On the Rise 2013

On the Rise: The Seshen


If Erykah Badu, Little Dragon, and Beach House, met-cute and made jazzy, passionate pop music together, the resulting mix might sound something like a song by the Seshen (as those are its main influences). The seven-piece Oakland band is known for its blend of sounds and regions, with robust musicianship by bassist Aki Ehara, drummer Chris Thalmann, percussionist Mirza Kopelman, Kumar Butler on samples, and Mahesh Rao on keys, filled out by fierce vocalists Lalin St. Juste and Akasha Orr. Though mostly, at this point, it’s known for a little track called “Oblivion.”

The electronic pop song, off the band’s self-titled 2012 debut LP, employs the consistent Seshen method, a live rock band set-up with deeply soulful singing, cosmic hip-hop beats, and densely layered effects and samples.

Most recently, the Seshen remixed fellow On the Risers Trails and Ways’ “Border Crosser.” Next up, the band will drop “Turn,” the first single off its upcoming EP, due later this year.

Description of sound: Our sound utilizes electronic textures and layers that seek to blur the distinction between the abstract and the familiar while incorporating influences from a variety of genres.


What piece of music means a lot to you: There’s seven of us so there are many pieces of music that have moved us, some of which include: Mama’s Gun (Erykah Badu), Voodoo (D’Angelo), Pink Moon (Nick Drake) and the works of Radiohead, Stevie Wonder, James Blake, Bob Marley, and Broadcast, to name a few.

Favorite local eatery and dish: Too hard to narrow it down to one!! We love Souley Vegan in Oakland, Pancho Villa in the Mission, and Zachary’s Pizza (spinach and mushroom deep dish pizza).

Who would you most like to tour with: Little Dragon or Animal Collective would be amazing but more immediately it’d be fun to tour with some of the other Bay Area bands we love like Bells Atlas or DRMS.

The Seshen with Guy Fox, Ash Reiter. Feb. 22, 9pm, $10. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com, www.theseshen.com

On the Rise: Space Ghost


Space Ghost’s textured, sample-based electronic compositions might sound like fat rain drops dribbling over tight beats, as is the case with “SD”, or like the remnants of a soulful club hit stretched over hollow wooden percussion in newly uploaded tracks like one-minute-long “King City.”

He is ambient music-maker/Oakland producer Sudi Wachspress — not the masked Hanna-Barbera character — who pieces together tracks using sounds found on the Internet and arranges them in Ableton. The Ukiah native, born in ’91, says he also has a Zoom H4 audio recorder, which he’s used for field recordings in the past, an Alesis Micron, and a vintage Korg Mono/Poly, which he’s currently learning to incorporate into his music. He also occasionally works with his own recorded voice.

His music is, for the most part, simply created in his bedroom then uploaded to Soundcloud, sometimes unfinished, often with a raw murmur, always intriguing. He’s also put out a few actual records, including 2012’s You’re There, and he’s one of the hosts of Sick Sad World, with fellow DJs Mike Melero and Albert Luera. He described the monthly party — which has seen Le1f, Friendzone, and Main Attrakionz — in another publication as “a grimey warehouse Oakland rap-bass-dance party.”

Description of sound: Ambient/electronic/hip-hop based/instrumental/meditative.

What you like most about the Bay Area music scene: I don’t really think there is a specific electronic music scene in the Bay Area like the way Chicago has house music, Detroit with house and techno, LA with beats. And because of that I think the Bay Area is a really good place to be, for electronic music, because I feel like I stand out more at shows. I can play songs at shows that are completely rinsed in other places, but it could be some people’s first time hearing that song in the crowd. Also, at Sick Sad World, we have been pushing different bass heavy genres of electronic music in our sets, as well as including old and current rap, creating a sort of mixture of sounds at our shows. And because there is a lot of ground to be explored in electronic stuff around here, I think we are in the right place at the right time.

What piece of music means a lot to you: “Left Side Drive” by Boards of Canada. That was the first song I heard by them, second to “Roygbiv,” and it’s kind of unexplainable how it made me feel. I had never really heard much electronic music before then, and that song was just so deep. It just had this slow lagging hip-hop beat but was super grainy and had sounds I had never heard. All the sounds flow around each other so fluently and then at the end it enters 30 seconds of just pure angelic-like chords.

Favorite local eatery and dish: I’m super into nachos. I went to this place in Emeryville the other day called “Los Cantaros Taqueria,” and they have real good nachos and horchata.

Who would you most like to tour with: I think it would be tight to tour with the other guys on Astro Nautico, the label I released my last album on.


On the Rise: Kowloon Walled City


The line to get in to Kowloon Walled City’s album release show with Golden Void at the Hemlock in early January snaked around the building and into the alleyway. It was undeniably packed, and entirely sold out, with hordes of black-hoodied fans still waiting outside in the rain. A relatively uncommon sight for a night with a few local acts at the divey Tendernob venue.

Plus, Kowloon Walled City has been around for awhile. It was born in 2005, released a handful of LPs, briefly toured with Sleep, and has gained a steady, dedicated following. Yet it took December 2012’s ominous, muscular Container Ships for people to stand up and take notice — and that’s expanded to beyond the Bay Area’s incestuous metal scene. (Though don’t call the noisey rock band straight-forward metal, vocalist-guitarist Scott Evans once told the Guardian; just because it’s heavy, doesn’t make it metal.)

The new album is a thick slab of sludgy hard rock, with, yes, some elements of metal, doomy down-tuned guitars, Evans’ forceful howl, heavy drumming, and inevitable comparisons to the likes of Isis and Unsane. Yet, it’s not like the current musicians of Kowloon Walled City — Evans, Jeff Fagundes, Jon Howell, Ian Miller — are in it to break big; they’re all longtime local players, lovers of the art of creating loud music, especially Evans, who’s also known as the inventive sound engineer at Oakland’s Sharkbite Studios.

Description of sound: Post-partum.


What you like most about the Bay Area music scene: All music scenes are beautiful. OK, the truth is I love music in the Bay Area, both as a musician and as a recording guy. There are so many great people and bands and venues and it’s great.

Favorite local eatery and dish: Tu Lan tofu pile, RIP.

Who would you most like to tour with: All tours are beautiful.


On the Rise: Warm Soda


The people were itching to be pumped for whatever Warm Soda was going to be. After producer-musician Matthew Melton’s beloved garage pop outfit Bare Wires dismantled ceremoniously early last year, he announced the name Warm Soda, and we collectively gripped our seats. Thankfully, there was no cause for disappointment.

This time around, Melton, who also co-runs studio-label Fuzz City, teamed up with bassist Chase Oren, guitarist Rob Good, and drummer Ian McBrayer. Similar to the band’s first single album cover (for the song “Reaction”) Warm Soda is like the sonic version of an early ’80s bombshell in skintight Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, sucking down a can of Coca-Cola through a straw, and hitting up the jukebox for early T-Rex, Cheap Trick, and glammy garage acts in that oeuvre. Or as Melton describes Warm Soda’s vision — “lo-fi glam garage pop.”

Sugary and syrupy, with fizzy pop hooks and pump-up drum hits, Warm Soda’s full-length debut, Someone For You, is out now on local Castle Face Records, and sweetly picks up where “Reaction” left off. Lucky we didn’t have to wait long for another Melton classic. As Castle Face describes it, “a lean, mean gang of masterful power pop tunes with just the right blend of studio sweetness, teenage angst, and gritty bubblegum. All killer, no filler.”

Description of sound: “Lo-Fi Glam Garage Pop.”

What you like most about the Bay Area music scene: There’s never a dull moment in the Bay Area — always something cool to check out. A brand new act will pop up as soon as you think you’re clued in on everything that’s happening.

What piece of music means a lot to you: Slade, Slade in Flame — “The Citizen Kane of Rock Musicals” — 1975 essential film (and album) about the perils of being in a traveling rock band. This hilarious movie is a must-see for anyone in a band, and the album Slade composed to “score” the film is a UK glitter rock classic.

Favorite local eatery and dish: Taqueria Cancun (19th and Mission), veggie burrito (no cheese, no sour cream) with extra green sauce!

Who would you most like to tour with: Part Time.

Warm Soda record release party with Bad Vibez, Cocktails. Feb. 23, 9pm. Night Light, 311 Broadway, Oakl. www.thenightlightoakland.com. www.warmsoda.org.

Warm Soda at Noise Pop with Free Energy, In the Valley Below, Miner. Feb. 28, 8pm, $14. Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission, SF. www.brickandmortarmusichall.com

On the Rise: Trails and Ways


This is the year we’ll finally get to spend some QT with Trilingual, which will technically be Trails and Ways’ debut LP. Though there’s still no release date or label, it will be coming out in 2013. It seems like we’ve been hearing about this much-anticipated release for ages, given all the buzzy blog love thrust on the Oakland indie-pop quartet.

And when I say anticipated, I mean it. Trails and Ways even made it on Hype Machine’s list of the “Most Blogged About Artists of 2012,” partially due to chatter about Trilingual, but likely more to the ingenious covers of Miike Snow, M83, and the like by guitarist-synth master Hannah Van Loon, rhythm guitarist Keith Brower Brown, bassist Emma Oppen, and drummer Ian Quirk.

The band is savvy, and knows how to keep up the momentum for its own projects. It’s posted dreamy official videos for tracks off the upcoming record, including “MTN Tune” and “Border Crosser.” And since December 2012, Trails and Ways have been slowly releasing songs for a remix EP, including one for “Border Crosser” by another On the Rise 2013 act: the Seshen.

Of course there’s more to T&W than a media-hold; the root reason for the frenzy is the music itself. Along with tropical synths, technical guitarwork, and Afro-pop inspired rat-a-tat drums, there’s the four glorious female-male multi-part harmonies that warm and come together like a picturesque sunrise on any given white sand beach (with or without tequila). It’s snark-proof, globally inspired pop, with hints of Brazilian tones, Spanish language snippets, and the occasional whistle, or group ooh-ooh.

Description of sound: You say bossa nova dream pop, I say Brazilian shoegaze.

What you like most about the Bay Area music scene: Our friends Bells Atlas, Astronauts Etc., the Bilinda Butchers, Waterstrider, the Seshen, and the widespread non-commercial ethos of groove.

What piece of music means a lot to you: Pat Metheny Group ft. David Bowie, “This Is Not America”; This song sounds like the boundary waters of dream pop and smooth jazz and it was my favorite song from my dad’s whole CD collection and I think I learned how to use a stereo by hitting repeat for this song.

Favorite local eatery and dish: Oasis Food Market falafel sandwich.

Who would you most like to tour with: tUnE-yArDs.


On the Rise: Holly Herndon


Using just her laptop and live vocal processing, Holly Herndon creates alternate universes. The PhD student at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics manipulates programs into heart-racing, thumping, brain dripping compositions that methodically carry the listener away, then jerk it back with startling shots of noise. The best case example of this is “Movement,” the title track off last fall’s experimental RVNG Intl. release.

Like the others, the song surprises with impact, despite Herndon’s hushed, layered vocals trailing off into an unseen world. While it’s robotically tied to electronics, the track has a base in the natural, which makes sense for a former choir girl from Johnson City, Tennessee who spent her summers in the Berlin club scene. It’s the two halves of her worlds coming together.

She just got back from a brief European tour — which included a stop in underground music mecca, the Boiler Room — and is planning a new single for a spring release. For it, she says she’s “inspired to get more abstract while remaining approachable,” which sounds like a worthy challenge. There also will be a collaboration with Hieroglyphic Being this year, another with Reza Negarestani and Mat Dryhurst that will unfold in an art institution, a few remixes, and her doctoral exams. And likely plenty more media gushing if these first few months have been good indicators of the future.

Description of sound: I make computer music with a focus on live vocal processing and physical sound.

What you like most about the Bay Area music scene: We are literally at the end of the world, and the lack of attention focused here allows for artists to develop their own identities outside of hype bubbles.

What piece of music means a lot to you: I got deep with Trevor Wishart’s “Globalia” last summer and still cannot get over how well his concept of exploring (and collapsing) the diversity of language is executed. It is a gorgeous piece.

Favorite local eatery and dish: Bagel and latte at Java Supreme on Guerrero and 19th; I am there every day and the owners are wonderful.

Who would you most like to tour with: Mat Dryhurst, he is my life and creative partner and touring alone is exhausting.

Holly Herndon at Future|Perfect with Nguzunguzu, DJs Marco de la Vega, Loric Sih. Thu/14, 9pm, $10–$15. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com, hollyherndon.tumblr.com

Bands on the Rise 2013



MUSIC Ask 10 artists the same question, get back a dozen answers. The replies to my very brief questionnaires this year — it’s our second annual On the Rise issue — were revealing, like peeling back the skin of a tender orange, or rather fragrant onion.

Some juicy responses filled me with pride for our fair city and sisters across the bay, some inspired me to dig deeper, some just stunk. Jokes — they were all much appreciated, thank you. As the surveys came floating back in, I got excited by personal sonic descriptions such as “club bangers and sultry club grind jams,” “morbid classics,” and “Brazilian shoegaze.”

Another question that garnered a flurry of diverse answers from the acts: what’s the best part of life as a Bay Area artist? Turns out, the artists like that the crowds here mosh and smile, that making music locally isn’t intimidating like it can be in LA or NY, that new groups pop up whenever you think you’re clued in to it all, that they’re able to see live music every night of the week, the monthly showcases like Sick Sad World, the tight knit community of elder area rappers, and “the widespread non-commercial ethos of groove.”

And like last year’s list, this On the Rise bunch is rather varied, dealing in electronic arts, post-metal, hip-hop hype, ’70s glam, radio-friendly soul pop, and beyond — truly creating unique sounds across the board. One common thread I did find was the location; more than half of those picked for the 2013 list happen to be based in the East Bay, meaning at least six of the 10 are usually spotted across the bridges and BART stations. What that says about our local music scene, I haven’t quite dissected, though I often hear rumblings from artists in the area about rising SF rents and lack of rehearsal space. These are concerns to discuss amongst ourselves.

For On the Rise 2013, this much I know: these are the acts that I’d like to see get more attention this year and beyond. These are the bands, singers, musicians, and rappers that have been creating exciting output for less than a year, or some, for nearly a decade. They’re the ones to keep your eye on, to stay involved with, to hand over your hard-earned cash to see live. They’re keeping the Bay interesting — and weird — and for that, I’m grateful. Here are their stories.