Resident Advisor is among the best online magazines for electronic music fans out there since 2001, and their showcase at Decibel Festival was nothing to be messed with. Not only did they pull from local talent, but they are responsible for bringing Actress to Decibel, a feat which was met with a much regretted failure last year. Attendees were dismayed then, but finally had the chance to see the mysterious and seriously understated texture master at work. First up were two of Portland label Dropping Gems’ stars, Ghost Feet and Natasha Kmeto. Filling out the bill was Lapalux, the guy who emailed Brainfeeder and had Flying Lotus email him back, and Actress, the genius against-the-grainer who does exactly what he wants all the time. Energetic at times, and totally heavy at others, the showcase brought in the dancers, but ended with only the most devoted.
Rachel Dubuc and Calvin Erdal of Olympia’s Ghost Feet may both be from relatively warm and sunny regions of the country – TX and CA – but their music has clearly been influenced by the ever falling rains of their current home in WA. Our wise photographer Victoria Holt was excited to see them again after catching their set at Electric Tea Garden in June:
Inspirational beats combined with distorted, effects-laden guitar and bass took listeners on an expansive journey, as live visuals painted the set with time lapse roadways and Northwest cityscapes. Dropping Gems never disappoints with its roster of highly talented artists, and Ghost Feet are no exception. Set closer “Voka,” off the label’s Gem Drops Three, left the crowd crying for more, to which Rachel teased, “You don’t get anything by yelling.” Like cold, heavy raindrops on a jacket hood held close, Ghost Feet are both refreshing and cathartic.
What to say about Natasha Kmeto? Everywhere she goes I would like to be: playing music (she recently played a great show with Rap Class) or just hanging out around Portland. Not only is this lady a veritable genius – with her most recent album, Crisis, standing out this year as an awesome heady/deep but still keeping it sexy 4ever expedition – but she probably has the best vibes of anyone I’ve seen on stage for several years. All joy, jumping, hands in the air, while her music doesn’t always give off the ecstatic experience vibe, her bubbling joy definitely does. Playing through mostly her new album, she ended with “Crisis”.
Lapalux’s very name (an allusion to the phrase “lap of luxury” suggests his lush uncluttered sound, and the luxury to invite abandon, on the dance floor and in the mind, is totally freeing. Navigating both easy to dance to beats while seamlessly introducing the smoothly flowing depth of heavy bass and steady rhythm, he was as pleased as Kmeto about the crowd that surrounded the stage. I might add that he is the only British producer on Flying Lotus’ label Brainfeeder, which he was asked to join due to an email. There’s hope for all of us if one email can catch the attention of the greats, and we’re all glad Lapalux got the attention he deserves.
Finally, the room went dark, but not the obvious pitch dark that always signals the arrival of light. This was a normal dark, the kind of dark where you turn to your friends and start chatting, the kind of dark like at a poorly lit bar. Was something arriving? Words skittered across an anxious crowd, happy, but ready to see who they came for. A post-Lapalux crowd shift occurred, many who had been hiding out in the back now swelled forward. Hoods hid the back of the room. Eyes beamed at the stage, searching for any sign of the producer. As a few minutes passed we all fell into discussion. Sound began, oddly low. Low enough that many of us didn’t realize what was happening. Visuals clicked on. Who was the apparition at the computer on stage, bent so low down that his face was entirely obscured?
Actress has been described by NPR as “minimal but alive, an organic opposite to most other music made using the same tools” – and that’s exactly what we got. Where others strive to create “music”, Actress is off on his own, attempting to isolate himself from the inorganic, building within his own mind before expelling the glowing sensual bliss that sounds alternately like the hum of the earth itself, and the slow burning fire inside the moving body. The visuals became meaningful as his soundtrack flew us through soundscapes of nightime reflections and eerie shadows. And of course many still danced, moving onward through the world, following close behind Actress as he drew it before them.
Of course the night ended for many at that moment, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to drop knowledge on a few other shows that happened post-normal hours. Over at Q, producer Cajmere was smoothly spinning out beat after beat while serenely gazing down through his dark shades as an endlessly moving crowd. At Neumos, I found the sounds most familiar in late night abandoned warehouses where Jimmy Edgar’s abrasive house became meditative the longer you listened. Bodies became so shaken by the bass (yes, they got that “unparalleled” sound system again) that the distance between the beat and your own heartbeat became none. The night ended, or the next day began, with that same booming bass sound slowly growing quieter in the distance as Decibel-ites found their way home.