Music

Beatseeking Missives

DECIBEL RECAP

Artistically, the recent Decibel Festival was an overwhelming success. The quality of the performances I witnessed was almost uniformly outstanding, with locals and out-of-towners rising to the occasion so often, it felt like Mutek had plopped down in Seattle.

Decibel's first night (Sept 23) presented the dilemma of trying to catch many superb acts from Ghostly International's and Orac's rosters. At the former's showcase at Chop Suey, I managed to hear a rare deep-ambient DJ set by Jeff Samuel (dressed as a ghost) and Lusine's heady display of tech-house and instrumental hiphop. Orac's Strategy, Caro, and Bruno Pronsato proved why the Seattle label is earning respect worldwide, with sets you wished someone had burned onto CD.

Friday was a night of contrasts. At Lower Level, Richard Chartier produced fascinating minimal drones and bass dirges, but his impressionistic microsound was partially obscured by drunken chatter, which clearly irked him. Later at CHAC, John Tejada and Markus Nikolai wove tech-house magic during their respective sets. Too bad the joint was only two-thirds full. Seattle's house massive must not be as open-minded as I (or Decibel) thought.

Saturday night was a shockah. Uncompromising "Headfuk" artists Richard Devine, Tipper, Sutekh, and Portable whipped the near-capacity Chop Suey crowd into a frenzy with future-leaning abstract electro, downtempo, and techno in 5.1 sound; easily one of the greatest electronic shows I've ever seen. Sadly, it siphoned folks away from the remarkable Microhouse Showcase at Lower Level (Paul Edwards, [a]pendics.shuffle, Safety Scissors, Tomas Jirku, and Robin Judge).

I spent Sunday bouncing back and forth from CHAC to Lower Level in a vain attempt to experience all the goodness. Downstairs, local Jerry Abstract unfurled impressive IDM moves, as did Lusine (again). Circlesquare overcame jetlag to rivet the sizable crowd with some Twin Peaks-ish post-rock. Upstairs, Detroit DJs Slip, Mani, and Minx caved in craniums with some amazing hard techno and soulful house--to 13 people. But by the time the Advent took over, CHAC began to fill up and shake to the Brit's relentlessly propulsive techno. Fatigue be damned, Decibelites were going for it until 2:00 a.m. Monday--or they were chilling to Loscil's aqueous dub vibrations in Lower Level. Both options exhibited Decibel's wide range of audio delights.

"My overall vision was to fascinate people and expose them to music they normally would not go out to see and I feel Decibel did just that," says Db director Sean Horton. Decibel lost money (typical for first-year fests), but Horton "wanted to make a statement that this music can work in the Northwest, and we did."

"This year was so successful in terms of building community and pleasing the audience that we have no choice but to do it again," says technology director Paul Edwards.

Most common compliment heard during Decibel? "I had no idea Seattle had such an incredible electronic-music scene." DAVE SEGAL

segal@thestranger.com

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