The 2013 edition of Seattle's Decibel Festival has been 10 years in the making. Beginning in 2004 as a gathering inspired by events such as Movement in Detroit and MUTEK in Montreal, the still-grassroots-fueled Decibel Festival has become the West Coast's most dependable annual gathering for emerging and forward-thinking electronic music. This year's edition marks Decibel's 10th anniversary, and organizers have again assembled an impressive array of international acts to fill the festival's five-day run. With that in mind, XLR8R has considered the plethora of options that Decibel has to offer and put together what we suspect will make for the 10 best bets this weekend in Seattle.
Ben Klock by Randolph Quan
Like Klockwork w/ Ben Klock
Wednesday, September 25 - Q
This year, Decibel is wasting no time getting into the thick of it. With a stacked opening night that includes Kode9 and the Hyperdub label showcase (an event that narrowly missed this list), the three-and-a-half-hour set from Berghain resident Ben Klock on Wednesday seems likely to deliver an early festival highlight, especially considering that the Berlin mainstay rarely brings his taste for spacious techno and widely noted ability to hold down marathon sets this far west. Australian jock Light Year will set the atmosphere before Klock takes to the tables around 11 p.m.
XLR8R Showcase w/ Evian Christ, Vessel, and Huerco S.
Thursday, September 26 - Chop Suey
As we've been known to do, XLR8R will again curate a party at Decibel, this year bringing Tri Angle affiliates Evian Christ and Vessel (the latter of which we deemed 2012's Best New Artist) to Seattle's Chop Suey for a special showcase. With Stateside house experimentalist Huerco S. filling out the bill, the night is looking to be full of heady sounds and rhythms teetering on the outer edges of dance music. In addition to sets by Evian Christ, Vessel, and Huerco S., XLR8R editor Shawn Reynaldo will be supplying the vibes early on.
Resident Advisor Showcase w/ Actress, Lapalux, and Natasha Kmeto
Thursday, September 26 - The Crocodile
Resident Advisor's Thursday showcase will finally bring Actress to Decibel (he was booked to headline XLR8R's showcase last year, but was ultimately unable to make the date due to visa issues). That said, though the shadowy UK producer may be taking top billing, RA has put together a solid crew of electronic talents to further bolster the night, as Brainfeeder tunesmith Lapalux and emerging Northwest producer/vocalist Natasha Kmeto will provide the evening's earlier sets. Rounded out by an opening set from Dropping Gems affiliates Ghost Feet, RA appears eager to offer a diverse array of electronic music.
Pearson Sound by Dan Wilton
Hessle Audio After-Hours w/ Pearson Sound, Ben UFO, and Pangaea
Thursday, September 26 - Neumos
More than five years after launching the Hessle Audio label, its three founding members—Pearson Sound, Ben UFO, and Pangaea—are still very much on the leading edge of dance music. Usually, just getting one of Hessle Audio's head honchos behind a set of turntables results in a good night, but for the label's own after-hours party, all three Hessle boys will be in the building, likely trading off selections and together delivering a bass-loaded set streaked with heavy rhythms, abstract touches, and hopefully more than a few forthcoming gems from the label's catalog.
Erased Tapes Optical Showcase w/ Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm
Friday, September 27 - Nordstrom Recital Hall
It should be pointed out that Decibel is not solely dedicated to dance music, and the festival's long-running Optical series is one event that takes the focus off the dancefloor and places it instead onto immersive A/V performances. Of the four Optical events slated for this year's edition of the festival, Friday's Erased Tapes-themed set is the most promising, bringing Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm—two of the label's most accomplished composers—out to Seattle to conjure vivid textures and immersive micro-tones from their respective pianos and electronics while a dazzling display of video art joins them.
Shigeto by Jeremy Deputat
Ghostly International Showcase w/ Shigeto, Lusine, and Dauwd
Friday, September 27 - The Crocodile
Though one is bound to feel like there is a major player missing from Ghostly's Friday night Decibel showcase (label mainstay Gold Panda takes the lead spot at a somewhat less well-rounded Decibel event the following night), it's hard to argue with a bill that places Shigeto, Lusine, and Dauwd under the same roof. Ghostly is in the midst of adding another great year—one of its best in recent memory—to the imprint's already accomplished run, and celebrating that with much of the label's current class (Brooklyn duo Beacon is also set to perform) is an opportunity we're happy to have at Decibel.
WTF Presents: Machinedrum's Vapor City Live
Friday, September 27 - Showbox at the Market
Before heading off on a three-month-long world tour, Machinedrum will premiere his new Vapor City Live show on Friday at Decibel. Said to find the Berlin-based artist playing electronics, guitar, and even singing live, Machinedrum will also be joined by collaborator Lane Barrington on drums and samples. The new live project will also incorporate a special projection component produced by noted visual artist Weirdcore. Needless to say, Vapor City Live will look and sound like no Machinedrum performance we've seen or heard before, and that is certainly exciting. Opening sets from XXYYXX, Giraffage, and Timeboy will get the party started before Machinedrum rolls out the world debut of his new—and considerably involved—live show.
Machinedrum by Andrew Defrancesco
Nicolas Jaar and Friends w/ Mount Kimbie
Friday, September 27 - Showbox Sodo
NYC producer Nicolas Jaar no doubt has a lot of friends in the musical community, but for the sake of the Nicolas Jaar and Friends showcase at Decibel, his chums include London duo Mount Kimbie and rising Bristol resident Phaelah. Jaar appears to be operating solo for the evening (aside from the contributions of his frequent video collaborator Tarik Barri), while Mount Kimbie will deliver its vibrant produtions using the extensive live set-up the pair detailed in our From Studio to Stage feature earlier this year (which includes a third member, Tony Koos, on drums and percussion). Jaar and his "friends" appear ready to deliver a healthy mix somewhere firmly between the body-moving and chin-stroking ends of the electronic spectrum.
Home Bass w/ Dusky, Midland, and J. Alvarez
Saturday, September 28 - Q
For those Decibel attendees looking for a party where they can dance from the very opening kick drum to the night's closing last moments, Saturday's showcase with Dusky, Midland, and hometown jock J. Alvarez is probably one's best bet. Both affiliated with the reputable Aus label, UK pair Dusky and solo maestro Midland are likely to keep things in the deeper end of dancefloor-minded house, with the appropriate bits of techno-fueled sonics to keep the momentum moving forward.
Matias Aguayo by Tabea Mathern
Kompakt After-Hours w/ Matias Aguayo, John Tejada, and Thomas Fehlmann
Saturday, September 28 - Neumos
Still in the midst of celebrating 20 years as a consistently exceptional techno imprint, the Cologne-based Kompakt label will takeover Decibel's Saturday night after-hours offerings with sets from three of the imprint's most reliable players. The planned efforts from veteran sonic explorers Thomas Fehlmann and John Tejada (who will be performing a live hardware set) are likely to be quality affairs, but what has us most excited is the live performance from Matias Aguayo, whose infectious take on Latin rhythms and unique ability to mix the weirder shades of dance music with an effortless knack for fun is bound to go over well. Between Tejada, Aguayo, and Fehlmann, keeping the party going into the wee hours should not be a problem at all.