Laptop Battle Turns 8, imneye Mashes Illbient and Dubstep
Don Wilkins (aka imneye) hails from Bellevue, which is where the great tech-house producer Jon McMillion lives. Other than these cats, Bellevue's not been known as an electronic-music hotbed. Which makes my "discovery" of Wilkins—he e-mailed me some links to his Soundcloud page (www.soundcloud.com/wilkidon)—all the more sweet.
The tracks gathered on said page—he was going by the name wilkidon then—floored me with their enigmatic, sinister power. They recalled the short-lived 1990s subgenre illbient as much as they did dubstep. Whatever you want to call it (perhaps "electronic nightmare," as Wilkins dubs "No Sleep Ever"), this music exerted a strange, compelling force.
Now as imneye, Wilkins has uploaded a six-track EP titled Insomnia System to Bandcamp (www.imneye.bandcamp.com). Starting with the aforementioned "No Sleep Ever," imneye plunges you into a disorienting miasma of murky tones that get juddered with unconventional beats. It almost sounds like a bird struggling to escape a trap in a submarine while the Bug's Kevin Martin conjures sooty atmospheres. "Stella" sets massive, unpredictable drum hits amid gnarled textures and the sort of bass frequencies that worry high-rise dwellers. "Face for Radio" is like Scorn gone on a crazily wobbly dubstep bender. And so it goes, as Insomnia System stirs up tons of bad-dream material and ocean-floor pressure. Here's hoping imneye suffers more sleepless nights, if the results are this bracingly malevolent.
As the Laptop Battle enters its eighth year (www.laptopbattle.com), experience tells us it will be yet another rowdy conflagration of PhD-level beat science, mad melody crafting, and exuberant onstage antics—electronic music in a game-show-like pressure-cooker situation. It's fun—maybe too much fun.
As per tradition, 16 Northwest producers compete against one another in three-minute rounds, which will be judged this year by Battle cofounder Zach Huntting, DJ Kristina Childs, and electro producer Chris Roman (aka 214). Battlers will be judged on "song development, performance, emotional impact, and crowd response," according to cofounder Kris Moon. Major bonus: Ill Cosby will DJ from his deep virtual crates throughout the night.
This year's lineup features some seasoned competitors and some newcomers. Former champ WD4D will be tough to unseat, but Data Breaker faves such as PotatoFinger, Miniature Airlines, the Icarus Kid, and Dead Noise should be formidable foes. Other contestants include KFO, Graintable, Pterodactyl Tits, Moogy Bruise, Tron Sister, Taal Mala, Chaach, Xben, Dash EXP, the Googly, and IG88. It really is impossible not to have a heart-poundingly great time at the Laptop Battle. If you have even only a slight interest in electronic music, this contest will trigger a deeper love for it. And you have a say in the outcome.