Saturday included dB in the Park at the Broad Street Stage in Seattle Center. Nearing the end of the seven hour event, LA based artist Nosaj Thing took the stage. Randomville’s Decibel Festival photographer Adam Mario reviews his performance:
Nosaj Thing creates his music with a unique style manifested through the use of atmospheric synthesizers, ghostly vocal samples, varied percussion, a wide array of effects processors, and a certain sense of wonder that almost puts the listener into a euphoric dream state. Today’s performance presented just that.
His set was filled with soft synths that seem to communicate a sense of sorrow, peace, and tranquility all at once. Following suit, his bass lines were full of weight but with a subdued attack, making you feel like the notes creep up on you. Although there is an evident atmospheric theme in his music, it was impossible to grow bored since Nosaj Thing balanced out his tracks with great rhythmic percussion. It was easy to tell how much work he put into the sound design of every tick, crack, and pop he used to punctuate his songs and bring a delicious hip hop beat to the ethereal sounds. They ranged from metallic staccato hits to dull minimal wooden block sounds, all of which sounded completely original. He expertly used several higher pitched synths, processed vocal samples, and bell sounds to present his melodies, which were all sufficiently bright while maintaining an air to them. Throughout every song he also displayed his live skills by modulating sounds, beat repeating, sweeping unique filters specifically designed for each song, chopping, and overall just mixing it up for a quite enthralling experience. Nosaj Thing blends what seems like a perfect mix of hip-hop, ambient electronic, various effects, and live DJ skills creating a gentle aggression. Dreamy, danceable, and haunting just doesn’t seem to do his work justice.
Speaking of Justice, it was a pleasure to hear some of his new work which had some sounds reminiscent of the French electronic group, Justice, as well as Daft Punk. Although it was definitely toned down and much less aggressive, it was a refreshing addition to Nosaj Thing’s repertoire. He also played a delightful remix of a track by The xx mainly using their vocals while totally recreating the instrumental aspect of the song and giving it his own personal flavor.
Nosaj Thing performed an excellent set and is definitely an artist I would recommend to everyone I know.
Saturday allowed Randomville to experience the breadth of Decibel Fest. The Optical 2 – Tactile Immersion show at Benaroya Hall was a sit-down experience, with an older crowd, focused on visual art just as much as sound. First up was Brooklyn artist Noveller, a guitarist and filmmaker (although her visual work was not featured in this show). I only heard the last two songs of her set, but her final song was pretty mesmerizing. She recorded loops of her live guitar playing and layered the song until it was practically all rhythmic distortion with one distinct lead still lingering underneath the surface. Behind her was a black and white 8mm film of a carousel. She picked, strummed, and used a bow during each song I witnessed, and alternated between two guitars between songs. I’m definitely curious to explore more of her sound and film art based on the strength of her final song.
The next performer was the highly respected Austrian experimental guitarist Christian Fennesz. Often credited as merely Fennesz, his work, like Noveller’s, concentrates on texture, noise, and disguising melodic hooks beneath dense layers of heavy atmospheric sound and white noise. These dense layers lent themselves well to Lillevan’s visual display. Together, Lillevan and Fennesz were equally enigmatic. You’d catch them looking behind them at the screen as if to check that it’s still there, but for the rest of the show they were completely spellbound, locked in to their computers and guitar.
As with most A/V productions, the mind tries to create a story from each string of visuals for each song. In the first sequence the audience tried to make sense of a woman on fire who was running through the forest; in the next, the screen looked like it had captured a hundred writhing bugs magnified in a microscope before evolving into birds that were as concentrated as the winged monkeys in the sky in The Wizard of Oz. Sometimes it’s chaos on the screen, sometimes it’s unease, other times the images release a quiet intensity before lunging you into the next part of your excursion. There were vague images that recalled the Ents from The Lord of the Rings and twisted faces of men that made the experience seem like you were in some some mental state between sitting on a hill deciphering shapes in clouds and hallucinating. At the end of the show I heard handfuls of people say, “That’s was amazing.” Surprisingly, Fennesz was the only Decibel show to make my ears ring.
The final show of the evening was at another Capitol Hill venue, The Baltic Room, where the Hotflush Label Showcase was held featuring Untold doing a DJ set, Scuba (Hotflush’s label boss), and Sepalcure. Packed to the brim, it seemed like a larger venue should have been picked as there was constantly a line outside waiting for entrance thanks to the necessary “one out, one in” policy. I wouldn’t have paid to see this show as part of Decibel. It seemed more like a Friday night club show with a really high cover charge. Scuba was the main reason I was there and the only act I saw, but by day four of the festival, concert goers (including me) were getting drained, venues seemed hotter and sweatier, and people seemed more drunk and less tolerant. Scuba gave a solid dubstep and techno performance, but failed to sound remarkable compared to my own dubstep favorites and other highlights of the festival. For once, I much prefer his album to his live material.
Check back tomorrow to read about the Decibel Fest finale with performer and Ableton creator Monolake!
Photos courtesy of Adam Mario.