Seattle doesn't have a signature sound. There is no "Seastep," "Pugetcore," or "Northwestronica" moniker that makes any sense, and instead of lamenting that, we should embrace the fact that our talent pool can play with so many sounds and excel. When the secret finally gets out about what our scene is producing, our sonic diversity will be what keeps us relevant long after the initial wave of hype recedes. Here are a few of the releases that have recently come across my desk that are moving our scene closer to its moment in the spotlight.
Butter, Fourthcity's latest compilation, encapsulates the label's sound, with a smooth, relaxing mix of digital downtempo, updating the late-'90s template with glitch, effects processing, and some IDM-lifted aesthetics. This album came out in the summer, but I was late in getting a copy, and even later in finally giving it a listen, which only increases the album's effectiveness: It's much better suited to chilly, gray autumn than blue, sunny summer, exactly what you want for your morning commute, not so much for your prefunk. "Float" is five and a half minutes of jazzy perfection, with a subdued bass thump punctuated by a lilting piano loop and plaintive trumpet. "Wanna Get High?" is a fitting title for Naoto Yamazaki's hazy, drum-led contribution. Truckasauras, Foscil, and Plan B also include tracks that further solidify why each is worthy of the attention they receive.
A release to pick up when it drops is the debut from new boutique techno label Peloton Musique. In keeping with the biking-related label name (a peloton is the large main pack of riders in a road bicycling race), the label curators release a sample pack of bike-related sounds (changing gears, ringing bells, blasting air pumps, etc.), soliciting tracks that incorporate them. The final release will feature around 20 tracks from artists like Markus Nikolai (one of few nonlocals), Jerry Abstract, Lusine, Jeff Samuel, and Matt Corwine, and from the early sampling I've heard, it should be one of the local releases of the year, with the biking concept leaving almost infinite room for creativity. Sure it's all "techno," but releases like this illustrate the latitude the genre spans, with some contributions calling for undivided attention in headphones and others demanding peak-hour play on a club system. The tracks are currently being mastered with an anticipated release in just weeks.
Promoter Levitation Device has gotten his first release on the debut from North Carolina label Waveform Modulations. Deeper in the Box is a compilation featuring 20 tracks from newcomers. As with most compilations of this type, the disc is uneven both in quality and overall cohesion, but Levitation Device's "Relativity" easily falls on the more interesting half, with percolating percussion and dubby bass countered with synth washes. It's only one release, but Levitation Device has twisted his influences into a new musical statement, and you'd be wise to listen up.
To follow up on my piece from October 18 regarding the fate of Oscillate and the Baltic Room, the venue is back open after a week of renovations, but things are still unsettled. As of this writing, Oscillate still holds it down on Thursdays, but the winds of change are definitely in the air, with many artists viewing upcoming appearances as their last at the venue. On a more optimistic note, drum 'n' bass Tuesdays are coming back to the Baltic Room from the War Room this week. So things are changing, but the news isn't all bad—just a natural part of any vibrant scene.