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September 13th, 2006

September concert: KJ Sawka at Chop Suey

Last Saturday I went to Chop Suey to see KJ Sawka, with Solovox and Squid Leader. Bethurum was on the bill as well, but unfortunately had to cancel for some reason, which was too bad as I was really looking forward to seeing them again after the last time. It turned out to be a night of heavy electronic dance music, and Bethurum's downbeat/acid jazz would've made a nice contrast to the other acts.

Squid Leader is an electronic artist, using a laptop as his instrument. He didn't appear on stage, rather he worked behind the sound board and served as the opening and between-set music for the night. It turns out he's also half of the duo Tekgnosis, which I saw in action back in March. In that review of Tekgnosis, I said I'd recommend going to hear them especially if there was a dance floor; that proved somewhat prophetic, as Squid Leader's heavy electronic dance beats certainly set the tone for the night. Although there wasn't much in the way of dancing during his opening set, he did still warm the crowd up and prepare them for the other two acts.

Solovox is another solo electronic artist, but he uses a more "traditional" setup of keyboard synthesizer and other electronic gear rather than just a laptop. Solovox displayed some charming, self-deprecating insecurity at the start, saying he'd play a couple songs and see how we liked them, but if the insecurity was a pretense he needn't have bothered; the crowd was eager to hear him from the start. His music was more melodious than the occasionally harsh electronic squawks of Squid Leader, and quite a few people in the crowd responded to the groove by dancing. He paused between the first couple songs, but soon gave way to a continuous stream that kept the club hopping. At the end of his set, Solovox was joined by Sawka on drums for an improvisational jam that went on for ten or fifteen minutes in an impressive display of musicianship on both their parts.

KJ Sawka is yet another electronic artist, except that his primary instrument is the drum set: he plays live drum'n'bass/breakbeat electronica, which is an amazing thing to see in action. He uses a laptop, sampler, sequencer, and electronic drum pads to set up and play the tunes and samples and loops, but he does the primary work of bringing the rhythms himself on regular acoustic drums and cymbals. What's more, he kept up the near constant stream of breakneck breakbeat for over an hour and a half (not including the fifteen minute "warmup" with Solovox). There was much less dancing by the end of his set simply because he'd worn everyone else out. Back in the summer of 2002, at the first show I went to in Seattle, I saw his previous project Siamese, and their six-song sampler CD is still one of my favorites. It was great to finally see him in action again and hear that he hasn't lost anything over time, and also great to finally pick up his first "solo" full-length, Synchronized Decompression.



September has turned out to have several choices for shows. Heart are playing tomorrow at the Paramount Theater; it'd be interesting to hear what they're like now, but not at those ticket prices. This Friday, Mission of Burma and 50 Ft. Wave are playing at the Crocodile Cafe, and Telefon Tel Aviv are in the lineup at Neumos. I'm probably going to pass on both of those, although I really ought to go to one of them. On September 30, Asobi Seksu are playing an early show at Chop Suey; I've been very interested in what I've heard by them on KEXP, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to go check them out. Next month I'm most likely going to see Ladytron again, they're playing The Showbox on October 13; and KJ Sawka plays in Seattle again on October 29 at the Nectar Lounge in Fremont.


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