When Sean Horton ended Decibel Festival after the 2015 edition and then moved to Los Angeles the next year, it left a void in Seattle's electronic-music eco-system. Every September from 2004 to 2015, Horton and his volunteers brought world-class electronic-music talent and cutting-edge video artists to Seattle for marathon days and nights of audiovisual stimulation. We were spoiled.
While events such as Corridor and Debacle Fest have softened the blow of Decibel's departure, it looks as if it's fallen to Kremwerk talent buyer/Kremfest curator Nick Carroll to maintain a semblance of large-scale, underground electronic-music quality control around here. (The region boasts plenty of massive, EDM-oriented parties, but they cater to a more mainstream sensibility.)
"Decibel Festival is undoubtedly an influence on Kremfest," Carroll admits in an e-mail interview. "The music one hears week in, week out at the Kremwerk & Timbre Room Complex is greatly shaped by Decibel, along with other countless promoters, artists, venues, and music lovers who've built the Seattle underground electronic dance music scene to what it is today." Carroll wouldn't state that Kremfest aims to become the next Decibel, but despite his cautious attitude, it's not a stretch to think he wouldn't be opposed to the idea.
This year's lineup (September 20–23) represents Kremfest's aptitude for diversity in both musical styles and artist representation. Alabama-via-Detroit minimal-techno legend Robert Hood (Underground Resistance, Monobox, Floorplan) is probably the biggest name. If you care anything about the stealthy power of bare-bones techno from a master who's been innovating for a quarter century, you shouldn't miss his set on September 20. (Fellow Detroiters Mike Huckaby [techno, house] and Sinistarr [footwork, drum & bass] also appear. You should hear what the latter does with Foster Sylvers's "Misdemeanor.")
JD Samson of Le Tigre and MEN purveys DJ sets that emphasize queercentric hedonism. Seattle's Aos (aka Kayla Waldorf) is an up-and-coming producer of cerebral, atmospheric techno whose tracks are getting played by some of the world's most discerning selectors. England's Djrum is one of the most interesting, category-dissolving musicians working right now, as you can glean from the "#Ambient Gabber" tag on one of his SoundCloud tracks.
Carroll's criteria for booking Kremfest mirrors that which the venue exhibits year-round: "to provide a platform for intelligent, creative, and thoughtful art we believe in that brings people together." For Kremfest, these qualities get crammed into one extended weekend of edgy sounds, virtual-reality experiences, and art installations. "The crews who are part of the festival [DEPTH, Noise Complaint, SHOOK!, Studio 4/4, Tremulant, etc.] fit into this framework," Carroll says. "As a club, we're constantly learning and inspired by them."
Carroll hopes that Kremfest will lure more newcomers to the Kremwerk & Timbre Room Complex in addition to "subvert[ing] the common perception of what a 'nightclub' is. Our venue has a close affinity to the spaces electronic dance music was birthed in, which are in stark contrast to the EDM nightclubs that unfortunately are all too common now. We hope new faces at the club see that there is a fundamental difference and have a great time while realizing this!"