Optical 2: Playful Discord Oneohtrix Point Never + Nate Boyce, Atom™ HD/AV, Kangding Ray @ Sky Church [EMP]
by Maddie Grossan, Electronic Music Director
At last year’s Decibel festival during the Hessle Audio after hours I thought, it can’t get better than this. And yet… at the 2014 festival I saw a variety of artists that set the standard for mind expanding live sets.
General feeling: The most memorable shows were the Optical 2 showcase, Hyperdub, and Modern Love. Seattle is quickly catching up to (if not outpacing) more traditional electronic outposts such as New York and LA as the epicenter of experimental dance culture.
**Highlight of the festival**
I walked into the EMP during the beginning of Kangding Ray’s set confronted by this giant Microsoft cube that debuted at the festival. As you approach the cube your actions are mirrored by the avatar on the screen. I couldn’t help but fall in love with this android against the backdrop of the mysterious techno.
Next up was Atom™ HD/AV, probably one of the greatest personalities of the entire festival. The gargantuan HD LED screen at the EMP’s sky church was a near perfect setting for this off-kilter set. His visuals included a 2-D giant man (a digital representation of his own face) stating “STOP. IMPERIALIST POP” which elicited shrieks from the crowd. The entire set bordered on electro pop but he treads very lightly near that line. In a completely appropriate fashion, towards the end he edits together about 20 successive h-bomb explosions. Just when you thought the set was ending in a very dramatic but also corny fashion.. he continues his set and my love for Atom™ HD/AV is restored.
The headliner for the Optical showcase was Oneohtrix Point Never + Nate Boyce, who has gained a great deal of notoriety coming off his R Plus Seven album. Half of the room was lying down on the floor with their eyes closed and the other half were just standing but not really moving. I happened to keep my eyes open for almost all of the set (although I am strobe sensitive and had to go into child’s pose once or five times). Nate Boyce’s visual art consisted of a series of fluid objects in a space that resembled a house, the only thing I have written down about these objects is “dolphin birth” which sums up the extent of my artistic capabilities. I saw many of my friends and acquaintances in deep contemplative states during his set. The venue, appropriately named “Sky Church” raptured quite a few individuals during this forward-thinking set. All in all, this was the best live set of the festival.
Baths + Tokimonsta @ Showbox
by Will Winston, Programming Director
Baths experienced some issues with volume levels and other minor technical difficulties, but overall played very well. While bandmate Morgan Greenwood strummed guitar and toyed with a MIDI interface, frontman Will Wiesenfeld energetically moved between MPD and keyboard, all the while providing the screams and falsetto vocals that his fans so dearly love. The music was surprisingly heavy at times, indicative of the band’s sonic evolution after debut “Cerulean.” While the tunes are not exactly dance-able, the audience showed their enthusiasm with shouts and head banging, making for a unique concert experience that oscillated between electronic music and loud rock.
The positive energy Tokimonsta brought to the venue was inmutable. As she shared her art and passion with those around her, I could not help but feel overjoyed and privileged to take part in the experience. As acapella samples of Waka Flocka, Aaliyah and Drake floated over music that moved in between hip-hop, house and breakbeats, Tokimonsta sang along with a huge smile on her face, deftly twisting knobs and transitioning between songs to craft a mix that catered to everyone in the room.
While her music on releases such as “Creature Dreams” and “Midnight Menu” juxtaposed with the appropriated sounds of modern hip-hop, trap and pop may alienate a loyal fan, a closer listen will reveal the presence of the wonky percussion and post-dilla sensibility that grounded her in the LA scene. Tokimonsta has not sold out—she has been paying close attention to contemporary music and creating her own unique form of amoebic hip-hop and r&b. If I could see this show again, I would.