Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Decibel Festival

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.


Anonymous said...

Lovely melodious descriptions!

Between the peaceful snoring and the loud music, it was a High "Decibel Festival" indeed! Bring ear plugs next time, just in case... :)

Anonymous said...

Watch out for those precious ears,don't want to be like your daddy and can't hear the words of music! Mama

Kristen said...

Yes, I'll definitely bring ear plugs from now on!

Anonymous said...

Heart?! For reals? Yuck. We Built This City -- need I say more?
I listened to some of that Austrian dude last night. Pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Chow to our siren of the west:
Yep, know what you're talking about when it comes to hearing music that reflects another spectrum. Such an event happened to me in 1999 while on a mission trip to Mexico. Our group had opportunity to visit the Mexico City museum. This cathedral of collections has everything imaginable regarding the history of my favorite place (Mexico). Case in point, a live performance by Aztec Indians of a war song/dance that their forefathers used to prep themselves for battle. Drums of various sizes, ranging from 4o' to small copacabana were beaten skillfully, ferociously and melodically by painted figures the like of which would scare the living daylights out of some unsuspecting passerby! Upon the cabo I could see why 50, 000 Aztecs could/would charge Cortez's muskets, canons and other such superior weapons. No hishhash or opium needed, no Apache grass or demagogic medicine man yelling encouragement - just the raw roar of the most prolific and primitive of instruments - the DRUM! Nothing else can bring out the primal nature of a man like a drum. If you have not been there then you cannot appreciate Monteczuma, Cortez or war in its most brutal form. It is a 'must see' experience much like our Mermaid has revealed in her blog. Go to either place and let your senses be stroked.
Tu papito