Preview: Decibel 2014 NFOP Favorites

13 Sep 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

Last year Kelsie and I had the pleasure of attending Seattle's beloved and rather large Decibel Festival. While the overall curation of this event was and will continue to be professionally executed, one thing that stuck out as a negative was the line-up's startling lack of female artists. This year, however, there are more than a handful female artists, as well as a wide range of acts that use electronic instruments in various ways to relay diverse messages. By presenting an expansive line-up, Decibel ends up appealling to all types of music lovers, whether techno and club music agrees with them or not, which is a deed that affectively and somewhat diplomatically assists in adjusting the North American attitude toward electronic music. Starting small and intimate, dB has turned into a crucial beacon for techno advocation and forward thinking in the States. It is put on yearly by passionate fans and strong believers in the many assets offered by this world of music and sounds.

Below is a list of NFOP-recommended artists who are playing this year. Some of them you will know, some of them might be new to you. Some we have collaborated with and reviewed, others we will be supporting, or continuing to support, in the years to come. I'll post a recap post-festival.

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HOMESHAKE “Making A Fool of You”

12 Sep 2014 — Henry Schiller

Montreal-based musician Peter Sagar’s nominal motto of “all caps, all the time” gives the name of his solo project HOMESHAKE the look of an advertisement in a garden center. It feels like the capitalization is the actual name, and that the scramble of letters are just flavoring.

Why is this relevant? Because on “Making A Fool of You”, a track from HOMESHAKE’s upcoming In The Shower LP, presentation is everything. Like the capitalization that turned Homeshake into HOMESHAKE, “Making A Fool of You” has the affectation of force – a snappy drum ride and almost aggressively slick bass – but plays it off like it's just a bit of nothing special. As with anything that has to do with typefaces, the track's supposed suaveness is all a front for some sort of higher-order anguish.

HOMESHAKE is the subtle rush of a cool glass of water drunk on a day where all you wanted to do was drink a cool glass of water. On "Making A Fool of You", soothing, smooth jazz overtones are buttered with pillow talk moans of vocals that sound like they originate from the sore throat of someone who’s been crying, filtered through a moustache that could only be described as ‘righteous’. Sagar, an Edmonton transplant, names Canada’s icy landscapes as a source of inspiration for his music's chilled disposition. Indeed, "Making A Fool of You" feels like it could soundtrack a steep, dangerous descent into the bowels of a glacier made by two college-aged lovers on a weekend getaway. Aww.

In The Shower is out October 7 on Sinderlyn.

 

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Interview: sloslylove

12 Sep 2014 — Sam Clark

Five to ten years ago a cursory overview of Eau Claire music probably would have read as homogenized, with acts like Bon Iver, Amateur Love, and the Daredevil Christopher Wright garnering various levels of attention from the public eye. But as many of those projects have either disbanded or gone on hiatus, a proverbial curtain has been pulled back, revealing Eau Claire as a more diverse climate and a decisive component in the Midwest musical landscape. The burgeoning network of house venues designed as safe, all-ages spaces has created an environment for underground rap to flourish and for members of the city’s electronic music guild to hone their craft. 

At the forefront of the latter movement is sloslylove, the moniker of Eau Claire native Feng Meng Vue. After spending a significant stretch of time in Minneapolis, Vue repatriated himself just in time to prep and release his second full-length album, The Haunted, which dropped in July. I recently caught up with Vue to talk about his no-nonsense, natural approach towards making music and his interest in building synthesizers. Check out the interview after the break.

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Anjou “fieldwork”

11 Sep 2014 — Henry Schiller

Anjou reunites Labradford's Robert Donne and Mark Nelson. The project is their first collaboration since the release of Labradford’s Fixed::Context LP in 2000, and “fieldwork” is a track from their upcoming self-titled debut. Joined by percussionist Steven Hess (Locrian, Fennesz), “fieldwork” sounds less like groupwork and more like a single entity that's shrugged its way out of the dead leaves and ivy; there are no egos fighting for dominance, just a swampman's organs living in delicate synchronicity. “fieldwork” is reminiscent of fellow Kranky artist Tim Hecker’s recent output, as well as the kind of sonic naturalism found in the work of avan-garde ocean explorer Jurgen Muller. Indeed, following Muller, “fieldwork” feels more like a journal entry in some naturalist’s aural notebook than it does a piece of ambient songcraft.

“fieldwork” is a meditative ode to habitat: an ode to thorny thickets and neglected gardens, and to the almost contemplative stillness that is survival for so much life (plant life, mostly) on planet Earth. Arboreal foley work lingers in between the lulling static and Hess’ earthen strikes on a Viking drum. There are delectable (and unpredictable) shifts between resonant fixtures and more bellicose, nerve-wrecking moments, which are evocative of wild – though ultimately not very obvious – shifts in nature. “fieldwork” is an impressive piece of ambient music; Anjou never seem to worry that they might lose their audience to its mesmerizing tranquility, and as such the hints of more frenetic fare are subtle decoration rather than garrulous impositions.

Anjou is out September 15 on Kranky.

 

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Tomboy “Moths”

10 Sep 2014 — Henry Schiller

We are certainly not afraid of pop, but it can still be somewhat daunting to write about a track that does not try to obscure its pop sensibilities behind a sham of electronica and ambience and, instead, wears them loudly and proudly on its sleeve. “Moths", the latest from Brooklyn duo Tomboy (Sarah Aument and William Shore), belongs to that latter group of demons. "Moths" is an electro-pop earsplash that both respects and subverts the contemporary presence of pop music. No, Aument’s clear and powerful vocals are not necessarily challenging any radio pop norms, but they do sound quite anomalous in a world of filtration, distortion, and trigger-happy studio subterfuge. 

The production on "Moths" is austere: the track's brunt is borne by sparse syncopated beats, which rest halfway between tonal and percussive, and as a result straddle a strange line between bedroom electronica and hip-hop. On the other hand, “Moths” sounds kind of like Homogenic-era Bjork as reinterpreted by AlunaGeorge. Though definitely more midsummer than early autumn, Tomboy give "Moths" enough flexibility to make a proverbial jump in a pile of leaves feel like a dive into a swimming pool.

Tomboy play Brooklyn’s Glasslands on September 23; their self-titled debut is out this fall.

 

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Axxon N “Petri Dish”

09 Sep 2014 — Henry Schiller

It took four years for UK producer Axxon N (whose pseudonym is an appropriately obscure reference to David Lynch's Inland Empire) to construct  “Petri Dish”, a nearly danceable mishmash of savage samples and percussive experimentation. The length of the recording process seems to have had nothing to do with a lack of ideas on Axxon N's part: “Petri Dish” feels like it's been packed to a bursting point with four years worth of samples, headaches, and technical ingenuity.

Rather than a digital drum machine, the knife-sharp percussion on “Petri Dish” sounds like it might have been generated from samples of:
a) quarter inch cables making brief contact with active inputs
b) microphones getting too close to a singer’s mouth, then shattering
c) trash can lids that have somehow been hooked up to phase shifters

Choppy and repetitive, “Petri Dish” bears some resemblance to a version of Kraftwerk that’s been turned on its head. Rather than take something emotive and turn it into something technological and methodological, as Kraftwerk did with their pop music forebears, Axxon N turns the inhuman and digital into something feral and organic. And so, “Petri Dish”, an apt title for Axxon N’s high-energy samplethon; it's a science experiment. A living explosion of activity that feels like it's caught between a biology student's thesis and the catastrophic release of a dangerous pathogen.

Axxon N’s debut album Heal is out October 13 on Domestic.

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unhappybirthday “Keanu” (exclusive)

09 Sep 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Not sure if the German vocals are a recently added feature of Hamburg-based lo-fi outfit unhappybirthday, but the singer's sloppy and languid baritone is definitely the perfect complement to the disillusioned, detached words about a desolate human interaction, probably a failing relationship. The laconic crooning is nicely accompanied by naively warm twinkling and plucking synths that exude an eerie coziness, giving "Keanu" a curiously nostalgic and comforting feel, almost as if life didn't really suck after all.

"Keanu" is taken from Swimmingpool, which will be released later this year via Night-People. The band will tour Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands this fall beginning September 19.

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Watch: Austin Cesear “La Paloma”

08 Sep 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Ever since the release of his superb Cruise Forever on London imprint Public Information in 2012, New York via San Francisco producer Austin Cesear has become one of the spearheads of the lo-fi undercurrent within contemporary dance music, consistently following up his acclaimed debut with a cassette on Opal Tapes and a 12" on Anthony Naples' Proibito Records. Against this backdrop, the most striking thing about "La Paloma", the first track of his upsoming mini album West Side – with which the artist returns to PI, is not so much the music itself. Cesear's work is still muffled, analogue, distorted techno, albeit now with added bleakness that would fit well on Berghain's main floor on a Sunday night. Rather, it's the juxtaposition of this established sonic formular with director Paul Clipson's crisp, cool and alienating impressions of nocturnal urban landscapes that so oddly yet perfectly work against each other, creating a mesmerizing, druggy experience.

West Side is out September 29 on Public Information.

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