Electronic Music

Great Scott!


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Though orchestra leader and electronics pioneer Raymond Scott may not exactly have been a household name, his sonic inventiveness succeeded in seeping across the larger social synapse of America’s television generation. Credited with founding 20th-century music’s dubiously named exotica genre — a kind of pop counterpart to art brut that included everything from Claude Debussy’s Javanese tribalism to Clara Rockmore’s theremin, Arthur Lyman’s vibes and chimes to electronic voice phenomena séances — Scott created a corpus that was as unique as it was bizarre.

In fact, Scott’s variety of assorted musical approaches was extraordinary: he composed everything from syncopated so-called cartoon jazz to proto-synthesizer radio jingles to ambient albums for toddlers. "The concept of electronic music for babies in the early 1960s usually strikes folks as either extremely clever and useful or totally insane," says Jeff Winner, aficionado, RaymondScott.com archivist, and coproducer of many Scott reissues. And truly, Scott’s role as a radiophonic designer and a thoroughly American surrealist in the autodidactic tradition of Joseph Cornell or Stan Brakhage is unparalleled in the almanac of recorded music.

It’s appropriate, then, that this new year marks the centennial anniversary of the birth of a man in whose absence the ether of the 20th century may have sounded radically different — or, at the very least, would have had fewer blurbs, blips, and zoinks. In celebration, the Raymond Scott Archive and Basta Records — the geniuses behind the comprehensive Manhattan Research Inc. (2000) and the 1997 reissue of Scott’s Soothing Sounds for Baby, Volumes 1–3 (Epic, 1963) — are planning a yearlong audio bacchanal that will revisit every major era in the composer’s 50-year career. According to Winner, this will include the release of a documentary by Scott’s only son, Stan Warnow; a series of electronic and jazz rarities recordings; and live tribute concerts on the East and West Coasts.

Born Harry Warnow in 1908 to a Jewish Russian immigrant family in New York City, Scott pursued his early passion for science and music by attending a local Brooklyn technical school before entering the Institute of Musical Art (later the Juilliard School) in the late 1920s. He began his professional career as an in-house musician at CBS, where he worked in varying capacities for the television and radio network — as a session man, orchestra conductor, and creative director — for decades.

In the interim, the always resourceful musician recruited five compeers and formed the Raymond Scott Quintette — so called because, according to Scott, using the correct "<0x2009>‘sextet’ might get your mind off music." Under Scott’s direction, the Quintette produced a striking oeuvre that blended the compositional and stylistic aesthetic of big band jazz, the amorphous motifs of soundtrack and sound effects records, and the playful narratives of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. The song titles alone are surrealism in miniature — "New Year’s Eve in a Haunted House," "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals," "In an Eighteenth Century Drawing Room," and Scott’s most celebrated and oft-repeated piece, "Powerhouse." So successful were these instrumentals that within months of their debut the Quintette were contracted with 20th Century Fox to score major motion pictures. These songs would also become the adolescent soundtrack of Saturday morning after Warner Bros. secured the rights to the Quintette’s catalog in 1943 and Warner musical director Carl Stalling inserted huge swathes of Scott’s work into the immensely popular Looney Tunes.

Using the generous salary from his work at CBS, Scott bankrolled his own electronics studio — a sort of junior BBC Radiophonic Workshop — which he christened Manhattan Research in 1946. Though its initial function was to produce radio ads and jingles, the Long Island, NY, laboratory’s true purpose was to develop unheard and unimagined forms of electromechanical and synthesized tones. Predating the widespread use of integrated circuits and analog synthesis, the photocell tone generators and polyphonic sequencers constructed at Manhattan Research were completely unprecedented in sound technology.

"Given the amazing, tiny, and cheap technology that’s everywhere today, it’s a real challenge for us moderns to appreciate how difficult and s-l-o-w the process was," Winner explains. "It was always laborious, tedious, and extremely time-consuming. Designing, theorizing, soldering, then testing…. Wiring, rewiring, and testing again and again…. Hour after hour, year after year — literally — decade after decade."

The records spawned from these contraptions — the Clavivox, the Electronium, and the Circle Machine — often consisted of limpid pools of sustained sound multitracked with sharp sine wave helices and processed glitches. The almost childlike primitivism and free-form tonality that template Scott’s work bely its enchanting subtlety, prefiguring the kraut rock pastoralism of Brian Eno and the lush microtones of contemporary digital artists Christian Fennesz and Nobukazu Takemura. In fact, Winner recalls that when a colleague introduced Eno to Scott’s music years ago, Eno "was indeed impressed. He agreed that some of Scott’s electronic music is similar to some of his own."

Though his success as a producer and inventor was subordinated to his very popular role as an orchestra conductor and jazzman — creating a kind of night-and-day personality that alternated between the smiling TV bandleader and the dial-twisting mad scientist — Scott continued his nocturnal research unabated. Along the way, the once-gregarious musician became more obsessive and secretive regarding his unwieldy instruments, some of which extended wall to wall with their untranslatable, blinking consoles.

The fruits of his labor only became clear later, as the impact of Scott’s brilliance was measured in the younger technologists and musicians who joined his mission in the ’50s and ’60s. Budding musical technician Robert Moog began working with Scott long before he invented the first modular synthesizer that bears his name. Motown impresario Berry Gordy was so impressed with Scott’s mysterious Electronium that he recruited the inventor to the label’s expanding R&D department and bankrolled Manhattan Research’s 1971 move to California, where Scott would spend his final professional years toiling unapologetically on the apparatus.

"During [those years,] among the very few who were thinking about electroinstruments, no one foresaw a consumer market for hardware," Winner explains of Scott’s lifelong work. "Almost no one wanted those kinds of sounds yet." With this centennial celebration — and a bevy of new studio discoveries — Scott’s work may finally be recognized for its uncompromising beauty and understood as the revolving soundtrack for a century of technology and dreams, human and machine.

Year in Music: Bliss you


"It was definitely Kevin Shields — it was his playing that made me want to play guitar in a different way," explains Mark Clifford, former guitarist and studio mastermind of United Kingdom electro innovators Seefeel. "I saw My Bloody Valentine every time I could around ’88, right after ‘You Made Me Realise.’ And it was amazing, the kind of noise they could make: one sound, one chord that was this long, sustained wash of noise."

If Shields’s Valentines were the guitar experimentalists of the shoegaze era, then acolytes Seefeel, a Too Pure acoustic turned post-rock turned electronic group, were the six-string geniuses of the post-rave era. The Brighton band’s 1993 debut, the much-lauded Quique — rereleased this year — was a vital piece of electroacoustic art, so defiant of the conventional boundaries of techno, indie rock, and the dubiously termed IDM genre that it forced critic Simon Reynolds to invent a new descriptor: post-rock.

"When we started up, we were pretty much labeled in every genre — rock, dub, techno, electronic," Clifford recalls. "And it just seemed silly, really. I remember we were getting compared to bands like [labelmates] Disco Inferno. To be honest with you, I couldn’t see any similarity in our music whatsoever." In fact, Quique — in many ways the equal of its inspiration, Loveless (Creation, 1991) — remains less a timely "rock" record than a series of liminal compositions whose meanings shift and decay like glaciers or isotopes according to some inexplicable molecular clock. The album’s concoction of guitar drones, buzzing keyboard loops, and cooing vocals — courtesy of bassist Sarah Peacock — has a narcotic vastness that might very well induce a century-long slumber. So it might come as no surprise, then, that Seefeel’s oeuvre would draw the attention of somnambulists Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, and yes, even Radiohead.

Criminally remanded to the record store dustbin since Seefeel’s demise in 1996, Quique was finally given the full-on two-CD treatment in April by Too Pure, and, as in ’93, it’s one of the best listens of the year. Few new bands experimenting with tones and drones have managed to match Quique‘s blend of infectious creativity and instrumental minimalism. Rather, the noughties’ profusion of laptop technology and easy-listening soundtracks has caused increasing schisms between electronica’s subcultures and an attendant creative stagnation. "There seems to be something extremely decadent about electronic music, which it didn’t have in the ’90s," Clifford says. "It had something fresh and virginal then that it doesn’t have now."

For all of his accomplishments in genre bending and musical innovation, Clifford, now producing work under the Disjecta and Sneakster monikers and running Polyfusia Records, remains modest and somewhat aloof. "The thing about electronic music is a lot of stuff you hear sounds new, but when you listen to people like Tod Dockstader, who was doing it 40 or 50 years ago with just tape and found sounds, you realize [technology’s] just enabled us to do that kind of thing easier," he says. Fifteen years on, Quique still makes sonic brilliance sound easy.


Alog, Amateur (Rune Grammofon)

Caribou, Andorra (Merge)

Leonard Cohen, Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs from a Room, Songs of — Love and Hate (Columbia/Legacy)

Dean and Britta, Back Numbers (Zoë)

Fennesz, Hotel Paral.lel (Editions Mego)

Fire Engines, Hungry Beat (Acute)

Grinderman, Grinderman (Anti-)

PJ Harvey, White Chalk (Island)

Seefeel, Quique (Redux Edition) (Too Pure)

Robert Wyatt, Comicopera (Domino)

Year in Music: Sub obsession


When listeners go mad for a track they hear on London’s dubstep pirate radio station Rinse FM, the DJ quickly backspins the vinyl or CD turntable and says, "All right, from the edge!" It’s an apt metaphor for music that has San Franciscans like myself clinging to bass bins and feverishly tracking the music’s forward march from South London across the globe.

Dubstep was 2007’s most fun and relevant electronic music form. The sound encompasses our war-weary planet’s apocalyptic throb, with the promise of technology’s tones twinkling in the distance. It welds dub reggae’s weighty bass with UK garage’s insistent rhythmic pulse and, like a massive black hole, draws in techno, grime, industrial, drum ‘n’ bass, and other electronic subgenres.

This year, seven years after its gritty South London birth, dubstep music was everywhere in the Bay Area, from small bars like Underground SF to multiple Burning Man camps. Parties like Grime City, Narco Hz, Brap Dem, and Full Melt drove the music, while promoters like SureFire booked big out-of-town acts. Brit expat Emcee Child ruled the mic with Axiom and Audio Angel contributing vocal vibes, and DJs like SamSupa!, Djunya, Ripple, Cyan, Subtek, Kozee, Jus Wan, and Kid Kameleon sorted the platters.

So why dubstep, and why now? Well, house, techno, hip-hop, and mashups have mined familiar, even worn, territory for years, addled by heaps of cocaine and mediocre productions. Meanwhile, innovation is dubstep’s main component: London’s Benga dropped electro-influenced steppers, local artist Juju gave us dub-fueled tunes, Skream issued acidy tracks, and new names like Elemental offered glitchy breaks as dubsteppers broke all the rules. This inspired a clutch of devoted SF enthusiasts to launch a full-scale takeover, with club nights, legal and pirate radio shows, and labels and local producers getting international acclaim. SF is now respected internationally as America’s dubstep ground zero.

The good news: this scene is more down-to-earth than the city’s notoriously cliquey drum ‘n’ bass crews were in their mid-’90s prime. The first time you go to a dubstep party you’re more apt to be handed a shot than shot down as a newbie. And remember: when you hear a sick dubplate rinsed out there, don’t forget to put five fingers in the air and shout, "From the edge!"


1. Various artists, Hotflush Presents: Space and Time (Hotflush)

2. The Bug featuring Killa P and Flow Dan, "Skeng" (Hyperdub)

3. N-Type’s Sunday radio show, Rinse FM

4. Benga, "The Invasion" (Big Apple)

5. SamSupa!, Fallinginto DJ mix

6. Cotti and Clue Kid, "The Legacy" (–30)

7. Burial, Untrue (Hyperdub)

8. Babylon System, "Loaded" (Argon)

9. Coki, "Spongebob" (DMZ)

10. Skream, "Skreamizm Vol. 4" (Tempa)

Hey, Moped, lemme ride your two-man musical people mover



By Chris DeMento

I don’t like techno. And by calling it techno, of course I mean to deride electronic music, perhaps only for effect, or maybe because I have all these negative electro-associations: the movie Swordfish, for example. There’s one. Falling asleep behind the wheel somewhere along I-90 and waking up to the white-hot snap of a lightning bolt, my buddy’s nightmarish screaming, and the Virgin Suicides score blaring an almost-swansong over factory-installed speakers – there’s another.

So when I swerved into Amnesia the other night, it was not without some degree of reluctance that I paid a $3 cover to hear Moped, a two-man electronic outfit from around the way. A couple-three soju and sodas eased me, however, into the acknowledgment of memory files long since repudiated, zipped-up, stored in the recesses of my Neuronet Processor next to my DJ Shadow penchant and those digitally manipulated nudes of Monica Seles on Blossom Russo.

All playful digs aside, I really enjoyed Moped’s stuff. They had old TV episodes of Batman playing in slow-mo on the projection screen behind them. I think I actually stooped to the cliché “I wish I were on acid right now,” such was the nature of my relish, my drunk. Peter Gavin is not so much a frontman as he is an arbiter, sequencing his live bass, sax, and synth tracks atop the viciously groovy drumming of Scott Eberhardt. Their cover of Salt and Pepa’s “Push It” was nothing short of an achievement.

Some call this stuff electro jazz. Sounds like live house to me. Whatever it is, it stoned me to beat the band. I kept hoping Gavin would pull out some nunchucks, capable multitasker that he is. What this reigning Moped boy lacks in gutter-funk, he recoups in class and taste. And the tireless Eberhardt plays with astounding feel considering all the thumping and bumping the music needs from him. OK, so maybe I’m straddling them a bit too eagerly, but it sounded tight, was expertly conceived, and is a lot less dangerous to take for a spin than the Real McCoy. Remember them? Damn that German Eurodance crap. Damn it to hell.

Buy by hand


› molly@sfbg.com

What do you do when you want something personalized, handmade, and one of a kind but don’t have a creative bone in your body (or the time to find one)? If the closest to DIY you can get is its lesser-known sister, SFIY (Shop for It Yourself), check out the following ideas for gifts that are made by loving hands — just not yours.

DIY help

Sometimes you know what you want but don’t know how to make it — or there’s simply no reason to start from scratch. That’s where businesses that help you do some of it yourself come in.


One of our favorite examples of this concept is Castro–Duboce Triangle screen-printing favorite My Trick Pony, where you can print your own graphics onto a T-shirt — and even get help designing one.

742 14th St., SF. (415) 861-0595, www.mytrickpony.com


This Haight Street staple is the perfect place for a quick, down and dirty, trendy yet unique gift. Choose a plain T-shirt, messenger back, or pair of undies, then get it printed — within 15 minutes or so — with one of the dozens of images Bang-On has for you to choose from.

1603 Haight, SF. (415) 255-8446, www.bang-on.ca

To get in touch with crafty types who might not have retail spaces, check out the communities at San Francisco Craft Mafia (www.myspace.com/sfcraftmafia) and Craftster (www.craftster.org).

Retail shops

Good places to look for handcrafted items are retail stores and shops that cater to them. These are the museums, boutiques, and galleries that carry the kinds of items you’d make for your friends and families if, you know, you’d gotten an art degree instead of wasting all of that time in medical school.


This institution dedicated to the art of making stuff has finally opened a store that sells that stuff. Stop by for gifts like stoneware vessels and candleholders by Lynn Wood, square marbles by glassblower Nicholas Kekic, and mottled glass "bubble wrap" vessels by California artist Bill Sistek.

550 Sutter, SF. (415) 773-0303, www.sfmcd.org


The retail arm of this art gallery specializes in items like naturally pigmented beeswax crayons, leather steampunk watches, Czech stationery, toys, books, and all things arcane.

130 Eighth St., SF. www.sfelectricworks.com


Everyone’s favorite online mecca for homemade crafts has an office in San Francisco and a ton of designers who live here. Check out Quenna Lee (blissful.etsy.com) for gorgeous handmade bags and wallets, Joom Klangsin (joom.etsy.com) for whimsical pillow designs, and Hsing Ju Wang (silverminejwelry.etsy.com) for creative jewelry. Or simply use the site’s search function to find other Bay Area artisans.



Don’t believe clothes this stylie and accessories this striking can really be handmade? Then watch the artists create these one-of-a-kind goodies in the on-site studios. (Also, stop by Dec. 8 for the store’s opening celebration.)

544 Haight, SF. www.pandorastrunk.com


Sure, shopping events can be overwhelming. But the plus side? Someone’s taken the time to assemble in one place all the cool shit from a bunch of different vendors. That means you only use one day and one parking spot (or Muni ride).


Cult favorites Appel and Frank bring their hip holiday shopping event back to the city with goodies from emerging designers at below-retail prices. Plus, a portion of the proceeds benefits Friends of the Urban Forest (www.fuf.net).

Thurs/6, 5–9 p.m., two people for $15. Regency Center, 1270 Sutter, SF. www.appelandfrank.com


San Francisco’s premier gallery for the developmentally disabled presents work in various media by more than 100 artists, with half of the proceeds going directly to them.

Fri/7, 6–9 p.m.; Sat/8–Sun/9, 1–6 p.m.; during gallery hours through Dec. 29. Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St., SF. (415) 863-2108, www.creativityexplored.org


This fest features fun, games, and fabulous shopping in the neighborhood known for showcasing the Bay Area’s best and brightest up-and-coming artists and businesses. Donations benefit Camp Sunburst and Sunburst Projects, which provides support services to families living with HIV/AIDS.

Fri/7, 6–9 p.m. Hayes Valley, SF


This craftacular shopping bonanza is brought to you by the same people whose book taught us how to turn cross-stitching and knitting into acts of punk rock. This is the event not to miss.

Dec. 15, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. San Francisco County Fair Bldg., Golden Gate Park, SF. www.bazaarbizarre.org/sanfrancisco.html


Those wacky burners have officially moved on from making boot covers for themselves to creating whole product lines for all kinds of people — playa loving and otherwise. This event features unusual gift items (fun-fur jackets or blinky toys, anyone?), live and electronic music, drink specials from the bar, and a silent auction benefiting the arts.

Dec. 16, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Café Cocomo, 650 Indiana, SF. www.preparefortheplaya.com

Spooked sounds 2: more lost albums and forgotten performances for Halloween


Pussy Galore – and scares galore.

By Erik Morse

Let’s pick up where the first installment of “Spooked sounds” left off: here are a few more notorious sonic “events,” which constitute a spectral and alternative history in recorded music’s century long canon. The more cryptic, the more incredible and the more emphatic the anecdote, the scarier the sounds. Try playing some of these at your next Halloween party and see just how spooked your guests will get.



Unit Delta Plus and the Beatles – Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, London, 1967

Founded as a cooperative of sorts by electronic musicians Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson, and Peter Zinovieff as early as 1965, Unit Delta Plus was an experimental adjunct to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop during the height of “swinging” London’s musical and multimedia explorations.

Using their knowledge and gear from the BBC days and marrying it to a more edgy, psychedelic sensibility, Unit Delta Plus hoped to accomplish an aesthetic saturation of sight and sound not unlike that being similarly developed at New York’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable or San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium. With Zinovieff’s Putney townhouse as their headquarters, the members of UDP began experimenting with complex tape music and primitive EMS synthesizers. By ’66 they held a music festival in Berkshire, reputedly the first ever dedicated solely to electronic music. Although the crowd was composed mainly of academics and musicologists, the festival was a major success and catapulted Unit Delta Plus into the center of the London underground.

Global chilling


In 1994 an album came out that nearly put a class of DJs out of work. Those manning the decks at so-called chill-out rooms in countless clubs had good reason to fear Global Communication’s 76:14 (Arista), for its lush, emotive melodies and almost infinite attention to detail maintained the excitement that surrounded electronic music at the time while fostering a desultory, languid mood. Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard were the two British producers behind Global Communications, and almost 15 years later Middleton is releasing his first solo album, Lifetracks (Big Chill Recordings/Six Degrees).

Despite the iconic status that 76:14 has achieved, Middleton denies that it has cast any sort of shadow over his ensuing productions or been any kind of burden during his subsequent decade-plus of production, including more work with Pritchard as Jedi Knights (whose nü electro New School Science [Universal, 1996] inspired the likes of the Prodigy) as well as solo remixes for acts as varied as Britpoppers Pulp and New Jersey house legend Kerri Chandler. "I’m very proud of 76:14 — it was a very rewarding experience creating it with Mark," Middleton wrote via e-mail before a live performance for Lifetracks in London. It "has some amazing moments for me personally and is a constant reminder to make music from the heart and not get concerned with the restrictions of markets, tempo, or genre."

Lifetracks reflects its creator’s frank lack of fear when it comes to making beautiful music. My inner jaded hipster might have initially cringed at both the yoga-evoking title and the unabashedly emotional strings of "Prana," but there’s no way I could hate on the subtle production flourishes and the expert arrangement that builds to the expected yet still fulfilling climax. Other songs — like "Sea of Glass," with its pulsing woodwinds, and "Enchanting," with its deliberate repetition and inversion of patterns — point to Middleton’s appreciation of musicians well beyond the boundaries of dance music. "I enjoy many of Steve Reich’s conceptual sound experiments and recordings, particularly from the late 1970s and into the ’80s. Over many of his contemporaries he still manages to produce music that is intrinsically ‘pleasant’ and ‘easy’ from a listening perspective. It might be the slow evolving cyclical nature, or the gentle phase shifting in harmony that really does it for me." At the same time, Middleton professes admiration for composers Sir John Williams and Vangelis, who exist somewhere between the canons of popular and classical music.

While Middleton may be best known for his more introspective work and Lifetracks is not exactly full of cuts headed to the top of the Billboard dance charts, the producer does love a good party and has no shame about using the tools that are needed to get people on the dance floor. When pressed for a few of his recent favorite tracks that go well together, Middleton caught me completely off guard with his recollection of a pair of reedits that fit together nicely for his weekly residency at Manumission on Ibiza: "Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ mashed up with Pink’s ‘Get the Party Started’ [mixed] into a glitchy electro remix of Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ mashed into Prince’s ‘1999’ — for some reason they just all flowed into each other really well and created the ideal first two tracks to set up the party vibe for the whole night." This from the man who fondly recalls a sunrise over Mount Fuji for the way it reminded him of a Katsushika Hokusai woodblock he studied in art school. It is clear that Middleton is much more than a one-trick pony.


Sat/3, 10 p.m., $15


657 Harrison, SF

(415) 348-0900


From our Bay to Norway


› johnny@sfbg.com

I hear a new world calling me. It’s beeping transmissions from some faraway place in the future and the past where a mysterious craft hovers near calypso rock and choruses of friendly voices — some human, some not — echo or call to each other. It’s a free-floating territory charted by someone obsessed with creating and sharing sounds that would otherwise go unheard. Only those with a similar obsession seem to respond to its clarion call.

I hear a new world, so strange and so real. Something tells me this world has ties to Norway and the Bay Area, that it streams from Oslo to San Francisco and back. Along the way it opens doors — some familiar, some not — to unheard-of zones. In Norway it can’t help isoutf8g and celebrating a conga rhythm from a vintage Michael Jackson track. It also combines the famous chords of Richard Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra and the roller coaster sensuality of Donna Summer’s Giorgio Moroder–produced "I Feel Love" in order to fill and feel space with as much pleasure as possible. In San Francisco it forms warm electronic waves, uses white magic to surf those waves’ white diamond tips at midnight, and then wakes up the next morning with a heartbreaking conversational hymn.

I hear a new world, haunting me from beyond the known realms of space disco, the shorthand term writers have applied to the music of Norway’s Lindstrøm (who has combined Strauss with Summer), Prins Thomas, and Todd Terje (the aforementioned Jackson mix master). It asks me to explore the songs of San Francisco musicians who offer clues to — and share — those Norwegians’ vast and prodigious love of sound and song. It suggests I contact Sorcerer (a.k.a. Daniel Judd) and Hatchback (a.k.a. Sam Grawe), brothers in oceanic melody and rhythm, who have both been remixed by Thomas. It tells me to talk with Dominique Leone, whose gorgeous and deranged pop will soon be released by Lindstrøm on his Feedelity label. It implores that I reach across this small town of super sounds to speak with Arp’s Alexis Georgopoulos, who has forged a cluster of electro-Nordic projects in which beauty emerges — with a sunlike glow — from intensity.

I hear a new world, calling me to chart links between musicians in San Francisco and in Norway, to discover that neighboring, unacquainted San Francisco sound makers can share friendships with the same Norwegian musicians. Perhaps this musical passage from Norway to our Bay is pure folly. Perhaps the seaside Northern European kingdom recently voted the most peaceful country in the world by the Global Peace Index doesn’t share the same spirit as coastal Northern California. Perhaps the country that remained neutral in World War I and rebelled against insurgent World War II Nazism doesn’t have much in common with Bay Area resistance. Perhaps Oslo and San Francisco only share a pocket-size but ferocious love of black metal. I still hear a new world — how can I tell what’s in store for me?


Donna Summer has already come and gone on the jukebox of the Van Ness corner bar with the bright yellow sign as Sorcerer’s Daniel Judd looks at the cover art for Prins Thomas’s Cosmo Galactic Prism (Eskimo). Thomas’s epic, oft-resplendent two-CD mix opens with "I Hear a New World," the title track of producer Joe Meek’s innovative 1960 exploration of the outer spaces of stereo and studio sound. It then segues into the country twang and power-chord dub of "Devil Weed and Me," by the late-’70s Nashville, Tenn., session-player supergroup Area Code 615. "It’s funny that the CD starts that way," Judd says with characteristic almost-sly-or-shy understatement. "My friend Sam [Grawe, of Hatchback,] is a big fan of Area Code 615, and I love "I Hear a New World." The fact [Thomas] put those two songs together is weird, like he was reading our minds."

Encyclopedic musical passions bring serendipity. But Thomas and Judd’s bond dives deeper: Thomas has remixed "Surfing at Midnight," the slow-blooming single from White Magic (Tirk), the first album Judd has recorded as Sorcerer. White Magic is a casual labor of love (all too rare in these studied-yet-throwaway days) that’s easy to fall for on the first listen. Judd — who sometimes writes about music for the Web site Dream Chimney — is still capable of the Johnny Marr–like rush, push, and spangled jangle he brought to the band Call and Response, but freed from group strictures he lands on a relaxed approach to writing and recording that allows for gorgeous chord changes, compositions that morph, and keyboards and guitars that shimmer.

White Magic’s track listing primarily consists of two-word titles — "Airbrush Dragon," "Egyptian Sunset," "Bamboo Brainwave" — that inspire visualization, and on MySpace, Judd invents a variety of apt and funny pseudogenres, such as "’80s montage music," to describe the Sorcerer sound. "So many friends, when I played [Sorcerer’s] music for them, would say, ‘This would be great for an ’80s movie scene or a montage,’" he explains when asked about the various substyle terms he coined on a lark. "I definitely grew up during that period and watched the movies, so it’s ingrained. I thought I might as well just go for it. I like having some humor and playfulness, like Thomas Fehlmann, the Kompakt [label] guy who was in the Orb…. At some point [more recently] electronic music got caught up in always trying to do something new. That’s fun for the musician but not always for the listener. In my stuff the beat isn’t what’s making you go, ‘Oh wow.’ If it’s happening, it’s from the chords."

Judd and his girlfriend recently moved from Oakland — where he’d also spent much of his early childhood with a mom who loves Prince — into the Mission. Sorcerer, however, can usually be found loitering on either side of a magic door where kitsch transforms into loveliness. One side of that door definitely opens onto the beach. White Magic‘s "Blind Yachtsman" is a love child born from Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman and yacht rock. Judd often draws on whatever he’s listening to or watching, but other seafaring Sorcerer songs, such as "Surfing at Midnight" and "Hawaiian Island," flow directly from his experiences while surfing and scuba diving.

"Maybe the beach represents this free place, away from computers and technology," Judd posits when I mention that Norwegian counterparts such as Terje (whose MySpace interests are "Coconuts, Hawaiian sunsets, moose/dolphins/unicorn/practically everything in a sunset") share his fondness for littoral motifs. Whether discussing his girlfriend’s most recent Midnites for Maniacs–ready movie rental (Side Out, a beach volleyball drama starring C. Thomas Howell) or a weekend visit to Nippon Goldfish Co. on Geary ("You’re so close to the animals, and they look kind of crazy"), Judd keeps returning to the waterfront. "In the ocean," he notes, "you feel like there’s almost no rules. You’re having fun, and it’s almost dangerous fun — a kind that you don’t find in the city."


A setting sun, bisected by clouds, hovers over darkening ocean waves on the cover of In Light, the first album by San Francisco’s Arp; the title, drawn in slim neon-tube cursive by San Francisco artist Tauba Auerbach, is suspended from the upper left-hand corner of a tangerine and gold sky. The summer sun happens to be setting outside the upper Guerrero living room window of Arp’s Alexis Georgopoulos as he talks about this image (partly inspired by the melancholic found-film cosmograms of visual artist Tacita Dean) and how it relates to the music on the album, which will be released by the Oslo label Smalltown Supersound next month.

"An overwhelming number of people still tend to think of electronic music as being cold," Georgopoulos says while sitar notes from an LP quietly resonate through his and roommate Kathryn Anne Davis’s blue-walled apartment, where a large chunk of coral rests on a clear Plexiglas coffee table. "I wanted to make something that was warm, that had human qualities, that was a little worn, and that — along with the imagery of the record — dealt with memory, the degradation of memory, and revisionist memory. I also wanted to make something that referenced landscape and light and natural things in a way that wasn’t new age." I point to a fat tome about the proto–new age label ECM on a nearby bookcase, which Georgopoulos built. "Proto–new age music, if you select carefully, can be amazing," he responds. "Even the kernels of early sequencing in Ash Ra Tempel sound really radiant."

If a new age of electronic music spanning from San Francisco to Oslo is dawning (or setting), then Georgopoulos — a chief member of Tussle until just after the group recorded last year’s Telescope Mind (Smalltown Supersound) — has taken it to the bridge and maybe even been the bridge. In 2002, after writing about the graphic design of Smalltown Supersound’s Kim Hiorthøy for Tokion, Georgopoulos — who edits the music section of SOMA magazine and sometimes contributes to the Guardian — offered to put together a Bay Area showcase at Club Six for the label. "I don’t think he had done anything like that before; he just wanted to have us over, which was very generous," label owner Joakim Hoaglund recalls via e-mail before turning to a discussion of his and Georgopoulos’s latest collaboration. With Arp, "it’s a relief [for me] to do a small personal project. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel [In Light] has this great and unique mix of US West Coast art and culture with European avant-gardism and kraut rock. It’s a very special album."

Clutter and clusters are on Georgopoulos’s mind as we discuss music and its surroundings. "I was a huge stacker [of books and records]," he says when I mention his well-ordered home studio. "But I take after my mother — she’s very neat and feels like she can’t do the work she needs to do unless things are organized." The first-generation American child of parents from France and Greece, Georgopoulos has chosen the dreamy, maternal lull of a track titled "St. Tropez" to open In Light before "Potentialities" surges out of speakers (or from headphones) with a subtly rising force that’s ultimately awesome to behold. Most of In Light‘s seven meditative tracks were first showcased in a 2006 group exhibition at New Langton Arts, where up to two listeners could climb into a feather bed enclosed in a small podlike space. "It wasn’t cerebral. It wasn’t about dissecting a suspended space," Georgopoulos says. "Though with a lot of [Arp]’s music, suspension is one of the effects I’m trying to create."

For Georgopoulos, Arp’s state of suspension runs counter to different kinds of tension. While discussing his love for the analog organ-drum machine sounds employed by groups such as Cluster (a few of whose albums have just been reissued by Oakland label Water), Suicide, and Spacemen 3, he notes that "too much electronic [today] sounds like coke-related music." In contrast, Arp’s electronic music is humane — a rarity not just in electronic music but also on the streets of San Francisco during the Gavin Newsom era, when homelessness has become more difficult and abject and attitudes toward it more hostile. "I can’t remember the last time I left the house and didn’t have a confrontation with a very disturbing sight, and after a long time that really starts to chip away at you," Georgopoulos says. "I drove a cab for four years, until 2004, and when I think about it I can’t believe that I did. It suited my life at the time, but you’re interacting with [people on] PCP, meth, and all kinds of shit — you just never know. Now that I don’t drive a cab I’m hardly ever in the Tenderloin."


Wearing a pair of shades, Prins Thomas is chatting with the doorman of his hotel in the Tenderloin when I stumble out of a taxi to interview him. It’s a sunny, hot late afternoon, but Thomas — who has just woken up — isn’t exactly on Norway time or California time. Later in the evening he’ll be DJing Gun Club’s night at Temple Nightclub. Right now, though it’s too late for lunch and too early for dinner, the moment calls for a meal, so we settle into a restaurant on Polk Street. "I used to play in Oslo for the same people again and again," he says after we order food. "Now I can travel and meet like minds. It’s inspiring to meet people who can help you out and who you can help out."

In San Francisco two such people are Sorcerer’s Judd and Hatchback’s Grawe. Only after remixing tracks by Judd’s and Grawe’s solo projects did Thomas discover (by following Web links) that they also record together as Windsurf. Next year he plans to release some Windsurf recordings on a new label, Internasjonal, that will step outside the Norwegian and dance music confines of his established label, Full Pupp. This season, though, he and Lindstrøm have released — in addition to a variety of vinyl projects — a full-length collaboration (Reinterpretations, the beat-driven follow-up compilation to their 2006 debut on Eskimo) and individual mix CDs. Lindstrøm has contributed a chapter to the mix series Late Night Tales (released by the label of the same name), while Thomas has unleashed Cosmo Galactic Prism (Eskimo), a two-and-a-half-hour CD cornucopia that moves from strange and delightful multigenre tracks by Glissandro 70 (the bizarrely beautiful "Bolan Muppets") and Metalchicks (the awesome "Tears for Fears/Conspiracy") through Hawkwind into the classic disco of "Get Down Boy" by Paper Dolls.

"I thought it fit the whole collection as an introduction," Thomas says when I ask him about Cosmo Galactic Prism‘s opener, "I Hear a New World," which Arp’s Georgopoulos also says he’s included in mixes. "It kind of sets the tone — it’s so freaky that anything that comes after it is going to sound pretty normal. When I first heard it I couldn’t tell if it was new or old. There’s a similar quality to a track by Art Blakey called "Oscalypso" [from the 1956–57 album Drum Suite, now on Dusty Groove]. The drums are so distorted that it sounds relevant next to new, compressed dance music, even though it’s 50 years old."

It isn’t surprising that Thomas’s expansive love for and knowledge of music stems from his family. "My stepfather has been as obsessed with music [as I am]," he explains while charting Lindstrøm’s background in country and gospel bands and his own early days DJing hip-hop records at youth clubs. Thomas’s stepfather "would play Ry Cooder and the Sex Pistols for me. He had the Robert Christgau Consumer Guide books, which are great. I think it’s funny how [Christgau] can write similarly about an Eric Clapton album and a Chic album. For me, it really isn’t about bad music or good music, but about music that excites you and music that doesn’t."

It also probably isn’t surprising that one genre Thomas’s stepfather didn’t like — prog rock — figures heavily in his and Lindstrøm’s music. As for newer terms or styles, like Lindstrøm (who good-naturedly told me, "I guess the good thing is that some people are telling me I invented a genre"), Thomas has a sense of humor about the phrase space disco. "It could have been a lot worse," he says. "It could have been called crunk or syrup [Houston’s cough syrup–influenced hip-hop sound]. In my hometown, at underage school dances 15-year-old girls used to soak their tampons in moonshine. I guess that’s the Norwegian version of syrup."


When I meet Dominique Leone, he’s sitting in a San Francisco café that might have the highest number of laptops per square foot. Leone has one too, but instead of staring into its screen he’s feverishly using a pencil to draw on a page in a sky blue Strathmore sketchbook. I’m not surprised, because scribbler nonpareil Sol LeWitt caps a list of audio and visual influences on Leone’s MySpace page. That site also offers an opportunity to hear the gorgeous song "Conversational," on which Leone’s spare keyboard arrangement and ascendant choirboy-gone-slightly-cuckoo voice update the plaintive yet celestial highlights ("I’ll Be Home," "Living Without You") of Harry Nilsson’s classic 1970 cover collection Nilsson Sings Newman (Buddha).

Leone’s MySpace page contains audio treats, but what about his sketchbook page? It turns out he’s drawing, in his words, "a giant skyscraper-sized robot that streams music and scents into the air and every 10 minutes or so spews out free kittens." Indeed, Leone’s sketch does look a bit like that, so when he says he’ll try his hand at an idea I have — a constellation that playfully demonstrates links between San Francisco and Norway musicians — I take him up on the offer.

Though Leone doesn’t include himself in the finished rendering ("More an exploding molecule than a constellation," he says), which accompanies this article, he belongs in a nearby orbit, thanks to his collaborations with Lindstrøm. In addition to providing the quiet heart of that artist’s Late Night Tales mix, "Conversational" is also featured on an EP, simply titled Dominique Leone, that Lindstrøm is releasing next month on Feedelity (with art by Hiorthøy) as a precursor to Leone’s album. The gonzo centerpiece of the EP is "Clairevoyage — a Medley Performed by the 16th Rebels of Mung," on which Lindstrøm and Oslo Bee Gees maniacs Mungolian Jet Set, responding to Leone’s song "Claire" (on the EP’s B-side), construct a 12-minutes-plus propulsive fantasia that builds to a helium-voiced climax not far from the munchkin antics of Meek’s "I Hear a New World." Leone is no slouch at reaching countertenor octaves naturally or through tape manipulation. But since the EP also credits Mungolian figures named Katzenjammer and Izzy Tizzy as vocalists, it’s anyone’s guess as to who has inhaled a few balloons before singing.

Leone says he grew up listening to the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and the latter’s influence is especially apparent in the semielated, semiagitated high harmonies that fly through intricately braided compositions like his "Nous Tombons dans Elle." A self-described "band nerd" in high school and music major at Texas Tech University, he feels a kinship with the more overtly postmodern academic songwriting approaches of friends such as Matmos and Kevin Blechdom. To Lindstrøm, though, he’s a 21st-century answer to the progressive pop of Todd Rundgren (who happens to be a favorite of Sorcerer as well). "I remember the first time Lindstrøm wrote to me [about my music]. He was talking about Paul McCartney, but his big thing was Rundgren," Leone says with a laugh. "I wasn’t a big Rundgren fan, but [Lindstrøm] wasn’t the first person to listen to my music and mention Rundgren.

"The first track [‘Forelopic Bit’] on Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas is, to me, the best example of how to make a dance track from prog and fusion influences," Leone notes before adding some observations that probably stem from his experience as a freelance music writer for Pitchfork more than from his far-flung everyday listening tastes, which have ranged from salsa to bluegrass over the past few months. "A lot of people are trying to [bring prog and fusion to dance floors] right now. You can go out [to a club] and hear these Balearic and beardo DJs just playing tracks. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But Lindstrøm is one of the few guys who are actually trying to make original songs incorporating those influences."


Sam Grawe of Hatchback and Windsurf sings the praises of his Sony tape recorder as I place my old, cheap, and wonderful Panasonic next to some glasses of wine on a table in his home recording studio. Plastic owl wall fixtures and a rug with shaded steps of color that resemble the volume bars of a digital stereo rest above and below the assortment of keyboards (including that prized prog possession, the Rhodes) in the room. "You can listen to instrumentals as background music, but I’ve always been into [moments] when music connects you with what’s happening or what you’re doing," Grawe says. "So much of my [youth] was spent driving around the rural countryside and finding the perfect song. Sound can fulfill an opening or void in your emotional experience. Images can be part of it, smell can be part of it, but sound can take it to another level."

Grawe’s sympathy for trusty old tape recorders, his playfully decorated recording space, and the attentiveness to setting in his reminiscence all make sense — by day he is the editor in chief of the modern architecture and design magazine Dwell. By night and whenever else he can find the time, he listens to and makes music. It’s an enduring passion that goes back to high school years spent using MIDI to put music theory into practice and compose fugues in the manner of Rick Wakeman and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. "The guy who stocked the import section [at a nearby record store] was some crazy prog freak," Grawe remembers. "A friend of mine had The Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock, so I could read about some crazy Italian or German band and then go to the mall and buy the CD."

"White Diamond," the 21st-century prog rock of Gibraltar that Hatchback has just made public (on the UK label This Is Not an Exit), showcases the fuguelike interplay between simplicity and complexity in Grawe’s compositions. While a 17-minute remix by Prins Thomas adds club elements, the original version, with its hallucinatory, starlit varieties of arpeggio, makes for an ideal personal soundtrack. Hatchback’s next 12-inch release on This Is Not an Exit, a track called "Jet Lag," is funkier yet similarly majestic, layered, and emotive. In both cases vocals would be a pointless distraction — synthesizers seem to sing to one another, becoming increasingly, endearingly creaturelike by song’s end. "Friends chide me for not knowing the words to songs I’ve heard a thousand times," Grawe says after testifying to his love for the film scores of Vangelis, Piero Umiliani, and Francis Lai. "But often a little synth part [in a song] is more interesting to me."

Grawe sings on some of the Windsurf songs that he and Judd have recorded for Prins Thomas to release on Internasjonal. Windsurf allows him to tap into a longtime interest in duos and groups ranging from the many projects of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Haruomi Hosono and Neu!’s Michael Rother (Grawe recently contributed liner notes to an upcoming reissue of Rother’s first solo album, 1977’s Flammende Herzen, by Oakland’s Water) to … Steely Dan. "To a lot of people they embody what’s wrong with music," Grawe says of the last. "But to me they embody everything that’s right. Not only is their music well crafted, but some of their lyrics, to me, are on a par with [Bob] Dylan."

As for Oslo and San Francisco, Grawe — who recently created a Venn diagram for Mike Bee of Amoeba Music that illustrates the fusion of influences within Sorcerer, Hatchback, and Windsurf — welcomes the growing, glowing galactic prism formed by artists from both areas who have an affinity for one another’s music. "I think it’s interesting that all these records happened without [the people involved] ever meeting in person or sometimes even talking on the phone," Grawe says. "It’s all been through the Internet. It was great to finally see [Thomas] when he came to town and hang out, have dinner, and play records. We connected instantly."


To trace musical connections between a pair of geographical areas is reductive. The artists I’ve written about love music from a number of other countries (Germany and Brazil, to name just two) and cumulatively have friendships with contemporary musicians from all over the globe. But in focusing on sonic signals being sent forth between Norway and our Bay, signals that have yielded some of my favorite recordings of the past year, I also discovered unexpected commonalities that open into new words about — and worlds of — sound. Almost all of the San Francisco musicians I spoke with also write about music, and three of them are journalists, for example. It seems the divisions between writers and musicians continue to blur, leading to the formation of a new music of the spheres.

When Joe Meek composed and recorded I Hear a New World: An Outer Space Music Fantasy (RPM) in England in 1960, his intense, obsessive love of music and sound resulted in the audio equivalent of what is called visionary. But he remained isolated. Today it’s great to see — and hear — figures such as Meek and disco innovator Arthur Russell living on, their spirits floating through many people’s songs and being revived in upcoming documentaries. Meek heard a new world of sound, calling him and haunting him. He couldn’t tell what was in store for him, but his new world of sound has arrived. It spans from Norway and our Bay to the farthest reaches of inner and outer space.

Hear it!















The Viz


› superego@sfbg.com

I had a third eye once. It rolled off my forehead at a ’93 rave in an abandoned Detroit airplane hangar and across the huge cement dance floor, barely missing getting squashed by hyperkinetic Canadians and nitrous-giddy kiddies swarming after an airborne fleet of inflated latex bananas. People wore bigger shoes back then, so I panicked slightly and gave chase. A kaleidoscopic Marble of Ethos, my third eye led me huffing and puffing past the ecstatic hordes thronging DJ Tommy Tomato, along a vibrating line of indoor porta-potties, and straight to the back of the building, where an ancient water main had burst — right above the chugging generator that powered the big-screen visuals.

Uh-oh. I had seen the future, and it was either blown up or electrocuted. Eek!

Beyond any possible medical emergencies, the situation also posed a personal dilemma: I was the party’s host, and violent death was still, like, totally goth. If something awful happened to the partygoers, would I ever be worthy of my fuchsia JNCO jeans and "Snap, Crackle, and Rave" Freshjive T-shirt again? I launched into damage-control mode. Through the creative use of several rolls of duct tape, a swaying 50-foot ladder, and reams of shocking profanity, I managed to keep the eye candy flowing and my fragile rep intact. Thanks, bodhisattva or whoever! Every time I see a white lady with a rolled-up yoga mat sticking out of her purse, I think of you.

I never really dug rave visuals much. Too many mushrooming acid blobs, clips from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and primitive Max Headroom avatars flinging their awkward limbs across the blurry cosmos. But the whole rave thing was about much more than the music, thank goddess, and if I had to suffer through 15 hours of mighty morphin’ neon fractals for the cause of "community expression," so be it. Besides, the use of goofy visuals in Clubland has been around since its modern beginning, when Andy Warhol’s Plastic Fantastic lava-lamp projections glanced off silver cloud balloons. It’s historical.

But now that wild optical shenanigans seem to have migrated from the dance floor to the screen saver, conceptual-art gallery, Burning Man shade structure, and stadium JumboTron, I mostly notice them by their absence. The current vogue for projecting pornos onto club walls doesn’t count — far too easy — and don’t get me started on horrendous video bars. Bleh. Even the freakin’ LoveFest skipped the visuals this year, though the music went far into twilight.

Still, there’s a devious little visual world opening up in the clubs these days, one that goes far beyond simple VJs, and, curiously, much of it’s coming from young kids who have no background in rave at all. The most ubiquitous of these new projectionists goes by the name of 3 and claims installation art, noisecore, and Pink Floyd as influences despite working his overlapping-image magic at many house and drag venues, such as the Endup, Underground SF, Trannyshack, Pink, and Supperclub.

"I escaped my extremely conservative family — I’m a recovering Pentecostal — and wound up at 5lowershop," a noisecore artists’ collective, the 27-year-old 3 told me over the phone. "I knew I wanted to be an artist, but I had no idea what kind. I started taking pictures of people’s artwork, overlaying the images two at a time and adding a found image of my own that I thought knocked everything to another level. Three images into one, thus the name. I got a handle on the technology and started projecting at friends’ parties a few years ago. People seemed hungry for club visuals. Even though I know almost nothing about electronic music, I love adding another dimension, to jump people’s minds off the musical track."

Although self-taught, 3 can get pretty deep with his visual knowledge. He particularly admires the psychosexual design philosophy of Dr. Jallen Rix and the software wizardry of Spot Draves, who created the Electric Sheep communal screen-saver program. Taken from a laptop-stored image bank of hundreds of thousands of manipulated photos and clips and mixed live with Resolume software, 3’s work can seem electrifying in a typical rave-visuals way at first glance (trippy flashback effects, flaming Maori poi twirlers, etc.), but subtexts peek out: a tart-eyed deconstruction of vintage gay photographs in his huge projections at the Castro’s Pink Saturday party, for example, or a tiny yet virulent stream of social commentary splashed across a performing drag queen’s splayed angel wings. And 3 has a knack for dropping startling film clips of Hitler Youth and Vietnam napalm-bombing campaigns into sets designed around softer themes.

"The visual medium is so incredibly powerful right now," he told me. "The world is basically videos. We can’t look away. I hope some of my stuff shakes people up, forms a bubble and then bursts it. That may be strange on a dance floor, and that’s why I do it.

"But in the end, I really just want to make everything pretty," he continued. "I want to take this thing as far as I can go, get incredibly famous, and make the whole world beautiful. How egotistical is that?"

Jack Davis, 1940-2007


› news@sfbg.com

Jack Davis was a relentless and often unheralded advocate for underfunded, outflanked, and ignored artists, community groups, social movements, and others shunted aside by mainstream venues and the art establishment.

Davis died Sept. 23 at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia from injuries sustained in a car accident. He was born Nov. 16, 1940, in Phoenix, Ariz., and came to California to attend the University of Santa Clara and San Francisco State University in the late 1950s and ’60s. He studied theater arts in Northern California, then was one of the directors and founding actors of the South Coast Repertory in Orange County. He married Judith Watson and returned to San Francisco in 1968.

Well known in the underground art world that he helped pioneer, Davis was a pivotal figure in the growth and public awareness of hundreds of uniquely San Francisco creative projects. For nearly 20 years he was director of the SomArts Cultural Center, which provides classrooms and work space for community-based programs and theater and gallery access to nascent and established artists.

But his contributions went far beyond SomArts. He and Rene Yáñez helped found CELLspace, a unique community and cultural center in the Mission. Davis was an early supporter of Burning Man and hosted its parties, meetings, and large-scale events at SomArts. He also provided technical support and counsel for the Day of the Dead and other San Francisco street events.

Under his leadership SomArts hosted myriad edgy and unconventional troupes and shows. Davis hosted early events by Survival Research Laboratories, which essentially created the machine-and-fire art scene that is now renowned around the world. Davis would often need to run interference with the Fire Department and other authorities who were concerned about the SRL’s seemingly dangerous experimentation.

Davis assisted in the evolution of that scene at every step, recently providing support services so the Flaming Lotus Girls could bring their massive Serpent Mother project to the "Robodock" festival in Amsterdam last month. Other SomArts projects Davis facilitated include the offbeat Naughty Santa’s Black Market, the Queer Arts Festival, Balinese shadow theater, DadaFest, the SF Electronic Music Festival, and the SF Indie Fest.

Davis also helped win national recognition for the alt-art movement by working with Eric Val Reuther, a panelist for and consultant to the National Endowment for the Arts, to bring many worthwhile (and underfunded) groups to the attention of the NEA. Davis also cofounded the Neighborhood Arts Program National Organizing Committee and helped set up its West Coast office in San Francisco.

Among the community-based groups Davis helped establish were the Bayview Opera House, the Native American Cultural Center, the Mission Cultural Center, and the Western Addition Cultural Center. He helped create a theater at Lone Mountain College, was director of Intersection for the Arts, and organized the San Francisco Blues Festival with Tom Mazzolini. In the summer Davis and his son Hayden and their friend Ernie Rivera built stages and performance areas for street fairs and other events.

As director of Intersection for the Arts, Davis hosted many unknown performers who went on to acclaim in the larger world of theater, including Diane di Prima, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Carroll, Ntozake Shange, Bill Irwin, Paul Dresher, and Rinde Eckert. Other groups Davis supported include the SF Mime Troupe, the Farm, the Pickle Family Circus, Make a Circus, and Dance Mission. Davis and George Coates were cofounders in the 1980s of the San Francisco International Theater Festival, which brought the early work of Spaulding Grey and others to the public’s attention.

"Jack was unflappable — nothing threw him," Coates once told me.

Davis lived on a houseboat — one of three he built over the years — with his daughter, Sarah, and his son-in-law, Shawn Lytle, in Mission Creek in San Francisco’s China Basin. As the longtime president of the Mission Creek Harbor Association, Davis fought developers and bureaucrats in a never-ending battle for the right of an organic, human-scale community to simply exist in this city. Many a weekend afternoon Davis could be found tinkering away on his or perhaps one of his neighbors’ boats. Due in great part to Davis’s efforts, Mission Creek remains one of San Francisco’s garden spots, even while surrounded by new development.

Davis was seen as a Buddha-like figure in the often-fractious world of community arts and politics. He was a bear of a man who exuded a preternatural calm. Composer, producer, and photographer Doug McKechnie noted once after a particularly rough MCHA meeting, "I was in awe of his ability to get things done with such grace, style, and simplicity. He could come into a crowd of bickering people, and they listened."

Davis was also instrumental in rejuvenating the Bay View Boat Club. "One day in 1984, Jack called me up and said, ‘Meet me at the Bay View Boat Club,’>" McKechnie said. "He showed me around the place and said, ‘I think this place has tremendous potential. Let’s join and see what we can do.’ Jack talked the club into having a special, one-year membership drive that allowed people who didn’t have a boat to join. We called everyone we knew, and before you could say ‘Bottle of beer’ the club had 200 new members, all of whom eventually got boats. Jack was elected commodore two years later and set the model for what is still one of the most astonishing, real, funky places in the world."

Davis is survived by his wife, Noriko Tanaka; ex-wife, Judith Davis; daughter, Sarah Coseby Davis; son-in-law, Shawn Lytle; son Arthur Fumiko Davis; daughter-in-law, Tesa Davis; grandchildren, Jordan Alexander Davis, Jacquelyn Rae Davis, and Olivia Davis Lytle; brother, Bill Davis; sister, Lynn Davis; and cousins, Patty Costello, Martha de la Cruz, and Amy de la Cruz. Jack’s mother, Jean Davis Mueller, age 94, resides in Scottsdale, Ariz. His son Hayden Carlos Davis died in 1999.

A celebration of Jack Davis’s life will be held Nov. 18 at the SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan, SF, from 3 to 8 p.m. The family is establishing a scholarship fund for Arthur Davis. For information visit www.somarts.org.

Jack Davis will be deeply missed by all who were touched by his calm, generosity, and soothing presence over his 40-year involvement in Bay Area arts. 2

Mike Noland and Charlie Gadeken contributed to this report.

My hippie LoveFest post


As much as I like to rag on electronic music, I happen to like a lot of it. And even more importantly, I think it deserves more respect, attention, and mainstream support than it gets. Being a great DJ is no less a hard-earned skill (often, on top of natural talent) than being a great guitarist or, I don’t know, accordionist. And for all its annoyances (fluorescent clothing, adults dressed as children, and the proliferation of bad DJs, among them), the electronic music culture is a remarkably positive one: it’s about joy and love and consciousness (don’t laugh, it’s true), about trying to reach that transcendent, collective moment in which you feel alive and empowered.

Photo by MV Galleries
LoveFest 2006

Obligatory post-BM post: F*ck Techno


By Molly Freedenberg

I used to wonder if there was some unspoken law about Burning Man that the only music appropriate for Black Rock City was electronica – as though somehow the magic would be lost if someone played Kiss instead of Kruder & Dorfmeister, or maybe you’d just get jumped by moon-boot wearing playa rats if you blasted the Descendents from your art car instead of DJ Ooah. And after six years of visiting the playa, I’ve noticed that there is some kind of symbiosis between the stark desert landscape and the driving, thumping, not-quite-earthbound beats of techno music.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve ever been fully converted. I can tolerate most electronic music. I even genuinely like some of it. But after a day or two being assaulted by ooncha ooncha from what seems like every goddamned corner of the earth, I inevitably find myself craving good old rock’n’roll – hell, I’d even settle for some whiny folk music – the way I used to crave real Mexican food when I lived in Portland (land of white cheese, black beans, and whole wheat tortillas. Good? Sure. But Mexican food? Hardly.)

Another thing I’ve been doing since my first Burning Man? Joking with friends about burning the man early. Or, even better, flying an airplane equipped with fire retardant over the man just as it’s about to burn, putting out the flames: biggest communal buzz kill EVER.

Man, that guy’s DJ decks look a lot like drums.

Well, it seems this year two of my deepest playa desires were satisfied: Someone (Paul Addis?) burned the man on Tuesday – which, though I feel sorry for the people who had to do five days work in one night to build the man again by Saturday, I find hilarious and appropriate. And people played music with actual – wait for it, wait for it – instruments. Yup, you heard me. Drums. Guitars. A bass or two. Not simulated by computer programs, but stroked and slammed and banged and picked by human hands.

Bay Area fall fairs and festivals


Summer may technically be on the outs, but don’t put away your baggies, huarache sandals, and that bushy, bushy blond hairdo just yet, all you Gidgets and Big Kahunas out there: it’s still Surfin’ USA in the Bay. Hell, summer doesn’t even start in San Francisco until September at the earliest. You can wax up the board and get busy, stuff the kidlets into the Woody, and hit one of the bevy of cool fiestas listed below, or maybe just lay out on a towel in Dolores Park, waiting for a wayward Lothario or Lothariette to rub cocoa butter on your fleshy hind regions. Ah, how good do we have it in the Sucka Free City?

AUG. 25

Jazzy Tomatoes Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center at MLK Jr. Way, Berkeley; (510) 548-3333, www.ecologycenter.org. 10:30am-3pm. Free. This collaboration between the Downtown Berkeley Jazz Festival series and the Berkeley Farmers’ Market features the sounds of local mandolinist Mike Marshall and Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos Neto, plus the flavors of Venus Restaurant’s Ann Murray.

AUG. 25-26

Bodega Seafood Art and Wine Festival Watts Ranch, 16855 Bodega Ave, Bodega; (707) 824-8717, www.winecountryfestivals.com. Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. $8-12. The sleepy village where Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Birds hosts this celebration of the best beer, wine, and seafood California has to offer. Sip on a Cline Cellars pinot noir and enjoy albacore wrapped in bacon while taking in the sounds of Marcia Ball’s Texas-style roadhouse blues.

Golden Gate Renaissance Festival Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF; (415) 354-1773, www.sffaire.com. Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. $5-15. Stilt walkers, fire-eaters, jesters, jousters, knights, peasant wenches, and Shakespeare fetishists abound in the fourth installment of this medieval fair. Amid the feasting and storytelling, you’ll get a chance to practice your chivalry and maybe ride a horse.

AUG. 26

Arab Cultural Festival County Fair Building, Ninth Ave and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF; www.arabculturalcenter.org. 10am-7pm. $2-5. Hikayatna (Our stories) is the theme for this year’s Arab Cultural Festival, featuring a bazaar with jewelry, henna, and Arab cuisine, as well as assorted folk and contemporary musical performances.

Taste of Marin St. Vincent’s School for Boys, 1 St. Vincent Dr., San Rafael; (415) 663-9667, www.marinorganic.org. 4-10pm. $150. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the exquisite food that is grown and produced in Marin, this event features a silent auction, chances to meet the farmers and chefs, and an elaborate sit-down dinner. Soulstress Maria Muldaur provides the musical entertainment.

AUG. 31-SEPT. 2

Monterey Bay Reggae Fest Monterey County Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey; (831) 394-6534, www.mbayreggaefest.net. The sprawling Monterey County Fairgrounds plays host to this annual festival featuring the liveliest of modern reggae acts. Eek-a-Mouse, Mighty Diamonds, and you-know-who’s brother, Richard Marley Booker, are just a sample of this year’s lineup.

SEPT. 1-3

Art and Soul Oakland Frank Ogawa Plaza and City Center, 14th St. and Clay, Oakl; (510) 444-CITY, www.artandsouloakland.com. 11am-6pm. $5. The seventh incarnation of this annual downtown Oakland festival includes dance performances, lots of art to view and purchase, an expanded Family Fun Zone, and a notably eclectic musical lineup: big-name performers include Lucinda Williams, Against Me!, the Legendary Fillmore Slim, Johnny Rawls, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

Sausalito Art Festival Army Corps of Engineers-Bay Model Visitor Center and Marinship Park, Sausalito; (415) 331-3757, www.sausalitoartfestival.org. Check Web site for times. $5-20. The Sausalito waterfront will play host to hundreds of artists’ exhibits as well as family entertainment and top-notch live music from the likes of Jefferson Starship and the Marshall Tucker Band.

SEPT. 1-23

Free Shakespeare in the Park Presidio parade ground, SF; (415) 558-0888, www.sfshakes.org. Sat, 7:30pm; Sun and Labor Day, 2:30pm. Free. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream gets a brilliant rendition under the direction of Kenneth Kelleher on the outdoor stage. Families fostering budding lit and theater geeks should take note.


Cowgirlpalooza El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; (415) 282-3325, www.elriosf.com. 3-9pm. $10. This sure-to-be-twangy evening on El Rio’s patio features music by the most compellingly country-fried female musicians around, including Kitty Rose, Starlene, Axton Kincaid, Burning Embers, 77 El Deora, and Four Year Bender.

SEPT. 5-9

San Francisco Electronic Music Festival Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida, SF; www.sfemf.org. 8:30pm. $12-16. The seventh in an annual series of weeklong electronica parties. Fred Frith, Annea Lockwood, Univac, and David Behrman round out this year’s lineup.


911 Power to the Peaceful Festival Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, SF; (415) 865-2170, www.powertothepeaceful.org. 11am-5pm. Free. This event calling for international human rights and an end to bombing features art and cultural exhibits and a talk with Amy Goodman, as well as performances by Michael Franti, the Indigo Girls, and DJ Spooky.

SEPT. 8-9

Bay Area Pet Fair Marin Center, 10 Ave of the Flags, San Rafael; (415) 229-3174, www.bayareapetfair.com. Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. $5-7. This event does double duty as a celebration of companion animals and a venue for a massive pet adopt-athon, so bring the kids and the dog.

Brews on the Bay Jeremiah O’Brien, Pier 45, SF; www.sanfranciscobrewersguild.org. 12-4:30pm. $8-40. Beer tasting, live music, and food abound at the San Francisco Brewers Guild’s annual on-deck showcase.

Chocolate Festival Ghirardelli Square, 900 N Point, SF; www.ghirardellisq.com. 12-5pm. Free. An indisputably fun weekend at the square includes chocolate goodness from more than 30 restaurant and bakery booths, various activities for kids and families, and a hands-free Earthquake Sundae Eating Contest.


Solano Avenue Stroll Solano between San Pablo and the Alameda in Berkeley and Albany; (510) 527-5358, www.solanoavenueassn.org. 10am-6pm. Free. The long-running East Bay block party features a clown-themed parade, art cars, dunk tanks, and assorted artsy offerings of family fun, along with the requisite delicious food and musical entertainment.

SEPT. 15-16

Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival Old Mill Park, Mill Valley; (415) 381-8090, www.mvfaf.org. Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. $7. Dig this juried show featuring original fine art, including jewelry, woodwork, painting, ceramics, and clothing.

Wisdom Festival Fort Mason Center, SF. (415) 452-0369, www.wisdomfestival.com. Sat, 10am-8pm; Sun, 10am-7pm. $8-$55. This fest features interactive panels, workshops, symposiums, and lectures, all geared toward your inner Shirley MacLaine.

SEPT. 22-23

Autumn Moon Festival Grant between California and Broadway and Pacific between Stockton and Kearney, SF; (415) 982-6306, www.moonfestival.org. 11am-6pm. Free. At one of Chinatown’s biggest annual gatherings you can see an acrobatic troupe, martial artists, street vendors, and, of course, lots of moon cakes. I like the pineapple the best.

SEPT. 28-30

A Taste of Greece Annunciation Cathedral, 245 Valencia, SF; (415) 864-8000, www.sfgreekfoodfestival.org. Call or check Web site for time. $5. Annunciation Cathedral’s annual fundraising event is an all-out food festival where you can steep yourself in Greek dishes, wine tasting, and the sounds of Greek Compania.

SEPT. 29-30

World Veg Festival San Francisco County Fair Building, Ninth Avenue and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF; (415) 273-5481. www.sfvs.org. 10am-6pm. $5. For those afraid of hamburgers, this event features speakers, live entertainment, and local cuisine of the meatless variety.

SEPT. 30

Folsom Street Fair Folsom between Seventh and 12th streets, SF; www.folsomstreetfair.com. 11am-6pm. Free. The world’s largest leather gathering, coinciding with Leather Pride Week, features a new Leather Women’s Area along with myriad fetish and rubber booths. Musical performers include Ladytron and Imperial Teen, and comedian Julie Brown also will appear.

OCT. 3

Shuck and Swallow Oyster Challenge Ghirardelli Square, West Plaza, 900 North Point, SF; (415) 929-1730. 5pm. Free to watch, $25 per duo to enter. How many oysters can two people scarf down in 10 minutes? Find out as pairs compete at this most joyous of spectacles, then head to the oyster and wine pairing afterward at McCormick and Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant, also in Ghirardelli Square.

OCT. 4-9

Fleet Week Various locations, SF; (650) 599-5057, www.fleetweek.us. Cries of “It’s a plane!” and “Now there’s a boat!” shall abound at San Francisco’s impressive annual gathering. Along with ship visits, there’ll be a big air show by the Blue Angels and the Viper West Coast Demonstration Team. And for the lonely among us, North Beach will be assholes and elbows with horny sailors and jarheads.

OCT. 4-14

Mill Valley Film Festival CinéArts at Sequoia, 25 Throckmorton, Mill Valley; 142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley; Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (925) 866-9559, www.mvff.com. Check Web site for times and prices. Documentaries and features of both the independent and international persuasion get screen time at this festival, the goal of which is insight into the various cultures of filmmaking.

OCT. 5-6

San Francisco Zinefest CELLspace, 2050 Bryant, SF; (415) 750-0991, www.sfzinefest.com. Fri, 2-8pm; Sat, 11am-7pm. Free. Appreciate the continuing vitality of the DIY approach at this two-day event featuring workshops and more than 40 exhibitors.

OCT. 5-7

Berkeley Juggling and Unicycling Festival King Middle School, 1781 Rose, Berkeley; www.berkeleyjuggling.org. Fri, 5-10pm; Sat, 9am-10pm; Sun, 9am-5pm. Check Web site for prices. More balls than hands. More feet than wheels.

Pacific Pinball Exposition Marin County Civic Center Exhibition Hall, San Rafael; www.nbam.org/ppexpo. Fri 2-10pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-12am. $20-35. Focusing on vintage machines, this inaugural festival promises to extol all things pinball. I think you get in free if you’re a deaf, dumb, and blind kid who can play a mean pinball.

OCT. 6-13

Litquake Various locations, SF; www.litquake.org. San Francisco’s annual literary maelstrom naturally features Q&As and readings by a gazillion local authors, including Daniel Handler, Jane Smiley, Dave Eggers, and Ann Patchett. The gang is honoring local writer Armistead Maupin with a lifetime achievement award.

OCT. 11-14

Oktoberfest by the Bay Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.oktoberfestbythebay.com. Check Web site for times. $25. One of the few places your lederhosen won’t look silly is the biggest Oktoberfest left of Berlin, where the Chico Bavarian Band will accompany German food and a whole lotta beer.<\!s>*


We got the (electro)funk: Talking with Chromeo’s Dave-1


By Molly Freedenberg

You’d think a writer living in Tech Central and a musician who works almost exclusively with electronics would be able to figure out how to have an international conversation. But somehow, Chromeo’s Dave-1 (who was in London at the time) and I couldn’t get that archaic piece of equipment (you know, the telephone) to work for us. So we turned to ye olde computer. Below is the transcript of our email interview, emoticons and all (who knew Dave-1 uses smilies?). I’ll let y’all know if we actually talk face to face after their show at Mezzanine on Monday.
chromeo may truong 2_2.jpg

San Francisco Bay Guardian: So first of all, I love the new album. How was making this one different from making the first?

Dave Macklovitch: Well we took a while because we really wanted to come up with the catchiest songs. We took our time. We wanted this to be a more sophisticated record. We polished the arrangements, the mix too. We got Philippe Zdar to mix it, actually. And then it was also really important for us to put the emphasis on the lyrics this time around. So you know, that explains everything from “Bonafied” to “Momma’s Boy”…

SFBG:I know you didn’t know much about electronic music when you formed Chromeo. Is that still true? Either way, who’s been influencing you (or who have you been excited about listening to) in the past few years?

DM: I mean, now we’re up on all that stuff. All the Parisian stuff, London cats like Switch and Sinden, German cats like Digitalism and Boys Noize, we like all that. But we don’t come from that world. We discovered this through Chromeo and everyone who’s supported us over the years…

Two synthesizers and a microphone


› molly@sfbg.com

When Chromeo released their Vice debut, She’s in Control, in 2004, the electrofunk duo from Montreal mainly stayed a cult favorite, semifamous for their single "Needy Girl" and mostly unknown otherwise. But with their just-released sophomore album, Fancy Footwork (Vice), and their tour with Jock Jams favorites Flosstradamus, it seems their ’80s pop–influenced, synth-heavy dance beats may have finally found their temporal groove. After all, if T-shirts masquerading as dresses and leggings masquerading as pants can come back, why can’t foot-tapping, bleep-blooping, stay-in-your-head-all-day music? (Especially since, unlike those other retro trends, Chromeo’s music actually works.)

But don’t think that Chromeo is just a throwback joke band, satirizing male-male ’80s pop — they call themselves "the thugged-out Hall and Oates" — the way the Darkness satirizes glam rock. Sure, the Montreal-born longtime friends, P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel, who daylights as an accountant) and Dave-1 (Dave Macklovitch, who’s also earning his doctorate in French lit at Columbia University), have a sense of humor about their music; one look at the Fancy Footwork cover, on which synthesizers have sexy mannequin legs, tells you that — to say nothing of their claim that they’re the first successful Arab-Jewish collaboration in history.

But the music is no joke. Taking a step away from their past as hip-hop producers, the team decided to pay homage to the musicians who helped shape them, from Phil Collins to Robert Palmer.

"I grew up on MTV," Macklovitch writes in an e-mail interview. "I used to watch Billy Ocean and Huey Lewis videos and I wanted to be those guys. I got my first erection watching David Lee Roth’s ‘California Girls’ video."

It’s what made their first full-length so much fun: just like the records of those bands in the ’80s, it’s totally earnest about its danceability, its focus on relationships, and its love of computerized sounds. But rather than regurgitate the same formula, Gemayel and Macklovitch took enough time with their second disc to do something a bit different. Fancy Footwork is a more sophisticated collection of songs, both musically and thematically. "Momma’s Boy" is a funny, self-aware ode to the Oedipus complex; "Opening Up," a fresh, unusual take on the rebound relationship — which, by the way, references "Needy Girl." And if there’s any question that these are dance anthems written from a mature perspective, there’s "Bonafied Lovin’," a song about what an older man can offer a woman that her younger boyfriend can’t, from the perspective of someone who actually knows ("Never mind an SMS/ What you need is a sweet caress").

Complaints about Chromeo come mostly from the electronic music community, which argues that their simple beats and Prince-inspired melodies don’t add much to the techno canon. But Chromeo shouldn’t be compared to the Chemical Brothers. This is dance-party, road-trip, living-room-Jazzercise, and MySpace theme song music: fun taken seriously.*


With Flosstradamus, Codebreaker, and DJs Jefrodisiac and Richie Panic

Mon/23, 9 p.m.; free with RSVP at going.com/chromeo


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880


For the rest of the interview with Chromeo’s Dave-1, go to www.sfbg.com/blogs/music.

Gui, your music looks terrific


› johnny@sfbg.com

The first clue that Gui Boratto’s Chromophobia is an extraordinary Kompakt disc — a song collection that places the German label back at the forefront of the best electronic music — can be found on its cover art. Since its inception, Kompakt has had a signature clean design style for its releases. Developed by one of the label’s three co-owners, Wolfgang Voigt, it’s made great use of simple circles and basic color combinations. For Chromophobia, the São Paulo, Brazil, musician called on his friend Felipe Caetano to create a cover. Caetano came up with a beautiful piece of color theory that layers a series of primary-color Kompakt circles over the edges of one another to form a variety of new-hued combinations.

"Our first idea was to do a black-and-white cover, but we decided that was cliché," Boratto says from São Paulo, referring to the title word, a term for the fear of color. "The decision to make the cover colorful was ironic. But for me, chromophobia is like simplicity — the same type of meaning as monochromatism within an architectural point of view."

Got that? The affable Boratto is no club drone whose scope of experience remains as narrow as a programmed and endlessly looped 4/4 beat. He’s a married father of one who has studied architecture in addition to music. "I think architecture and music are almost the same thing," he says, his accent bringing an alternately questioning and singsong quality to English words. "They’re different means of expression, but they treat spaces in the same way."

In Chromophobia, Boratto builds and creates a variety of attractive spaces, without pretension but with a sensibility perhaps informed by a love of modernist architectural pioneers such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. "Within the modernism movement, you can find the same ramp used in the garage and in the dining room," he observes. Such functionality could be ascribed to many tracks on Chromophobia, which entwine rhythmic and melodic complexity and simplicity in a manner that can add vivid atmosphere to private interior settings, natural panoramas, and — though not in all cases — the dance floor.


A major part of Chromophobia‘s appeal — apparent from the crystalline descending melody of the opening track, "Scene 1" — is that Boratto knows how to construct a strong simple motif or riff. "My first instrument was guitar, and when I was 10 or 11, I was really into Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin," he says, breaking down his musical background into shorthand. "But in the mid- to late ’80s, my older brother lived for a while in the south of France and then in London, and when he came back he brainwashed me."

The glorious results of that brainwashing are apparent in Chromophobia‘s most-discussed track, "Beautiful Life," on which Boratto’s wife, Luciana Villanova, plays the role of a female Bernard Sumner, quietly singing some affirmative words alongside a mammoth guitar line that invokes the unmistakable bass lines of New Order’s Peter Hook. "It was really a joke," Boratto says with bashful enthusiasm when asked about the track, which Web sites such as Resident Advisor have singled out for special praise. "There’s no complex textures [to "Beautiful Life"], as there are on some of the other songs [on Chromophobia]." True, but the song is no mere retro exercise: as much as New Order, the sunny feminine grace of "Beautiful Life" also calls to mind Ricardo Villalobos’s epic 2006 update of his own "La Belle Epoque," probably the only time Boratto and the Chilean Villalobos have crafted a similar definition of techno.

Still, Chromophobia‘s truest pleasures might be subtler ones, such as the alternately shuddering and sinuous propulsive energy of "Terminal" and "Gate 7" (the latter of which takes its title from the number of the TAM Airlines boarding gate for all of Boratto’s flights to Europe). On "Acróstico," Boratto provides a reprieve from this momentum, fashioning the electronic equivalent — via an array of low-key chirps and whirring sounds — of a nature scene at dawn or dusk.

"The title of ‘Acróstico’ stems from the fact that the high bass notes complete the lower notes — if you see a drawing of the notes, it looks like an acrostic," Boratto explains. For a musician who specializes in instrumental tracks, Boratto has a flair for linguistic matters. After bringing up Franz Kafka in response to a question about Chromophobia‘s final track, "The Verdict" — which takes its name from a Kafka tale often published in volumes of The Metamorphosis — he comments on a certain similarity: "One thing I noticed is that with Metamorphosis‘s Mr. [Gregor] Samsa, if the two s‘s in his name turn into k‘s, and the m‘s turn into f‘s, you have Kafka. It’s fiction, but it’s his story."


By no means is Chromophobia Kafkaesque. But a dynamic between colorful optimism and an undercurrent of gloom gradually courses through the album, growing deeper as it progresses. On the penultimate track, "Hera," Boratto crafts a coda so poignant that it easily eclipses the best recent tracks put forth by Booka Shade and other instrumental acts on Get Physical, perhaps the one German label to overshadow Kompakt in recent years. Kompakt is definitely on a roll as of late, thanks to the long-awaited — and underrated — second volume of label cohead Michael Mayer’s Immer (2006) and the ambient — in comparison to Boratto — allure of the Field’s acclaimed From Here We Go Sublime. The Field’s Axel Willner is inventive enough to tap into the so-ghostly-it’s-frightening essence of the Flamingos’ "I Only Have Eyes for You" (also a touchstone on the soundtrack of Kenneth Anger’s 1950 film Rabbit’s Moon), yet Boratto’s palette is broader, connecting techno’s chillier reaches with the warmth of Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim.

Jobim may be "the master," in Boratto’s words, but the man behind Chromophobia also loves US brands of soul — especially Al Green and Stevie Wonder. Likewise, while the "little Paris" known as Prague might be Boratto’s favorite city in architectural terms, he’s looking forward to his SF visit. "I really love San Francisco," he says, remembering the "mainstream" charms of a club like Spundae, where he once saw Boy George. "I actually lived near Berkeley, in Pinole, for six months in 2001. I studied in Berkeley, and I had two American friends. This one friend had a big house in a nice neighborhood in Berkeley, where we had barbecues and never-ending parties. We used to party in San Francisco too, at some clubs and friends’ apartments."

This week, as Boratto returns to the Bay Area, he’s going to find a lot more than just two American friends — or at least American fans — at his party. And deservedly so — he’s made one of the best records of this year. *


With Gui Boratto and Michael Mayer

Thurs/24, 9 p.m., $15 advance


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880


Fab gadgets


› superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO "We’re trying to reverse the great Berlin brain drain," DJ Solekandi of the Bay Area Beatdrop crew told me, with great determination in her voice. She was preparing to launch Filter.SF, the latest and so far biggest monument to the return of peninsular techno, an "official" Saturday monthly at Fat City, that would later spill over — ecstatically — into 8 a.m. "Is that where my brain’s been draining?" I replied, emptying my scotch glass warily. "I honestly thought it was circling somewhere over the Hebrides."

But of course she was speaking of the years-long flight of local electro and techno talent to the undisputed club capital of the early Ohs. Reunification — and a city full of unguarded construction sites — definitely has its advantages. "Let’s face it: techno’s a dirty word here," Solekandi reminded me. "There’s still so much great electronic music evolving in the States, though, transcending itself, working the polyrhythmics. People are shocked that we’re fiddling with grooves at 120 bpm — we’re just as much in reaction to the whole ‘techno has to hit you over the head’ thing as everyone else. We don’t want to be pigeonholed. We’re into stripping all musical genres down, foregrounding different patterns and sequences, but not getting so heady or minimal that you want to stop and think — or jumping off the rails into breakbeat. We mainly started this party because we want to have someplace where people can dance all night. I mean, where did that go?"

Presumably through the Brandenburg Gate. In the "we" above, Solekandi’s including the other half of Beatdrop, her mate, DJ Kontakt. (She was a journalist in Budapest. He was a soulful loner in Toronto. When they met online, listening to Deep Mix Moscow Radio, it was love at first IM.) Solekandi then launches, as any fierce DJ would, into a rundown of her cutting-edge technical equipment: Tracktor software, Faderfox controllers from Robotspeak, Ecler Nuo4 MIDI mixer … Visuals by VJ Mike Creighton? Edirol V-4 Video Mixer, HP ZT-3010US laptop, custom VISP Flash-Flex-Apollo software, Wacom Intuos Graphire tablet …

Phew. When I hear tech heads, even hot ones, geek out over their digital apparatuses, I sink into languid bafflement. Suddenly, I’m a sultry ’60s housewife, lounging on my lime green sectional, slightly pinched by my girdle, nodding while Hubby blathers on about structural changes down at the aeronautics plant. Sounds complicated, darling. Shall I fix us another batch of martinis? May is officially techno month, however, with Movement, Detroit’s legendary electronic music festival (www.demf.com), drawing hundreds of thousands to the Motor City and Montreal’s gargantuan Mutek (www.mutek.ca) following hard on Movement’s gravel-pitted heels — so technology’s the ultra. Yet I’d naively thought that since techno and vinyl had been pushed from the clubs by laptops and mashups, iPods and electroclash, they would join forces in a retrofuture comeback assault. No can do, it seems. So rock on, techno mama!

"I hate the word Wii," my yummy pal Noel reflected at the recent LCD Soundsystem show when I told him about the latest DJ craze, WiiJing. "It’s just so … happy. Wii. Ugh."

WiiJing, you ask? Hell yes. You knew it was only a matter of time before some genius couch potato hacked their Wiimote to start mixing, as they say, Wiimotely. Well, that time is now, and DJ_! (pronounced "shift one") is that genius. He’ll be here May 12 at Bootie, debuting his skills to the mashup crowd. ("I’ll probably be mashing up my favorite video game themes — anything from Centipede to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six," he claimed.)

I asked Turlock’s Obi-Wii Kenobi over the phone how he did it. "I basically used GlovePie to patch the Wiimote through a Bluetooth dongle into my Ableton Live," he replied. Again the gizmo glaze descended. Still, that must be one heck of a dongle! What’s the range on that thing? "About 15 feet, I think." I riffed on the WiiJ potential, now that DJs won’t be tethered to the decks. Refresh your cocktail midset! Stage-dive without any skips! Embed your Wiimotes into lightsabers and duel other WiiJs!

"Maybe," DJ_! said. "I’m happy just to be able to take a bathroom break." Now that’s putting the wee in Wii, no pun Nintendoed. *


Last Sat., 10 p.m.–8 a.m., $20

Fat City

314 11th St., SF




With DJ_!

Sat/12, 9 p.m.–late, $12

DNA Lounge

375 11th St., SF

(415) 626-1409

OCD on the LCD


You really gotta feel for LCD Soundsystem — fresh off the “dance-punk” darlings’ conquest of Coachella, bopping untold thousands of the dehydrous ecstatic, there they were the next day, at Mezzanine, playing big to a relatively teensy roomful of adoring fans. Adoring fans, in SF’s case, meant a whole lotta surprisingly hoochie mamas grinding against their frattish dates’ pelvises (hot, but weird!) and the cream of our post-electroclash scene. Going in, I’d made a joke to my homeboy that the group’s hirsute leader, James Murphy, was probably the superstar aspiration pinnacle of every sensitive tweaker bear who fiddles mindlessly with ambient-electronic music in their room — and sure enough, there was a fair representation of them as well.

MCMAF: Ich bin Kevin Blechdom


It’s customary to crave road travel when your summer bummer declines into a case of cubicle claustrophobia at the ol’ air-conditioned nightmare. Some of us just need to go on hiatus for a while. But take it from electronic-experimental musician Kevin Blechdom: her 2002 move from San Francisco to Berlin has been a fruitful experience.

"For the last four years, I was able to support myself through playing music," she writes via e-mail. "That’s nearly impossible to do in America with the style of music I’m making, but totally possible in Europe. I remember someone asking me what I did for a living, and I shyly said that I was a musician. They consider it a ‘real’ career, and I remember being surprised by that. In America you say, ‘I’m a musician,’ and then the other person asks, ‘But what’s your real job?’ "

Born Kristin Erickson, the 28-year-old artist was first drawn to music as a child growing up in Stuart, Fla. Initially trained as a classical pianist, Blechdom was also influenced by musical theater and pop music, and she started writing songs with her brother during high school. She went on to study piano at Florida State University but became disenchanted with its "conservative and eventually depressing" program and transferred in 1997 to Mills College in Oakland to study electronic music composition.

"I spent a lot of hours in the music library listening to avant-garde electronic music from the ’60s and ’70s, and I kept seeing ‘recorded at Mills College’ on the back of my favorite recordings," she writes. "When I got to Mills, it was the perfect environment for a young musician wanting to find her own way to compose and listen and think about music."

While at Mills, Blechdom struck up a friendship with Bevin Kelley, a.k.a. Blevin Blectum. The pair soon started performing as an electronic duo and releasing albums under the moniker Blectum from Blechdom. But after an intense four-year partnership, the twosome’s relations soured, and Blechdom shortly afterward fled to Berlin.

"I think a lot of the trouble was dealing with a public growth spurt and having to grow up a bit," she notes of her spilt with Blectum. "We have an amazing collaborative intuition that I treasure. In the last year we have started to work together again, and it’s gratifying to start where we left off."

As a solo artist, Blechdom has gravitated toward musical theater and performance art, while retaining Blectum from Blechdom’s noise ethic. Her Chicks on Speed-released full-lengths – Bitches Without Britches (2003) and Eat My Heart Out (2005) – channel artists such as Kate Bush and Magnetic Fields with dizzying synth pop allure and barnyard banjos. Upon the latter album’s release, Blechdom began performing topless and draping herself in dripping, raw meat during her live sets.

"It was a very basic symbolism mixed with a salute to female performance art. The symbolism was about turning inside out or trying to find those ‘inside’ feelings to express," she writes, adding that it was fun until she got nauseated and had to stop.

Blechdom is in the process of relocating to the Bay Area so she can attend school this fall. In addition to her solo work and Blectum from Blechdom, she’s also collaborating with Evans Hankey in the Reality Club and with Christopher Fleeger in an Evanescence and Rammstein cover band called Barn Wave. Her third solo album – a collection of "acoustic theater songs" – is in the can, but she has yet to find a label to release it.

"I think," she ventures, "this might be the first record I’ve made that my grandparents will be able to appreciate." (Chris Sabbath)


With Kevin Blechdom, Christopher Fleeger and Charles Engstrom, Ching Chong Song, Kevanescence, and Reality Club

May 15, 8 p.m., $7-$15, sliding scale

With Blevin Blectum, Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet, and James Goode

May 16, 8 p.m., $7-$15, sliding scale


2948 16th St., SF

(415) 864-8855


Superlist No. 825: Restaurants with DJs


› superlists@sfbg.com

It’s a fact: lousy music can spoil a dining experience. We’ve all been to the too-loud restaurant where talking over the cheap sound system quickly becomes a losing battle. And nobody goes back to the place that put the Lionel Ritchie Millennium Collection on loop, or the hole-in-the-wall with the wonderfully authentic foreign food and the borderline torturous background music. Avoid aural indigestion by trying one of the many restaurants that have gone to great lengths to ensure the ambiance is as pleasing to your ears as the food is to your taste buds. The best time to hear dinner’s new soundtrack is typically during the weekend; however, a few eateries serve DJs with midweek meals.

Big-name residents such as Tom Thump lay down the tracks at Frisson (244 Jackson, SF. 415-956-3004, www.frissonsf.com), the quintessential meals and wheels of steel restaurant. With the main dining room’s circular layout and warm colors, the new American cuisine’s premium quality, and the neosoul, jazz-infused electronic audio, Frisson has the right chemistry.

Many DJs spin into the wee hours of the morning, but Levende Lounge (1710 Mission, SF. 415-864-5585, www.levendesf.com) DJs don’t hit the decks until breakfast. Live electronic music, a self-service Bloody Mary bar, and a build-your-own Benedict menu option reinvent Sunday brunch. Levende strives to bring up-and-coming local talent as well as internationally recognized names to the table.

Residents Sabrina and Benji set the mood for the stunning, floor-to-ceiling bay view and noteworthy fusion of California and pan-Asian cuisine at Butterfly (Pier 33, Embarcadero, SF. 415-864-8999, www.butterflysf.com).

Eastside West (3154 Fillmore, SF. 415-885-4000, www.eastsidewest.com) creates a live music feel by putting resident DJ Morgan on a small stage. Its American regional menu features home-style favorites such as macaroni and cheese and buttermilk fried chicken. The mix usually includes Top 40 hits, so you may find yourself humming along between bites.

Head to North Beach’s Impala (501 Broadway, SF. 415-982-5299, www.impalasf.com), where you’ll instantly be transported south of the border. Here the tequila goes down as smooth as the tunes, which residents D-Tek and Zhaldee often infuse with a Latin flair.

If it weren’t for the flatware and delicious rolls in front of you, you’d swear Mas Sake (2030 Lombard, SF. 415-440-1505, www.massake.com) were a nightclub. Resident DJs Kimani, Solarz, Booker, and Chris Fox keep the mashups pumping all dinner long.

Lose yourself in the hypnotizing tunes, jungle decor, and flavorful Thai food at Lingba Lounge (1469 18th St., SF. 415-647-6469, www.lingba.com).

Hit up Poleng Lounge (1751 Fulton, SF. 415-441-1710, www.polenglounge.com) on a Friday or Saturday night if a little hip-hop, a dash of soul, and some Asian fusion cuisine sounds like a recipe for a good time.

DJ Adrian keeps things mellow at Mecca (2029 Market, SF. 415-621-7000, www.sfmecca.com) on Thursdays and Fridays with old-school electronica from the ’70s and ’80s.

As you might expect, Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack (18 Virginia, SF. 415-206-2086) serves pasta dishes galore, but there’s a little something extra on the menu on Fridays and Saturdays: rotating DJs who spin everything from oldies to new wave and punk — but never house music.

At Nihon (1779 Folsom, SF. 415-552-4400, www.nighonsf.com), DJ Gray spins house and lounge while diners enjoy sushi and other Japanese fare.

Sushi Groove South (1516 Folsom, SF. 415-503-1950) is another chic sushi spot where resident DJs spin nightly.

DJs Michael Anthony, B-Smiley, Didge Kelli, and Drunken Monkey make the dinner-in-bed experience at Supperclub (657 Harrison, SF. 415-348-0900, www.supperclub.com) all the more cozy by channeling chill ambient and other funky forms of electronica through the sound system.

DJs only spin in the lounge at Sutra Restaurant and Lounge (100 Brannan, SF. 415-593-5900, www.sutrasf.com), where Asian fusion and downtempo are on the platters. *

Dance dance revolution


"If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution" is a club-friendly sentiment traditionally attributed to estimable anarchist Emma Goldman. But even if she didn’t put it in quite those words, the message is clear: changing the world doesn’t have to be a grim slog. Why struggle at all if it doesn’t result in a world we can actually enjoy? That’s where these benefit-hosting, rabble-rousing, community-oriented bars, clubs, cultural centers, and performance spaces come in. Like the spoonful of sugar that masks the medicine, a nice pour and a few choice tunes can turn earnest liberation into ecstatic celebration.


Billing itself as "your dive," El Rio defines "you" as a crowd of anarchists, trannies, feminists, retro-cool kids, and heat-seeking salseros as diverse as you’re likely to find congregating around one shuffleboard table. Whether featuring a rawkin’ Gender Pirates benefit show or a rare screening of The Fall of the I-Hotel as part of radical film series Televising the Revolution, El Rio encourages an intimacy and camaraderie among its dance floor–loving patrons less frequently found these days in an increasingly class-divided Mission.

3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325, www.elriosf.com


Although it’s really an aboveground Mission storefront, Balazo 18 has a great "in the basement" underground vibe, and within its gritty labyrinth, upstart idealists lurk like scruffy Minotaurs. The low overhead and inclusive ambience has proven fertile ground for local activist functions such as the recent Clarion Alley Mural Project fundraiser and December 2006’s Free Josh Wolf event (freedom still pending). The dance floor’s generous size attracts top-notch local bands and sweaty, freedom-seeking legions who love to dance till they drop.

2183 Mission, SF. (415) 255-7227, www.balazogallery.com


Applause for the Make-Out Room‘s green-minded stance against unnecessary plastic drink straws (it doesn’t serve ’em), its championing of literary causes (Steven Elliott’s "Progressive Reading" series, Charlie Anders’s "Writers with Drinks"), and its calendar of benefit shows for agendas as diverse as animal sanctuary, tenants rights, and free speech. Plus, not only are the (strawless) drinks reasonably priced, but the wacked-out every–day–is–New Year’s Eve disco ball and silver star decor hastens their effect.

3225 22nd St., SF. (415) 647-2888, www.makeoutroom.com


The Rickshaw Stop hosts progressive literary luminaries by the library-load, raising the roof and the funds for programs such as the 61-year-old San Francisco Writer’s Workshop and the reading series "Inside Storytelling." Other beneficiaries of the Rickshaw’s pro-arts programming include SF Indiefest and Bitch magazine, and the club calendar is filled with queer dance parties, record release shows, and even an upcoming "Pipsqueak a Go Go" dance party for l’il kiddies with the Devilettes and the Time Outs. If teaching a roomful of preschoolers the Monkey isn’t an act of die-hard, give-something-back merrymaking martyrdom, well …

155 Fell, SF. (415) 861-2011, www.rickshawstop.com


A dancer- and activist-run performance incubator, CounterPULSE hosts a diverse collection of cutting-edge artistes ranging from queer Butoh dancers to crusading sexologists to mobility-impaired aerialists. It’s also home to the interactive history project Shaping San Francisco and a lively weekly contact jam. But it’s the plucky, DIY joie de vivre that pervades its fundraising events — featuring such entertainment as queer cabaret, big burlesque, and an abundance of booty-shaking — that keeps our toes tapping and our progressive groove moving. Best of all, the "no one turned away for lack of funds" policy ensures that even the most broke-ass idealist can get down.

1310 Mission, SF. (415) 626-2060, www.counterpulse.org


Sometimes a dance club, sometimes an art gallery — and sometimes not quite either — 111 Minna Gallery is pretty much guaranteed to always be a good time. Funds have been raised here on behalf of groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the West Memphis Three, and Hurricane Relief as a plethora of local and big-name artists and music makers — from Hey Willpower to Henry Rollins — have shown their stuff on the charmingly makeshift stage and the well-worn walls.

111 Minna, SF. (415) 974-1719, www.111minnagallery.com


It’s true — the revolutionary life can’t just be one big dance party. Sometimes it’s an uptown comedy club adventure instead. Cobb’s Comedy Club consistently books the big names on the comedy circuit — and it also showcases some side-splitting altruism, such as last month’s THC Comedy Medical Marijuana benefit tour and the annual "Stand Up for Justice" events sponsored by Death Penalty Focus. Even selfless philanthropy can be a laughing matter.

915 Columbus, SF. (415) 928-4320, www.cobbscomedyclub.com


The headless guardian angel of cavernous, city-funded cultural center SomArts has been a silent witness to countless community-involved installations and festivals, such as the "Radical Performance" series, a Day of the Dead art exhibit, the annual "Open Studios Exhibition," and the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival. And plenty of fundraising celebrations have been hosted beneath its soaring rafters on behalf of organizations such as the Coalition on Homelessness, Survival Research Labs, and the Center for Sex and Culture. We’ve got to admit — nothing cries "community" like a space where you can drink absinthe and build misfit toys one night, dance to live salsa the next, and attend a sober seminar on pirate radio the following afternoon.

934 Brannan, SF. (415) 552-2131, www.somarts.org


Even if the Edinburgh Castle were run by community-hating misanthropes, we’d come here for the craic and perhaps a wistful fondle of the Ballantine caber mounted on the wall. But general manager Alan Black has helped foster a scene of emerging and established writers, unsigned bands, and Robbie Burns lovers in the lively heart of the upper TL. The unpretentious, unflappable venue also hosts benefits for causes such as breast cancer research and refugee relocation. And the Tuesday night pub quiz, twice-monthly mod-Mersybeat dance nights, and annual swearing competition keep us coming back for more (except maybe the haggis).

950 Geary, SF. (415) 885-4074, www.castlenews.com


Turning martini shaking into charitable moneymaking, Elixir has been the go-to drinks dispensary for fundraisers of all varieties since it launched its unique Charity Guest Bartending program. The concept is simple: the organizers of a fundraising effort sign up in advance, beg or bully a hundred of their best buddies to show up early and stay late, get a crash course in mixology, and raise bucks behind the bar of this green-certified Mission District saloon (the second-oldest operating bar in San Francisco). Did we mention it’s green certified? Just checking. Barkeep, another round.

3200 16th St., SF. (415) 552-1633, www.elixirsf.com


A 2006 Best of the Bay winner, CELLspace has weathered the usual warehouse-space storms of permit woes and facility upgrading, and yet it continues to expand its programming and fan base into some very far-flung realms. From roller disco to b-boy battling, hip-hop to punk rock, art classes to aerial performances, the CELL has been providing an urban refuge for at-risk youth, aging hipsters, and community builders since 1996. Though we mourn the loss of the Bike Kitchen, which moved to its new SoMa digs, we’re glad to see the return of the Sunday-morning Mission Village Market — now indoors!

2050 Bryant, SF. (415) 648-7562, www.cellspace.org


On white planes


By Johnny Ray Huston

› johnny@sfbg.com

Life on tour isn’t just about partying. It’s partly about crafty use of time and space. In that sense, the German electronic duo Booka Shade are expert pragmatists. Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier don’t just attempt to write songs while they’re on planes or in hotel rooms — they’ll record them as well. "In a traditional studio you always have the same atmosphere. Day and night changes, of course, yet it’s basically the same," Kammermeier explains over the phone from Berlin. "But if you travel and have a laptop with you, you can look out the window and see a new, completely different thing while recording."

Such flexibility is at the core of Booka Shade’s second album, on their self-run label, Get Physical. Its very title, Movements, reflects a recording process propelled by the touring connected with flagship club hits such as "Body Language" and the irresistible dance floor stormer "Mandarine Girl," which boasts a melody that sounds like it was made with a gargantuan electronic woodwind. "We had a good time meeting people internationally, and all that energy went into Movements," Kammermeier says, discussing the record, which like most of the group’s releases sports Hannah Hoch–like cut-with-a-kitchen-knife body parts on its sleeve art. "That’s probably why it’s a lot less dark than Memento [the duo’s 2004 debut] and has more drive."

It would be hard for Movements to be darker than Memento, considering Booka Shade’s first album, complete with a name that might have been borrowed from Christopher Nolan, repeatedly digs into the realm of film ("16MM") and especially film noir ("Vertigo"). "It’s not like we have a library of 10,000 DVDs, but we like the combination of pictures and music," says Kammermeier, who also scores commercials with Merziger. "One thing we did for [Memento] was put a film on with the sound off and watch the pictures while we were working — that atmosphere gave us a lot of inspiration."


Booka Shade’s inspiration and reputation stem from their label as much as their music. In recent years Get Physical has garnered a critical rep that calls to mind canonical imprints such as Warp and the still thriving house-inflected Kompakt. This praise is due to Booka Shade’s constant collaborations with mix-oriented labelmates such as DJ T and M.A.N.D.Y. and to their production work on tracks such as a pair of classic early singles by Chelonis R. Jones, "One and One" and "I Don’t Know?" Those tracks are peerless in both a pop and a club sense, with "I Don’t Know?" suggesting what would happen if a male diva from the heyday of Chicago house who possessed encyclopedic brilliance hooked up with "Blue Monday"–era New Order. "The chorus of ‘One and One’ wasn’t originally a chorus as Chelonis had sung it," Kammermeier says while discussing the collaborations. "We placed it there, like part of a puzzle."

Working with a talent as singular as Jones is a far cry from the duo’s early days in the music business, when they created Europop for Spice Girls–esque major-label prefab acts such as No Angels, a girl group for whom they designed a cover of Alison Moyet’s "All Cried Out." The dead-end results of those efforts and of Merziger and Kammermeier’s first venture as a group, called Planet Claire, led them to start Get Physical. That, and a desire to broaden the formulaic boundaries of techno in particular and electronic music in general — a desire further sparked on hearing well-arranged ’70s- and ’80s-tinged tracks by the likes of Metro Area.

"Walter and I were both kids of the ’80s," says Kammermeier, who grew up with a jazz musician father and guitar- and piano-playing siblings, while Merziger was raised by a Richard Wagner–loving father. "Anything that came out of England — Soft Cell, the Smiths, Depeche Mode — was very influential to us." Last year the duo’s ’80s influences came full circle when Booka Shade remixed and shared concert bills with the last group. And it turns out Kammermeier is listening to Soft Cell again, having recently downloaded both their underrated aggro 1984 finale, This Last Night in Sodom, which includes early studio work by the influential producer Flood, and their 1983 sophomore effort, The Art of Falling Apart. "I just listened to [Art] again," Kammermeier admits. "There’s so much frustration and darkness in those songs."


There’s so much frustration that it might seep into Booka Shade’s sound, if song titles are worthwhile clues. One single from The Art of Falling Apart was the club ho litany "Numbers," and it turns out the first single from Booka Shade’s next full-length recording will bear the same name. "We want to introduce a vocal side on the next album," Kammermeier says when describing "Numbers" and some of the group’s other songs, including a track created by Merziger in a Rio hotel room. "We’ll introduce it in a different way — not verse-chorus vocal but little parts that we perform. We’re not great fans of these ‘featured artist’ albums, where people just get a handful of star vocalists to perform on different tracks. Also, we can’t bring a bunch of vocalists or a session vocalist on the road."

That said, Booka Shade do aim to put their show on the road in the old-school sense — an ambitious plan at a time when many of the best electronic music makers are still better off DJing than pulling rock star poses on a stage. "People always ask what instrument I play, and I say, ‘I’m one of those guys who hangs out with musicians — I’m a drummer,’ " Kammermeier jokes. He’ll have to put that joke into practice as he and Merziger embark on their second US tour — and maybe he’ll write and record some songs while in flight as well. *


With Future Force and Hours of Worship

March 23, 9 p.m., $14 advance


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880


For a top 10 list from Booka Shade’s Get Physical labelmate Chelonis R. Jones, go to www.sfbg.com/blogs/music.

New mutants


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

A-ha. Baltimora. Missing Persons. Those bands probably have an emblematic significance to any Brat Pack–emuutf8g, spring break–starved teenager affiliated with the MTV generation of the 1980s. But as the ’90s beckoned, feathered hair and talking cars gave way to the Urkel and Mentos commercials, and all the while, another compulsion began to render our motor skills useless. Only this one came in the form of a heather gray plastic box, and its mascot was a mustachioed plumber with a Brooklyn accent. To this day, the Nintendo Entertainment System and its notable features — the ingrained Contra password, the Power Glove — have a special place in our hearts. The bleeps, chimes, and peals that ebb and flow tirelessly on Eats Tapes’ sophomore full-length, Dos Mutantes (Tigerbeat6), make it sound like San Francisco couple Gregory Zifcak and Marijke Jorritsma still spend plenty of hours wrangling the rectangular-shaped joystick around too.

"What’s great about the Nintendo is that you get this choppy, 8-bit sort of thin sound," Jorritsma says over dinner in the Mission District. She laughs as she flails her arms. "So basically you hear it, and your knees get weak, and you’re like, ‘Ahhh!’ "

"Don’t say 8-bit. It’s too much of a buzzword," Zifcak says.

"There’s something rewarding about the thing that you herald as the ultimate fun machine and then being able to hack into that pot of yummy memory gold and smear it onto your own composition," Jorritsma continues.

Fitted with an arsenal of analog synthesizers, hardware sequencers, drum machines, and cassette players, Eats Tapes have been inducing all-night sweat-a-thons with their head-panging techno and acid-fried hooks since late 2002. The duo met at a pizza restaurant they worked at in Zifcak’s hometown of Portland, Ore., in 2000 and soon discovered that they shared a partiality for bands such as New Order and Kraftwerk. At that time, Zifcak was mixing jungle tracks on what he describes as "a bunch of junk from a pawnshop being sequenced by an ancient computer with no hard drive." Claiming she was his biggest fan, Jorritsma suggested they start making music together. The twosome relocated to the Bay Area six months later.

Developed initially as a live project, the pair bumped into Miguel Depedro, a.k.a. Kid606, and in 2005 his Tigerbeat6 label dropped their debut, Sticky Buttons. Since then, Eats Tapes have packed tiny clubs, warehouses, and living rooms on both sides of the Atlantic and have also remixed tracks and been remixed by artists such as the Blow, Lucky Dragons, and the Soft Pink Truth.

While Dos Mutantes pretty much picks up where its predecessor left off, Jorritsma and Zifcak have emerged more focused, and its caffeinated tempos and psych-noise assaults sound much more polished.

"We were a bit more adventurous, while using the same beats per minute all throughout, and it’s still pounding your face off," Zifcak says.

So what is it about the music that really gets these lovebirds going?

"With electronic music, you spend so much time on a set, and then people whip themselves into a frenzy, strip themselves down to their underwear, start dry-humping the ground, MySpacing 50 times, and then you’re, like, ‘Yes, this is it,’" Jorritsma explains.

Let’s hope Dos Mutantes has the same effect. *


With 16 Bitch Pile-up and Bulbs

Fri/2, 9:30 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923



Feeling the spirit


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

Yeah, I was a club kid once. It’s a bit of a blur, but somehow somewhere in the ’90s I went from punk and indie to baggy pants and glow sticks in the flick of a switch. I put away my Fall records and picked up endless white-label 12-inches and compilation CDs with titles like Ultimate Techno Explosion. Or something to that effect. Like I said, it’s a blur. I remember the dancing, though — suddenly my punk ass liked to shake! It’s a shame most of my indie friends chose to stay behind, but this was the ’90s. In those days, never the twain shall meet….

It’s now a full decade later, and — finally! — the indie kids are cutting loose without fear of bruising their street cred, thanks to artists such as the Rapture, !!!, and LCD Soundsystem. Turns out rock and dance music don’t have to be mutually exclusive terms. Need further proof? Take Austin’s finest ambassadors of electropunk mania, Ghostland Observatory. The duo — composed of vocalist-guitarist Aaron Behrens and keyboardist-drummer Thomas Ross Turner — whip up a mighty frenzy of swaggering rawk bravado and delirious vocal acrobatics delivered with a come-hither fluster over sweltering beds of booty-bouncing beats. Music for getting hot and bothered, certainly — or maybe songs for unleashing demons. Take your pick.

"We’re two entirely different people," Turner says, chuckling, over the phone from the Texas capital, in explanation of how their quite dissimilar influences have coalesced into the flipped disco of 2005’s delete.delete.i.eat.meat and last year’s Paparazzi Lightning (both Trashy Moped Recordings). "Aaron’s more into the rock showman thing — people like Prince and Freddie Mercury. For me, Daft Punk pretty much are my heroes — they got me into electronic music and club culture. That’s where we’re each coming from."

They might be coming from different places, but their destination is clearly shared, as evidenced on Paparazzi Lightning. Picture an evening of unbridled debauchery — one in which a club night teeters on the brink of collapse — condensed into 35 frantic minutes, and you’re on your way to understanding the Ghostland Observatory vision. Behrens can clearly work a room into whatever mood he sees fit, whether through stomping and yowling with wanton glee on the thundering "All You Rock and Rollers" and "Ghetto Magnet," or the seething taunts of "Move with Your Lover." Meanwhile, Turner effortlessly guides us on the emotional travelogue of a never-ending night, flashing away with the urgency of red-carpet paparazzi as he peppers the album with synth shrieks, squelches, and Daft Punk–worthy rhythms.

Asked about their live shows, Turner gives fair warning: "It’s really nonstop. We just give and give until everybody’s wiped out and goes home." All right, indie rockers and club kids — you heard the man. Better start stocking up on energy drinks. *


With Honeycut, the Gray Kid, and Landshark

March 3, 9 p.m., $15


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880