Unknown to most in the Northwest, abstract electronic music here is thriving. It might be stretching things to call this a movement, but with Yann Novak's Dragon's Eye Recordings and now Matt Turpin's Memex Records, it's reasonable to assert that an upsurge of challenging, non-dance-oriented electronica is occurring in the United States' upper-left corner.
The latest evidence for this is Cumulous, a compilation released October 10 by Memex, a subsidiary of Clickpop Records. The 12 tracks here reveal this region's lofty level of sound design. Data Breaker fixtures like Son of Rose, Former Selv (AKA Jerry Abstract), Splinters, Bookmobile, Obelus, and Hakea contribute strong efforts that create vivid images in the mind's eye through advanced tonal and rhythmic legerdemain. Mori, Seiche, ndCv, Skiks, rRine, and Daniel Anderson (of Idiot Pilot) round out the lineup with tracks of deep emotional impact and compositional integrity.
Turpin—who plays in Hakea; their album's due soon on Memex—says that the criteria for artist selection "were that the tracks be electronic, from Northwest artists, and not geared toward the dance floor. [The] pool of materials from which the final tracks were selected was composed of work by friends and acquaintances I had come into contact with in the course of playing shows as a member of Hakea."
Turpin was inspired to curate Cumulous from the past two years of going out to Seattle club nights like Oscillate and Bass Kamp, both of which Hakea helped to foster with their riveting live performances. "Initially, I was looking to create a compilation that demonstrates the eclecticism and quality of both the regional electronic music scene and the future direction of the label while still presenting a cohesive listening experience," Turpin explains. "This is a snapshot I would like to share with a small international audience and repeatedly refresh and update through future releases and performances."
One obstacle with music like that on Cumulous is that it's pretty hard to describe and not easily accessible to those not already immersed in electronic music. But Memex isn't going for mass-market share. "This is a collection of intensely emotional and intimate music made by people for whom sound synthesis, signal processing, and shared exploration of sound has become part of their heart," Turpin says. "[When I was younger], I would dig through record shops and sequence hand-me-down synthesizers in a compulsive search for sounds that would fit who I am or reach out to me from a place I had not known... Recently I have had the pleasure to meet numerous individuals with similar compulsions. This album is by and for such people."
More info: www.clickpoprecords.com.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 13
One of the architects of techno performing at Element? The phrase "casting pearls before swine" comes to mind, but I applaud the downtown club's nerve (and local collective Uniting Souls' initiative) to book a DJ who counteracts Element's tendency to bring in vapid trouse jocks. As one of Detroit's Big 3 of techno innovation, May has built a legendary two-decade career as a globe-trotting DJ. But don't expect the electronic equivalent of an oldies act listlessly going through the motions. May's last Seattle set at Chop Suey encompassed minimal techno, classic Chicago acid house, Latin-flavored house, and even UK postpunk funkateers Pigbag. The man's taste and mixing skills are impeccable. With Eva, J-Sun. Element, 332 Fifth Ave N, 10 pm—3 am, $10 before 11 pm/$15 after, 21+.
With uncanny savvy, Z-Trip mashes up Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and Chic's "Good Times" (see "Crazy Good Times" on his MySpace page) and makes it bob and weave like a dream. The Arizona DJ/producer's been creating such blends long before "mashup" became a buzzword among the hipoisie. More effectively than nearly anyone, Z's conjoined rock and hiphop/electro with consistently punchy results. You have try hard not to have fun at his shows. Last Supper Club, 124 S Washington St, 748-9975, 9 pm—2 am, 21+.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 14
KRAKT VS. KONTROL
The always on-point Krakt techno crew goes mano a mano with San Francisco's Kontrol posse, which includes Alland Byallo, Sammy D, and Craig Kuna. The Bay Area dudes favor tech-house's quirkiest, most psychedelic specimens (Claude Von Stroke, Villalobos, Nôze, [a]pendics.shufffle, et al.). Should be a dynamite sound clash. Re-bar, 1114 Howell St, 233-9873, 10 pm—3 am, $5, 21+.
TUESDAY OCTOBER 17
Brandishing impressively warped IDM schematics, Proem (AKA Richard Bailey) creates hauntingly beautiful ambience that hovers over complex beat programming and crackling textural grit. Proem may be an Autechre disciple, but his music exudes a warmer aura along with a greater penchant for lapidary melodies. Baltic Room, 1207 E Pine St, 625-4444, 10 pm-2 am, $9, 21+.