DJ Alex’s dB Festival 2011 preview

photo by Jim Bennett

Are you ready for Decibel Festival 2011? You better be! There’s tons to enjoy, experience, and just generally be enthusiastic about on this year’s line-up!

Briefly, for the uninitiated, Decibel Festival is an internationally-renowned electronic music, arts, and new media event that was birthed in 2004 by music fan/curator/DJ/producer Sean Horton aka Nordic Soul. Now in its eighth year, Decibel Festival has grown into a 5-day celebration of wide-ranging electronic music, stunning visual performances, new media discussions, and overall music fandom. Through my years of attending the festival, the music is consistently amazing, yet oftentimes it’s overshadowed by the awesome, overwhelming sense of community of shared passion within our beautiful city.

Here’s some hand-picked suggestions for this year’s stacked schedule. I’m aware that it’s impossible to do it all. It’s become a harsh reality I have to live with every day:

Wednesday, September 28:

Beat Prodigies Showcase @ Neumo’s (DJ Krush, AraabMuzik, Shigeto)
This entire night is bound to be top-notch, from Japanese living legend DJ Krush to innovative beatmaker and next-level drummer Shigeto. But it’s AraabMuzik, an East Coast MPC wizard mainly affiliated with hip-hop circles, that’s the wild care draw here. Peep some live YouTube videos to get a taste.

Decibel Opening Party @ Re-Bar (Zomby, Atom TM, Jon McMillion, 214)
Zomby is a mysterious, UK-based electronic producer with an intoxicating new album on 4AD Records. Nothing about this guy is predictable. He’s headlining a killer opening party with well-loved German chameleon Uwe Schmidt as Atom TM (aka Atom Heart, Senor Coconut) and two of Seattle’s finest in Jon McMillion and Chris Roman aka 214.

Decibel presents Toro Y Moi @ Crocodile (with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Bass Drum of Death)
Crocodile will play host to the festival’s most pop-leaning showcases, and this one is a perfect kickoff with consistently awesome chillwave/not-chillwave artist Toro Y Moi, blossoming PDX-based outfit Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and quite possibly Mississippi’s lone representation at this year’s festival, garage punk/rockers (!!) Bass Drum of Death.

Dropping Gems Showcase @ HG Lodge (Anenon, Asura, Ghost Feet, Citymouth, DJAO)
Dropping Gems is a quasi-local, West Coast collective of electronic producers that are creating super cool beats that range from textural instrumental hip-hop to shimmering dancefloor-oriented rhythms. Come check out a slice of the future of West Coast beats here.

Thursday, September 29:

Red Bull Music Academy Showcase @ Paramount Theatre (Amon Tobin, Eskmo, TOKiMONSTA)
Amon Tobin! He’s touring behind his new album ISAM with a reportedly next-level A/V show that blew minds and eyes at Montreal’s MUTEK Festival earlier this year. Possibly the most anticipated show of the festival.

Night Slugs Showcase @ Baltic Room (Bok Bok, Girl Unit, Kingdom, Monolithium)
Night Slugs is a London-based label founded in early 2010 by DJ/producers L-Vis 1990 and Bok Bok that has quickly become one of the hottest resources for cutting-edge, bass-driven dancefloor music. They’re bringing some of their heavyweights to make you shake it to filthy, low-end bangers all night long.

Bit Rock Showcase @ Crocodile (Holy Fuck, Truckasauras, E*Rock, Introcut)
Have you seen Holy Fuck live before?!? Holy Fuck! So good.

Red Bull Music Academy Showcase @ Neumo’s (Bonobo, Quantic)
Two of the most soulful, global-oriented acts on this year’s line-up will grace Neumo’s for a night bound to please all of your sensual, kinetic desires.

Friday, September 30:

Optical 1: Sine Your Name Across My Heart Showcase @ Nordstrom Hall (Mountains, Simon Scott, Ulrich Schnauss)
The first of two seated, ambient-leaning showcases at the magnificent Nordstrom Hall at Benaroya, this will be the perfect place to experience blissful music in a relaxing, rejuvenating performance space. Highly recommended.

Warm Oscillations @ Crocodile (Star Slinger, oOoOO, Beat Connection, Mux Mool, DJ Eddie)
Star Slinger (aka Manchester, UK producer Darren Williams) is easily one of the most exciting breakout acts of 2011. His sample-heavy beats are both crisp and washed-out, and dude seems to make a new beat or remix everyday. San Francisco’s oOoOO makes witchy electro-pop that is both eerie and seductive. And it’s been a treat to see the rise of young Seattle duo Beat Connection from relative unknowns this time last year to local dB representatives!

Blurring the Lines Showcase @ Neumo’s (Martyn, Egyptrixx, Martin Buttrich, Max Cooper)
If you’re looking to get lost on the dancefloor to deep rhythms you never thought would move you so fiercely, this will be the place to be. Martyn was an afterhours highlight of dB Festival 2009 and Egyptrixx dropped one of the strongest electronic LPs of the year with Bible Eyes on Night Slugs Records (see Thursday).

No Sleep Till Brooklyn @ Showbox SoDo (Moby, Blondes)
Moby is one of the few veterans on the bill, a world-class act, and an astounding DJ. He’ll be unleashing a 3-hour DJ set and bringing the goods that he knows will work a dancefloor into a frenzy through his decades of experience behind the decks.

TRUST Showcase @ Baltic Room (Kyle Hall, Hanssen, Suntzu Sound, Kid Hops)
Kyle Hall is a young, prodigious Detroit musician that has been hailed as the future of the Motor City’s historic electronic music lineage. He’s returning to Decibel to drop some serious, beyond-his-years knowledge. Seattle’s Hanssen is performing a world debut live set on the heels of his stellar Choke EP, while SunTzu Sound and KEXP’s own Kid Hops will be bringing the positive, celebratory, filler-free grooves you’ve come to expect from their monthly TRUST parties.

Saturday, October 1:

dB in the Park / Frite Nite Showcase @ Volunteer Park (Ill Cosby, Salva, Comma, Eprom)
Decibel’s free daytime parties at Volunteer Park have become a great way to get some fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine while absorbing mind-blowing beats, and this year’s bill continues this tradition. Ill Cosby is a highly-respected, highly-revered Seattle triple-threat as a DJ, producer, and label head honcho at Car Crash Set. He recently incited an on-stage dance party during his Bumbershoot set at the EMP Sky Church, so his dB set will be one to catch. Frite Nite is a new Bay Area label (founded by Salva) specializing in a flashy, progressive beat aesthetic that roams between instrumental hip-hop and adventurous dancefloor styles.

Optical 2: Grains of Sound Showcase @ Nordstrom Hall (Oval, Christopher Willits, Matthewdavid)
Come and get your abstract on with German electronic producer and glitch pioneer Oval, sublime Bay Area experimentalist Christopher Willits, and leftfield LA texture manipulator Matthewdavid for this second Optical showcase at Benaroya’s Nordstrom Hall.

Community Bass Session @ Crocodile (Machinedrum, Ital Tek, WD4D)
Machinedrum returns to Decibel Festival this year in support of his Planet Mu debut Room(s), a relentless album of complex juke/footwork sessions that add a soulful, accessible element to the marginalizing genre. Even if you can’t figure out how to dance to it, the hyperkinetic rhythms and hypnotic vocal samples will tickle your ears and brainwaves.

Sunday, October 2:

Decibel & Alga-Rhythms presents The Slow Boat on the Islander Boat Cruise (Tiger & Woods, Slow Hands, Tanner Ross, Deniz Kurtel)
Reclusive European edit duo Tiger & Woods will be headlining this boat party with their propulsive waves of deep, hypnotic, slow-motion grooves. Come get funky on a boat!

Bit Pop Showcase @ Triple Door (DNTEL, Erika Spring, Orcas)
DNTEL is the main behind the beats on The Postal Service’s seminal indie electronic-pop album Give Up. Erika Spring is one-third of Brooklyn darlings Au Revoir Simone and she’s making her solo live Seattle debut alongside the live debut of Orcas, a transcendent, emotional new project from Seattle’s Rafael Anton Irisarri (aka The Sight Below) and Portland’s Benoit Pioulard. Solid start-to-finish.

Flammable Showcase @ Re-bar (dOP, Kate Simko, Brian Lyons)
If you still have the spirit and the mojo in your feet, come wrap up this year’s festival down at Re-bar for a showcase put on by Flammable, the West Coast’s longest-running house night. Quirky, groovy French trio dOP headline along with one of the leading lady’s of deep house, Kate Simko, and veteran Seattle DJ and Flammable resident Brian Lyons.

dB in Dub Finale @ Neumo’s (Mad Professor, Twilight Dub Circus, Gaudi)
If the weekend has depleted your energy and you’re itching to be absorbed inside some thick, deep rhythms, this dub showcase will hit the spot with longtime dub favorites Twilight Dub Circus and Mad Professor, the latter returning once again to Decibel Festival to bring his influential, cerebral, spaced-out style to Neumo’s massive soundsystem.

Be sure to go to to read more about the showcases, watch live videos of the performers, and buy tickets!

And also be sure to check out my latest podcast for KEXP’s Music That Matters Series titled Spotlight on Decibel Festival 2011 to hear tracks from 19 artists playing at this year’s festival!

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