Decibel Fest 2011 Day 4: Christopher Willits + Deniz Kurtel + MorePosted by Chris Govella
I got started with Decibel’s Optical 2: Grains of Sound at the Nordstrom Recital Hall just as Matthewdavid had finished delivering a slew of bass rhythms. Ghostly International’s Christopher Willits took the stage afterwards and acknowledged the crowd by wrapping his fist with his palm, like a karate master salute. Willits’s playing was much more improvisational and psychedelic, charging notes with endless decay and vibrato. He performed on the floor cross-legged and plucked his guitar before mutating it with his laptop, akin to a West Coast hippie version of Tim Hecker. Willits’s tunes were accompanied by close-up shots of plant life and water, shifting in and out of focus before disintegrating into more nature imagery. After a brief intermission and a coffee, Oval took center stage with a visualization of Rothko-esque ribbons of colors as a backdrop. Oval meshed whirring motors with a lattice of crushed drum hits, transmitting hypnotic waves akin to early Plaid and Aphex Twin. For a ticket billed as an audio visual showcase, the visual component left much to be desired; the deluge of nature special and screensaver shots were too sedate to keep sober festival-goers engaged.
Over at Neumos for the Deep Foundations showcase, the billing of deep house originators and new school producers drew a large contingent of house fans, filling the venue to a respectable head count for a Saturday night. Upon arrival, I was accosted by the ultra-repetitive, hyper-rhythmic beating of a distinctly classic Detroit sound. Mike Huckaby’s record collection pushed the crowd to the edge of an alternate dystopian techno-future, but the early evening crowd couldn’t engage with it entirely. Deniz Kurtel’s live set emphasized mood and melody, favoring loping bass lines over crashing rhythms. Her set contained an endless amount of lilting, soft-spoken verses triggered over ticking high hats. Melody gave way to more euphoric, trance-style builds, in what felt like a slight transition as I:Cube prepared for his set. The French producer blended prismatic loops with what appeared to be an analog rotary mixer. The atmosphere slipped from deeper vibrations toward a more European club vibe. Halfway through his set, the DJ seemed frustrated with the volume level at the club, motioning over sound engineers to examine his gear and instruments. The volume seemed to remain at an unusually low level for the rest of the show as Chateau Flight.
I decided to skip the Cajmere after hours performance at Re-Bar in favor of the showcase presented by Uniting Souls. The first thing I noticed was the ceramic Buddha statue accompanied by incense and tea lights. The warm-up DJs started off with a quiver of retro, rhythm-and-blues influenced house beats warming up the crowd for Jeromy Nail. The crowd was eating up his West Coast house selections and beefy groovy kicks, taking his picks as an invitation for all but the most devout Quakers to take the floor. At a little after two in the morning, Jimpster made his Electric Tea Garden debut. He won the late night audience over completely, queuing up minimal bass-heavy grooves and crashing tsunami-size build-ups into East Coast jackin’ house. The mixing continued well into the late hours of the night with a distinctly American flavor of deep vibes.