I’m going to waste no time in introducing you to some great music I discovered at the Decibel Festival, a world-famous electronic, techno, and dance music festival that happens in Seattle every year. Electronic music is played not with traditional instruments (though they are sometimes used), but with soundboards, laptops, computer programs, and all manner of technology. The concert I attended took place in Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony. Pierced, black-clad techno-punks descended upon elegant, pristine Benaroya – an odd juxtaposition – but as I chatted with Milicent, the house manager, she informed me that Benaroya hosts all kinds of music events, and she didn’t seem the least bit fazed by mohawks and tattered jeans. The show, entitled “Tactile Immersion”, was an audio/visual combo, so I felt like I was getting two artforms for the price of one. The lineup was Noveller, Fennesz, and Oneohtrix Point Never, three bands I’d never heard of before (I told you I was branching out!).
Noveller, a young woman from Brooklyn, was…interesting. She created cycles of multi-layered sounds using nothing but her acoustic guitar, some pedals, scissors, a cowbell, and a wad of bubble wrap. It sounds like it would have been intriguing, but she didn’t really grab my attention until her final number, when she finally pulled out her electric guitar and ripped on those strings with a violin bow. That’s what I’m talking about! I felt bad for her because she seemed to cast a soporific spell on the audience – I saw at least six people fall asleep upright, and I definitely heard some snores. It was cruel. She got up on that stage all by herself and tried so hard to present her own creations to a disinterested audience. That takes courage, and I have to give her props for that.
Fennesz. Oh my, I’ve never experienced anything like Fennesz. His music made me feel like the planet was going to rip apart and carry me across the galaxy on my own little piece of it. You might by asking yourself, is that a good thing? Does that mean she actually liked Fennesz? Yes, it is definitely a good thing, and yes, I loved Fennesz. The Austrian guy absolutely enveloped my ears, eyes, and body in roaring, eardrum-splitting, electrified, laptop-ified sound and images. Depth, darkness, jubilation, ecstasy, sweetness, sadness – he beckoned every emotion with his music. The visuals during his performance featured flying, multi-colored globs of paint, and he was the sorcerer igniting the colors' own volition, summoning them to come alive and dance across the screen for him. And he was really loud. I definitely sustained some hearing damage, but the volume only added to the incredible force and power he wielded with his sound. He gave me the “tactile immersion” that the show was supposedly all about, with music so loud, almost painfully loud, that the sound felt like a weighty, physical presence in the auditorium. It was a breathtaking, kinetic experience, and he received such thunderous response from the audience that he performed a beautiful, quieter encore while I wished it would never end.
Sadly, it did indeed end, and after the riveting spectacle that Fennesz gave, Oneohtrix Point Never was a bit of a let-down. OPN had the darkest, creepiest show of the evening with lots of sinister low bass and strange visuals (it was also literally the darkest show – the only light in the hall was the one emanating from his headlamp). Fennesz was a hard act to follow, and I felt a little bad for OPN when he didn’t get the same enthusiastic response, but he’s up-and-coming in the electronic scene, and he was pretty good. It’s just that Fennesz was so good. He was a musical Tesla, electrifying me the first time, and OPN was, well, playing with just one headlamp. But that’s just my opinion. Check them out for yourself and let me know what you think.