Decibel Review: Erykah Badu, Ariel Pink, Nosaj Thing

A thread of soul and R&B weaves through Decibel's electronica bacchanal in Seattle.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

Iconic soulstress Erykah Badu brought her legendary pipes to the Paramount Theater in Seattle this weekend, as a headliner feature for this year's 9th annual Decibel Fest – a celebration of all things electronica and beyond.

Backed and expanded by the Cannabinoids' live band and DJ sets, Miss Badu delivered an impassioned, soul-soaring performance that rose head and shoulders above the festival appearances we've seen her at in recent years. 

A spin on SBTRKT’s “Wildfire” was an enthusiastically-received curveball in a set of Badu gems, with the entire crowd enraptured by the subtle, graceful command Erykah possesses onstage.

Shortly after, we headed over to the Showbox Theaters for Swedish dance and electropop duo Icona Pop's impressive, if understated, set. Their fully-immersive passion onstage and comradery between Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt amidst the laptops and electronic gadgets was purely infectious, as they sampled tracks from their upcoming Iconic EP (out Oct.16). If you're not familiar with their brand of saccharine melodies and hyper-processed electro-beauty, it's high time you got on board.

We held strong at The Showbox before a relatively bland set by DJ duo The Knocks. The electronic music duo consisting of Ben "B-Roc" Ruttner and James "JPatt" Patterson first garnered notoriety for their singles "Dancing With The DJ" and "Brightside," and we passed the time trying to dance to the LMFAO descendants (is that a good thing?) before heading over to what proved to be a dismally ill-chosen set from Ariel Pink.

Ariel's over-the-top goofball theatrics were a sharp departure from the sound-before-image ethos of the rest of the Decibel scene, and though their approach may be better served in a showcase that isn't surrounded by a saturation of enthralling sound, it was far from the kind of immersion the dance-party crews were looking for. We fared far better up the street at the tail end of Los Angeles electro-champion Nosaj Thing's set, there the spinner saved the XLR8R Presents showcase from not having a headliner due to British sample champion Actress’ visa problems.

Check out Nosaj Thing's performance from earlier in the day at the Do-Over for Decibel on Broadway in Capital Hill:

If you missed him at either appearance earlier this weekend, catch Nosaj Thing on Sunday night as he opens for R&B splasher The Weeknd at The Paramount! Don't miss it!


Photos: Johnny Firecloud