This post was written for Earmilk by Aaron Meola, label head at Dropping Gems, a Portland, Oregon-based record label whose stated goal is "to share our vision of the future of humanity, particularly as it’s expressed in the form of electronic music" and whose roster includes Decibel Festival artists Natasha Kmeto, Ghost Feet, and DJAO.
You can check out Earmilk's artist/mix picks for Decibel here. We'll see you on the dancefloor!
As you probably know, Decibel Festival takes place in Seattle, WA, September 25-29, and will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year. This will be my fifth year of attending Decibel. I started out going as a fan and music lover, but for the past two years, my label Dropping Gems has had its own showcase, and this year there are several artists I work with playing shows throughout the festival. It’s been quite a journey.
The event is exquisitely curated. Each year, it seems to magically narrate the time and place of electronic music: its past, present and future. The energy of the festival and its participants literally flow through Seattle, mainly between the Capitol Hill and Downtown neighborhoods where the Decibel venues are located. Although events take place in upwards of 11 venues a day, it’s relatively easy to walk or take a cheap cab ride between everything, making it possible to see a tremendous amount of music in a single day and night.
Seattle is really a unique setting for a festival. There are very few cities wedged so deeply between the worlds of technology and nature. It often seems like water is everywhere you look, and mountains line every horizon, especially from the hill where you spend most of your time during the festival. Seattle also hosts great venues, and Decibel is known for making sure there is well-tuned sound reinforcement at every stage.
If you’re in Seattle all week and looking for even more to do, the Experience Music Project is worth visiting for any music lover. Although not electronic focused, there is some real history in that building. Two food recommendations: Annapurna, a Himalayan restaurant located on Capitol Hill just a few blocks from a good portion of the venues. It’s the best food in Seattle. The secret is out. Second, I’d be lying if I said you wouldn’t find me at Dick’s Hamburgers at least twice during the week.
A disclaimer: you might not see me at every one of these shows. Part of the joy of Decibel is being able to easily wander between all the venues, and you never know what you might see stumbling into an unplanned show. Anyone who has attended will tell you what it’s like to suddenly notice the time and realize you’ve missed two other performances. With that preface, I give you my festival recommendations.
Factory Pop Showcase @ Neumos [Tickets]
Peter Hook & The Light, enough said. Peter Hook’s more well known as the bassist for New Order, whose music was one of the first non-hip-hop-leaning electronic groups I ever became obsessed with. My college roommates would tell you they woke up at all hours to "True Faith" emanating from my room blasting across the dorms. I just can't resist starting the festival off with one of the figures that got me into a whole new realm of electronic production. I have yet to see ADULT., and I am excited to check them out too.
Hyperdub Records Showcase @ The Crocodile [Tickets]
DJ Rashad is one of my favorite producers to (popularly) emerge in the past several years, not solely for pioneering innovative footwork rhythms, but because his sampling techniques are from another world. He's able to truly take the listener to another dimension, with generally very few sounds intertwining in constant sonic movement. Also playing are the legendary Hyperdub label bossman Kode9 and the perennially inventive Ikonika.
Resident Advisor Showcase @ The Crocodile [Tickets]
I've wanted to see Lapalux for nearly three years now, so I'm quite excited for this show. He’s on his very first North American tour, and I’m probably more excited about his performance than anything else taking place at the festival. He'll be joined by Actress, and judging from the YouTube videos I've seen of him live, I’m strongly guessing his set will be epic. Also playing this show are Natasha Kmeto and Ghost Feet, both on Dropping Gems.
Leisure System After Hours @ Neumos [Tickets]
Jimmy Edgar and his collaborative project, JETS, with Machinedrum, are two of the best dance acts at the moment. They’re joined by DJ Funk. This is going to be one of the most hyped-up dance parties of the festival.
Ableton Conference @ Broadway Performance Hall [Program]
Ghost Feet will be giving a daytime presentation on their unique live set up, deconstructing how they record and play music as a live electronic band by running their whole rig though Ableton.
Nicolas Jaar & Friends Showcase @ Showbox Sodo [Tickets]
One of the more ridiculous line-ups of the festival, this is not to be missed. Festival-goers are quite lucky to have this pairing of artists in Seattle: Nicolas Jaar with Tarik Barri, Mount Kimbie, and Phaelah.
What The Festival Presents @ Showbox at the Market [Tickets]
Machinedrum can undoubtedly be labeled one of the most prolific producers around. He'll be debuting his new Vapor City Live A/V set at Decibel, so there is really no reason not to attend this one. He's supported by swiftly rising producers XXYYXX and Giraffage. Timeboy, one of the guys behind Flying Lotus's breathtaking layer 3 visuals, among other amazing projects, will be doing a rare solo A/V here as well, which I am excited about.
Hush Hush Showcase @ The Crocodile [Tickets]
Seeing Ryan Hemsworth live made me appreciate his music, and I'd highly advise people to check him out. The hype is real. Also playing are Cyril Hahn, who has had several break out tracks recently, and support from two of Seattle’s best producers, Hush Hush's Kid Smpl and DJAO from Dropping Gems.
Shine On Showcase @ Neumos [Tickets]
Odesza has skyrocketed in success this past year, and I keep missing opportunities to see them live, so I hope to not miss them. Accompanying them are Ghostly artist Gold Panda and Slow Magic.
Timetable Records Showcase @ The Crocodile [Tickets]
Nosaj Thing's recently-started imprint for Innovative Leisure hosts what I believe to be one of the first label-focused events, or label anything for that matter. The imprint (launched with little fanfare) hosts some of the most acclaimed producers of the beat scene for this showcase. The show is anchored by Nosaj Thing, Lorn, and Teebs, all of whom I am very much looking forward to hearing new material from. Opening things up is newcomer D Tiberio, who has the first release on the budding label.