Seattle's Decibel Festival is one of our favorite North American festivals, both for its past and for its potential. Founded in 2003 by Sean Horton, Decibel was largely inspired by the techno mecca of Detroit's Movement Festival and the intellectual haven of Montreal's Mutek Festival (as he told XLR8R in a 2012 interview). Last year, the festival celebrated its tenth anniversary, and as it enters its eleventh year, its attendance has multiplied by more than ten times.
Last year, a couple of Earmilkers attended for the first time, and were impressed by Decibel's curation and positive energy. This year, we're heading back to Emerald City, and it only seemed right to pull together some of our favorite mixes from Decibel artists to prepare ourselves for the dancefloor.
Rhythm & Bass Showcase, Thursday 9/25, The Showbox
LA-based producer Baths (Will Wiesenfeld) is perhaps the definition of experimental electronic, with two records under his belt that ride the line between post-modern pop and the ever-changing southern California beat scene. His initial LP Cerulean was decidedly emotional, with a distinct and clear-headed approach that can only come when an artist has made time to think (and put to rest) what they were experiencing at the time it was written. Cerulean put him on the map as a rising electronic producer and earned a spot on Pitchfork's 2010 year-end "Best Of" list.
On his sophomore LP, Obsidian, Baths secured his position as an introspective figure and brought his sound into more shadowy realms, covering topics as dark as visions of hell through "Dante's Inferno" and the black plague while incorporating his own personal pain and introspections. Baths released his five-track Ocean Death EP in May and inundated listeners again with the nature-based themes found on Cerulean (a shade of blue often used to describe a cloudless sky). He is set to perform at the Rhythm & Bass Showcase at Decibel Festival this year. -Cailey
Dub-scured After-Hours, Thursday 9/25, Q Nightclub
There's subtle beauty hidden within Recondite's music that shifts listeners to an ineffable state of mind where tranquility, warmth, and rhythm easily come together. If you've ever tuned in to any of his recorded sets or even listened to his acclaimed second album – Hinterland – released last autumn under Ghostly International, you know exactly what I mean. It's the spirited originality of his music, the genuine voice in his productions, that amend how contemporary listeners think about German techno, and it's why he's an excellent addition to this year's Decibel Festival.
With a number of mixes available, it was the deep-whistled and melody-driven two-hour recording from his set at the legendary Trouw in Amsterdam that made it here. Enjoy the soft jingles, sunken grooves, and concrete kicks guiding you from beginning to end. -Raquel
Gui Boratto & Friends, Friday 9/26, EMP Level 3
Many were saddened to hear that Hotflush boss Scuba would be unable to make his planned appearance at this year's Decibel Festival, but sighs of relief and elation followed when his worthy replacement was announced: Brazilian Kompakt affiliate and D.O.C. founder Gui Boratto. With a new LP, Apaboru, due on September 29, we're excited for the fresh, romantic energy his live set is sure to bring. With five albums and countless singles, remixes, and EPs under his belt, Gui Boratto's North American tour appearances feel few and far between, which makes his stop in Seattle that much more exciting.
It's hard to choose just one performance to feature, since I'll eat up just about anything Gui Boratto records, but his São Paulo Boiler Room performance from late last year seemed a fitting choice to prepare for his Decibel appearance. -Alyce
Rhythm & Bass Showcase, Thursday 9/25, The Showbox
LA native TOKiMONSTA (Jennifer Lee) is known for her unique and ever-original blends of electronic, R&B and pure serotonin-bursting EDM. Raised on classical music, Lee uses the elegant melodies and technical precision that she learned young towards her current forays into electronic production, in addition to using cutting edge musical technology in live performances. It is soulful, but not in the traditional "baby-making" vintage R&B sense, because the textural soundscapes that she creates are far vaster and ultimately more progressive.
TOKiMONSTA is noted to be one of first female artists to sign on and become an integral part of Flying Lotus's label BRAINFEEDER and is currently represented by Ultra Records. TOKiMONSTA is scheduled to perform at the Rhythm & Bass Showcase at Decibel Festival this year. -Cailey
Modern Love Showcase, Thursday 9/25, EMP Level 3
Since 2008, Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty have used Modern Love as the main outlet for their joint effort as Demdike Stare. With a lifelong friendship, the two note their individual differences in musical backdrops as an aid to the sound cultivation that is wholly their own—and it's wicked cool! Unwillingly niched under genre tags like "witch-house," "horror jive," or really any reconstructive term you can come up with, Canty and Whittaker challenge these clichéd tags with their evolving eclecticism.
From numerous full-lengths, to their critical Testpressing series largely made up from processes of bits and takes that tend to go unnoticed in most recording sessions, labeling only comes close to (loosely) defining which area of a shop their records may stand on. Expect the unexpected from these guys, and enjoy this 39-minute Boiler Room set. -Raquel
Pitch Black Showcase, Wednesday 9/24, Re-Bar
Kicking off the first night of the festival on a dark note alongside Black Asteroid and Vatican Shadow, Rrose (whose moniker was inspired by a pseudonym of Dadaist Marcel Duchamp) first released music in 2011 via the now-defunct Sandwell District label. With a strong instinct for subtle textures, the relatively mysterious Rrose brings an industrial flavor of techno to Decibel. When asked whether there has been a concerted effort to conceal the identity behind the Rrose project in an interview with RA, the artist simply replied, "I prefer to think of it as crafting a new identity rather than distorting the old… I'm not trying to remain anonymous per se, just trying to occupy a tidy, humble place on the internet and keep the project as self-contained as possible."
The abrasive, tactile mix we've chosen for this post was recorded for Rob Booth's Electronic Explorations radio show, specifically for the Warehouse Sessions series. We recommend saving this one for a late night. -Alyce
Resident Advisor Showcase, Wednesday 9/24, EMP Level 3
Montreal-based DJ and R&B artist Kaytranada is a true disciple of electronic music, beginning his career when he began to learn music production software on his own in early high school. Initially DIY on his first series of EPs and beat tapes, he made his name through official releases on the likes of labels HW&W and Jakarta Records. Instant classic remixes of Missy Elliot, Janet Jackson, TLC, and Danny Brown further solidified his reputation as a production heavyweight.
Kaytranada's signature sound is often compared to the late beat-making legend J Dilla, with distinct drum downbeats with swing and funked-up basslines all wrapped up in super soulful production. Over the past year, Kaytranada has experienced an increase in visibility due to a release on white-hot French based label Bromance. Latest single and accompanying music video “At All” also conquered many a dance floor. Fresh off of the release of his debut solo LP Whatever, featuring a series of high profile collaborations, Kaytranada is scheduled to perform at the Resident Advisor Showcase at Decibel Festival this year. -Cailey
Ostgut Ton After-Hours, Friday 9/26, Q Nightclub
Label owner, DJ, producer, analog enthusiast, resident at Panorama Bar; Steffi is a gal on the go with no signs of slowing down. As a central figure in the electronic music scene for years, you'll find her and her labels' (Dolly & her co-ran Klaksons imprint) records spinning anywhere across the globe. The Dutch-born, Berlin-based producer demonstrates through her music that staying true to what drives you, in the long run, can also equate into staying at the forefront of what you care about the most.
As anyone who's had the pleasure of seeing Steffi perform can assert, a night lived out on the dance floor with her behind the decks is going to be a vigorous journey of variant house cuts that also dive into elated techno scopes you won't forget. Enjoy her Beats In Space mix, recorded last November at the WNYU 89.1FM studio, and I'll see you on the dance floor! -Raquel
If you're thirsty for more, Deru debuted his exclusive Decibel mix with us last week!