Both Friday and Saturday's Decibel Festival festivities were stacked top to bottom with incredibly good sets, at pretty much every venue in the greater Seattle area. And somehow this year, the festival organizers have done an incredible job at giving each set an incredible sense of creative continuity from beginning to end. But out of the whole, the Sines of Life session at Showbox was perhaps the most pitch perfect stream of consciousness program there was in the whole Decibel bill. Seattle electronic producer Vox Mod kicked things off with an all star arrangement, followed by the Montreal synth pop magic of Blue Hawaii. Then El Ten Eleven took us to different corners of the post-rock canvas for equally captivating sets of sound and color. At Sines of Life, Decibel goers found a very sweet spot between pounding dance and living, beating hearts.
When we've seen Scott Porter throw down as Vox Mod in recent months, he's usually stuck to his one man army setup, with dazzling visuals backing his mad scientist table of wire and magic while he dips and bobs and makes incredible sound. But tonight, Scott got to share the stage with a few of his collaborators from the incredibly good new record The Great Oscillator. Both Whitney Lyman and Irene Barbaric have lent their vocal talents to Vox Mod tracks, and Seattle production god Erik Blood... well, that guy just has a hand in everything good. The dream team assembled therein made for one hell of a Vox Mod show, with Scott visibly stoked beyond words to get to show off his tracks in such full form here tonight.Vox Mod:
Ok seriously, I don't think Montreal has had a single fair-weather representative at this year's Decibel festivities. Blue Hawaii continued that winning streak Friday night with a fantastic set following Vox Mod. The synth pop duo of Raphaelle Standell-Preston (also of BRAIDS) and Alex Cowan put an intricate, organic spin on the synth pop of their city, using a plentitude of vocal manipulation and layering to top well crafted and particularly populated dance tracks. Blue Hawaii are on the verge of releasing a dance-driven new mixtape, and the new arrangements of some of their Untogether tracks were well received at the Showbox. Raphaelle danced around the stage and sang into the stratosphere as Alex kept careful attendance of the controls. Building wonderful energy from beginning to end, Blue Hawaii made for one of the night's highlights.
Ninja Tune electronic post-rock act Yppah kept energy going with a great set of floating wonders. Joe Corrales, Jr. manned his table with enviable calm, while live drums gave his ample break-beat driven tracks a powerful, meaty sound. Plus, the evening's visuals were spot on, with blinding layers of fuzzy neon painting the stage in color while the crowd swayed to and fro. Yppah's set was one massive wave of organic energy, and the crowd barely noticed that a full hour had passed when Corrales bid goodbye.
Though he's had some stiff competition over the years, I think it's safe to say that Kristian Dunn remains one of guitar looping's reigning gods. Listening to an El Ten Eleven record is fine and dandy, but seeing it live is always the optimal, as Dunn and his double neck guitar/bass pile loop after loop into the mix to create one impromptu masterpiece after another. Plus, with Tim Fogarty's killer drums and impressive levels of band telepathy, the whole package is a jaw dropping experience. Dunn switched things up here and there with a fretless bass just to keep eyes wide, but the energy didn't dip once after the first strum. For a backdrop, Dunn used a Kinect camera to space out his silhouette into a strobing mess of lines and static - kind of like your brain trying to keep track of it all. El Ten Eleven ended the night with an explosive and relentless set of magic.
El Ten Eleven:
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.
As audiences are prone to reflect the shows they are attending, the Decibel Festival crowd at Demdike Stare and Andy Stott was filled with the more experimental seeking fans, those in all black or all white, eyes wide, hair cut expressively in abstract shapes. Demdike Stare, a.k.a. Miles Whittake...