Electronic Music

Scene: Bersa Discos hits the bueno


Here’s an interview with new-cumbia whizzes Bersa Discos — on the eve of their party Tormenta Tropical’s first anniversary this Friday at the The Elbo Room — as published in this week’s Scene: The Guardian Guide to Nightlife and Glamour magazine, on stands inside the Guardian…

“The reception to our sound has been amazing here,” says new-style cumbia pioneer DJ Oro11 — who, along with partner DJ Disco Shawn, heads the Bersa Discos label (www.myspace.com/bersadiscos) and puts on the packed Tormenta Tropical monthlies at Elbo Room. “A place like the Bay Area is a perfect spot for new cumbia sounds to take hold. People here are always looking for new music, plus there’s obviously a huge Latino population. A lot of younger Latinos who grew up hearing cumbia also listened to hip-hop and electronic music. They’re really into what we’re doing.”

Cumbia, the irresistible traditional accordion-driven dance music of Latin America (originally from Colombia), has undergone a mutation of sorts, opening up to include electronic augmentation, hip-hop beats, and even punk styles. The new iteration has taken hold in clubs like the cutting-edge Zizek, in Buenos Aires, where Oro11 was living and performing when Disco Shawn sought him out in 2006 for a taste of the electro-cumbia sound. The two returned to San Francisco, their home base, to form the Bersa Discos label as a kind of sonic nexus. “DJs and producers were selling burned CDs and swapping MP3s, but nothing was very organized at the time,” says Disco Shawn. “We just wanted to get some of these amazing tracks pressed up on vinyl and circulated a little more officially.”

Bersa Discos is now on its fourth release, titled, appropriately, Bersa #4 and featuring Afro-Colombian-tinged tracks by Brooklyn’s Uproot Andy and deeper sounds from the Netherlands’ Sonido del Principe. And the Tormenta Tropical party has seen legends like DJ/Rupture, South Rakkas Crew, Buraka Som Sistema, Toy Selectah, and even the Zizek folks burn up the stage. Shawn says to keep a 2k9 ear out for DJ Panik’s Texan “crunk cumbia.” Meanwhile, UK “bashment” crew the Heatwave hop in Dec. 19 to enliven the party’s first anniversary.

SFBG What originally attracted you to the new cumbia style?

ORO11 I first got into cumbia in 2001 while I was in Buenos Aires — the same time that the Argentine economy was collapsing. Kids were still heading to the clubs all night, but as a whole the music was pretty unimpressive. Lots of ’80s, trance, Ramones, and Rolling Stones — seriously, whole subcultures based on those last two. But one day I caught a Sunday TV variety show called Pasion Tropical that had the group Pibes Chorros on. Those dudes were repping heavy keyboard-guitars, long hair, and skull tees. They had a different sound that grabbed me, meaner than most cumbia I had heard. So I started tracking down their mixes, chopping up their samples, and making cumbia remixes with dancehall and hip-hop thrown in. Guys like Marcelo Fabian, Villa Diamante, Sonido Martines, and Daleduro were messing with cumbia too. So we started linking up, throwing parties together. Shawn and I met not too long after and started throwing the idea of Bersa Discos around.

SFBG What are some of your most memorable Tormenta Tropical experiences?

DISCO SHAWN It’s all been amazing. But the best thing has been getting to play with artists whose music I was already a fan of. The crowd has also been great. It’s totally mixed — Latino cumbia diehards, hipsters, dancehall heads, etc. Even better, people are really into dancing. Most of the time we’re playing songs that people don’t know — most of the songs are in Spanish, so a good portion of the crowd may not even understand the language — yet everyone goes crazy on the dance floor. It’s really nice because we’re not slaves to playing any sort of “hits.”

SFBG Drop a new cumbia top five on us.

ORO11 How about these?

Petrona Martinez, “La Vida Vale la Pena (Uproot Andy Remix)”
Los Rakas, “Esa Mulata”
El Guincho, “Kalise (Frikstailers Remix)”
DJ Panik, “Gettin’ Some Head”
BananaClipz featuring MC TIDAL, “Bluetooth Riddim”

With the Heatwave and Paul Devro
Fri/19, 10 p.m., $10
Elbo Room
647 Valencia, SF
(415) 552-7788

Demon Days without end


Like science fiction, techno can elicit automatic cringes when dropped as a descriptor in mixed company. Haters give explanations that aren’t really explanations — much like vocabulary that doesn’t add up to an argument: it’s repetitive, boring, either icy and alienating or overblown and dramatic, frequently both at once. It’s a weird scene. They seem to use drugs in a way that’s both corny-sensual and ego-destroying. Ironically — though, in our irony-saturated discourse, the word may be redundant — with the arrival of digital ubiquity, techno is remarkable not for its insistence on a placeless, distanceless future, but on space, duration, history, and a certain quality of experience and memory that seems purged from the hyper-compressed torrent of pre-nostalgized bloghouse jams.

You can’t say Carl Craig’s name without the word "techno" slipping out of your mouth. As part of Detroit’s second wave of techno producers, he refined and extended the future-shock innovation of Juan Atkins’ and Richard Davis’ work as Cybotron under a number of monikers. Now an expat living in Berlin, Craig most recently released — under his own name and excluding this year’s remix compilation, Sessions (Studio !K7) — 1997’s More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art on his own Planet E label. Demon Days, a roving club night that Craig has been hosting since 2005 with New York’s DJ Gamall — better known as the guy who runs PR agency Backspin and a former member of Genesis P-Orridge’s postindustrial pranksters Psychic TV — offers a partial explanation of what else he’s been up to in the interim.

Even if Craig had remained silent after the release of More Songs instead of cranking out remixes and collaborations, his reputation would be secure: neither dance music nor trad techno, its tracks build and decay with patience and attention to nuance that’s still unlike anything this side of Berlin’s Basic Channel. And like that group’s work, More Songs‘ futurism hasn’t curdled into camp, and its moods are still penetrable, if odd at first. Despite the abundance of paramilitary imagery in 1990s techno — a tradition that traces back to Throbbing Gristle’s marriage of brutality and abject satire, an early influence on both Craig and Gamall — the album’s cover art literally explicates Craig’s vision of revolution as a basically a mental one. It’s unmistakably a home-listening record, much like this year’s Deutsche Grammophon-approved Recomposed, which appropriately finds Craig collaborating with Basic Channel’s Moritz Von Oswald, reworking orchestral pieces by Ravel and Mussorgsky into tentative, if fleetingly brilliant, new configurations that exist somewhere between minimal techno and the classical minimalism of Steve Reich, Terry Riley, et al.

Little if any of this material is likely to make it into Craig’s or Gamall’s set, which will probably highlight electro-historical bangers, their own remixes, and forthcoming releases from Planet E. But considering the general availability of the means of electronic music production — your cracked Ableton Live setup or the Roland TR-303 bass synth you downloaded to your iPhone — the fact that these guys know how pacing, thoughtfulness, and lineage inform, rather than detract, from body-rocking, their sets should act as a reminder. That is to say, you can come to engage with the tradition within techno that remains autonomous from the auto-nostalgic, meta-authentic economy of bloghouse/indie — or you can come to just dance.

This is electro music without hipster runoff’s signature, meaning-void stamp, "///miss u//." The omissions in their sets, not to mention an utter lack of MP3s, should be enough to make you think twice before unloading another mash-up on the world or listening to Justice’s wack Fabric mix. There is another world, people, and while it doesn’t escape being flawed, stupid, and fatally self-conscious like the indie-bred one that seems to control the Internet, you can at least pour your enthusiasms into this one without worrying about backlash. (Brandon Bussolini)


With Carl Craig, Space Time Continuum, and Gamall

Thurs/11, 10 p.m., $14 advance


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880




› superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO Blue! Red! Yellow! Green! Indigo Girls! (Ew.) This column is on a serious ’90s flashback trip lately — as is the city’s nightlife: witness delightfully grungeful monthly Debaser’s climb to the top of the club charts (www.myspace.com/debaser90s) — dipping its toes into the perilous VH-1 waves of Clintonia. But hardly that icky! My last installment caught up with primal ravers Tribal Funk, and this time around I’m jumping with joy in my silk-tasseled plaid bolero jacket for the 13th anniversary celebration of protean party promoters Blasthaus at Mighty, with techno heartthrob headliners Matthew Dear and Ryan Elliot, a supporting cast of stellar local talent including my DJ crush of the mo’ Nikola Baytala (call me!) a bouncy castle, a sushi bar, and a foot-washer.

Yep, foot-washer.

"His name’s Shrine, and he likes to wash feet. So why not?" breathy Blasthaus Supreme Commander — actual title — Monika Bernstein told me over the phone. That’s a little burner for Blasthaus, whose parties tend to focus more on a dedicated dance vibes than sideshow shenanigans, but no one said they ain’t got dirty sole.

When I think of Blasthaus, I feel the swirly suck of 1998 and its raucous PoP all-nighter at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, inaugurating the neon-sprawling Keith Haring retrospective there. I popped three shitty e’s too many and somehow got locked upstairs in the darkened galleries while thousands raged in the atrium below. I don’t remember much beyond that, but Keith says "hi." Also the Watchmen are real.

Blasthaus is anything but stuck in the era of dial-up modems, though, staying true to founder William Linn’s forward-thinking production intent when he named the nascent collective after Weimar-era German fine-art factory Bauhaus, with a hands-in-the-air wink. The company now employs 30 staffers — "We’re like a buzzing virtual hive of little party elves," Bernstein said, laughing — and not a week’s gone by this past year without a Blasthaus shindig bringing in big underground and not-so-underground names. Glitch Mob, Modeselektor, Ellen Allien, Sascha Funke, and Richie Hawtin have all brought sparkly star-fire to its gigs, as well as longtime party partners — break out the Internet boom bubbly — Thievery Corporation, who’ll be headlining the Haus’ New Year’s Eve blast at the Concourse.

"We bring in who we listen to," Bernstein said, "so we’re just as excited about our parties as the people attending them. And a big part of our aesthetic is the art aspect" — Blasthaus has run several galleries, from Joypad to Rx to BoCA, and there’s something arty on the horizon for 2k9 — "so we think of our parties as forms of expression, not just bottom lines. Otherwise, why bother?" They could just bring in DJ Tiësto and retire.


Fri/12, 9 p.m., $15 advance


119 Utah, SF

(415) 762-0151




Holy crap, dubstep’s still happening. In fact, it’s getting bigger, like a blimp on laughing gas, but with polka-dotted clown feet. Which is surely how anyone who’s heard Coki’s 2007 low-frequency smash "Spongebob" has felt, me included. Coki and Mala, a.k.a. Digital Mystikz, will be melting the woofers at Dubclash Volume II, the excellent all-star dubstep clusterfuck (in a very good way) with "US Ambassador of Dubstep" Joe Nice, Sgt. Pokes, and other up-to-the-nanosecond bass purveyors. This is a heart-pounding chance to get a West Coast taste of Brixton, UK’s much-buzzed positivity-centric DMZ party by way of our very own Surefire dubstep crew. Volume II at Mezzanine is an upgrade on this year’s capacity Dubclash parties at Jelly’s, with much more bounce to the ounce.

Sat/13, 9 p.m., $15–$25. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. (415) 625-8880, www.mezzaninesf.com, www.sfdubstep.com



I write so much about gay stuff that you’d think my keyboard’s made of fuschia Spandex, and yet the big queer story of 2008 was all the vibrant lesbian nightlife. In particular, the Diamond Daggers, an all-queer-women troupe of vaudevillians, has been putting on spectacularly entertaining offbeat affairs. Grab your golden lasso and get ho-ho happy at their Holiday Roundup, which invites all "Calamity Janes, ranch hands, bronco busters, and rodeo queens" to a Wild West-themed hoedown, with DJ Fairy Butch, live ruckus from the Whoreshoes, and more kooky cowpoke drag and cabaret performers than you can spur on without messing your spangles.

Sat/20, 9 p.m., $12–$20 sliding scale. Fat City, 314 11th St., SF. (415) 525-4676, www.diamonddaggers.com

Super Ego: Cassy takes Kontrol


By Marke B.

Clubwise, this is an absoschmutely luverly weekend to catch up on your real house music education. Representing the actual, incredible old school is the Godfather of House (and the sqwonky inventor of acid) himself, Marshall Jefferson, moving your body at the steamy B.O.D.Y.H.E.A.T. party at Elbo Room on Friday, Dec. 5. Marshall recently brought it into the new a little with his smash Mushrooms, remixed by SF’s own goofy-minimal darling Justin Martin — which was nice after what seemed too many years of silence from the master.

But he didn’t bring it exactly up to the minute, into the realms of underground German microhouse — for that, I gaily urge you to hit up one of my most favorite minimal techno clubs, Kontrol at the Endup, to catch perennially poignant Perlon records’ Cassy at work this Saturday, Dec. 6.

Cassy, oh! Photo by Marietta Kesting

I still don’t know if I believe in microhouse — which to my fuzzy, broken ears often just sounds like minimal techno with a very few softer sounds and soul samples thrown in. But I get that it’s the proud polar opposite of the usual overproduced house bombast, even if it can sometimes lean dangerously close to trance at times, albeit barebones, non-carnival trance. Not that there’s anything wrong with trance, but there kind of is.

In any case, Berlin native Cassy’s on it with some fierce sets of deep-cutting suavity, and Kontrol’s booth will see some much-appreciated female power. Its dance floor, however, will be as dark and fantastic as always. The Berlin invasion continues!

Cassy at Hamburg’s Camp 77 party

Cassy at the 2008 Detroit Electronic Music Festival

Holiday Guide 2008: Seasonal sounds


› culture@sfbg.com

Thanks to the continued explosion of musically-oriented Web sites and blogs, you’ll probably be even more inundated than usual this year with "best of 2008" lists come January 2009 — far too late for your tuneful shopping needs. So we’re cranking one out early, organized by affinity groups — some slightly imaginary, some more concrete — in an attempt to cut through the loud hype and scattered bombast while amping up your gift-giving options. At the end is a suggested list of delectable upcoming live shows, if you’re more ticket-oriented.


Electronic music is a good example of how griping about the state of a scene can sometimes release unexpected creativity. Syclops, nominally a Finnish fusion trio, is the latest we’ve heard from Maurice Fulton since his quasi-breakthrough electro-spazz project Mu. I’ve Got My Eye on You is the longest in a line of pretty epic wins for the label DFA and for electronic music generally: radiating out from "Where’s Jason’s K," the 10 tracks that make up the album tear ass from pharma’d-out Detroit techno to dreamy, lush deep space jazz.

Also: Shed‘s Shedding the Past (Ostgut Tonträger) if your giftee’s the type who longs for the halcyon days of high minimal glitch; Nôze, Songs on the Rocks (Get Physical) if his or her affection for tech house precision is matched only by a love of closing-time sing-alongs and Waitsian growls.


It would be hard to write enough about "Black Rice," the best song on Canadian indie quartet Women‘s self-titled debut on Jagjaguwar. Starting from an absurdly unambitious guitar line, the song blossoms into something wildly and fiercely beautiful. It could be the impossible falsetto of the chorus, or the way the rhythm section comes unglued from the vocals and guitar, but the song condenses what makes the rest of the album — noisy, lo-fi interludes and all — so engaging. Everything seems held together provisionally on a song like the heartrending "Shaking Hand," but the chorus snaps into place with rubber-banded eagerness.

Also: Abe Vigoda‘s Skeleton (PPM) for its irrepressible youthful longing and controlled thrash; Benoît Pioulard‘s Temper (Kranky) for twining the threads of noise and surprisingly pretty, almost adult-contemporary songwriting into a neither/nor album that’s perfect for gray days.


Although more structured than anything they’ve done before, Saint Dymphna (Social Registry), the newest long player from New York’s mystical vibe crew Gang Gang Dance, still arrives packed with the otherworldliness that characterized its excellent predecessor, God’s Money (Social Registry, 2005). Three years in the making, the album itself is nothing if not well paced: the transitions between songs and the gradual build of rhythmic energy make it less kin to trad rock albums than to DJ mixes. When the swells crest, as on "First Communion" and "House Jam," electronic gurgles and processed sounds that might otherwise sound like trying too hard are transformed into pure pith: they’re as inviting and faceted as a just-split pomegranate.

Also: Paavoharju‘s Laulu Laakson Kukista (Fonal), since these Finnish folksters cover the dance floor with silt on "Kevätrumpu," bust some desperate torch techno on "Uskallan," and spend a number of other tracks sounding stuck between pagan classical radio and deteriorating field recordings; Rings is a trio of new primitives formerly known as First Nation — on Black Habit (Paw Tracks), the outfit sounds like it’s gotten into the Slits’ basements and started making music dictated from beyond.


A DJ mix that stands alone as an album is a rare thing, but leave it to Jace Clayton, a.k.a. DJ/rupture, to make one, as he has with Uproot (Agriculture). Deeply, er, rooted in the bass plate tectonics of dubstep and cut with the finest in eclectic samples, ranging from experimentalist Ekkehard Ehlers to lazer bass don Ghislain Poirier, Uproot rolls deep with dubbed-out ambience, but DJ/rupture is just as happy to turn things upside down, as when he plunks down Ehlers’ gorgeous string loop, "Plays John Cassavetes, Pt. 2," around the mix’s halfway point. And if bangers of the future don’t sound like "Gave You All My Love (Matt Shadetek’s I Gave You All My Dub Remix)," which subs out dub’s organic space for Fisher-Price primary-color contrasts that split the brain evenly in two, I’m not sure it’s a future worth living in.

Also: for the more historically minded, Ragga Twins have released Step Out! (Soul Jazz), a retrospective that collects the work of a duo widely considered to be the inventors of that dubstep ancestor, jungle; Tank Thong Mixtape (Weaponshouse) by Megasoid happens to be free, so spend some money on a nice CD-R, decorate it with glitter, and watch exasperation turn to glee when your loved one blows out his or her speakers with this beast.


One of the year’s most life-affirming releases comes from a band called Fucked Up; its Chemistry of Common Life (Matador) is grounded in hardcore, and has hardness to spare, but makes its biggest impact when it lets a flute solo emerge from the tempest. With his basso profundo growl, singer Pink Eyes can sound like he’s gargling hot dogs, and harnessed to a song like "Black Albino Bones," with its cooing melody — the closest thing to pop the seven-year-old band has attempted — it makes for an unexpectedly moving juxtaposition. But the group’s real skill comes from mining the void left after the tribal affiliations of high school fall away; "Twice Born"<0x2009>‘s refrain, "Hands up if you think you’re the only one," could be the year’s Miranda July–esque rallying cry.

Also: if you’re wondering what Mick Barr’s been up to post-Ocrilim, the short answer, witnessed on Krallice‘s Krallice (Profound Lore) is black metal; Peasant (Level Plane), an all-encompassing slab of darkness by Baton Rouge–based Thou, is closer to trad sludge than to the transcendent drone of Sunn 0))), but no less impressively bleak.


The holiday season is not always a great time for shows (other than several Nutcracker incarnations), but for folks who want to gift live music this year there are plenty of sonic distractions. On the heels of Everybody (Thrill Jockey), its latest bout of sophisticated jazz rock, the eternally springlike Sea and Cake will make an appearance at Great American Music Hall just in time to counteract your seasonal affective disorder (Dec. 2, 8 p.m., $20). Sebastien Tellier rolls with the Daft Punk posse, so it’s no surprise that his music marries spot-on genre mimicry and a native sense of melody; check out the video for "Divine," in which the Beach Boys–meet–Lio jam turns into a global karaoke marathon of Tellier doppelgängers (Mezzanine, Dec. 4, 9 p.m., $15). There’s no rest for local workhorses Tussle and Jonas Reinhardt — they’ll be bringing their peculiar hot-cold takes on krauty electronics to the Hemlock Tavern (Dec. 6, 9:30 p.m., $7). And even if her music is not your cup of tea, Aimee Mann’s 3rd Annual Christmas Show should be a nice shot of seasonality in a city that tends to avoid big displays of Christmas spirit; consider it a good sign that Patton Oswalt, the stand-up comedian most deserving of your attention, will take part (Bimbo’s, Dec. 7, 8 p.m., $40). His looks call to mind a peripheral character from The Catcher in the Rye, and his preternaturally gentle music is specially designed not to hurt babies’ ears, but the earnest beauty of Jonathan Richman‘s songs might pierce your heart (Great American Music Hall, Dec. 7, 8 p.m., $15). Bearing a post-hardcore pedigree like whoa, San Francisco’s own Crime in Choir moves gracefully beyond its members’ backgrounds — At the Drive-In, the Fucking Champs — into (surprise!) instrumental prog territory (Hemlock Tavern, Dec. 13, 9:30 p.m., $6). *

Click here for more Holiday Guide 2008.

Jonas Reinhardt


He doesn’t seem like someone who’d perform at an arena, but Jesse Reiner’s aural ambitions as a contemporary Krautrocker are Wembley-sized. "I would love it if we were playing in stadiums," he says of his solo synthesizer project, Jonas Reinhardt, citing no interest in celebrity but expressing a deep amazement at the apparent scale of Tangerine Dream’s gigs in the ’70s. "They were a big band! It amazes me that people had that much patience for that."

This amazement folds neatly into Reiner’s shimmery present-day endeavor, which only recently, with the advent of Norwegian space-disco and the West Coast’s various strands of tripped ambient, did he feel might draw any audience at all. It’s clearly a liberating undertaking for the Berlin School enthusiast: much of our conversation at a bar in the Mission is gladly given over to his influences, ranging from Klaus Dinger’s caveman-like "motorik" drum sound in Neu! to the heavenly, droning thrum of White Rainbow up in Portland, Ore. Many may know Reiner for his synth and guitar contributions to Ascended Master, Crime in Choir, and Citay, which he left earlier this year. While his first record for Kranky as Jonas Reinhardt is deeply influenced by German electronic sounds, the project in no way sounds like a non sequitur alongside his other bands.

It was some time ago — the mid-’90s — when Reiner was won over by analog synths as a college student, discovering such electronic/ambient innovators as Michael Garrison, Klaus Schulze, and Manuel Göttsching. He and a friend entertained the idea of making a record they could pass off as a lost recording by two imaginary Düsseldorf academics: "Wilhelm Freuder" and "Jonas Reinhardt."

The moniker has become useful again as a vaguely defined face for the launch of this new project. As Reiner describes it, Reinhardt is a "suave European guy who makes very continental, European-type electronic music and lives in Monaco." Goofy as the premise is, placing the project’s image at a remove from the actual musicians behind it has proven appropriate, as Jonas Reinhardt is a solo endeavor in the loosest sense of the word: performances have happened as a trio with Damon Palermo of Mi Ami on drums and Kenny Hopper, also of Crime in Choir, on bass. Just recently, the band took on a fourth member in guitarist Phil Manley of Trans Am and the Fucking Champs, who provided tape treatments for the project’s debut, which Reiner recorded himself.

The full-length, Reinhardt’s second release after this summer’s Modern by Nature’s Reward EP on iTunes, is a shiny, cerebral pleasure where the synths hiss and gleam through a set of tunes that often feels as improbably bubbly and vintage as Matmos’ recent all-synth undertaking, Supreme Balloon (Matador). There is grit to the Reinhardt beat, however, and its sound takes on a more danceable form live, as could be seen at its YouTube-d Big Sur appearances, the first of which was an after-party gig for Kraut legends Cluster. Basic tracks have begun for the next record, which Reiner predicts will be more beat-driven. For a fictional character, Reinhardt is quite eager to collaborate, too: Reiner hopes to record various "Jonas Reinhardt and So ‘n’ So" discs in the coming months and years.

The Cutting Ball Theater


If you were at the latest Cutting Ball show, avantgardARAMA!, you entered a theater that looked like an art installation, already buzzing and flickering with video images on a screen suspended in front of a shimmering mirror-box set, accompanied by a soundtrack of voices and droning tones. It was like some serenely wicked room in a purgatorial funhouse, where all you’ve been and all you might become could be reflected at you, from every possible angle, ad infinitum. As it turned out, it was an environment perfectly suited to the material sharply staged that evening: three short experimental plays on war, power, and betrayal by three women writers — Gertrude Stein, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Eugenie Chan — whose bold narrative loops and lacunae literally rebounded off the walls.

The stylish, jarring, exhilarating effect: our sleepwalking world was dramatically distilled into fractal-like figures that somehow made it real again. This is the oblique strategy of the Cutting Ball Theater, a passionately intelligent and skillful company with a declared commitment to poetic truths over superficial naturalism.

As it approaches its 10-year milestone, Cutting Ball transitions from dogged itinerancy into luxurious residency at Exit on Taylor, a satellite stage of the Exit Theater complex in the Tenderloin. Much as a ball rolls forward by turning full circle, the move marks something of a return for the company, which launched its career in a production of Richard Foreman’s My Head Was a Sledgehammer at the Exit-sponsored San Francisco Fringe Festival in 1999.

"That was the last time you had to stand outside at 3 in the morning and camp out," associate artistic director and actor Paige Rogers recalls of that time, before the Fringe established its lottery system. Rogers, and husband and artistic director Rob Melrose, established both the company and a family that year, more or less simultaneously. Melrose did the camping out and rehearsed the play by night at an Alameda Catholic school where Rogers was teaching music.

(As with many a start-up theater, overlapping accommodations was the name of the tune: when the school’s principal expressed surprise at happening upon a late-night rehearsal of Foreman’s madcap dream-world in the kindergarten, Rogers deflected further inquiry by joyfully announcing, "Marilyn! I’m pregnant!")

Cutting Ball has mixed new plays and "re-visioned" classics ever since. The visual metaphor is apt since Cutting Ball productions are nothing if not strikingly designed. For years, the company has had a talented core of collaborators that includes designers Heather Basarab (lights), Cliff Caruthers (sound and electronic music), and Michael Locher (sets). Together in close collaboration with the astute, Yale-trained Melrose, they regularly produce some of the best designs to be found on any Bay Area stage, large or small. Add artistic associates like playwrights Kevin Oakes (2003’s The Vomit Talk of Ghosts) and Eugenie Chan (whose A Bone to Pick was a highlight of this theater season), as well as dependably strong acting from Rogers, Felicia Benefield, Chad Deverman, David Sinaiko, and David Westley Skillman, among others, and you have the makings of some great small theater.

The new residency marks another return. Its ninth season will be inaugurated by a rarely staged early play by Eugène Ionesco, Victims of Duty, a work Melrose says he’s waited 15 years to direct. Centering on the abrupt crisis-ridden invasion of a bourgeois couple’s placid bubble-world and their equally staid conceptions of theatrical art, Victims is a fever-dream of a play that not only sounds strikingly contemporary but echoes the company’s own MO. When theater "holds the mirror up to the world," it’s often the warped glass that furnishes the truest picture.


Future present


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

"I remember in the beginning I used to fuck around and not care about anything at all," says Steven Ellison, who records under the guise Flying Lotus. "But now it’s, like, Thom Yorke likes my music, dog. Now I think, oh shit, will Thom like this beat?"

It must be a happy conundrum to wonder if one of the world’s biggest rock stars will like your new song. Tinkering around his studio in Winnetka, a sleepy suburb in the San Fernando Valley, Flying Lotus works on a long-distance project with Burial. When he’s done, he’ll send the track over to the United Kingdom for the junglist producer to tweak. News of Flying Lotus collaborating with Burial, two of electronic music’s freshest new stars, will probably make some fans smile with pleasure. From Radiohead’s Yorke and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow — who recently noted in an interview with Remix that Flying Lotus makes "pure, mad music" — to the beat heads who ravenously scoop up any new Lotus material, everyone seems to love FlyLo.

So how did Flying Lotus become the so-called Chosen One? Los Angeles teems with a renaissance of kindred spirits. Carlos Niño (whose range includes Gaby Hernandez’s progressive folk valentine When Love [Armed Orphan] and Lil Sci’s rap treatise What’s the Science? [Shaman Work]), Daedelus (who blends early 1990s zoo rave with film soundtrack compositions) and Nobody (whose Nobody Presents Blank Blue: Western Water Music Vol. II [Ubiquity] eyes ’60s-ish psychedelic pop) all use electronic music as a starting point for forays into various genres.

Andrew Meza, who hosts BTS Radio on CSU-Fullerton and was an early champion of Flying Lotus, compares the scene to the vaunted "New Hollywood" wave of American directors in the early ’70s. "It’s a really small group of people doing really cool things," he says. In his opinion, Flying Lotus stands out in part because of his studio techniques. Although the artist records in a bedroom, his music sounds as polished as a major label product.

"People used to say this about Dilla — and I’m in no way comparing him to Dilla — that [when he finished beats] it sounded like everything was already EQ’ed and mastered," Meza says. "With [Lotus], his shit seems so much louder and bass-y."

Now, as a leader of the flourishing beat movement, Flying Lotus has launched a digital label, Brainfeeder, to issue projects from like-minded friends such as Samiyam and Ras G. To promote the label, he’s throwing a Brainfeeder Festival Nov. 8 at 103 Harriet St.

The best music often sounds like everything and nothing before it. Flying Lotus’ work evokes comparisons to J Dilla and Madlib and fits neatly into flavor-of-the-moment trends like 8-bit and dubstep, yet it is also excitingly unique. He utilizes standard bedroom production equipment, including a MacBook Pro and a Novation 25 MIDI controller, to make hauntingly fluid and improvisatory sounds. "My whole setup is probably less than a couple of Gs, man," he says by phone from Winnetka.

He samples other people’s work, then renders the sounds so unrecognizable he often can’t remember what they originally were. On Los Angeles (Warp), Flying Lotus pays homage to his late aunt, the great jazz pianist and harpist Alice Coltrane, by appropriating material from her 1968 debut, A Monastic Trio (Impulse!), for "Auntie’s Harp." "I tried my best to transform all the harp stuff so it didn’t sound like the original, but still had the essence," Flying Lotus says. "SexSlaveShip" builds on a more obscure source: ambient/acoustic folk artist Matthew David’s Spills (Plug Research). Another track, "GNG BNG," draws inspiration from DJ Shadow’s breakbeat experiments of the late ’90s.

As a result, Los Angeles, released in June, is part modern-day homage to California’s holistic vibes and progressive utopianism, and part science-fiction film, making for an arresting future present. "It’s the classic hero’s journey kind of thing, basically a story like a film," Flying Lotus says, adding that the movie that initially inspired him was Ridley Scott’s classic 1982 dystopia Blade Runner. "It’s the soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist."

The recording’s mood ranges from the deeply reflective vibes of "Golden Diva" to the steel drum-speckled techno funk of "Parisian Goldfish." There are a few vocal pieces on Los Angeles, particularly the lushly sensuous "RobertaFlack" with Turkish artist Ahu "Dolly" Keleslogu, whom Flying Lotus met online. For the most part, however, its liquid hip-hop instrumentals sing louder than words. As FlyLo puts it, "I wanted to make music that didn’t need a voice."

With Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer, Kode 9, Hudson Mohawke, Ras G, Samiyam, Kutmah, and Martyn
Nov. 8, 9 p.m., $15 advance
103 Harriet, SF

Cosmic backlash


> johnny@sfbg.com

Everyone agrees that disco is alive and proliferating. But is it devolving from au courant status into something that deserves the 21st century version of a stadium vinyl bonfire? Genres are vague in the realm of electronic music, and disco has become almost as ubiquitous and generic an overarching tag as techno. The neo-disco banner now stretches from the Fire Island revivalism of Hercules and Love Affair, and Escort to the cosmic expeditions of Lindstrom and his disciples. Clearly, it must be made of something synthetic.

Between the flaming diva pageantry of Hercules and the heterosexual prog geekery of Hans-Peter, one finds the languid romantic intellectualism of Morgan Geist. In recent interviews, Geist questions contemporary disco’s existence, though his rarity compilation Unclassics (Environ, 2004) and his work with Metro Area have played a major role in its formation. Yet technically speaking, he’s right. His new Double Night Time (Environ) kicks off with "Detroit," where instead of disco, the North American home of techno is evoked. Still, austerity aside, "Detroit" is a techno track as much as it’s a disco track, meaning not very. It is new romantic: an effete little brother of butch post-punk and femme disco, with a Motor City radio DJ heart that belongs to Mike Halloran as much as the Electrifying Mojo.

The late avant-disco pioneer Arthur Russell is often invoked in relation to Geist, but Double Night Time is cooler and more reserved. Guest vocalist Kelley Polar doesn’t croon with the mannered zeal that defines his own 2008 venture away from Metro Area, I Need You to Hold on While the Sky Is Falling (Environ). In fact, he’s hard to differentiate from the album’s other mannered vocalist, Jeremy Greenspan of the Junior Boys. While Russell’s music is cerebral, his tenor never seems detached. In contrast, when Greenspan declares that he wants to cry during "Most of All," it comes across as a come-on. That doesn’t mean it isn’t seductive, though, and Geist’s chiming sound reaches a chilly peak on the low-key yet bravura relationship post-op "Ruthless City."

Lindstrom’s first proper solo album — after a compilation, and a full-length collaboration with Prins Thomas — is a different neo-disco creature. Whereas Geist presents nine pop-inflected compositions in less than 50 minutes, Where You Go I Go Too (Smalltown Supersound) stretches three tracks to nearly an hour. Where exactly does Lindstrom go on the 29-minute title track? To my ears, he disappears into a Tangerine Dream and reemerges as Cerrone: a whirligig melody that echoes the motif of Cerrone’s 1978 disco classic "Supernature" adds whimsy to wave upon wave of arpeggio. But what do I know? One local music shop detractor has compared Lindstrom’s latest to the sounds of Paul Lekakis, the actor-model-vocalist who brought the world "Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back to My Room)."

On Hatchback’s Colours of the Sun (Lo Recordings), San Francisco’s Sam Grawe steers clear of any Lekakis-isms, though arpeggio for arpeggio, there’s a definite Lindstrom-on-ludes feel to the penultimate track, "White Diamond." Hatchback drives right up to the exact spot — a couch at the edge of a dancefloor? — where disco slips off the term cosmic disco. Grawe knows krautrock and cosmiche music inside out, but like his pal Daniel Judd of Sorcerer, he’s at his best crafting soundtracks for cheesy movies that don’t exist but should. "Closer to Forever" is exquisite, and "Jetlag" is a slab of montage funk that could make Harold Faltermeyer jealous and even get David Hasselhoff to stop eating burgers off the floor.

If neo-disco and its cosmic substrata are courting a backlash the size of Paul Lekakis’ glutes, it’s because of an onslaught of opportunistic comps with "space" or "disco" in their titles. Especially when placed in close proximity to one another, those words — along with "Balearic" — are surefire groan inducers. Yet there are always a few exceptions to the rule. One is Cosmic Disco?! Cosmic Rock!!! (Eskimo), a mix co-created by the man who invented cosmic disco, Italian DJ Daniele Baldelli. While it doesn’t approach the euphoria of Baldelli’s 2007 Baia degli Angeli mixes, its strictly ’80s sources — further proof that neo-disco is new romantic — include some eccentric pleasures, especially "Ulster Defense," perhaps the world’s first and only pro-IRA dancefloor anthem.

Likewise, Alexis Le Tan and Jess’ Space Oddities (Permanent Vacation) transcends a generic title through a combo of irreverence and dedication that’s as rare as any of the European library grooves it rediscovers. The bloodless boogie of a track titled "Cloning" is hypnotic. Better still is "Black Safari," an electronic answer to Moondog’s jungle-sound freakout "Big Cat." If a 1977 disco track can cast its net wide enough to capture Moondog and roaring elephants and growling tigers, then surely a 2008 neo-disco track can find a sense of humor within its vast cosmic — or retro-homo — space. In fact, that’s exactly what 21st century disco will require to escape the hipster equivalent of a stadium bonfire. *

Magical madness


He’s bald, his house beats bounce like no others, and he’s blue — at least in the cartoons. British underground producer Mike Monday is taking aim at something more than niche success with his recent signing to San Francisco label Om, but his new album, Songs Without Words, is hardly mainstream house fare. From titles that reference Spongebob Squarepants to track styles that veer from dubstep to 2-step to banging house and back again, Monday keeps listeners off-balance in the best way.

Monday — born Michael Mukhopadhyay — did time at Oxford studying music before heading into the nightlife wilds, as well as playing sax in 1990s live electronic outfit Beat Foundation (his partner Andy Cato went on to form Groove Armada). But Monday is best known for his work on 12-inch singles and songs like "Bhaloboshi," which M.A.N.D.Y. included on its Fabric mix, and "I Dream of Ducks," from his first album, Smorgasboard, released two years ago on the producer’s Playtime imprint. His thick slabs of synths, sparkling production, and springy beats have found homes in both minimal and electro camps with DJs like Claude Von Stroke and Tiefschwarz championing his tunes.

Songs Without Words, however, is not about tools for Technics, even if Monday admits his DJ background influenced not only the song order but the songs themselves. Over the phone from his London home studio — built in a garage in his garden — Monday confides that he tweaked tracks so they worked together, even changing the key to achieve the proper fit. "You can call it an album and have all different sorts of music," he says. "What matters is the pacing and the flow and how it listens from beginning to end. I almost spent as much time wrestling with the [song] order as I did with the music itself."

Despite initial doubts about signing his album to a more commercial label — and a Yankee one at that — Monday overcame his hesitations due to his affection for the people behind Om and his respect for their attempts to release electronic music in more than one genre, an openness that seemed to mirror Songs Without Words‘ breadth. And having more resources behind him has allowed for amusing excursions — such as animated cartoons showcasing flying key-tars, pink cats, and a blue Mike Monday. Produced by Drunk Park, the cartoons are as weird and wacky as Monday’s music. "I really like the idea of not using dour, cool artwork for electronic music," he explains. "Because to be honest, that’s not the type of person I am." (Peter Nicholson)


Sat/4, 10 p.m., $15


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880


SF Electronic Music Festival


PREVIEW Five days, 18 performers, one ensemble, countless cords and magic boxes, and weird sounds times infinity. I mean, hell, if you’ve got an electric current and an instrument (in its broadest interpretation), you may as well use ’em together.

In this spirit, eight Bay Area sound-art wizards have organized the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival for eager electro-lovin’ ears for the ninth year in a row. Could there be a musical gathering more eclectic than this? Not likely. After nearly a decade of tapping into the electro-acoustic grab bag, the lineup is still stretching diversity to new levels, ranging the melodic-discordant gamut from drone to pop and contemporary chamber to industrial and then some. There’ll be internationally renowned pioneers such as sonic meditator Pauline Oliveros, and emerging artists like Oakland’s folklore-inspired pop duo Myrmyr. Many performances feature sfSoundGroup lending its modern improvisational twist. And don’t forget the science-derived computer music and harsh noise, synth-y innovations and rearranged Persian classics, electro-trombone and minimalism by way of New York City. You know you wouldn’t dare argue with an "intense noise artist" named Sharkiface.

SFEMF pummels the boundaries of your deconstructed notions of avant-garde postmodernism, then does it a few more times, till you’re left with the sharpened edge of experimental glinting through the soundwaves. Why not totally saturate your sonic-scape and save a few bucks with the five-day ticket? ‘Cause you love the Moog and the Mac, and for one week, you have it all.

SF ELECTRONIC MUSIC FESTIVALWith Jen Boyd, Monique Buzzarté, Edmund Campion, Clay Chaplin, Ata Ebtekar, Hans Fjellestad, Christopher Fleeger, Phill Niblock, Tujiko Noriko, Carl Stone, Alex Potts, Akira Rabelais, Rutro and the Logs, Ray Sweeten, and Richard Teitelbaum. Wed/3–Sun/7, 8 p.m. (Sat/6 at 7 p.m.), $12–$17 per day; $55 all five days. Project Artaud Theatre, 450 Florida, SF. (415) 626-4370, www.sfemf.org

Dinosaur tattoos are the new tramp stamp: Meet Sam Kehl


Intrepid reporter Justin Juul hits the streets each week for our Meet Your Neighbors series, interviewing the Bay Area folks you’d like to know most.

Sam Kehl is a singer/producer/DJ from Seattle who I randomly met on a camping trip in Morrow Bay. He was wearing a pink hat, a leather jacket, and really really cool sneakers, which was odd because all his friends were decked out in REI gear. Obviously the dude had never been camping before, and I don’t think he’ll ever go again. I mean, a man can drink whiskey and use his shoes for a pillow right here at home can’t he?

I’ve gotten to know Sam pretty well over the past few months and although he may suck at camping, I can say without a doubt that he rules at being weird. Oh and his music is really rad too. Check him out at The Eagle Tavern on August 7th at 10pm where he’ll be performing as both Samuelroy and Samnation. Listen to his tunes here. X-Ray Press and No New York will also be performing.


SFBG: So what’s your deal?
Sam Kehl: Hi, my name is Samuel Kehl. It’s spelled K-E-H-L. So I’m not related to the face products, Kiehl’s, or whatever. Sometimes people put me on flyers and spell my name like the face product. I hate that. Kehl is a German name, but I’m from Seattle.

SFBG: Why did you move to San Francisco?
Kehl: Well, San Francisco has a particular history of being queer and open-minded and there’s always been a lot of electronic music here. Seattle just got boring and I had already lived in New York so I decided to check out SF, mostly for the music.

SFBG: Any bands in particular?
Kehl: Well, I know there’s a lot of really really early experimental stuff here and all those Drum-&-Base people like UFO and DJ Abstract. There are others too, but I can’t remember. And um, Safety Scissors, Eats Tapes. Tiger Beats records. OK, so, not all the people I like are from SF, but I had already done New York and Seattle and I’m petrified of LA, so, well, I came here to do my music.

SFBG: So what’s up with your music anyway? How’d you develop your sound?
Kehl: I’ve been doing music for a really long time and I’ve been deejaying for exactly ten years. I don’t have any musical training, but I had choir and I sang in college. Oh and I played cello too. So I had all these different musical interests and then bands like the Postal Service and The Blow came out and I was like oh God, why don’t I do that? Why don’t I sing and make electronic music? Most of the electronic music that had vocals at that time was really bad. I was more into bands like Plaid and Aphex Twin, and Boards of Canada, like Warp Records stuff, you know? It didn’t really have vocals, but then those other bands came out, and I was like, Oh of course. What the hell? I should do that.

Sound in the balance


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

"Anger is an energy," sang John Lydon in the Public Image Ltd. tune "Rise." San Francisco electronic artist Kush Arora harnesses a similar combustible force in his live shows and on the three full-length recordings that have made him an established club fixture and touring act. "I try to do something different with music and express the frustrations of the youth in this country," says the affable 26-year-old Haight District resident, who performs with Chicago’s MC Zulu July 13 at Dub Mission.

Arora’s ragga-techno fusions have struck a chord with audiences from the Bay Area to New York, while monthly hybrid live/DJ sets at Club Six’s Surya Dub night have earned him a broad audience that includes dubstep heads, bhangra fans, experimental electronic admirers, and grime listeners. It makes sense as the former Montessori School teacher has always balanced different cultures.

Born in San Leandro and educated in Orinda’s leafy suburbs, Arora ingested death metal, punk, and experimental-industrial sounds, as well as his family’s Indian and Punjab music, learning traditional instruments like the single-stringed tumbi and algoze flute. His music experience increased after interning at his uncle Aman Batra’s Manhattan hip-hop studio Sound Illusions, and later working for sound-editing software company Arboretum Systems.

In high school he formed an experimental band called Involution, which he helmed for six years before launching his solo noise project Clairaudience in the early ’00s. But it was while attending a 14-month audio recording course at Emeryville’s Ex’Pressions that he learned a signature skill: recording live vocals. "When I was writing songs for my first album [2004’s Underwater Jihad (Record Label/Kush Arora Productions)], I wasn’t impressed with my own work or where electronic music was at the time. It wasn’t badass enough," explains Arora, who also felt there was a lack of high quality, vocal-based dance music in the Bay.

Soon Arora contacted and tracked stateside Punjabi singers and ragga MCs, including Chicago’s MC Zulu, Trinidad’s Juakali, Jamaica’s N4SA, Los Angeles’ Wiseproof, and San Jose’s Sukh and Sultan. "I wanted to work with people who were dangerous and different, especially vocalists who didn’t fall into their music’s niche or category," Arora says of the often confrontational and political artists he’s recorded on full-lengths like 2006’s Bhang Ragga and 2007’s From Brooklyn to SF, both released on his Kush Arora Productions imprint. The albums brought club bookings far and near.

Over the past several years Arora has played large Indian gatherings, small IDM shows, underground warehouse events, raves, and the monthly Non-Stop Bhangra party in San Francisco. His performance breakthrough happened in 2006 at DJ Sep’s weekly Sunday-night reggae party at the Elbo Room, Dub Mission. "That changed my whole presence in the city," he says.

Arora believes his family’s roots in the often-volatile Punjab region between India and Pakistan breathes through his music. "That’s why I like bhangra. It has an element of aggression and sadness," he reflects, acknowledging that those also are traits he looks for in his vocal collaborations. "The artists I work with have a real tug-of-war between good and evil in their lives. My music is their redemption and my redemption in a fateful balance." *


Dub Mission on Sundays, 9 p.m., $6

(Arora and MC Zulu on July 13, $7)

Elbo Room

647 Valencia, SF


Nine years of everything


› annalee@techsploitation.com

TECHSPLOITATION I’ve been writing this column for nine years. I was here with you through the dot-com boom and the crash. I made fun of the rise of Web 2.0 when that was called for, and screamed about digital surveillance under the USA-PATRIOT Act when that was required (actually, that’s still required). I’ve ranted about everything from obscenity law to genetic engineering, and I’ve managed to stretch this column’s techie mandate to include meditations on electronic music and sexology. Every week I gave you my latest brain dump, even when I was visiting family in Saskatchewan or taking a year off from regular journalism work to study at MIT.

But now it’s time for me to move on. This is my last Techsploitation column, and I’m not going to pretend it’s not a sad time for me. Writing this column was the first awesome job I got after fleeing a life of adjunct professor hell at UC Berkeley. I was still trying to figure out what I would do with my brain when Dan Pulcrano of the Silicon Valley Metro invited me out for really strong martinis at Blondie’s Bar in the Mission District and offered me a job writing about tech workers in Silicon Valley. My reaction? I wrote a column about geeks doing drugs and building insanely cool shit at Burning Man. I felt like the hipster survivalist festival was the only event that truly captured the madness of the dot-com culture I saw blooming and dying all around me. I can’t believe Dan kept me on, but he did.

Since then, my column also found a home in the Guardian and online at Alternet.org, two of the best leftist publications I’ve ever had the honor to work with. I’ve always believed the left needed a strong technical wing, and I’ve tried to use Techsploitation to articulate what exactly it would mean to be a political radical who also wants to play with tons of techie consumerist crap.

There are plenty of libertarians among techie geeks and science nerds, but it remains my steadfast belief that a rational, sustainable future society must include a strong collectivist vision. We should strive to use technologies to form communities, to make it easier for people to help the most helpless members of society. A pure free-market ideology only leads to a kind of oblivious cruelty when it comes to social welfare. I don’t believe in big government, but I do believe in good government. And I still look forward to the day when capitalism is crushed by a smarter, better system where everyone can be useful and nobody dies on the street of a disease that could have been prevented by a decent socialized health care system.

So I’m not leaving Techsploitation behind because I’ve faltered in my faith that one day my socialist robot children will form baking cooperatives off the shoulder of Saturn. I’m just moving on to other mind-ensnaring projects. Some of you may know that I’ve become the editor of io9.com, a blog devoted to science fiction, science, and futurism. For the past six months I’ve been working like a maniac on io9, and I’ve also hired a kickass team of writers to work with me. So if you want a little Techsploitation feeling, be sure to stop by io9.com. We’re there changing the future, saving the world, and hanging out in spaceships right now.

I also have another book project cooking in the back of my brain, so when I’m not blogging about robots and post-human futures, I’m also writing a book-length narrative about, um, robots and post-human futures. Also pirates.

The past nine years of Techsploitation would have been nothing without my readers, and I hope you can picture me with tears in my eyes when I write that. I’ve gotten so many cool e-mails from you guys over the years that they’ve filled my heart forever with glorious, precise rants about free software, digital liberties, sex toys, genetic engineering, copyright, capitalism, art, video games, science fiction, the environment, and the future — and why I’m completely, totally wrong about all of them. I love you dorks! Don’t ever stop ruthlessly criticizing everything that exists. It is the only way we’ll survive.

Annalee Newitz (annalee@techsploitation.com) is a surly media nerd who is slowly working on fixing her broken WordPress install at www.techsploitation.com, so eventually you’ll be able to keep up with her there again.

DEMF: Girl Talk bumrush, Mr. De’s sexy beach, gettin’ Yeke


Marke “too many pills, you’re not 17 anymore” B is at Movement ’08: Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival. Read part one here, and part two here. Apples! Apples everywhere! Downtown Detroit is a laptop orchard. “Mac should really sponsor these things,” said Hunky Beau, freshly arrived on the scene to improve my picture quality. But the answer is that Mac doesn’t have to — those glowing, half-eaten little beauties speak from the booths themselves. girltalka.jpg Oh, that Girl Talk. All pics by David Schnur DEMF’s day 2 was so pleasant it hurt, and the crowd was full of neon-festooned hipsters (they have them here too!) eagerly passing time before new old-school rap duo Cool Kids and sample-happy girly boy Girl Talk hit the the Red Bull stage, which overlooked the Detroit River. We passed the time in the sunny company of the great Mr. De’ featuring Greg C. Johnson, whose “Sex on the Beach” from back in the day is a protobooty classic. The crowd was going nuts — Mr. De’ schooled the “ghetto tech” kids on some real sensuality. mrde2a.jpg Mr. De’ sexing the keyboard mrdea.jpg Greg C. Johnson, pleased Cool Kids gave a predictably stunner set — even calling out to Detroit and pumping some rhymes over ancient electro — and then Girl Talk came on and the crowd went bananas. I’ve never really warmed to the Girl Talk phenomenon. We have great mashup artists in SF, and dropping some Public Enemy over a Toto sample is sooo 2005. Still, the man’s a genius when it comes to party music and self-promotion: who knew all you had to do was post several YouTube vids of kids stage diving off your laptop platform and you could be famous? Well, maybe everybody knows that now, but Girl Talk knew it first. And who am I to argue, even when he dropped his pants and mooned the crowd in his boxers for half his set while he leaned over his equipment. But this year is indubitably Richie Hawtin’s year — despite other hometown giants Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen, and Alton Miller on the roster — so after a few Girl Talk singalongs (oh yes, there was stage-diving) we went over to the Beatport tent to catch the Windsor homeboy in a harder mood tan the previous night, at least until he dropped Mory Kante’s “Yeke Yeke” and the dance floor exploded. richieha.jpg Richie Hawtin: Gettin’ Yeke

DEMF: Moby’s Go-go, Hawtin clogs, DBX shocks ’em, and too high to skate


Detroit native gadabout Marke B. hits Movement ’08: Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival with a handbag full of what-what. Read part one here. The Techno Gods surely had a little laugh on the first (graciously sunny) day of the DEMF. Even though downtown’s sprawling, reinvigorated Hart Plaza on the waterfront – nestled in the shadows of the new casinos pumping serious cash into bigshot pockets and directly opposite the infamous “fist” statue that socks across-the-river Windsor, CA, in the kisser – was brimming with suburban kids and roaming tribes of fun-furred and mohawked candy ravers (love those kids!), and even though Moby (!) headlined, and started his closing DJ set by playing one of his own songs (albeit a remix of his classic “Go”), the old soul of the Detroit underground shone through in quite a few places. (Clarification: Oops my E must have kicked in then. See comment below.) demfdbxa.jpg Waiting for Moby Underground, quite literally. This year, promoter Paxahau Events has reopened the huge concrete-walled basement of the plaza, and has installed the soulful house DJs there, rather than the traditional hardcore noise experimentalists. By two o’clock, heavily muscled dance crews had stripped off their shirts and were throwing down – headspins included – to the sounds of Detroit classicists like Reggie “Hotmix” Harrell and Minx. (That night, freaky Terrence “The Phone Man” Parker and tribal-soulist Stacey Pullen would turn the underground area into a sweaty mass of writhing gay and straight bodies.) upsydaisy.jpg Upside-down to the morning beat demfsteven2a.jpg Terrence Parker hits So much for the house – and notably missing so far this year have been the little independent DJ setups sprouting about the plaza like tiny laptop-vinyl mushrooms – what about the four other stages? What about the techno? The main, video-projected-upon VitaminWater stage, where Moby would later thrash about like a puggle to his electroclash-tinged pop-techno throwbacks, got a slowish start with way-cerebral live sub-dub fractal burbles from local DJ-band hybrid trio nospectacle, which included Jennifer A. Paull, one of the few female knob-twiddlers at the fest. (I went with my fabulous mom, who seemed to be briefly into it.) The stage didn’t really seem to catch fire, though, until Canadian techno purist DBX aka Dan Bell hit the stage in the penultimate slot at 9pm. What Detroit techno used to look like: DBX’s “Electric Shock” from a TV dance show (I think “The Scene” in the late ’80s)

DEMF: Cold techno feet as big fest heats up


Native Detroit gadabout Marke B. hits Movement: The Detroit Electronic Music Festival That thing where you return to your hometown and immediately, or at least on the ride home from the ex-urb airport, begin to feel your former soul flood back into you – old or familiar buildings take on some weightier significance in the fading evening light, new buildings even more. And then you’re hooking up with old friends downtown, smoking a bowl or two, generally reminiscing and catching up, and driving around looking for a party, although you wouldn’t mind if you just stayed in the minivan bopping to 20-year-old Balearic beats and laughing your ass off with your BFFs. train.jpg The grand, abandoned Michigan Central Train Station, two blocks from my Corktown residence in tha D. (Don’t try to throw a party here, you’ll get srsly busted.) All of which is a belabored way of saying that I didn’t get much afterhours in here in Detroit last night, the “official” pre-party night of Movement: The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, now going on nine years. Sure there were big bonanza advertised shindigs – this festival attracts tens of thousands of globe-hopping techno-lovers to the bowels of the Motor City, no mean feat, that – but for me and my SF fairy-dusted baggage none of them grabbed on all night long. That’s OK: where else in the world but here would you find yourself on a dance floor with legendary DJs Juan Atkins and Eddie “Flashin’” Fowlkes — and 20 other people? Their party “The Fuzion of Science & Techno” had moved from the Detroit Science Center to the grand Majestic Theatre at the last minute, due to what I judge to be poor pre-sales. At first that was cause for a little alarm – the Science Center party is a bit of a tradition, and with a line-up that included Theo Parrish, Mike Clark, Kenny Dixon, Jr, and Alton Miller, the lack of draw was a shocker. Plus, the usual tiny panic hits: is techno really dead? Have the “neo-electro faddists,” as Detroit music journalist Hobey Echlin calls them, taken over and relegated soulful tech-house to another early grave? Aw, hell no, it was just midnight on a Friday in downtown Detroit. We were probably way too early, wot.

Cluster klatch: Krautrock poobah Hans-Joachum Roedelius gives it up


By Matt Sussman

Kosmiche godfathers Cluster have been back from the future for more than three decades now, with the core duo of Hans-Joachum Roedelius and Dieter Moebius having offered a rich and varied body of studio albums and collaborations – most notably with Brian Eno – as well as live documentation and solo outings. Through the analog mists and drum machine clicks of their ‘70s albums one can discern many of the splinter groups, such as ambient and synth-pop, which electronic music would break apart into in the ensuing decades.

I engaged in a quickie Q&A session with Roedelius over e-mail, prior to the duo taking the stage at New York’s annual noise jamboree No Fun Fest. (Ed: For more on Cluster, see Matt Sussman’s “Cluster luck: Krautrock’s darkest stars reappear in our firmament.”)

SFBG: Since 2007, you and Moebius have been engaged in a second reunion of sorts, following a ten-year hiatus. Do you find it challenging to work together again, especially in a live setting, after such a long break?

Bumping and thriving


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

"Crazy be the knowledge of self." If you’re into conscious hip-hop, you might expect such an interpersonal refrain as this intro to Black Spade’s "Good Crazy" on his intricately self-produced debut, To Serve with Love, out last month on Om Hip Hop, an imprint of San Francisco’s Om Records. Still, there’s something new going on here, something hot that snags your mind and your kicks and refuses to let go.

Maybe it’s Spade’s technique. The rapper otherwise known as Veto Money easily shifts between samples from every genre imaginable, funked-out click tracks, alien blips reminiscent of delightfully geeky hip-hop producers such as Styrofoam, and choruses that sound like he’s singing to you personally. His tight flows simulate a head bobbing up and down and grinning by pushing syllables into full beats, with rhymes and emphases hitting on downbeats instead of more typical upbeat syncopation.

Or maybe it’s just a simple sense of freedom. Remember when freedom was fun? Om Hip Hop is doing for the experimental hip-hop community what they’ve become known for worldwide in the electronic music world: finding talented musicians who could be superstars but are more interested in the music than in superficial fame, connecting them with other mavericks, and giving them free reign to rock the house. It’s the hip-hop version of what the Los Angeles CityBeat has dubbed Om’s effective "anti-superstar-DJ music policy."

"I’ve never worked on a project I didn’t believe in 100 percent," said Jonathan McDonald, speaking in Om’s SoMa headquarters, surrounded by countless promo discs and magazines. McDonald, who started out as an intern at Om while he was working as the hip-hop buyer at Amoeba Music, is now in charge of A&R and publicity for Om Hip Hop. He was psyched two years ago when Om founder Chris Smith decided to create and devote resources to the new imprint. Hip-hop was integral to Smith’s original vision for Om in 1995, said McDonald. "But when dance culture really took off in the city, Om followed," he said. The phenomenal success of Mark Farina’s Mushroom Jazz Vol. 1 (1996)still Om’s bestselling record — outplayed early hip-hop projects such as People Under the Stairs.

With a stage name that plays on race, death, and the name of a ’70s New York street gang, Black Spade easily shifts between social critique ("Head Busters fightin’ security at the Mono / Should I sell dope or slave at McDonald’s?") and romanticism ("Excuse me miss, I know we’re fighting / But what is that smell? It’s so exciting"). Yet another Om Hip Hop artist, Crown City Rockers’ Raashan Ahmad, who now resides in Oakland, expands this sense of storytelling on The Push, which will be out in May. Considering everything from his mother’s battle with cancer to the birth of his son, Ahmad’s liquid lyricism takes us on a striking emotional ride, with stops for inspiration ("The linguist synonymous with soul power") and praise ("Hip-hop saved my life"). "I wanted to show all sides of hip-hop — and all sides of me," said Ahmad, on the phone from Los Angeles. By offering unprecedented support, Om let him create an album that even shows his "insecurities," he said. "Everything they said they’d do, they’ve done. They gave me complete creative freedom."

In June, Om will release the One’s Superpsychosexy. McDonald hopes that the Spade and Ahmad discs will help prep listeners for the Charlotte, N.C., artist’s "left field" sound, which includes hypnotic production and elastic, naughty-and-nice soul vocals. The One, né Geoffrey Edwards, would probably think of this pre-exposure as foreplay. "Superpsychosexy is music to make babies to. No, scratch that — it’s music to practice making babies to!" he said with a laugh, on the phone from his home. The One’s father is a minister. From a young age, his family was encouraged to create on multiple instruments, and on tracks such as "Drippin," and "Milkshake Thick," he summons some very hot demons.

The mixture of local and global artists has played a major role in Om Records’ success. Their Bay Area talent includes Zeph and Azeem; Zion I and the Grouch; and J Boogie’s Dubtronic Science, which has a new full-length coming later this year. Om has also formed a partnership with imeem, a San Francisco social networking site based around music, which McDonald believes will be a "driving force in new media."

It’s a perfect match. Om Hip Hop is all about community and shows no signs of slowing down. Colossus’s West Oaktown (2005), the first Om Hip Hop release, presented original funky tracks alongside hip-hop remixes, so you could feel the DJ at work. Om’s "Spring Sessions" show at the Mezzanine is bound to see some healthy human remixing, live and in the house. *


With Supreme Beings of Leisure, Turntables on the Hudson, Samantha James, and J Boogie’s Dubtronic Science

Fri/18, 10 p.m., $15


444 Jessie, SF


Listening deeply to future’s past


› a&eletters@sfbg.com

With this month’s release of Quaristice (Warp), Manchester electro pioneers Autechre have proven once again why they remain the most vital experimental force of the Warp generation invoking, in their dance-floor songscapes, a considerable 50-year palimpsest of hermetic sounds, from classical avant-garde to fin de millénaire techno. Nearly two decades into their careers, musical partners Sean Booth and Rob Brown still generate, synthesize, and surpass cutting-edge diapasons, matched by a timeless — and dare I say archetypally English — craftsmanship. By turns baroque and warm, then granular and cold, Autechre’s sonic creations continue to defy and frustrate the ramifying narratives of critics and hipster musos, who often label the mysterious duo with vague descriptors like "architectonic."

"There’s plenty of bad grandiosity — like Jean Michel Jarre," Booth says, laughing on the phone from Manchester. "People used to say our music sounded Wagnerian, weirdly enough. Of course, there are other European composers I prefer."

While the sutured beats and acid loops of past classic recordings like 1995’s Tri Repetae (Warp) and 1999’s EP7 (Warp) are based in the futurist ’80s hip-hop of Mantronix and Afrika Bambaataa, Autechre’s dissonant tones and eerie melodies are also a product of the same decade’s underground cinema. "Soundtrack music was my sideways introduction to classical electronic music," recalls Booth. "I really love John Carpenter, more than I even like Kraftwerk, which is a lot." In the age of glammy mainstream new wave, during which Yamaha keyboards were built and played like guitars and Trevor Horne–style production was all brass and filigree, sci-fi and horror provided an inroad to the sounds of future’s past — and its composers. Booth goes on to praise Tod Dockstader and Roland Kayn, among others.

In Booth’s studied references to musical obscurants, whose accompanying concepts of cybernetics and generative synthesis are usually reserved for the Uni computer lab set, the self-taught Northerner is not engaging in the familiar game of highbrow name-checking that has pervaded certain pockets of electronic culture since the early ’90s — and that indirectly birthed the dubious title Intelligent Dance Music. Rather, he is trying to articulate his deep passion for a kind of music that is nearly indescribable in everyday language and always alludes and evades more than it expresses.

Call it deep listening, call it microtonal, but don’t call it IDM. "I kind of looked at the computer [when we began] as a means to an end," Booth explains. "Like how far could you take music using this machine and still create reasonably interesting music? [Karlheinz] Stockhausen was all over this. He was even blurring the line between what a tone is and what a succession of events is. And that’s a major turning point in 20th century music. I think by the time we got to those ideas, it was about reapplication."

Of course, for all of its new possibilities, techno culture has its obvious downside, Booth contends, mostly as a result of market saturation. "I think that if people are overequipped, they can find it harder to make decisions, because they’ve got more things to choose from," he explains, referring both to the music industry and cultural spheres. He points to the phenomena of MySpace as comparable to the glut of plug-ins and processors that have become the norm for music producers. "But it’s all fixation in a way, because it’s not like if you buy a synth, then everything is going to change."

The progression of drum ‘n’ bass and dub techno met such a fate, being outstripped from within by idle bandwagoners who capitalized on the mechanics but not the soul of the genres’ originators: Dillinja, Ed Rush, and Jeff Mills, or the highly influential Basic Channel label. "Unfortunately, there are loads of idiots waiting in the wings to capitalize on that originality," Booth laments. "I think the whole electronic scene is really conservative now, and safe. In the early days when Xenakis and Cage and Stockhausen were first discovering these sounds, it was absolutely terrifying."

Autechre has always tried to maintain a certain minimalist craftsmanship in response, according to Booth. And it is apparent in Quaristice that they have put as much emphasis on flow, narrative, and rhythm as bricolage, creating a sophisticated "live" feel throughout. While some punters might say Autechre has now returned to the safety of its roots after mining the difficult territory of computer processing and software algorithms, Booth is quick to point out that most of the gear they have used of late is identical to what they used before. "It’s just much more reactive," he says. "I’m making decisions based on what Rob just did and vice versa. In a way it’s more rewarding than spending six months programming something that’s very elaborate and complex in a different way."

And if there is one descriptor we might use to encapsulate Booth and Brown, it would never be "safe." In their tireless soundtracking of a subterranean past and underground future, Autechre continues along an innovative path of music with as much heart as hardware.


With Massonix and Rob Hall

Sat/5, 9 p.m. doors, $18


444 Jessie, SF


Tingly for techno: DEMF lineup announced


First off: How old does it make me feel that some kid at UPenn is writing his dissertation on the techno parties I threw in Detroit in the early ’90s? *Ancient sigh*. Second off: the nine-year-old Detroit Electronic Music Festival, sometimes known as Movement for legal reasons but basically Mecca for tech-heads, has announced its initial lineup for May 24-26 (Memorial Day weekend). The big news is not that it’s sponsored by Big Boy this year (eek!) but that fest originator and knob-twiddling god Carl Craig is returning to perform. carl.jpg Carl Craig: BACK Carl bought my video camera in 1994 so I’d have money for Amtrak to move to SF (sweetheart!) so blame him for my presence here. Also performing will be a number of other wicked-wonderful characters from back-in-tha-D days, like my spiritual twin brother Alton Miller, who will be a highlite of the more complex, jazzy house side of the fest. altona.jpg Alton Miller: You should see him dance, really Other NAMES on the pretty soulful hitlist: Speedy J, Buzz Goree, Terrance Parker, Girl Talk, Moby, Mike Grant, Alex Under, Konrad Black, and for some hip-hop new old-schoolness Cool Kids. More lineup and info here. I’ll be there covering every backstage minute for SFBG. Put your hands up for Detroit. (That’s not me in the vid, it’s my cuz. I’m in no way responsible for his dancing or this entire music video.)

Noise Pop: Fuck yeah


Most articles and reviews about Holy Fuck begin with some comment about whether the band’s music did or did not make the writer exclaim, "Holy fuck!" So insert your own exclamatory joke about the group’s name here, and let’s move past the moniker and go on to the music.

Holy Fuck straddle the rock and electronic divide: they mash together techno beats, dirty lo-fi electronics, and loud kinetic-rock rhythms. It’s a perfect of-the-moment sound — the type that indie rock kids love to dance to, balanced with enough chaotic experimentalism to appeal to noise rock and electronic fans. We live in weird times, and this band gets the times.

Perversely, as bad as the war and the economy are, kids are having a great deal of innocent fun these days. You can catch a sweaty, spazzy groove to the not-so-faux-naïf, party-starting sounds of Video Hippos. Or you can bang your head to Holy Fuck’s embodiment of that dance-party spirit.

The songs on their latest record, LP (XL), drive forward kraut rock–style, but the dirty layers of electronic noise on top of their propulsive rhythms have a purer rock vibe: they’re raw, primitive, and energetic. On my MP3 player, "Choppers," the last track on LP, fits snugly up against my next loaded disc, a Can anthology. The sound of Holy Fuck’s recorded output lies somewhere between Trans Am and Suicide, although they don’t stake out the confrontationally icy ground of the latter nor cloak themselves in the distancing self-awareness of the former. Instead, onstage a few weeks ago at the Great American Music Hall, Holy Fuck bopped around unselfconsciously, with quick-change mixes, effects-pedal tweaks, and keyboard jams. It’s a friendly, accessible show, performed by a band dedicated to making electronic music without laptops or sequencers. In fact, not only will you not find a laptop on Holy Fuck’s stage, but you’ll also discover instruments that come with a junkyard aesthetic: film modulators, and a Casio mouth organ.

The group has emerged from a Toronto scene with a vast and supportive music community, one that embraces many genres and in which most performers have more than one musical project going. Although Holy Fuck don’t want to be perceived, as the group’s Brian Borcherdt puts it over the phone, as "hippie lovefest" musicians, their writing process has been somewhat loose, improvisatory, and collaborative. The band has also included a rotating cast of Toronto musicians, which has led some to dub the ensemble an "evil supergroup," Borcherdt says. Still, regardless of what they play and whom they play with, Holy Fuck remain an exciting live band — though I’m still not going to use the easy exclamatory.


With A Place to Bury Strangers, White Denim, and Veil Veil Varnish

Feb. 29, 9 p.m., $10

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 621-4455


Joakim: Very tall, very French


By Vanessa K. Carr

It’s hard to tell sometimes with the French: how much of their dry humor and peculiarity is due to their French-ness, and how much is straight up eccentricity? For French electronic music producer and Tigersushi label manager Joakim (Versatile, K7), it’s most definitely the later. Due in part to his inordinately tall, praying mantis-like frame and understated manner, Joakim’s idiosyncrasy is what makes his magic; the fact that his fantastically hypnotic live performance is also sort of awkward, for example, makes the experience all the more immediate and real.


Joakim, 31, burst onto the notorious Paris electronic music scene nine or ten years ago by starting encyclopedia music website (and now label) Tigersushi and releasing several of his own tracks on Versatile. Since then, Joakim has released three full-length albums and a storm of 12″s and remixes. His most recent album, Monsters and Silly Songs (K7 2007), spans an impressive range of genres, from electro and hard techno to dark pop and ambient noise. You can stream the full album here.

Joakim and his Ectoplasmic Band perform live this Friday night (2/15) at Fat City, courtesy of Blasthaus, with Portland electro/disco duo Glass Candy; DJ sets by Foreign Islands, Sleazemore, and Honey Soundsystem; and visuals by the fabulous DJ Pee Play.

SFBG: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

Joakim Bouaziz: I started to grow up very early. I was mostly listening to classical music.

SFBG: Where you classically trained as a musician?

JB: Yeah, but every time I hear that expression, it sounds really weird.

SFBG: Why is that?

JB: It sounds like I’ve been in the army or something.

Blow by Blow: At the beck and call of Khaela Maricich


blow smller.jpg

The Blow’s Khaela Maricich is a charmer – and lord, the girl knows how to multitask, moving into her new Portland, Ore., studio while fielding questions all the while. For the first part of the talk, go here. And she performs tonight and tomorrow, Jan. 22 and 23, at Great American Music Hall, so look out!

SFBG: So Jona [Bechtolt of Yacht] won’t be performing with you at Great American Music Hall?

Khaela Maricich: He hasn’t been performing with me for a year and haf. He’s been doing own thing with Yacht.

SFBG: How would you describe your current act then?

KM: Well, I come at performing from a lot of different angles. I never really thought of myself as a musician. I never thought of myself as a performer either and I always thought I’d be a visual artist. As a kid I remember there being video cameras from a TV station and me being under the table, not interested at all in being the center of attention. I never had a sense of being, “I want to be a musician,” and so I never think it’s going to be a great music show! I look at different angles of entertaining myself and different ways of using the stage to make a show.

I think it’s a lot like stand-up and performance and karaoke. It’s electronic music – there’s no laptop onstage. It’s just me and a microphone.