Preview: Decibel Festival 2014

KEXP Suggests
Gerrit Feenstra

For Seattle electronic music fans, Decibel Festival has spent the last 11 years working its way from mythical creature to household name. The festival has hosted some of the best electronic music in the Emerald city since 2003, and in the last couple years, has expanded into an year-round sponsor to bring more brilliant international electronic music to the Northwest. In just the eight months or so, we saw Decibel throw some of the best shows around, including the John Talabot set at Q nightclub, and the Oneohtrix Point Never set with The Sight Below at Crocodile. But every September, when festival season begins to close up shop everywhere else, electronic music fans flock to the Northwest for a gathering unlike any other. The festival's unique showcase style and the inviting atmosphere beg listeners to not only enjoy and to partake and to dance the night away, but also to discover, and learn, and stretch the imagination. That discovery is what makes Decibel Festival an incredible organization, both as a year-round organization and a once a year celebration.

There is so much digital magic this year it's hard to keep track. There are showcases from electronic stalwarts like Hyperdub, Ninja Tune, and Ghostly International. There are DJs like Lunice, Salva, and Kaytranada that have shaken Boiler Room sets to the floor. There are also producers that work in the minutiae more carefully than any any live instrumentation would allow, like Tokimonsta, Son Lux, and Blue Hawaii. Then, there are those like Com Truise and !!! that will just make you dance and there's no getting around that. And of course, it wouldn't be Decibel without plenty of local love from our incredibly talented electronic spectrum here in the city, including Lusine, Pezzner, Vox Mod, Kid Simpl, and more. Here's a preview of some of the acts you'll definitely want to be on the lookout for this week. Have fun at Decibel Festival 2014!Lusine:

Seattle's long-time Ghostly International rep Lusine headlines Decibel Festival 2014's Opening Gala in the EMP Sky Church. Lusine has been making emotive, powerful house music for over 15 years, 10 of which he's served on Ghostly. He's also no stranger to Decibel Festival, appearing at the fantastic 2012 Ghostly Showcase alongside Matthew Dear. Last year's The Waiting Room kept Lusine's energy moving forward in glorious fashion. This year's Arterial EP follows that with a brief focused, energetic collection that we are excited to hear mixed into his already fantastic sets.

Arca + Jesse Kanda

Arca came into the picture for most people last year while everyone was digging through the mysterious production credits on Kanye West's Yeezus. Alongside Daft Punk, Evian Christ, Hudson Mohawke, and Lunice, Arca helped give a progressive edge to the brutal sound that Kanye was going for. But by himself, Arca can do some pretty brutal damage too. His &&&&& EP blew our minds last year, but now, Arca has given it some deserved visual accompaniment with the help of Jesse Kanda. The TRAUMA series is brutal, disturbing, and totally brilliant. Showcasing their audiovisual collaboration at the Sky Church will be a one of a kind experience. Sample some of it below.


One half of the trap game-changer TNGHT and one whole Canadian trap production mastermind, Lunice is a force to be reckoned with. The 25 year old is only in the beginning stages of a brilliant career, but already, he's pushing the boundaries more than 90% of his competition. If you show up to Lunice's set as part of the Resident Advisor showcase in EMP Wednesday night, expect to feel every beat sizzle through your whole body.

Son Lux:

Is there anything Son Lux doesn't do? Ryan Lott has made a name for himself in too many genres to count, most recently working with Sufjan Stevens and Chicago rapper Serengeti as part of Sisyphus. As a producer, Lott's horizon is boundless. His most recent solo record Lanterns is home to some brilliant synthesis of progressive soul and timeless arrangement and use of instruments. Truly an artist that falls under no banner, Son Lux is not one to miss.


LA producer TOKiMONSTA has a view of the sonic landscape that matches few others. The way that she sees emotions fit so cleanly into sound is an incredible feat. When you watch her DJ sets, they don't feel like DJ sets in the traditional sense - rather, Jennifer Lee feels every note, every fade, every added sample or flick of a switch to convey her emotive adventures perfectly. TOKiMONSTA comes to Decibel on the heels of a new record, Desiderium, which just began streaming on Stereogum this week. We are excited to have Lee back in Seattle to continue to show us how her sonic adventure is evolving.


Will Weisenfeld is one of those crazy genius types. I assume he is constantly writing music, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, solely based on the man's inconceivable musical output, between all of his different projects (Batsh, Geotic, and more). But the more likely option is that Weisenfeld just has a lot to give, and that principle is exercised to the utmost with Baths. The provocative, maximalist electronic project has hit the highest mountains and the lowest valleys, emotionally, in the span on only three LPs and a handful of EPs, but Weisenfeld seems to show no signs of slowing up any time soon. His brilliant, dark Obsidian gained critical acclaim last year, and the EP follow up Ocean Death continues the journey this year. We are excited to see hwo Weisenfeld adapts this new material to the stage, after seeing him at Decibel a couple years ago, playing all happy stuff.

Alessandro Cortini:

What didn't Alessandro Cortini do in the past year? The long time Nine Inch Nails affiliate got to reunite with the old crew (and Pino Palladino!) on the Tension tour in support of NIN's Hesitation Marks and on their recent tour with Soundgarden, but it's not as often that we've gotten to hear Cortini showcase his own material. Both as SONOIO and under his own name, Cortini makes brilliant electronic music, worthy of the stage set for him here at Decibel Festival. We have a rare chance to see a man often behind the curtain front and center here this year.

Simian Mobile Disco:

UK electronic duo Simian Mobile Disco have built a name for themselves over almost ten years now. Their unique production style and mixture of UK dance styles has garnered them both acclaim and a good mixture of friends over the years, collaborating with the likes of Hot Chip, Yeasayer, and Gossip, as well as some production help for Arctic Monkeys and others. Their new record Whorl

El Ten Eleven:

Post-rock fans are spoiled when it comes to Decibel Festival. Just a couple years ago, we got a Tycho show like none other. And this year, El Ten Eleven up the ante at the Showbox with one of the best bills of the week (El Ten Eleven, Yppah, Blue Hawaii, and Vox Mod). 2012's Transitions has been working into our hearts for a good amount of time now, but this year's short and sweet For Emily EP is a great taster for what's to come next. Perhaps fans will hear new material this weekend! We can only hope.

Vox Mod:

Speaking of Vox Mod, frickin' Vox Mod! Scott Porter is just one of a few artists in Seattle who seems to never, ever sleep, alongside Erik Blood, OCNotes, and a few others. A couple months ago, he dropped a fantastic new LP, The Great Oscillator, following up Syn-Aesthetic with a fashionable and progressive statement that only helps to show how the man is growing as a writer. Just a bit before that, Porter did a full-length with Seattle hip-hop veteran RA Scion, bringing a fresh perspective to the production to a sharper edge. Oh yeah, and just last week, he did a live soundtracking of a Miyazaki movie at Northwest Film Forum, just on the side. Vox Mod is one of the most interesting rising voices in the Seattle electronic scene, and you'd best pay attention.

Blue Hawaii:

Montreal synth pop duo Blue Hawaii dropped a criminally underrated sophomore LP last year with Untogether, a masterfully particular culmination of the Montreal synth pop scene showing its softer side. Part Purity Ring, part Grimes, but mostly some haunting third element that they bring to the table all to themselves, Blue Hawaii shape and bend the sine waves of their sparse electronic music to fit an emotional mold that sits right in your soul for reasons you don't quite understand. There is art in restraint with Blue Hawaii, but the crystalline balance of the elements makes their music a rewarding and invigorating experience, even in the quiet. This marks the band's biggest stage in Seattle yet, following their Barboza set with Doldrums from last year. We are excited to see the band spread their world to new audiences on one of Decibel Festival's best bills of the weekend.

Richie Hawtin:

Richie Hawtin is one of the few Decibel artists this year to headline a program dedicated to their name, and honestly, I don't know if I can think of anyone this year who deserves it more. Hawtin dropped his first album as Plastikman since 2003, Ex, just this past summer (that makes his past album just a couple months younger than Decibel Festival itself). But Hawtin has a legacy behind him of pushing the envelope on the Detroit techno scene and the surrounding cities, dating back to the early 90s. Hawtin has thrown massive events for decades, everywhere from Detroit clubs to the thrones of Ibiza, so getting to hear him this weekend playing at the EMP is a joy, and it's bound to be a visual masterpiece.

Com Truise:

Despite just being a spoonerism (real word), as a name, Com Truise sounds spacey. If you like music that makes you think about space or sounds like it should be played in space, either way, Com Truise is right for you. Seth Haley mixes the sounds of 80s analog synthesizers with a modern mixture of dance textures that all amounts to a kickass party drenched in neon. We saw him play at Chop Suey a couple months ago and it was phenomenal. Since then, his new Wave 1 EP has had some time to simmer and now we're ready for another round of dancing like it's the future in the past. Com Truise is nothing but pure shimmering brilliance, and another member of the Ghostly family keeping the party going this year.


Hans-Peter Lindstrøm - that's a name I've wanted to see on a Decibel lineup for a while now. As Spin put it back in 2008, there is a Holy Trinity of Norweigian disco, made up of Todd Terje, Prins Thomas, and Lindstrøm, and not much has changed in six years. With every record, Lindstrøm continues pumping out brilliant, shimmering disco that knocks our socks off without even trying. To top that, his collection of remixes is both pristine and unmeasurable. From Roxy Music to Haim, the guy knows how to make a track jump right out of your speakers. This set will be a party like none other.


Glasgow dub producer Kode9 is Hyperdub as far as many are concerned. The producer is so synonymous with the dark evolution of jungle and 2-step that has become the dub sounds that he puts forth alongside Burial and others that there aren't many better examples for defining the genre. Kode9 is a welcome returner to Decibel festival, and headlining a celebration of Hyperdub's achievements over the past 10 years is exactly where he deserves to be.

DJ Spinn:

The last time DJ Spinn hit Seattle, he was DJing alongside DJ Rashad, warming the crowd up at Showbox Sodo for a raucous Chance the Rapper show last December. Since then, Rashad has tragically passed away, but Spinn continues carrying the Teklife torch forward, helping make some of the most mind-bending and progressive hip-hop and electronic music coming out of Chicago right now. In every track, the synthesis between Chicago dance music and hip-hop crosses back and forth across a seamless border, building on decades of history in effortless fashion. Spinn is a welcome addition to our celebration of Hyperdub's 10th anniversary this weekend and this year.


At KEXP, we see no point in masking our boundless love for !!! (Chk-Chk-Chk). The band dominated at Bumbershoot last year and have been holding territory on KEXP airwaves for ten years now. This weekend, we get to hear a special DJ set from the band at Q. Disco blood runs in !!! veins, and there's no doubt that similar magic will ensue at this set. Wherever you end your Saturday night, spending your last hour or so dancing the night away at Q with !!! is a surefire bet for good times.


Is anybody doing LA trap better than Friends of Friends and WeDidIt? Probably not. But regardless of your preference between the two, you are in luck if you live in Seattle. Just a couple months ago we saw Shlohmo and D33J come through at Neumos for a killer night, and now Sunday night at the Crocodile, you get to get weird with Salva. In the past year, the producer has slowly built a rep for himself, moving away from remixes and making more and more original beats for hip-hop up and comers in his area. But nothing changes the fact that Salva's DJ sets are parties for the books. This is one hell of a way to end Decibel Festival for some.


Helping close up Q's Decibel fun for the weekend (opening for Pete Tong) is German producer Tensnake. His debut full-length Glow dropped in March after being in the works for more than half a decade. When it finally hit, the results were golden. Featuring collaborations with Jamie Lidell, Nile Rodgers, and others, Tensnake mixes house with R&B and pop in glorious ways. Decibel Festival marks his second Seattle appearance since the release of Glow, and we are more than welcome to have him back in a bigger venue.

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