by Dave Segal
on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 3:42 PM
The eight annual Decibel Festival kicked off for me with DJAO at HG Lodge—albeit after a 20-minute delay. The local producer/DJ (aka Alex Osuch, set up in the club’s back corner booth, accompanied by a flannel-shirted guitarist [grunge acknowledgment!]) made the wait worthwhile with a set that freshly integrated shoegaze, ambient, and future-bass elements. Using a keyboard hooked up to a big desktop computer and a microphone, DJAO generated an oneiric ooze (enhanced by lushly layering his own vocalized “ooh”s), which benefited from his guitarist Zuri Biringer’s Emeralds-like spangles. At times, the woozy, glassy tones coasted over stolid, earth-moving beats, forming a kind of hauntological hiphop. At others, DJAO crafted quasi-pop songs so warped that they turned into smeared mosaics of melody. Keep a close ear on this guy.
DJAO @ HG Lodge's Dropping Gems Showcase
At Re-bar, Jon McMillion was in the process of loosing some low-slung tech-house noir. At first, it seemed as if the ravishing details of his recordings were not translating to the live arena, but gradually things came more into focus and McMillion’s subliminal dance tracks coalesced into some sublimely weird baby-making music.
Atom™ (aka Uwe Schmidt) came to the club looking dapper as fuck in a three-piece suit, black shirt, black tie, and slicked-back red hair. His severely Teutonic demeanor (all those years living in Chile didn’t exactly loosen him up, I guess—or maybe it’s all an act) contrasted with his understatedly madcap techno. Atom™’s tracks came festooned with squelches, twitches, and whimsical textures, which at times moved into the sort of IDM that flourished in the late ’90s, yet somehow it sounded un-retro.
On the two screens behind him, one exposed his control guidelines in green-on-black type, for maximal demystification of the music-making process; the other occasionally showed Schmidt at home or playing music, for maximal demystification of the personality behind the music-making process. Ever poker-faced, Atom™ would sometimes walk off the stage or simply stare stoically in the distance. “For a German guy, he sure has a British sense of humor,” cracked one local DJ. What wasn’t a joke were Atom™’s exacting, staccato funkiness and Perlon-esque way with minimal techno. Do the robot jitterbug…
Torn between seeing Zomby at Re-bar or heading to Neumos for DJ Krush, I decided to give the young Englishman a chance. A notorious flake, Zomby shocked just by showing up. Wearing a mask that made him look like a smirking, bemused Richard Nixon [Oy, it was a Guy Fawkes mask; thanks, Eric. Wearing my hair shirt now.], Zomby started strong with some nuanced yet powerful dubstep (no bro), some early-'90s-style hardcore jungle, and some dark, complex drum & bass that made me think about Photek and Source Direct for the first time in years.
Zomby gave us a solid 35 minutes of quality sounds, then kind of lost the plot with some meandering quasi-song-like pieces and mainstream hiphop samples. At points he would lift his mask and drink and smoke things that he probably should not have drunk and smoked. At 1:30 am, he abruptly cut the sound and unceremoniously walked off stage without a word. “Zomby fucking sucks!” a young white guy shouted, and a lot of people shared that sentiment. Then again, a lot of people thought Zomby was great. Dude polarized the crowd, for sure. A trustworthy source later told me that, true to form, Zomby had been throwing bratty tantrums earlier. Maybe I should’ve seen Krush after all…