Decibel Festival 2014: Optical 2 - Huminary, feat. Max Cooper, Survive, and Alice Boman

Decibel Festival, Live Reviews
Sean Morrow
all photos by Victoria Holt

Year in and year out, Optical showcases provide a great many of Decibel Festival’s highlights, and Thursday’s showcase, Optical 2, proved an especially diverse and engaging evening of music as Alice Boman, Survive and Max Cooper offered up compelling sets over the program’s three hour runtime.

Swedish artist Alice Boman and her band, fresh off a KEXP live in-studio performance earlier that day with John Richards on the Morning Show, took to the stage first with a set of restrained and lovelorn chamber pop songs, the kind Scandinavian musicians seem to write effortlessly. Boman’s quietly assured voice anchored the group’s performance while her bandmates accompanied her on drums, French horn, saxophone and piano. The spectral visuals, simple and elegant, suggested romances long past and fit with the music very well. With two EPs under her belt, we look forward to more music from the Malmö-based artist as she continues to develop her sound and songwriting chops.Alice Boman:

Austin four-piece Survive were up next and brought some real bravado to the evening’s proceedings. Assembled on the stage straight across and facing the audience with a bevy of Korgs, Arps, samplers, strobes, lights and beers, the scraggly and casually dressed Texans launched into a loud and infectiously fun soundtrack of ‘80-inspired John Carpenter & Alan Howarth synth pieces. Driven by booming drum machines, whose kicks thunderously reverberated around the staid but wonderful-sounding Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, the music evoked colourful neon-smeared Cyberpunk cityscapes, equal parts thrilling and paranoid. (In my notes I also wrote down “hard boiled hero cop” for some reason.) All in all great fun, and an unexpected left turn from usual Optical fare.


Max Cooper, who presented a different piece for Decibel’s first Optical show the night before, rounded out the bill with a self-described “ambient set,” brought to life onstage spectacularly by The Pendleton House dancers. The beautiful performance, looking back, was an absolute highlight of this year’s Decibel, an aural and visual feast. Here are my abridged thoughts on the set (i.e. iPhone notes):

dancerssexual awakening / eroticism / beauty / exclusionlitheOK to be turned on by contemporary dance?digital washes of sound / clippedtakes darker turn, cacophonous furious multitasking by on his sound rigwarps, whistles, clicks, bangsCooper regains audience attention, shows who’s in command (reminder)back to beauty, piano solo accompanied by poem“friends, lovers and family” (recollection on)organized into movements / suites

So, anyhow, you get the gist, eh? The audience was positively enraptured by the combination of Cooper’s music and the dancers’ finely choreographed movements, to say the least, and the whole performance served as a perfect metaphor for everything Decibel Festival strives for and represents. Ace.

Max Cooper:

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