Sprawl of Sound
Beats Working Overtime at Decibel Festival
Every September since 2004, Seattle has been transforming itself into a techno mecca with the Decibel Festival. Organized by ex-Detroiters Sean Horton and Jerry Abstract, plus Kristina Childs and a dedicated team of volunteers, Decibel has become one of the world's most exciting showcases of electronic music talent, rivaling such established events as Montreal's Mutek and Barcelona's Sonar. This year, Decibel's annual four-day beat-centric bacchanal featured more than 80 producers, DJs and video artists from as far away as Poland (3 Channels), Germany (Olaf Bender; Robert Babicz; ex-Kraftwerk percussionist Wolfgang Flür, who, by the way, was Decibel's biggest disappointment), the Netherlands (Speedy J), Norway (Biosphere), Denmark (Pixel), Mexico (Antiguo Autómata Mexicano) and Canada (Frivolous, Lowfish).
Like those other elite fests, Decibel conceivably could provide your yearly requirement of heady electronic music in one action-packed, 96-hour timespan. Highlights abounded, but space permits just a few. Antiguo Autómata Mexicano—a drummer and a laptop savant—created a Neu! and improved version of krautrock, updating the psychedelically motorik specs for 21st-century ears. (Check the Heard Mentality blog archives for my rave review of AAM's Kraut Slut.) Simian Mobile Disco, Switch and Diplo satisfied the coke-and-all-over-hoodie-and-ballcap hordes — and Seattle's Truckasauras somehow made '80s kitsch exciting and fresh with their 8-bit Gameboy electro-funk (think Kraftwerk reincarnated as white-trash Yanks). Bender's was probably my favorite set: He molded what sounded like amplified insectoid language and ER-equipment emissions into a new strain of dance music. The thrumming waves of distortion and twitchy funk rhythms were synched to severe grid and vector images and geometric shapes. It was at once transcendental and geeky as hell—which actually sums up Decibel itself.
It would be cool if something like Decibel happened in Orange County, but I have doubts it can. We lack Seattle's infrastructure (massive computer-based economy), demographics (huge pool of software engineers, computer programmers, video-game soundtrackers, etc.) and climate (eight rainy months per year) to launch an underground electronic music fest of this magnitude (Decibel drew more than 10,000 people this year). Although, if some OC promoters want to step up and organize such an event, I'd love to be proven wrong. For more info, visit www.dbfestival.com.
House of Blues' Metallic K.O.
Disney has dammed a lucrative revenue stream by banning metal bands from the House of Blues clubs situated on its properties in Anaheim and Orlando, Florida. The only thing surprising about this turn of events is that it took so long to happen. Metal bands have been pushing satanic agendas since the late '60s and corrupting American youth for decades. The damage is done; in fact, it is continuing unabated even as I type. We are all doomed, and it's the heathen metal bands' fault. So in essence, Disney is slamming shut the barn door long after the horses have bolted from the stables.
As OC Weekly's Erin DeWitt and Rich Kane have reported on Heard Mentality, House of Blues is maintaining a stony silence on the cancellation of Machine Head's recent date at the venue. With no new developments to relay, I decided to take a gander at Machine Head's lyrics and see if there's anything in them that could trigger the collapse of Western Civilization and permanently taint the fragile psyches of American youth. (Note that HOB alum Snoop Dogg's misogynistic and marijuana-glorifying verses received no censure from Disney's moral arbiters. It's hypocritical to be square, or something.)
Let's set aside for now Disney's contention that Machine Head's fans are "undesirable," but I'll wager that most of the group's followers hold jobs, pay taxes and practice adequate hygiene. As for Machine Head's "violent imagery and inflammatory lyrics," you can read the newest album's words yourself at www.darklyrics.com/lyrics/machinehead/theblackening.html#3. A thorough perusal reveals nothing particularly incendiary or threatening to national security. They read like pretty typical angst-ridden rock lyrics in which the composer attempts to deal with his own private turmoil. Sure, some songs rail against warmongering governments and conservative religious ideologues, but so do editorialists at TheNew York Times and The Nation and contributors to Adbusters. I don't see Borders and Barnes & Noble fretting over those titles, so Disney's actions strike one as excessively prudish and paranoid. Meanwhile, prostitutes continue to do a brisk business within eyeballing distance of the Disneyland Resort's pristine grounds.
Pay Heed to Lazy Preacher
Huntington Beach quartet Lazy Preacher imbue rock with a no-worries amble that evokes patchouli and artfully crafted bongs. But ditch any negative connotations you have regarding hippie music because these dudes write songs that ooze a sweet wistfulness, like orange marmalade spreading on whole wheat bread and without the smile-on-your-brother cloyingness. Their third and latest disc, Fall Asleep When Awaking, even contains a winning country rock cover of the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant." The bulk of the album recalls the Grateful Dead's more stripped-down, less-bombastic moments and Beachwood Sparks' melting-euphoria melodicism. Lazy Preacher will perform an all-acoustic set this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at the Avantgarden Gallery in the Santora Arts building (207 N. Broadway, Santa Ana) during Artwalk. It's free and all ages.
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