Let's face it—minimal techno has become boring. Minimal took dance music into more cerebral territory, but there are too many producers either sticking to "the formula" or spending too much time in their studios and not enough out in the clubs, releasing intricate sonic puzzles that miss the point: getting people to dance. Thankfully, Chicago producer Kate Simko goes the opposite route, starting with the dance floor and ending up with tracks that wiggle asses and tickle brains.
The key to Simko's success is her live set. Sure, her releases are respected, but it's her most recent string of live appearances—at Miami's Winter Music Conference, Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival, and Mutek—that have the press falling over themselves to deliver praise.
She laughs at the ridiculously positive response (well-deserved, based on the set she played at the VIP Room a few months back). "I posted my live set from Miami and it got onto [German magazine] De:bug," she says. "That set definitely got around. I had to change my hosting plan three times!"
This year marks Simko's emergence as a techno talent in her own right. Following last year's debut solo EP (and subsequent Decibel appearance), she has an upcoming split release on Seattle boutique label Kupei Musika with Jonas Bering, and three upcoming releases on Ghostly imprint Spectral Sound. More in line with her classical background, she's also working on an ambient piano full-length for Chocolate Industries.
Regarding that background: Simko didn't discover electronic music until her late teens, after a lifetime of classical training. She began her undergraduate studies in classical piano and photography at the University of Miami but moved back to Chicago to attend Northwestern, switching attention to her own music as part of the music technology program. For part of her last year she studied abroad in Chile, where she hit it off with Andres Bucci, creating the tracks the duo eventually released as Detalles, a collaboration noted as one of URB magazine's Next 100.
Simko's production and performances are built on nuance. The small details are taken care of, but the course of a set is just as meticulously organized, not just queued and triggered but artfully composed. Simko has a keen sense of melody and scale—no doubt a result of the years of piano—giving her music a blanket of warmth and depth to accompany the booty-shaking thump.
Since her return to Chicago after a stint in Los Angeles, Simko has focused on her own sound, armed with a laptop, a small set of gear, and a bevy of software. She creates every thump, click, and tone from scratch, forming the template for tracks before feeding them into Ableton Live for performances and tailoring them to crowd response. It's a feedback loop central to her output. "It's the perfect litmus test for the new stuff I'm working on," she says. "If it doesn't work live, then it's not going to work on record."
Kate Simko plays Oscillate at the Baltic Room on Thurs June 28. Rafael Anton Irisarri, head of Kupei Musika, opens. Recordings of Simko's live sets can be found at www.katesimko.com.
THURSDAY JUNE 28
This Infected Mushroom tour stop, in support of their latest release, Vicious Delicious, violates the standard "don't charge more than $10" rule. Tonight might be one of the few successful exceptions, since the psy-trance demographic loves this Israeli duo, leaders in the genre. Club Heaven, 172 S Washington St, 622-1863, 9 pm–2 am, $20, 18+.
FRIDAY JUNE 29
Hailing from São Paolo, DJ Marky gained favor at home with his own productions and outgoing DJ sets, but it wasn't until Bryan Gee of V Recordings saw him that DJ Marky found worldwide fame, making him an ambassador of Brazil's contributions to the world of drum 'n' bass. Club Heaven, 172 S Washington St, 622-1863, 9 pm–2 am, $10 before 11 pm/$15 after, 21+.
SATURDAY JUNE 30
For one night only, defunct electronic music night Robo.Trash returns to remind Seattle that it was one of the first nights to help even out the house/techno balance. Tonight's bill includes Randy Jones, Jerry Abstract, Recess, DJ FITS, and party organizer Kris Moon, bringing the underground vibe as they play a sure to be packed and sweaty loft space. 2917 First Ave S, 10 pm, $5 before 11 pm/$10 after.
TUESDAY JULY 3
Oscillate's move to Thursdays left the Baltic Room with a vacancy in its scheduling, now filled by Tonic Tuesday. The United House Front (UHF) collective is at the helm, bringing in various Seattle house DJs. The night kicks off with the return of UHF's Jizosh, joined by Peter Evans and Trevor of Abstract Earth Project. For now, the weekly is free, but that's likely to change, so check it out while it's easy on the wallet. The Baltic Room, 1207 Pine St, 625-4444, 9 pm–2 am, free, 21+.