I kick off Thursday at Decibel Festival with the “New Interfaces” panel with Moldover, Tim Thompson, Randy Jones, and the legendary Roger Linn, the man responsible for the first drum machine. Maybe you’ve heard of him. As enticing as it is to hear world-renowned experts talk about awesome gesture-controlled gear from the future,
all I can think is: When will I get to play with the toys myself?
Sure enough, they invite the audience on stage after the panel to wave our hands through MIDI controller prototypes and gestural interfaces. The barrier between man and sensationally controlled music is evaporating rapidly.
I leave the theatre quite pleased.
I spot another familiar face, John Clements. John manages to showcase the latest plug-ins he’s been working on with Max For Live and pretty much everything he describes is over my head except “open source” and “free.” I can always latch on to those ideas. There’s something about the way he’s demoing these Csound plug-ins–using one finger while the other four desperately grasp his cell phone and his other hand barely balances his laptop, like a Road Runner cartoon–that captures the vivacious educational spirit of the festival.
His raw enthusiasm to show us something innovative, useful, and made for the love of music is a textbook example of why I’ll be revisiting this festival.
Then comes along my Together homie Yumiko, who introduces me to one of the lead Director’s of Decibel, Sean Power. Sean introduces me to a few of the festival’s essential players, who all greet me with open arms, as they highly respect what we do back here in Boston with Together. Their Sponsorship Coordinator (the Decibel version of me) kindly invites me to walk and talk with him. I’m hoping to grab some big pointers on how their festival has turned into a valid checkpoint for global travelers of the contemporary music culture.
He has to run some festival-related errands: stopping at his place, then Neumos, then … a software development firm? Ok … turns out it’s not just any software development firm, though; it’s a beautiful 2000-square-foot loft space with hardwood floors, a DJ booth made out of birchwood that’s hanging from the ceiling on a chain, a little fold out bar, and floor-to-ceiling windows, giving us a view of the park and Capitol Hill.
T-shirts are being passed out from a very familiar face with a very familiar voice.
Turning mine over in my hands, I read, “Boiler Room.”
“That fits perfectly into my schedule,”
I jokingly remark to Cody, the man who I followed around what I, at this point, have started calling “Decibel Campus.” So much of the Festival is tightly wrapped around Broadway and Pike that it allows for a genuine campus feel–very helpful in creating a successful multi-venue festival setting.
Seattle house don, Pezzner (who would debut his new album at the festival on Sunday) kicks off the legendary traveling streaming show with a thick set of house grooves that the body can’t ignore and a smile can’t hide from. The room fills as his set builds. Appleblim goes on next, complimenting his set from the night before with same dancefloor romps, followed by XXXY (who I think played the most collective hours at Decibel) dropping future bass hit after fringe-house hit. The Room is in full swing.
I peek behind the curtain separating the rows of iMacs from the lounge that’s been transformed into a dancefloor. There are still programmers working late.
I think to myself how bittersweet it would be to work late with the Boiler Room only a few feet behind me.
I somehow manage to pull myself away from the inexplicable energy that is the Boiler Room, knowing I need to eat if I want to stand a chance circulating the showcases that start in an hour and run all night. Someone must love me, because they conveniently placed one of my personal favorites, Objekt, at 9:15 p.m., so I can be much less torn when choosing which headliners to catch later in the night. Objekt starts off the Surefire showcase in a nearly empty room, appropriately playing ambient vinyls and layering interludes of Air Force communications recordings.
About 20 minutes into his set, a structured beat discreetly surfaces and you see a head nod and a hip knock. He fluctuates between old school acid and his own brand of Bohemian techno.
An hour in, he breaks out of the desert dunes in a full blown acid flex that shakes off every grain of sand and leads me to dance like I haven’t in months. It’s not even 11 p.m. yet.
Objekt plays a full two hours, closing with some track that merely comprises raw bass laden textures before moving into straight hardcore techno.
I grab a bite and jet back out to judge Kuedo‘s set before Demdike Stare goes on at the Modern Love showcase. The thug half of Vex’d swiftly moves out of trap (good timing) and into his signature cosmic juke extravaganza. Definitely some of the more intriguing registers of juke, but not enough to keep me from missing a moment of Demdike Stare. Plus, my legs are starting to give out from eight hours of dancing, and I know I can sit and space out on patches of air out at the Modern Love showcase.
The Modern Love showcase is virtually beneath the Baltic—in a 4,000+ square-foot industrial basement that is typically used as a gallery space. Perfect.
A 48-foot wide projection of basic geometrics exploding, randomly configuring and collapsing sweetly scales the side of the basement. Demdike’s signature collection of unidentifiably-obscure movie samples is projected behind the two post-gothic hauntologists. They conjure their unique brew of witchcraft; whisper-laden tracks with tribal overtones lurking throughout the musky basement.
I’m quickly immersed in an old world that hybrids 17th Century witch trials with the arcane rituals of the Mbongo tribe. The wind bustles in the background. I’m fully engaged in the narrative that is Modern Love.
Andy Stott follows with his torpid crawl of chunky sub kicks surrounded by organic artifacts that only Stott has successfully glorified and rendered listenable.
Slow but steady, we sink further into the catacombs decorated with forbidding vocals and dusty crevices that would leave Eric Draven uneasy.
The whole trudge builds up into the taunting vocals and unforgiving sidechain of “Poser,” and I’m convinced that Stott put a live sidechain compression on that night, because the inertia striking the dancefloor could capsize a small pirate ship.
MLZ proceeds to rescue us from being completely lowered into Middle Earth in a burial by serving us an eclectic blend of house and light industrial punishments that allow the crowd to bounce back for more. I leave halfway through to catch the Ostgut Ton afterhours presented by Resident Advisor before I collapse.
The Ostgut Ton party isn’t quite as close as it looks on a map, so I call a cab en route. As I walk in the door to the isolated afterhours spot, Re-bar, the cab pulls up. The sheer militant techno thrust of DVS1 is enough for me to peek in and close the door in one swift motion. I hop in the cab and go home.