Seattle’s 11th annual Decibel Festival is quickly approaching, which means it’s time to start the agonizing process of picking and choosing amongst the myriad of showcases, Optical shows, After-Hours, conference workshops, and boat parties the festival has to offer. There are shows and conference activities...

Out with the old, no matter how good it is! Here's our comprehensive list of Top Albums of the Year 2013, schizophrenic as always to reflect the diverse tastes of our staff, though there is some overlap. It's highly recommended you check out every release here, as each has its own creative strengths.
Matthew Carter - electronic, experimental, metal, pop, rock Vivian Hua - dance, indie, pop, psychedelic, soul Troy Micheau - classical, electronic, experimental, instrumental Judy Nelson - dance, electronic, indie, pop, psychedelic, soul Elizabeth Perry - indie, mainstream, pop, rock Peter Woodburn - classical, instrumental, metal XUA - electronic hip-hop, mainstream, pop Albums of the Year 2013

Spectral Hypnosis is a recurring series, featuring mesmerizing songs for one to lose sense of time and space, mind and body. This time: favorite new electronic meanderings from Rival Consoles and Peter Broderick, the consistent and darkly charming universe of ERAAS, the POLIÇA / GAYNGS member side-project Marijuana Deathsquads, and more from Tati Ana and Applescal & Ryan Davis.
SEE ALSO: FULL POST + ALL SPECTRAL HYPNOSIS POSTS + ALL COLUMNS

Rival Consoles & Peter Broderick - "Soul"

Rival Consoles' synthy video game percolations meet with the expressive vocals of Portland's Peter Broderick on "Soul", a hypnotic adventure of a track. Taking the isolated vocal foundation from "Proposed Solution to the Mystery of the Soul" off Broderick's 2012 record, These Walls of Mine, this "remix" transforms the minimal, percussive ricochets of the original into its own busy, expressive undulations. Occupying a towering and dynamic sonic space, this track is one of my favorites of the year, and at once makes me want to hear more from Rival Consoles and Peter Broderick -- which is a rare feat for remix tracks, which often retain very little charm from their original inspirations. This track comes from the London producer's EP Odyssey, which you can stream below in its entirety. It is all good, and it's available now on Erased Tapes. Peter Broderick has also just reissued Float 2013, a lovely rework of his modern classical record from 2008, Float. Stream it here.

The Pacific Northwest's premiere music festival, Decibel Festival 2013, has come and gone, with another half-week stint of dream electronic music lineups for all. The type of festival that non-Seattle music lovers drool over and Seattle music lovers take amazing late-night advantage of, Decibel has come a long way in the ten years since its inception... and with this review, we celebrate the best of year 10's acts, which include a party sounds by JETS, the collaboration between Jimmy Edgar and Machinedrum, Machinedrum's visually-entrancing new live show, neo-classical-meets-electronic composer Nils Frahm, and goofy electronic pioneers, The Orb.
Photography by Lizzy Eve

JETS = Machinedrum & Jimmy Edgar

It can be a bit surprising how successful after-parties at Decibel Festival are -- especially considering they always begin at 2:30am, and sometimes on weekday nights. Thursday evening (or Friday morning at 3:30am, if you wanted to get all technical about it) was JETS' headlining slot at the Leisure System Afterparty, and it was my most anticipated show of Decibel Festival 2013. Still, I didn't really know what to expect from the duo, comprised of Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar, since JETS is a relatively new project and the amount of material they have out in the world is quite tiny. I knew from their dearth of recordings that they know how to make bangin' party music and that they at least somewhat have metaphysical interests -- but it was only after seeing them perform at Neumo's that the tie between the two seemingly disparate elements actually began to make sense. JETS create a whipped-up blend of DJ sensibilities for the complex listener -- but their adept copiloting of an atmosphere filled with entrancing sonic trickeries also makes them appealing for the complex dancer. Upon first taking the stage, JETS reminded me of futuresonic explorers in electronic hyperspace, and I nearly expected the mixer that both Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar laid their hands upon to turn into a brightly-colored glowing orb. Well, it didn't, and the sci-fi sounds soon faded, but what they gave way to was a challenging set that remained in a constant state of transition. Beats shifted again and again at perfectly-timed yet completely unpredictable intervals, and even better were the moments where JETS dropped down low -- sometimes obviously and sometimes almost imperceptibly. While beats continued, repeating vocal samples would brew up from beneath, bubbling up through otherwise dense layers of sound, in the form of subtle mind suggestion cues telling you to "dance", or some variation of the same. Such is a subconscious trick that JETS have mastered, with effects that one might not even notice immediately. When I go to electronic shows, I sometimes get bored of my own dance moves because the music remains so static -- or conversely, because the music changes with such a jitter that it loses momentum or leads to abrupt transitions between dance styles. Not so with JETS... and this, coupled with the sly vocal mind-control mechanism previously described, may be the most successful aspects of their approach. They are seamlessly dynamic -- to a point where it almost hurts because it is so good, and you're so tired, but you just can't stop dancing. The way in which JETS can inspire a melting away of a crowd, leaving only the purity of sound -- made their set godamn transcendent -- and that is not an adjective I use lightly. - Vivian Hua

In spring 2010, Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, billowing an ash cloud so large it disrupted air travel in Western Europe for nearly a month. News stations scrambled to cover the event, and all eyes turned to Iceland, both praising it and admonishing it for its native geographic wonders. But once the ash settled, so did the attention. Once again, Iceland found itself inhabiting its own isolated region of the world.

Iceland is a small country with a reputation built upon a foundation of misinformation. Few people have first-hand knowledge of the country, but many think they do. They spread the myth that Iceland is frozen over by glaciers year-round, that it's barely inhabitable during the winter months. They harp that quirky Icelanders have a widespread belief in the existence of fairies. No wonder a musician as eccentric as Björk would spawn from such a curious land! These hastily-draw conclusions do not paint the whole picture.
Iceland is certainly cold in winter months, but the famed landscape of eternal tundra is reflective of Greenland, not Iceland. Belief in mythological spirits certainly does exist, but Iceland is far from being an underdeveloped rural society of loons. The country's most famous export, Björk, is considered unique by any standards. Her musical and aesthetic choices are hardly reflective of the conventional norms of the country, and your average Icelander is far from outlandish.

Björk's recent accomplishments have taken the form of collaborative projects with musicians like Dirty Projectors and Antony And The Johnsons. Ostensibly, her solo career has been deferred, and to fill in the void, the world has shifted towards Iceland's other successful musical acts. Few and far between, those acts have wielded tremendous power, their sheer dearth providing them the opportunity to mold global perspectives on Icelandic's music scene.

Post-rock quintet Sigur Rós has, in the recent past, contributed to the rebranding of Iceland with a new visual and musical face -- a move that has unwittingly opened the scene up to another slew of stereotypes and associations.
"Icelanders are blessed with beautiful nature, lots of water, and space, and there's great energy in the country. But I think that more importantly, the most successful Icelandic musicians have been led by their curiosity and put a lot of time and effort into their art, and as result, created their own unique musical world." -- Ólöf Arnalds

 

This mixtape – the last in a series of three centered around Icelandic music – focuses on singer-songwriters and solo musicians, and explores just how far one person’s creativity can be stretched....