you’ve been popping ecstasy all week and have to work Monday), as there’s still plenty more goodness to experience:
Sunday’s dB in the Park event will feature mostly dubstep, culminating with a set by London’s Platiscian from 5:30-7:30 pm. At Benaroya Hall Optical 3 will feature an eclectic mix artists fusing different styles, with the Bay Area’s Tycho fusing the auditory with the visual from 9:00-10:00 pm. The Bubblin’ Showcase at Sole Repair will feature Detroit DJ Kyle Hall from 11:45-1:30 am. The Shift Recordings Label Showcase will be at the HG Lodge and will feature a variety of local dubstep artists. And finally, Neumos will host the Decibel Finale: Dub My Soul featuring Monolake, Mexico’s Fax, and Berlin’s Cassy closing out the festival from midnight to 1:30 am.
Well, that about does it for the preview. Don’t forget to check out the Decibel Fest 2010 website for basically any information you could imagine you might need. I’ll see you all there!