Peter Nicholson

Broken but not broke


Replife, a.k.a, Daniel Gray Kontar, leads a well-balanced life. How else can one describe a man who in one breath casually mentions that he’s a Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley’s School of Education and in the next brags that the parties at his pad in the North Berkeley Hills "are off the meat rack"? The Cleveland transplant has a lot going on, including a new album for London label Futuristica, The Unclosed Mind, which includes tracks produced by the cream of the broken beat crop, from New York’s Arch-Typ to New Zealand’s Mark De Clive-Lowe.

Like many rappers, Kontar got his start in a breakdancing crew where he evolved into an MC for local DJs and beatmakers. From there he stretched his lyrical talents beyond music, stepping into the realm of the written word, where he wrote for Cleveland newspapers and edited and published the underground monthly magazine Urban Dialect, and wrote poetry, climbing through the spoken word ranks until he was National Poetry Slam co-champion in 1994.

Almost 15 years later, Kontar is excited, yet a little bemused, by the release of his first album, which boasts production by the likes of Dego and Kaidi Taitham, of 4 Hero and Bugz in the Attic fame. "It was a case of being in the right place at the right time," Kontar recalled when asked how he lined up such in-demand producers. After he recorded some raps at a minute’s notice for Mark De Clive-Lowe on his Politik project, De Clive-Lowe suggested he ring up Dego, who lived around the way. "When you record with Mark de Clive-Lowe and Dego in the span of two days," he said, "things just kind of happen after that, y’know?" The favors have been returned, with the piano-and-cymbal bursts of the De Clive-Lowe-produced "Emerald City" and the robotic synth stutter of Dego and Taitham’s "Spirit," slotting in nicely next to tracks crafted by lesser-known artists.

From the bossa sway of "Pangea" to the sultry slap of "Put It Down," The Unclosed Mind shows an MC exploring the limits of broken beat, and Kontar said that, unlike some pundits, he doesn’t see the scene dying off, due in part to a recent wave of emigration. "Daz-i-Kue is in Atlanta; Mark de Clive-Lowe is in Los Angeles; and Dego is in Brooklyn. So I think that having these kinds of folks who are the foundation of the movement now in the states is going to increase people’s knowledge of the broken philosophy," he explained. "I call it the broken philosophy because it’s not necessarily a style of music as much as a state of mind or a feeling." (Peter Nicholson)
With Replife, Blaktroniks-, Jaswho?, and Douglas Pagan
Dec. 20, 9 p.m., $5
The Dark Room at Club Six
60 Sixth St., SF
(415) 863-1221

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

The Cool Kids


PREVIEW With the success of their BMX ode "Black Mags" ghost-riding beyond the Internet echo chamber, the Cool Kids are on a roll. After one single for Nick Catchdubs and A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold imprint and a year spent performing live, including 30 dates with M.I.A., the 10-cut Bake Sale EP comes courtesy of C.A.K.E. Recordings/Chocolate Industries, home or former home to such acts as Prefuse 73 and Lady Sovereign. It’s slated to be followed by a proper album, When Fish Ride Bicycles, but right now the Cool Kids are back onstage, peddling — or pedaling? — their own blend of stripped-down hip-hop.

Though many latch onto the Chicago duo’s 1980s fixation and look no further, the carefully casual drawl of 19-year-old Antoine Reed (Mikey Rocks) and the spare, angular beats of 23-year-old Evan Ingersoll (Chuck Inglish) owe as much to Spank Rock or the Neptunes as the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC. With its brassy, clanging drums and tightly reverbed vocals, it’s no surprise that "88" has been snatched up by both HBO and NBA Live 08. If it’s possible to be aggressively nerdy, this pair, who first met on MySpace, are doing it. On "What Up Man," lanky Mikey Rocks raps, "I can build a sandcastle without bringing a pail / And go catfish fishing and come up with a whale," while the rhythm track, built from Inglish’s processed ticks, claps, and basses, chugs greasily along. From the uptempo, hi-trilling "Bassment Party" to the lethargic one-in-four boom of "Jingling" — an off-the-cuff riff on the sound of keys in your pocket — the Cool Kids make hip-hop akin to busting a wheelie. It looks pretty simple, but it’s damned hard to do.

THE COOL KIDS Tues/3, 9 p.m., $18. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422

Do you know the way to Plug?


"Honestly, I’ve found a lot more talent in San Jose than I have up here in the city." Plug Label boss, MC, and producer Kero One (né Mike Kim) isn’t afraid to call it as he sees it from his San Francisco studio. At the top of the list of South Bay talent sits kindred SF transplant King Most, a producer and DJ otherwise known as Patrick Diaz, whose palette ranges from this year’s Genius Music mixtape, built from rare tracks by mainstream producers like Kanye West, Timbaland, and the Neptunes, to his upcoming Kingstrumentals album, which promises to honor influences as diverse as Alex Attias’ broken beats and Donald Byrd’s jazz fusion.

Kero sees the foundation for King Most’s talent in the knowledge gleaned from a ridiculously large record collection. "I remember going to his house and he’d have records in the bathroom, in the hallway, in the garage. You’d open the fridge and a record would fall down from the top. Production-wise, he has all the chops, the samples, and he knows how to work it."

Party people regularly get a chance to hear selections at Uptempo’s How We Keeps It, a monthly gig that finds King Most and Kero One rocking electro, disco, and a little hip-hop at the Madrone Lounge. Some fans of Kero’s debut, Windmills of the Soul (Plug, 2006), which mined a solidly jazzy hip-hop vein, might be surprised to hear a house set when he’s behind the decks. But the sprightlier pace and broader range of genres reflect the direction Plug Label is heading with its upcoming releases.

This year will see albums from Greentea, Kero, and King Most, all designed to cause consternation among record store clerks who have to decide where to file music that swerves between hip-hop, disco, Latin, and electro. Reflecting the listening journey that he and King Most have made over the years, Kero says he wants to blur the lines. "One of my biggest goals is to turn heads and open eyes for people who are not just into hip-hop. I wanted to make an album for someone who used to be into hip-hop and now is into something else to go back and say, "Oh, I can listen to this."


Fri/25, 10 p.m., $10


2925 16th St., SF

(415) 431-8889

DJ Mitsu the Beats


PREVIEW In the same manner that Japan has had a history of appreciation and innovation in jazz, the Land of the Rising Sun has become a rising star in the hip-hop diaspora. From DMC turntablist world champ DJ Kentaro through the enduring DJ Krush, our counterparts on the other side of the Pacific Rim have steadily been holding their own. DJ Mitsu the Beats continues the new tradition, with a flair for head-nodding hip-hop and the odd broken beat jam, always keeping things on a jazzy tip.

Growing up in the northern Japanese city of Sendai, where he still resides, Mitsu first got hooked on hip-hop via a TV show that presented breakdancing and guests like Heavy D. He showed obvious talent once he took to the turntables himself and soon ended up doing battle with DJ Kentaro before making the inevitable transition to production. His work caught the ear of Jazzy Sport, a Tokyo record store and label that has gone on to release works by the likes of SA-RA, and in 2003 Mitsu released an eponymous EP for sub-label Planetgroove. In what would become typical Mitsu style, the record included guest vocals from such guests as Philadelphia soul siren Lady Alma and fellow Japanese artist MC Hunger, with the producer subtly choosing loops and rhythms that best suited each style on the mic.

That record and others found many fans abroad, and Mitsu went on to provide dozens of remixes for labels like Italy’s Irma and Canada’s Do Right! He also teamed up with Hunger and DJ Mu-R to form Gagle, which released an album for Jazzy Sport in 2005 and another for Columbia last year. Mitsu has never strayed far from the beats-plus-samples framework that has driven hip-hop since its inception. But with deft production skills and an uncanny ear for hooks that stick in your mind, he’s given new life to the old chestnut that being good is different enough.

DJ MITSU THE BEATS Fri/4, 10 p.m., $10. Poleng Lounge, 1751 Fulton, SF. (415) 441-1751,



PREVIEW He’s originally from France, currently living in East London, and his debut is out on a Swedish label — and his productions are just as cosmopolitan. Simbad, né Stanislas Renouf, may just be coming up on the underground dance radar with productions ranging from majestic house with Robert Owens to heavy broken beats with Steelo, but he has been doing his best to ignore genres and focus on "quality booty music" for almost a decade.

The just-released Supersonic Revelation for Stockholm’s Raw Fusion Records does a solid job of capturing Simbad’s various moods. The multi-instrumentalist has almost as many styles as he does nom de tunes and imprints where they’ve found a home: Mowgly for Freerange, Loose Ensemble for Foundation, and, together with long-time partner Fred McQuinn, Twitch, Heal, and Marathon Men for Earth Project, Key Recordings, and Chillifunk, respectively. In addition to the nuanced electronica and deep house tendencies explored on the 2005 Marathon Men album, Blessings (Chillifunk), Simbad’s solo effort includes a heavy dose of soul, as on the title track with Abdul Shyllon, with its quavering, pitch-bent synth line, easygoing hand claps, and multitracked vocals verging on doowop. Woe to the music store clerk who has to chose a genre for shelving this wide-ranging collection: just like his favorite type of party, Simbad’s productions are truly many-hued. "I love it when the crowd is mixed actually. That’s where it’s the best!" the DJ explained via e-mail, just after praising Japan for its outstanding clubs with their somewhat homogenous crowds. "Our Je Ne Sais Quoi party in London, the legendary Raw Fusion party in Stockholm, Turntables on the Hudson in NYC," he raves. "All nations represented and all booties mixed together equals the best vibes. Just bring your smile down and be open — your ass will follow!"


Fri/21, 10 p.m., $15. Pink, 2925 16th St., SF. (415) 431-8889,

Year in Music: Keep on truckin’


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I do a lot of driving, which sucks. I don’t like cars. They stress me out, they mess up the environment, and even 10-year-old minivans are stupidly expensive, but I live in the sticks and do a lot of traveling to places where public transportation is an urban myth, so I don’t have much of a choice. However, one thing makes long trips in the car bearable: DJ mixes. Whether it’s neck-snapping hip-hop (perfect for manning up and not letting that 18-wheeler cut you off) or relentless techno (tailor-made for the final miles of an eight-hour jaunt to Oregon), a solid DJ mix is the perfect accompaniment to hours spent trying to go as fast as possible without getting yet another speeding ticket.

This year offered more than the usual share of potential candidates for the perfect driving mix. In addition to the typically top-notch offerings from the likes of Fabric (check James Murphy and Pat Mahoney’s Fabric 36 for a spectacular romp along the edges of past and present disco) and the typically abysmal efforts by DJs voted number one by tasteless trance lovers all over the world (Armin van Buuren’s Hoover festival Universal Religion 2008 on Ultra, replete with synchronized crowd noise and snare rolls, tops that list), two stuck out in particular.

More often than not I found myself reaching for Future Soul Sessions Vol. 1 (Bagpak), on which the stop-and-start rhythms’ broken beat perfectly matched the stop-and-go traffic one usually faces when attempting to escape the Bay. Ernesto Vigo of Elevations Radio on Harlem’s WHCR did a stunning job of charting a trip through broken beat’s best, from international figures like Ty, whose flowing rap for "What You Want" is up to his usual smooth snuff, to New York cats like Bagpak boss Yellowtail, who teams up with Alison Crockett for "You Feel Me," an absolutely smashing future soul classic with a vocal break that had me frequently causing consternation in nearby drivers with my attempts to match Crockett’s vocal prowess.

Once free of the urban congestion, I invariably turned to some good old four-on-the-floor. Only one mix survived my periodic pogroms of the iPod Shuffle that stores my house and techno mixes: "Hot Oven Hand," by San Francisco’s DJ Worthy. Worthy is a rising star within the twisted techno world centered around the dirtybird Records camp, and "Hot Oven Hand" came from the label’s Web site, though there isn’t a single dirtybird track in the mix. Fair enough, since I already have all of their damn stellar output and look to mixes for the new. Instead, we’re treated to the pop-locking percolation of "Back the Beat," by Ran Shani on CR2, and the spaced-out synth swirl of Swag’s "Just Pull It Dub" of Jimpster’s "Don’t Push It" on Freerange. Yet the highlights of the mix are Worthy’s compositions, particularly the grin-inducing, squelchy bounce of "Crack El" (Leftroom) and the speaker-testing tension of "Bass Quake," on his Katabatic Records. With an absurdly stuttering, chittering hook and a progression that belies its creator’s relative newcomer status, "Bass Quake" was one of 2007’s high points. But be warned: although the impulse to stupidly wave your hands in the air is perfectly acceptable on the dance floor, it’s not advisable while doing 90 over the Tehachapi Pass in a thunderstorm. *


1. LCD Soundsystem, "Someone Great" (DFA/EMI)

2. Baby Oliver, "Primetime (Uptown Express)" (Environ)

3. Square One, "Vesuvius (Justin Martin Mix)" (Freerange)

4. Bassbin Twins, "Woppa" (Bassbin)

5. Lanu, "Disinformation" (Tru Thoughts/Ubiquity)

6. Riton, "Hammer of Thor (Roman Fluegel Mix)" (Souvenir Music)

7. Sebo K and Metro, "Transit" (Get Physical)

8. Chateau Flight, "Baltringue (Henrik Schwarz and Dixon Mix)" (Innervisions)

9. Titonton Duvante, "Oishii Manko" (Refraction)

10. Paranoid Boyz, "Paranoid" (mothership)

Global chilling


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

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

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

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


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


657 Harrison, SF

(415) 348-0900

… And Justice for all


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An irrational exuberance overcomes the dance media when something good comes out of Paris. A decade ago it was Daft Punk, and now it is Ed Banger Records — the label run by longtime Daft Punk manager Pedro Winter — and Justice. The pair, Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé, have released only a few singles and a handful of remixes, but their chaotic blend of square-edged synths and metalworthy riffs have sent dozens of scribes scurrying to find a new spin on the phrase "Paris is burning."

Perhaps it has something to do with that damn accent, those charming plosive Gallic exhalations. Just a few minutes into my phone interview with de Rosnay, I find myself eager to laugh at his jokes, despite the fact that it took me two months to set up this 15-minute interview slot — and I was given barely 48 hours’ notice when it was finally scheduled. De Rosnay has just returned from a series of DJ gigs in Australia, where his and Augé’s sets bouncing classic Detroit techno by Inner City off distorted, dissonant disco by Germany’s Smith ‘n’ Hack were received with enthusiastic — and, to judge from the YouTube videos, astoundingly drunken — acclaim.

De Rosnay seems quite pleased with his overseas fans, particularly given that until recently, Justice were largely unknown in Paris itself. "Since the beginning we have a larger audience outside of Paris than in Paris," he explains. "But it’s always the same, because in Paris people as a rule don’t like what comes from Paris until everybody around says, ‘OK, it’s cool — you can like it.’ The normal way in Paris is to let other people, like in the UK and Germany, like it, and then you can come back and play in Paris, and people are cool with you."

Justice laid the seeds for Parisian approval with their 2003 Justice vs. Simian rework "Never Be Alone," which flipped the original yowling punk vocals over a rubbery funk bass line and repetitive keys to infectious effect. The track initially appeared as the second release from Ed Banger and has continually been reborn, first for DJ Hell’s International Deejay Gigolo label, then again last year for 10, a Virgin imprint. It also earned Justice the Video of the Year Award from MTV Europe, much to the dismay of Kanye West, who burst onstage during the presentation and expressed his shock at being denied proper respect. Waters of Nazareth was Justice’s second official recording, and the Ed Banger–released 2005 EP of squalling synths and crashing drums has met a similar recycled fate, having just been rereleased stateside by Vice.

Along the way, the pair have produced a series of remixes for artists they admire, such as Fatboy Slim, Franz Ferdinand, and the French touch forebears themselves, Daft Punk. Justice’s "Ruined by Justice" version of Franz Ferdinand’s "The Fallen," which slings stuttered high hats and huge guitars against a ridiculously catchy vocoder loop, is typical of their particular stylistic pastiche, smearing electro, pop, and rock elements into head-banging dance music, and it’s the climax of the recent Fabriclive 28: Evil Nine mix, which includes cuts from soul mates such as Digitalism and Simian Mobile Disco.

No remixes have emerged in the past year while Justice have been working on their full-length, due this June. The move points to a keen awareness of pop machinations that belies de Rosnay’s affable, self-deprecating manner. "If we continued to do remixes while we were doing our album, it could have betrayed the vibe of the album, and it’s better to keep it fresh and not release anything," he confides. "Plus, we are so slow doing music, if we kept doing remixes, our album would be released in 2012 or something!"

Justice may lead the Ed Banger charge, but behind them party artists such as DJ Medhi, with his simplistic keys, breakbeats, and grunts adding up to much more than their individual parts, and SebastiAn, whose clanging, heavy metal electro "Greel" is a highlight of the new Ed Rec Vol. 2 compilation. Both will appear alongside Justice at Mezzanine this week. Then there’s Uffie, whose shockingly amateurish and foulmouthed rhymes frequently overpower stunningly schizophrenic production by her boyfriend, Feadz.

For their own part, Justice are thoroughly enjoying themselves and emphatically deny being over all the hoopla. As de Rosnay says, "We know this is a chance to get attention from some people. It would be quite unfair to get tired of it, as we just have two years in the music industry. If I’m tired now, I think I will have to kill myself in six months!" *


Sat/24, 10 p.m., $14


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880


The people’s party


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Sake 1 isn’t your typical DJ. Holding a graduate degree in social work from UC Berkeley, he volunteers for Caduceus Outreach Services, providing aid to mentally ill homeless adults. He is in the middle of a year initiating as a priest of Elegua in the Lucumi faith (more commonly known as Santeria) and, among other restrictions, must wear white from head to toe, refrain from sex, alcohol, and drugs, and avoid physical contact with others. His weekly party Pacific Standard Time regularly donates a portion of its proceeds to community organizations such as DiverCity Works and the Center for Young Women’s Development. And he has continued to be an in-demand hip-hop and soul DJ, playing parties like Little Ricky’s Rib Shack in NYC and mixing compilations for outfits like Fader magazine, while relentlessly maintaining an optimistic outlook — even though 2006 saw the deaths of his brother; his best friend, DJ Dusk; and his protégé, DJ Domino.
“It has been hard to lose my best friend, my brother, and a student-friend all in the span of four months,” Sake said from his home in the Mission the week before he was to play a memorial party in New York for his brother, house producer and DJ Adam Goldstone. “But it reminds me where I come from and why I do what I do as a DJ. And I have angels all around me …”
Sake 1 (the name is his tag from his graffiti days) grew up Stefan Goldstone in the Fillmore and the avenues and graduated from Washington High School before attending UC Santa Cruz and finally UC Berkeley. He learned to mix by using records like Public Enemy’s “Night of the Living Baseheads” and Ultramagnetic MC’s “Ego Tripping” on one turntable while listening to KPOO on Sunday afternoons. His older brother in New York expanded his world with Red Alert, Pete Rock, and Marley Marl tapes, and Sake 1 soon began visiting the North Beach Tower Records, which at the time had an extensive selection of 12-inch singles. House parties in Santa Cruz followed when he went to college, and to this day the mood of those early parties is something he treasures. “I always feel like that’s something I’m trying to recapture, that house party vibe where you know everybody, where you feel safe even though it’s kinda out of control.”
Following a long list of steadily higher profile events that included Church, Soulville, and Luscious, Sake’s latest attempt to have a club that feels like a house party is Pacific Standard Time, where he is the resident DJ. The PST started in the spring of 2005 at Bambuddha Lounge, eventually moving to Levende Lounge in search of a bigger dance floor. Reflecting Sake’s diverse selections, which range from hip-hop to disco to broken beat, guests have included Daz-I-Kue from Bugz in the Attic, house producer Osunlade, and local favorites such as Mind Motion.
“Pretty much from June of 2005 until [now], it’s been packed every week, so it’s been a blessing,” Sake said. “The struggle part has been trying to keep the music progressive, keep the ideas and the organizations that we support at the forefront, and not fall back on ‘Well, we’re successful, we’re making money, and people like it, so let’s wild out and just have this bacchanal thing.’ When things become successful, it’s almost like a gift and a curse, because then people expect it to be a certain way every week, and it makes it hard to keep it changing. When it’s not successful, you can change, and nobody’s really trippin’, because nobody’s coming!” he laughed.
Saying that the party’s crowd has evolved with its success, Sake acknowledged that at times he finds it hard to strike a balance between playing the more obscure tracks he may personally favor and keeping the party rocking. At the same time, he is well aware that being successful allows him not only to reach a broader audience but to make a bigger impact when he does use his party for benefits. And keeping that success rolling may mean tempering his philosophy of selecting tracks by artists from other countries, female artists, and those that represent genres not easily slotted into the Clear Channel and MTV pigeonholes.
“At PST we struggle with trying to be this sexy, cool, tastemaker thing and then doing these community organization parties,” he reflected. “And the community organizations come and bring their bases, and their bases don’t want to hear SA-RA Creative Partners necessarily. They want to hear commercial rap, because that’s what a lot of our folks listen to.”
Nevertheless, at 11:20 on a recent Thursday night, Levende was rapidly filling up, and the already packed dance floor had no problem getting down to SA-RA’s “Hollywood.” But half an hour later there was a markedly bigger response when Sake dropped “Keep Bouncing,” a track by Too $hort featuring Snoop Dog and that the majority of DJs digging SA-RA joints wouldn’t let near their crates.
“DJs should break records, and nightclubs should be places for not just new music but new ideas,” Sake explained. “People should be open to new sounds … and people should be open to having a nightlife experience that isn’t [divorced] from thinking about what is going on in the world outside — that [doesn’t just accept] that you have to step over homeless people to get into the nightclub, you have to disrespect the bar staff to get your drink quicker, you have to touch a girl’s ass if she won’t dance with you.” Walking the line between educating and entertaining, Sake 1 is making San Francisco a better place with a party that might just have it both ways. SFBG
Thursdays, 10 p.m.
Levende Lounge
1710 Mission, SF
(415) 864-5585

Mod couple


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One of the hottest hip-hop albums of the year comes from the unlikely combination of a six-foot-seven Canadian producer and a New Orleans mother of two. Voice’s Gumbo (Groove Attack) is a testament to the modern modes of production, with the protagonists only recording in the same room twice but nonetheless able to marry beats and rhymes into a vehicle for a rapper who is not only talking loud but saying something.
Toronto’s too-tall Kevin “Moonstarr” Moon has long been known to heads who like their hip-hop with a side of jazz and a chaser of broken beats through his productions for his own Public Transit Recordings as well as remixes for the likes of Recloose and Jazzanova. In spring 2001 he was introduced to Erin “Voice” Tourey through mutual friend Rosina Kazi of LAL (also on Public Transit), with whom Tourey was staying. “I met with her on a Friday, and we just connected. She came by the studio, and I gave her a beat CD. The next day we got together, Saturday afternoon, and she had already written two complete songs to my beats,” Moon remembered with awe over the phone from Toronto. One of those songs ended up on the Scattered Snares compilation released on Twisted Funk, a label run by Marc Mac of 4 Hero, and the other went on Moonstarr’s own Dupont (Public Transit). The pair have been collaborating ever since.
“She’s so versatile — she’ll flip from a rhyme to poetry and back to a rhyme again, so it’s total freedom with her in terms of what you can get away with,” Moon enthused when pressed to explain why he enjoys producing Tourey. “It’s really cool to work with her because you’re not constricted by, like, a straight-up hip-hop snare on every second [beat].” Witness “Guerilla Hustlin’,” in which Moon swings from three kick-drum beats that lurch into the fourth over to snare drums that threaten and stutter with Brazilian flare beneath a trilling flute as Tourey spits, “Wanna know my name, wanna know why I’m on the streets selling beats instead of chasing fame/ Well I’ve always done my own thing, figure people’ll come around on their own term, used to try and push it but I had to live and learn, now I pick and chose when I be concerned.”
“Guerilla Hustlin’” is a rock-solid tune — and it inadvertently captures one of the few ways in which Tourey and Moon view the world differently, as the rhymes tell of struggling to get paid while the production hints at an affection for Baden Powell and isn’t exactly Clear Channel–friendly. When I spoke with Tourey, who patiently answered my questions from her home in New Orleans while her three-year-old and five-month-old played not so patiently in the background, I mentioned that Moon had described his status as an underground producer as “comfortable.” “Obviously, we’re in a situation where we have to sell records, but we’re independent,” Moon said. “We can get away with a hell of a lot more than an artist that’s stuck in a position where their art has to generate revenue for them. We’re in this really comfortable position where we can get away with whatever.”
So does Tourey treasure the same silver lining to not selling too many records that Moon does? “Mmm, no,” Tourey said succinctly. “I love Kevin, but, well, he doesn’t have kids yet. When he starts reproducing, he might feel the burn a little more, like I do. Underground is great in terms of creative control and street credibility and loyal fan bases, but at some point I gotta pay bills. I’m trying to find a middle ground.”
That’s not to say that Tourey has any interest in focusing on cash flow at the expense of mic flow. As a survivor of the cattle calls and series pilots that litter the past of child actors (her father renewed her agent’s contract every year from when she was 5 to 16 — when she shaved her head bald and started winning poetry slams), Tourey shows a marked animosity toward any kind of Hollywood success in her Gumbo rhymes. The rapper — whose recent listening runs from Bilal to Björk — may want to feed her kids, but her rhymes reflect a keen awareness that one day they’ll want more than just the next meal. To quote Tourey in “Total Eclipse,” the most recently written song on the album, “They said I should dumb it down, appeal to my audience, apparently we like our rap with no substance, but then I’m looking out into the crowd, and I’m seeing me, a sea full of honeys quietly thanking me, ’cause we support, and I’m just tryin’ to find a healthy balance, intellect toes the line, introduces a new challenge.”
Despite the distance between their locales, Moon and Tourey come together on Gumbo to serve up an album full of adventurous production and rhymes for the mind, no matter how far that consciousness has to travel. Moon said, “At the end of the day, good food tastes good — wherever you go in the world.” SFBG
Sat/18, 8 p.m.
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