Seattle’s annual Decibel Festival starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday (or Monday morning if you’re going after-hours), and though there are fewer must-see artists this year, that’s mostly been a good sign in the past; some of the festival’s best years have had no real headliners. We went with the best of the less obvious picks, knowing full well that you probably already made up your mind about seeing Autechre. –Brandon Ivers and Jonathan Zwickel

Wednesday, Sept. 23
Nicolas Jaar DJ Set
Nicolas Jaar is the embodiment of thinking man’s techno, and his new, sound-design-oriented album Pomegranates is the musical equivalent of cappuccino art. He’s DJing at Decibel this year, and that’s actually good thing: He’s an animated, risky selector that pays far more heed to the dancefloor than his own music would suggest. Supported by Seattle locals IG88 and Stimmhalt. –BI

Thursday, Sept. 24
Bottom Forty: The Black Madonna and Daniel Avery

Ask a room full of dance snobs what Chicago house music is and you’re bound to get a million different answers. That ambiguity is at the heart of what makes the Black Madonna an excellent DJ and producer. She isn’t afraid to play gospel house records in the same set as Italo, New Wave and Dancemania tracks. It’s rare to hear the sound of Chicago so well exported. In contrast, Fabric resident Daniel Avery plays slow-building, deeper-than-deep house that is intensely psychedelic without being unfocused. –BI

Perhaps better than any other genre, electronic music speaks directly to the nanomoment; what Photay tells us is that right now we live in a musical world where a 21-year-old kid from Woodstock, N.Y., has created a small masterpiece of post-Flying Lotus bedroom soul. Photay—born Evan Shorenstein—spent teenage time traveling in Africa and studying various forms of hand percussion, and what you hear on his eponymous EP is a seamless blend of digital and analog elements with glimpses of gorgeous melodies sweeping across bubbling, trembling beatscapes. Photay opens tonight’s four-artist bill at Neumos, which also features Seattle techno producer Lusine, Bob Moses, and the Acid, so arrive early. –JZ

Friday, Sept. 25
MOTOR: Pharmakon and Container
If you’re trying to bring your metalhead noise artist friends to Decibel, this is the showcase to pick. Pharmakon’s take on power electronics is as brutal as Decibel has ever been; her albums Abandon and Bestial Burden are some of the best noise music of the last decade. Likewise, Portland’s Container has become a leading figure in the intersection between noise music and techno—his blown-out, saturated aesthetic is surprisingly trendy among techno purists these days. –BI

Saturday, Sept. 26
Variance: Erika and Orphx
While not part of the official Decibel lineup, local promoters High and Tight host one of the best events of the weekend with Erika and Orphx. Erika’s resume includes the legendary electro outfit Ectomorph as well as co-running the Interdimensional Transmissions label; her own album Hexagon Cloud from 2013 is ideal music for a dark warehouse. Orphx is a name that that should be no stranger to industrial music fans; they’ve been around since 1993 but have had a recent renaissance due to techno’s re-interest in all things industrial. Plan for this show in advance. –BI
Undisclosed location

Mick Jenkins, Dylan Stark
What appears as a conflicting lineup at the Croc makes sense on closer inspection. Mick Jenkins is a young, studied MC who hails from the same Chicago open-mic scene as Chance the Rapper. In August he released the latest in a series of brilliant mixtapes called Wave[s], which features Jenkins’ stern, erudite flow over a slew of Chicago producers. One of those is Kaytranada, whose R&B-inflected set at EMP was one of Decibel’s highlights last year, and who provides the aesthetic link between Jenkins and Portland producer Dylan Stark. Released earlier this year, Stark’s explosive debut album Heartland attains the same panoramic grandeur as Kaytranada’s dark, ambient hip-hop, though it glows with warm affirmations rather than stark introspection. Stark and Jenkins together on the same night is an inspired booking. –JZ

Sunday, Sept. 27
Decibel in the Park: Michael Manahan, J.Phlip
Does it even matter who’s playing? It does not. Decibel in the Park has always been a highlight of the festival and was sorely missing from last year. There’s no better opportunity to see grown men and women stare at their own hands for three consecutive hours, and you can do it for FREE! Plus, dB in the Park is 90 percent likely to feature Boe Odissey, aka Seattle’s “Rainbow Scarf Man.” –BI
Volunteer Park