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Hearing is believing

Dublin's annual DEAF festival unites global electronica pioneers with homegrown talent

WATCH your back Sonar. Organically growing since 2002, the Dublin Electronic Arts Festival (or DEAF as it’s known) is fast becoming one of the essential annual celebrations of future sonics and avant-garde electronics.

Between Thursday 22nd October and Saturday 31st October, over 150 DEAF events will take place across Dublin’s countless character-filled music venues, with diverse talents like reggae selector David Rodigan, Berlin’s genre-manglers Modeselektor, London’s mouth magician Beardyman, definitive US electro act Aux 88, German acid pioneers Hardfloor and emotive soundscape sculptor Ulrich Schnauss all headlining separate shows.

In another coup for DEAF, Sunday 25th October will see Sheffield’s Warp Records — currently celebrating 20 years of artistic independence and electronic envelope-pushing — presenting a label showcase at Button Factory, with a rare career classics set from Plaid and live shows from Clark and Tim Exile. 

Tripling in size since its 2008 event, this year’s program represents DEAF’s most expansive to date, but it’s not all about killer club sessions. Experimental film showings and more challenging musical performances are peppered through the program, while The New Spaces For Music series will witness gigs with tiny capacities taking place in obscure locations like chemists and office blocks during lunch hours. Details for each will only be released 24 hours before each show.

With innovative artistic vision running throughout the event’s dogma, comparisons with renowned festivals like Montreal’s Mutek and Barcelona’s Sonar are obvious, but DEAF’s gaze is fixed firmly on its home city.

“We never really wanted to turn into Sonar. We started off more as an alternative to what was going on here in Ireland at the time,” embarks DEAF co-founder Eamonn Doyle, who also runs respected techno imprint D1 from the city.

“Most of the dance festivals were just a big rave in a field — the sort of Creamfields-style events. There was nothing really happening in the cities. All of our activity for 10 or 15 years had been in Dublin — running nights like Model One — so it just seemed intuitive to do something here.” 

While DEAF’s past iconic bookings (read the likes of Model 500 and Underground Resistance) have seen the festival grow and magnetise heads from the UK, France, Spain and Scandinavia, its essential raison d’être is raising awareness and activity in Dublin’s thriving, but under-represented creative community.

“We initially set out to create a platform where labels like ourselves (D1), Dublin’s drum & bass label Bassbin and Ultramack, who are more of an electronica label, could present what they were doing in the context of our international peers,” explains Eamonn.

“We’ve grown over the years, but always kept that key principle of showcasing homegrown talent, and tried to anchor the festival around activity that is happening in Dublin.”

“We don’t just want to book overseas artists, pay them their fee and stick them on a plane,” continues Eamonn. “We really want things to happen locally because DEAF exists. We’re looking at commissioning work to artists, bands and acts specifically for next year’s events.”

This year, nearly 200 Irish-based artists make up both the programme’s bulk and musical heartbeat.

Internationally renowned names like Planet Mu’s Sunken Foal and techno trailblazer Donnacha Costello jump out, as does Irish drum & bass pioneer Naphta who will be showcasing his new ‘democracy.now’ LP — an overtly politicised, sample-based collage questioning US foreign policy past and present — at Temple Bar on Friday 23rd October.

And that’s just the surface of all the homespun musical oddities on offer.

As full figured, lovingly prepared and satisfyingly presented as the perfect pint of Guinness, DEAF might already be a local pride but it shouldn’t be long before the rest of the world takes notice of everything it has to offer. 

For more info and ticket prices on all DEAF events check deafireland.com