ASIP - Accent / Sustain


I’ve been in Portland for over a year now and have met some amazing people who are pushing forward a thriving ambient/electronic scene.On May 21st, I’ve been invited to DJ at what should be one of the biggest events to hit the Portland ambient/electronica calendar, a night organised by Sanctuary Sunday and Lifelike Family, at the infamous local haunt, Holocene. It’s a night focused on the more dubby/ambient/electronic sound – somewhat of a rarity it seems, but a sound that has been bubbling up around Portland more recently. I’ll be spinning vinyl only in-between three amazing local live acts including Apartment Fox, Sunhammer and Ethernet.

Here’s a little preview, including a mix, a few words with the event organizer and a spotlight on the artists playing on the night.

Ranging from expansive ambient, to melodic dub-techno and slightly more electronic stuff, this mix was pretty fun to put together and I was lucky enough to include a track from Gidge which doesn’t come out until September (keep your eyes out for that, it’s an amazing album). Lots of stuff on here which has been covered on ASIP so it should provide a nice refresher for those familiar with the site.




01. The Green Kingdom – Untitled [Dronarivm]
02. Markus Guentner – Ashes [Moodgadget]
03. Heathered Pearls – The Worship Bell (Foxes in Fiction Tape remix) [Ghostly]
04. Textural Being – Sept [Energostatic]
05. Martin Nonstatic – Subatomic [Dewtone]
06. Doyeq – Soundsphere [Subspiele]
07. Purl – Essence [Dewtone]
08. Yagya – Snowflake 6 [Force Inc]
09. Desolate – Endurance [Fauxpas]
10. Gidge – Huldra (Atomnation]
11. Borealis – Nightfall (Ben Lukas Boysen remix) [Origami Sound]
12. Norge – 165 minutes With You (Markus Guentner remix) [ASIP]

Coco Madrid: Event Organiser / local legend / winner of busiest party schedule

And lastly, I had the chance to ask the event organiser, Coco a few questions. As one of the biggest advocates for this type of music in Portland for many years now, it seems like everything she puts her name to is a great success in bringing the community together. I bump into her at every gig in Portland and i don’t think this lady sleeps…

What’s the idea behind the night and what can people expect?

“The idea came from the showcase I did with the Closer Festival, Tim Westcott, and Mike Jedlicka last year. One of the artists that will be playing at Accent//Sustain – Sunhammer, was pretty much the source for the inspiration. He caught us all off guard by doing a more beat oriented set where he normally would have done a sleepy drone vibe. He went a whole other direction that really stuck in the minds of myself and collaborator from Lifelike Family Jay No Parades. After months of gushing over the experience we decided that we needed to present a Dub Ambient/Submerged Techno night to the community.

You can expect a total Audio/Visual experience. The line up will consist of 3 Live PA artists and 3 DJs who will be playing vinyl only all night. We are also excited to present two analog visual artists that will be doing a TV installation and Video Synth setup. Come vibe, get a brain massage, and maybe do a little body movement”.

It’s a bigger venue than some of your other nights you put on – what pushed you to Holocene?

“Yes the Ambient/Experimental night that I organize (Sanctuary Sunday) has been in smaller venues. I really prefer an intimate setting for that particular event because of the listening only experience I wish to provide. However, I do many other larger monthly events that aren’t Ambient/Experimental that happen to be at Holocene. So of course Holocene was a natural choice. It’s my home club and whenever I can do something other than the two main nights there (SNAP! and Booty Bassment) I will always default to that venue”.

How would you describe the Portland ambient/electronic scene at the moment? What makes it different to other cities?

“I see the Portland Ambient/Experimental scene getting a revival of sorts. I used to do Ambient/Experimental events with PRA (Portland Radio Authority) and Mike Jedlicka 7 years ago. At that time many events were centered around the old Apotheke venue. With the closing of that venue I saw a downfall in Ambient events plus I took a hiatus to join the Dance Scene”

Coming back to the scene I have noticed the old heads are still working to keep things going (shouts to Daniel Menche), a bunch of young kids doing experimental basement shows that are blowing minds (shouts to Antecessor and Mike’s Basement), and then new promoters/artists (shouts to Lifelike Family) that wanna breath new life into the scene. So right now it’s still a bit disconnected but I think that it’s moving towards more intertwining of the these groups.

I do make an effort to invite all three of these groups to participate in Sanctuary Sunday. The intention is to get people from behind their computers and interact with each other IRL. It makes for am more dynamic experience and spawns more collaboration between people who wouldn’t normally meet.

As far as other cities, I can not speak to that. I have lived here for 20 years and while I have been to many Ambient/Experimental shows in other cities I really didn’t get a concrete impression of those cities scenes”.

What would you like to see change to help accelerate the amazing talent in Portland?

“Portland mostly needs more venues. The talent that is here is amazing but we just don’t have enough quality space to accommodate them all. Also more communication between Promoters/Crews in regards to scheduling events. I mean it’s going to happen but more active communication could help with cross promotion and less conflicting scheduling”.

And lastly, who are some local artists you’re excited about?

“Right now I am excited about the new releases from Lifelike Family. They will be releasing music from two people that I am very interested in, Temple Maps and Andrew Weathers. Each are completely different from each other: Temple Maps being 8-bit dungeon dub bass while Andrew Weathers explores songs from a specific old hymn book that will showcase minimal choral and guitar arrangements.

Another artist would be someone who is from the basement scene and previous Sanctuary Sunday guest, Misandrist. Dude presents a dreamy brain massage that’s best experienced in a semi dark smoke filled room and I need more of it!”

The perfect storm: A night with Voices from the Lake, The Sight Below and Eddie Lee

A rave that would make anything in the 1990’s proud. A masterclass in techno. And a meeting of likeminded friends. It was the perfect storm.

My experience of Voices From The Lake before this party was as much as a large pair of headphones. I’ve heard their live sets were always pretty special and given this party was set to be held in a working glass-blowing factory, I could’t have imagined a better venue to be introduced to Donato Dozzy and Neel.

After grabbing some food and drinks in Capitol Hill, we headed downtown to meet up with fellow friends and music-heads Dustin Morris (Dewtone) and Jamie McCue (Silent Season). Sharing our excitement over what was to come, Dustin and Jamie had already checked-out the venue a few hours before; in the middle of nowhere under the freeway.

Turning up to a small entrance and a small queue at 10.30pm, we were greeted by smiling faces and friendly doormen – a rarity for today. Turns out I had bought one too many tickets so they kindly refunded me the extra. A short walk down a corridor with VFTL posters haphazardly slapped across emergency signs, the rumble from Eddie Lee was already at full techno BPM, pinging off the walls and around the corner.

The room was busy and people were already in mid-flow – pretty hard not to considering how big Eddie Lee was playing. The space was silhouetted with machinery, chains hanging from the ceiling and indistinct equipment ushered into each corner. A small table had been setup away from the main stage adorned with the LED’s from some very intricate gear – Rafael Anton Irisarri anxiously keeping guard against a crowd already rocking. A quick chat with Rafael, he was due to be on shortly, already changing up his set in his head to keep pace with the room. He later told me it’s pretty easy to do this when you have all the samples and equipment locked down – but people like him make everything seem easy… not many get to execute it so well.

Eddie Lee had done the job. The room was already buzzing and our immediate group was pretty excited to see how Rafael would react. Dimly lit but his equipment and arching over a low table, Rafael reset the crowd with his signature deep techno. To be perfectly honest, my review of the music from here-on-in is going to stop short, and be fuzzy at best. Rafael ditched any ambient stuff he may have had lined up and went for straight-up deep rumbling darkness. The odd clap crescendo and dirty bass made-up on the fly; Rafael’s set took the room up a few notches and before I had any time to reflect on what just happened, Raf hit the kill switch in the middle of a track – a pause like a shot of adrenalin. Before having a chance to realise Raf had finished, Voices From The Lake dropped their first beat and the room swivelled to the far corner to see the Italian Duo getting started.


As I said, i’m not going to be able to tell you exactly what happened from here on. Even my friend Dan who was nominated photographer for the night, failed to take one single photo of the Italians. We were gone. We were in.

I’m not too savvy on their setup (maybe one of you can help), but Dozzy seemed to be playing records, cutting in basslines as Neel headed up programming. At points, their beats where mismatched. At points, they looked at each-other with acknowledging glances- speed it up, slow it down, louder, bigger. This added to the magic of a performing duo. They stuck two middle-fingers up to anyone who doesn’t respect a laptop-oriented performance with a raw, mesmerising show and the whole room 100% locked-in. It was layered, it went to silly heights, it was dirty, it was massive.

Being surrounded by friends who you know are in-tune with what was happening made it even better. Everyone was loving it, and through the dimly lit room, warm with flickering furnaces and live glass-blowing from one corner, there were smiles for days. No pushing, nobody walking around getting in your way, and everyone with utmost respect for others, the music and the DJs; it was a special night that I don’t think will ever be replicated. the comments on the Facebook event page are proof it was just me and my friends enjoying the night – it was felt throughout the room.

Voices From The Lake played for four hours and had three encores. How they had enough material, or kept that room on a high for that long, is a testament to their ability as musicians. But, as a formula for all great nights, it wouldn’t have been the same without some great warm-up artists (Rafael and Eddie), like-minded friends (Dan, Dustin, Jamie, Raf, Rita, Tim), an amazing venue, a ridiculous sound system and a couple of hundred ravers. I didn’t realise parties like this could still happen. Thank you Seattle.

Incase you missed it, VFTL put together a lovely ambient mix last week for Beats in Space – far removed from what we experienced in Seattle, but a lovely hangover cure.

Header image courtesy of VFTL Facebook page (I told you we didn’t get any pics of them!) Above images of RAI taken by Dan Jones before he completely lost the plot on the night.

Decibel X In Review

After years watching Decibel Festival unfold across the Atlantic from England, I was finally able to attend this year after my recent relocation to the Pacific North West. Five days later, as I sit on the Coast Starlight from Seattle back to Portland, I feel lucky to have experienced a very special tenth anniversary Decibel festival. Here’s my own personal low-down of the week, but I obviously didn’t get to see it all. So for anybody else who went feel free to comment below with your own experiences.

Wednesday: Venue pit-stops. No Order. Performances by Ben Klock & Kode9.

Arriving early evening on the Wednesday, the only performance I was interested in seeing was Peter Hook and The Light, where he was due to perform New Order’s classic ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’. We arrived at around 10.30pm and couldn’t get in as the venue (Neumos) was already at capacity – I expected it to be busy but it was a disappointing start to my festival experience. I later learnt that Moby went up and performed with him on stage, but after a chat with someone later on in the week, apparently any die-hard New Order or Joy Division fans were cringing the whole way through as Moby destroyed Ian Curtis’ unique and legendary vocals…

A quick walk down the road to ‘Q’ Nightclub and it felt like we had walked into a european super-club; with Funktion One speakers adorning each wall, a glitzy light show on the ceiling and Ben Klock getting down to his dirty business. We didn’t stay long, as the sound engineer that night was obviously intent on demonstrating the lowest spectrum of the Funktion One without any treble, and my trousers were rattling against my legs.

On to The Crocodile for a quick blast of Kode9 – it seemed like a good performance and the perfect venue, but we decided to call it a night as the best was undoubtedly yet to come.

Thursday. The kings of improv. Performances by Peter Broderick, Oliveray, Haushka, Moby.

Thursday got off to a great start as my planned interview with Nils Frahm was moved to 1pm. A skip over to the W Hotel to meet the Erased Tapes crew including Peter, Hauschka, Olafur, Nils and label owner Robert, and my excitement for the Optical Showcases that were to begin that night had reached new heights. (More on my interview with Nils and Ólafur to come very soon!)

The Optical Showcase kicked off in the Nordstrom Performance Hall and I was quick to bag a front-row seat. Peter Broderick introduced himself via his choice of outfit – a suit “chosen by a gay friend in Portland” he said. His modest and charming demeanour won the crowd over straight away and his equally brilliant voice was quick to draw gasps from the audience. Switching from the banjo, to acapella and violin, Peter’s warmth and charm shone through as he played new material “he was trying out”. I’m not sure if everything he played that night will make his new album though – his unexpected improvised rapping was the perfect end to his set and the ideal crowd-warmer for Oliveray.

Nils Frahm then joined Peter on stage and as expected took to the piano to accompany Peter’s vocals. What followed, was again more unexpected improvisation as these two musical genius’ decided to tap, drum and loop their way across the stage, intersecting delicate Oliveray tracks with surprise, laughter and smiles from the crowd. Nils was already a magician in my books, but I think he found another partner-in-crime that night.


Hauschka, the legendary king of improvised piano began with an introduction to his work schedule, apparently consisting of many haunting film-scores, he warned the audience he had been in a dark place recently. With a Grand Piano full of unknown gadgets and tidbits, and a full screen linked to a camera peeking inside the hood, Hauschka pelted out a 45 minute, non-stop piece that went from skittering tight notes to blasts of bass and rolling melodies. Mind-blowing and all-consuming, Hauschka took advantage of coins, tins, drumsticks and what I think were a couple of vibrators pinned down with tape (!) to conjure up scores of euphoria, dictating his very own improvised movie soundtrack. Despite his unorthodox approach, he said he “likes the purity” of the piano, and like a musical cleansing process, proceeded to remove the trinkets that adorned the piano, throwing them on the floor for all to see just how much experimentation and ingenuity went into his performance. An amazing first night of Optical performances.


From here, we headed over to Showbox Sodo, mainly because it was right next to where we were staying so we could see the night through in comfort. Also, after our first night’s experience trying to get into Neumos we didn’t want to risk turning up late to see Teen Daze (who I heard had a stormer), but on hindsight we could’ve made a better choice. Whilst Moby’s warm-up act were terrible, The Little Idiot did a good job banging out some dirty techno which at times was just perfect, but some atrocious mixing moments and the weirdest crowd i’ve ever been dancing with, put a quick end to the night. More for the energy bank though and the highly anticipated Friday schedule.

Friday. D-day. Decibel Conferences and Performances by Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Dauwd, Beacon, Lusine, Shigeto, Max Cooper.

The big day. My Decibel day of choice, started with a visit to the Broadway Performance Hall to get a download on sound-related topics, which are for the most part over my head. An intimate session with Olafur as he took a crowd of twenty through his Ableton setup, his loops and his very earnest approach to production – a sneak peak into what was to come that evening. This was followed with a lecture by Rafael Anton Irisarri who took a room through his surround-sound manipulation techniques. Then, a quick glimpse into Ghostly’s Dauwd and Lusine’s setup before I made a dash back to the Performance Hall to make sure I was in line for the Erased Tapes special showcase with Nils and Olafur.


Seats taken, and the space filled 20-minutes before the first note was played. Nils and Olafur have become infamous for their performance on this tour and this was destined to be one of the highlights. Nils didn’t waste any time in taking to the piano and beginning his ‘Spaces’ performance with Olafur joining him shortly at the start with a glass of wine (or juice as Nils may have it). My review of ‘Spaces’ pretty much sums up how fantastic it was should you want an overview of the entire performance, however in a twist of fate relating to his album inspiration, a raggae sounding ring-tone interrupted Nils’ flow in the middle of his switch into ‘Hammers’, only for Nils to stop, give a smile to the crowd (as if to thank them for the inspiration of his latest album) and switch from the Rhodes straight back into his emotional flow. This moment happened at almost exactly the same time as it does in his new album ‘Spaces’…

Nils quoted on ‘Spaces’ that the audience are his main inspiration for how a performance will grow and develop, and during “Over There it’s Raining”, the silence felt from the room was almost unreal – it seemed to inspire Nils to approach this particular track even more softly than normal. Some of the most, quiet, delicate and intricate piano playing I’ve ever witnessed, balanced with his multi-piano manipulations.

Nils stood up to end the set with the synth-laden “Says” and powered his way through to a well-deserved crowd joining him with a standing ovation. I experienced his genuine gentleness and humour when i interviewed him the day before, but watching him perform is like witnessing a dark-magician alter-ego conjuring up a musical storm – a genius, mystical, out-of-this-world experience.

Ólafur started with his audience-sample loop, similar to my experience at Hackney Empire last November and continued with tracks from ‘For Now I am Winter’, delivered as always, in spectacular fashion alongside plenty of audience banter. Every girl in the room was swooning at his Icelandic charm and modest jokes. Whilst Ólafur is an easy focus of attention, he gave plenty of room for his violinist to shine, who delivered a ridiculous solo. And the unselfishness continued as Ólafur invited ‘For Now I am Winter’ vocalist, Arnor Dan to the stage to deliver the album’s title track – an amazing voice which really shone on the big stage. As Arnor walked off to leave Ólafur to finsih, he gave a little punch to the air as if to congratulate himself on how well it went.

Like every single Optical performance at Decibel so far, Ólafur was greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd and once again, these musical geniuses had won the hearts of every single person in the room.

The night wasn’t even finished and I was rushing over to The Crocodile for another highly-anticipated showcase by Ghostly International. Label newcomer Dauwd began the night amongst a fire-alarm evacuation and finished on spectacular form with his melodic, layered driving electronica. This is only his second tour with Ghostly and he already looks a part of the Ghostly furniture.

Beacon followed and sent the room into a hazy, dreamy state as eager eyes fixed on the duos silhouettes and angelic vocals. Lusine was quick to follow and like a forgotten godfather of electronic music, laid down the dance-floor friendly electronica law – simple, clean and just damn good, people can’t help but smile and enjoy Jeff’s productions, especially as he debuted some brilliant new material.

Two-years ago, Shigeto was warming up for his label-mates, but now takes centre stage after his recent album has caused a stir. Adorning Portland-esque trendy lightbulbs amongst his synths and drum kit, Shigeto wasted no time in sending an expected Ghostly crowd into a hip-chopped electronic frenzy. Amongst thanks to Decibel and gratuities to the other performing artists, Shigeto, as always, gave it 110% and is now a well-deserved head-liner.

One last performance of the night and I was off to catch Max Cooper at Q. Despite the millions of remixes, live sets and DJ recordings i’ve heard from Max this was to be my first time catching him live. Walking in, and you could immediately sense a different vibe from the first night’s experience at Q – the sound was much better, the crowd were already in full flow and Max was dropping his signature sound from one-track to the next. He even paid homage to the earlier Olafur performance with a subtle little remix from (what I can remember) ‘For Now I Am Winter’ – maybe an unreleased gem we can look forward to?

Saturday. The original heroes. Performances by Juan Atkins, The Orb, John Tejada, Matias Aguayo, Thomas Fehlmann.

There was only really one act I wanted to see on the Saturday – The Orb. Everything else took a back-seat, however it ended up being one of, if not my favourite nights.

I chose to skip the Zola Jesus Optical show at The Triple Door, which going by everyone else’s feedback was a mistake – an acoustic set backed by an orchestra apparently. However, my absence meant I got to the Showbox venue early enough to grab a table and wait for The Orb to appear.

I forgot that Juan Atkins was also on the bill and as soon as he stepped up with his choppy mixing and energetic detroit techno, I was gravitating towards the dance floor. Not a moment too soon and the legendary Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann graced the stage to a rapturous applause.

What followed may not have been an original performance – it was raw, it was familiar, it was swampy, it had Alex Paterson smiling from ear-to-ear and Fehlmann rocking like a possessed doctor, but it was The Orb and it was great. Edits of ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ amongst other classic cuts, a quick glean at the crowd and every single person, including The Orb were witnessing a rather special reunion set. Apart from the Optical Showcases, this was the only crowd I witnessed at Decibel who seemed 100% obsessed and locked into who they were watching. It was great to see middle-aged balding men (no comment – I’m one of them) and psychedelically dressed hippies grinning and nodding to their heroes from years gone by.


Any tiredness I had collected until that point was replaced with adrenalin and we quickly stomped over to the Kompakt after-hours at Neumos. Thomas Fehlmann was due to perform a live set, but at 5am this seemed a little unrealistic to stick out. However, I have to thank John Tejada and Matias Aguayo for keeping me rocking until the time came. Tejada, with an emphatic minimal techno set that would lead me to buying every single record played if I had a way of finding out, and Aguayo with a unique vocal-looping-latin-inspired performance that kept the energy rolling. Listen to Tejada’s set here.

Fehlmann arrived on cue at 5am and with a half-empty club, proceeded to rip the place apart with edits of his own productions on the likes of ‘Gute Luft’. Again, Fehlmann gently rocking as he stared into his laptop, only to break out into subtle little arm-dances and cheeky smiles as he realised his beloved following had stayed with him until the very end. Listen to Thomas Fehlmann’s set here.

Sunday. A grand-bient finale. Performances by Raime, The Sight Below, Nosaj Thing.

I was tired by now, but there was one last Optical Showcase and it was set to be a stunner. Arriving early at the infamous Triple Door (it was my first time and is quite a legendary place after hearing many ambient live sets recorded here), I had a brief chat with HC (Headphone Commute) and waited out an unexpected delay to the show as Decibel tried to compensate for Oren Ambarchi’s delayed flight.

My venue inexperience showed as the seats we were given placed us at right-angles with the stage – great for a band, not so good for any AV performance. Raime were up first and the english duo wasted no time in delivering a harrowing soundtrack, whilst hunched over their laptops in the stage’s dark corner. You could tell these two hail from a dubstep background with their subtle appreciation of beats, but the progressive bells and washes were from the (twisted and brilliant) mind of a couple of ambient masters.

After a brief break and a well-deserved Decibel thank-you procession, The Sight Below took centre stage, laden with his laptop, numerous loop pedals and his infamous hoodie. I was lucky to see Rafael perform as himself at Substrata a few months back but i’ve never seen him perform as The Sight Below – the guise which induced my entry into Rafael’s productions. His performance can be summed up pretty simply – #dronelife. Rafael shook The Triple Door to the ground, teetering on the edge of the maximum output, as subtle guitar loops grew into an atmospheric monster. My friend had to leave as he said he was getting heart palpitations – no joke – I wasn’t surprised. This gentle dinner setting was being assaulted by a wonderful, rich ambient performance from Seattle’s finest. The subtle introduction of vocals into the last enveloping track blew my mind, and pretty much everything else in sight.

Oren Ambarchi was due to cap the night but couldn’t make it due to a delayed flight, so Nosaj Thing was lined up at last minute to close proceedings with a debut ambient AV set. I enjoyed it. It was unique and melodic as you’d expect from him, similar to the likes of Sun Glitters and Teen Daze, but I couldn’t help but think Oren’s set would’ve capped this night off perfectly. After The Sight Below, I wanted something dark, dramatic and transcending.  But, i’ve been spoilt and had got used to such perfect programming. Decibel did an amazing job getting Nosaj in at last minute and it was a testament to the hard work put into this festival. For a great in-depth review of the Optical 4 night, have a read of Kexp.

From the showcases, to the set-orders, it was an unbelievable week of music and without a doubt the best ‘city’ festivals I’ve been to. It’s not often you get to see the faces of the grafters, nor is it often you see a festival curator such as Sean Horton at nearly every single performance you go to, running around making things happen. Top this off with a dream lineup and it’s one hell of a festival. I missed out on so much; Machinedrum, Aeroplane, Lorn, Âme, Teen Daze, Lapalux, Cajmere, Gold Panda, Zola Jesus to name just a few sacrifices, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Thank you Decibel for a mind-blowing musical week, and here’s to another ten.

Top 5 festival moments (a list of complete performances was too hard)

1. Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann glancing at each other on stage with total satisfaction and happiness (because I was in it with them!)Main picture.
2. The Sight Below rattling the hell out of The Triple Door. Is it still standing?
3. Peter Broderick freestyle rapping at the end of his performance.
4. Singer, Arnor Dan joining Olafur Arnalds on stage – what a voice.
5. Nils Frahm’s emphatic standing ovation at the Optical Showcase. Grins from ear-to-ear.

Five tips for next year:

1. Get to the venue early if there’s something you really want to see.
2. Avoid the pasta at Lost Lake Cafe opposite Neumos.
3. Try not to get a seat down the side of the Triple Door at any AV led performance.
4. Avoid the Neumos / Q area after 2pm. It’s a war-zone.
5. Don’t take a mate with a dodgy heart to see The Sight Below.

The Tenth Annual Decibel Festival 2013

I’ve already been lucky enough to attend Substrata Festival this year following my move to the Pacific North West, but a few months ago the sudden realisation hit me that I’d also be in with a chance to attend the tenth anniversary of Decibel Festival in Seattle. From it’s humble beginnings in 2003, Decibel is now one of the worlds leading Electronic festivals, with a heavy focus on live performances, interactive multi-media art and state-of-the-art sound technology and education.

The line-up for this year’s celebratory edition has been drip-fed to us these past few months over three announcements and now we’ve got all the players on paper, I thought it was about time to feature a few who i’m more than excited to see in my new country of residence. To say the line-up is impressive is an understatement. This year’s festival manages to combine some classic acts alongside many of my favourites of recent years – most of which I could only have dream’t seeing in the USA.

My hit-list for the weekend-long city festival is long to say the least. Childhood heroes Moby, Peter Hook (New Order) and the legendary Orb will be performing, the latter of which is obviously pretty special – getting these guys together seems almost impossible nowadays, but I hear that they will be in full attendance for this performance.

But what’s really getting me excited about this year’s festival are the two Optical A/V showcases featuring a wide selection of international ambient, neo-classical and experimental music. Hosted at the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall and the Triple Door Dinner Theater (remember that live recording from Helios?) Optical 1 will feature Hauschka who i’m yet to see live, and the debut live performance of  Oliveray – the collaborative project of Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick.  Their beautiful improvised neo-classical album, ‘Wonders’ was released on Erased Tapes back in 2011 but this seems to be the first time the duo will perform together as one.

The second Optical showcase will be a mirror of one of my favourite gigs of all time, when Erased Tapes’ Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm take over the Illsley Recital Hall on September 27th. if it’s anything like the performance they put on in London last year, then this is set to be another special night. Since that night, Ólafur has seen his latest album ‘For Now I Am Winter’ come and go with high praise, and Nils has been busy in the remix world, both providing (for the likes of Ralph Starck) and receiving (Juno reworked – where fellow Decibel attendee Luke Abbott is also involved). It’ll be interesting to see what this amazingly talented pair throw at us on the night.

In addition to the Optical Showcases, I do of course like the nights to extend a little every now and then, and needless to say there’s plenty of artists to satisfy the all night crazies. Ranging from the electronic genius of Max Cooper, Ghostly’s new signing Dauwd, and the always ASIP celebrated Lusine, the electronica side of Decibel is also looking strong. I may even be tempted to visit my old techno favourites Âme and one of my more recent favourite producers, Kink.

I haven’t even mentioned The Sight Below, Shigeto, Speedy J, Teen Daze or the illusive Kompakt After-hours showcase thats scheduled for 2am on September 28th… Persuaded yet? I’ve picked out just a couple of tracks from some of my favourite artists to feature this year below. If you can join me up in Seattle, then be sure to give me a shout.

Both festival and individual performance tickets available on


Spotlight on Substrata 1.3

After a successful round of funding, Rafael Anton Irisarri’s third Substrata Festival has announced it’s long anticipated line-up. Given many people contributed to this festival without even knowing any performers until now, is high praise for Rafael and his curation skills. But now we’ve got the names, I thought it’d be nice to take a little look into what’s in store.

Some familiar acts for sure, but also some relatively unknown artists that I could do with exploring a bit more and this is the perfect opportunity. I won’t go into too much detail about each of the artists and their background as you can find all of that on the Substrata line-up page. Just think of this as the tip of a very big trove of talented artists you can go away and explore, or even see live this July as part of Substrata.


As most of you know by now, i’ve recently moved to Portland, Oregon and before coming here I was fully aware of one of it’s most notorious experimental artists, Liz Harris. I had hoped to see her billed somewhere local but haven’t seen even the slightest of mentions on paper yet, so it was a nice surprise to see her announced as part of Substrata 1.3. I’m no expert of the extensive Grouper back catalogue, but it boasts releases on Type (home of Biosphere) and Kranky (a home to many greats in the past including Loscil, Benoît Pioulard and Tim Hecker).

Liz’s sound is a mixture of ethereal, dreamy vocals and delicate guitars wrapped in warm reverb. Rarely does she stray too far from what she does best, it’s a unique sound that you’ll find many ambient lovers including in their sets as inspirations. Take 36’s or Loscil’s isolatedmixes for example. I’m looking forward to Grouper’s vocals wrapping around the audience of Seattle’s intimate Chapel Performance Space.


Kim Cascone

A bit of digging around reveals Kim Cascone is quite the sound designer. The Substrata line-up page details that Kim’s provided academic studies and developed a sound-art festival alongside his releases on 12K and Raster-Noton. I don’t know much of Kim’s stuff, but going through a few pieces now, it seems like an intimate gig at Substrata is going to be quite the audio experience. 



Jacaszek is one of those artists that I really haven’t given any deserved attention to on his own. Michał is a regular feature in many ASIP mixes (Bulb’s and Rafael’s for example) and this live snippet gives us a taster of his live electro-acoustic work. His most famous piece is the track, ‘Lament’, cited by many as a big inspiration and a defining example of modern-classical or modern-acoustic music.

Jacaszek is planning to play Substrata alongside Kelly Wyse who recently provided some wonderful piano pieces on Loscil’s recent‘ Intervalo’ EP.


Christina Vantzou

I’m pretty excited to see Christina play at Substrata; she’s another artist who is relatively new to me. With releases on Ghostly and Kranky, her back catalogue, additional projects and her creds on the Substrata festival certainly portray her as one heck of a talent.

Below is a piece of her work alongside Adam Wiltzie (of A Winged Victory For The Sullen) as the duo, ‘The Dead Texan’. Enough said really.



Sarah Lipstate sounds like another artist who is set to saturate the Seattle Chapel walls with reverb. “Lipstate summons a sonic palette so rich as to challenge the listener to conceive of how it’s housed in a single instrument manipulated by a solitary performer” as quoted from the Substrata site. I’m looking forward to hearing how that one plays out.


Ken Camden

For a man that plays in a rock-band, tracks like the below ‘Birthday’ paint a nice picture of this man’s talent and music taste. ‘Trance-induced moods’ just about sums this one up, alongside quotes such as”…the psychedelic meditations of 70’s krautrockers Popul Vuh and Ash Ra Tempel – producing a charming ambient”. Charming indeed, and after what looks to be a heavily experimental-focused festival, it’s going to be quite the release to hear Ken’s artfully crafted psychedelic pieces played live on stage.



It was a nice surprise to see Yagya announced at Substrata this year. Many of you will know how much of a fan of Steini I am, and for years now I haven’t been anywhere close to seeing him live. I could post any number of Yagya tracks, those from Rigning, or the recently repressed Rhythm Of Snow, but instead i’ll go with an instrumental version of a track taken from his latest album, ‘The Inescapable Decay Of My Heart’. This album was met with mixed reviews after the addition of vocals to Steini’s signature sound, but there’s no doubting just how addictive his productions are when you listen to them at the core and I can’t wait to see what he does live.


Sean Curley

A local from Seattle, I haven’t heard Sean Curely’s productions before, so I’m hesitant to dig into his catalogue too much, as it’s always nice to hear an artist for the first time live. Described as “one of the Pacific Northwest’s most interesting guitarists” tracks like the below have certainly got me intrigued and excited.



Another Portland local, Tim has just released an album on the notorious Kranky that i’m yet to wrap my ears around. Going by the below however, it seems as though im missing out on something seriously special so im about to right that wrong. From what i’ve heard so far, Tim is queued up to be one of my favourites at the festival, crossing the ambient/dub-techno divide which suits me down to a T, and in which case i’ll be tracking him down for a beer or two in Portland to talk even more music!


The Sight Below

Last but by no means least, the Substrata curator himself, Rafael Anton Irisarri. I guess Rafael had to make a decision whether to play as RAI or as The Sight Below (or even alongside Benoît Pioulard as Orcas) but i’m pretty pleased i’ll get to see his more electronic, darker side as The Sight Below. Another artist with just too many favourites to choose from, but here’s one from the vaults with Rafael covering Joy Division’s ‘New Dawn Fades’.


You can read more on all of the artists featured here over at Substrata. And if you fancy joining me on what promises to be a very special week of music, tickets are also on sale now here.

If you need more of the same, try Rafael’s Substrata dedicated isolatedmix.