Ana Sia/Frite Nite Surreal Estate Tour – Mezzanine 10/22/2011 [Review]

Frite Nite is a dance music label based in San Francisco that is helmed by producer Paul Salva. On Saturday October 22nd its crew celebrated the release of Ana Sia’s mix CD Surreal Estate with a party at the Mezzanine. The organizers stressed that a formal attire was strongly encouraged, and the male DJs that I saw indeed wore sharp suits. As for the audience, the prospect of dressing formally appealed mostly to the ladies, as most of the guys were wearing regular T-shirts. What my husband and I were wearing illustrated that point perfectly.

To anyone who still doubts the voraciousness of the contemporary bass music scene, the Frite Nite event should have proven a potent counterpoint. The party was fairly eclectic, cohering stuff like funky psychedelia (B. Bravo and the Starship Connection), hard-hitting beats (DjG) and echoes of dancehall and early-nineties rave (Chrissy Murderbot, whom I missed–shucks) into a trendy whole. Some of the music I heard was unmemorable but OK to dance to, some was more gratifying.

Comma. Photo by Julia Glosemeyer.

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Top 3 Fall 2011 Music Festivals Around the World

Early fall equals party time in San Francisco: we have three massive music festivals coming – first LovEvolution, then Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and finally (as a hip cherry on the proverbial cupcake) Treasure Island. The rest of the world doesn’t sit and envy though — they’ve got their own. Here are three fests in Europe and the US that exemplify what “a badass lineup” means.

Unsound Festival, Krakow, Poland. Sunday, October 9 to Sunday, October 16

If you’re hungry not only for new sounds, but for an intriguing curatorial concept to hold them together, you should head to Unsound. Last year’s topic was “horror,” and this fall the artists will be grouped under the banner of “future shock.” The theme explores the phenomenon of “information overload” and how people will need to brace up for what the future holds — many a participant’s music might be best described as dystopian.

Who I would see: With his partner The Spaceape, London-based producer and Hyperdub label founder Kode9 made one of my absolute favorite albums of all time: 2006’s Memories of the Future. This year’s Black Sun is somewhere up there, too. Kode9 is hailed as an originator of the dubstep genre, but he offers something more complex and sophisticated than the lumpen “brostep” that seemingly rules the world today. That doesn’t signify sexless intellectualism though: Kode9’s music always stays markedly physical, with Memories of the Future’s hair-raising bass pressure replaced on Black Sun by sensual, funky beats and synth sounds so crisp you’ll want to wear them for your wedding. All of it is coupled with the narrative about the Earth after a radiation disaster. At Unsound, Kode9 (sans Spaceape) will be paying a live homage to the 1960s sci-fi movie La Jetée, which tells the story of a time traveler in a world ravaged by nuclear war.

Kode9. Photo by sunny_J, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Extras: Unsound will also feature a wide array of producers and musicians whose releases all played a part in making 2011 interesting – including, but not limited to Morphosis, 2562, Andy Stott, HTRK, Kangding Ray, Sun Araw, and William Bennett’s Cut Hands.

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HTRK – WORK (work, work) [Album Review]

Australian duo HTRK‘s new album WORK (work, work) is a strange and curious beast. It is a pop record, in that the songs are really songs (some are even hummable), and the themes revolve around the quintessential pop subject matter: feelings. But, the feelings described on this album are far more uncomfortable and complex than those tolerated by most mainstream pop music.

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San Francisco Electronic Music Festival 9/8/2011-9/11/2011 [Preview]

Let me start off topic: On Land Festival, I love you. You’re awesome. Please come back. That said, even though On Land is sorely missed, it is far from the only great event for San Francisco’s experimental music fans. For starters, we have our own Electronic Music Festival, which has been getting the city acquainted with serious avant-garde music practitioners since 2000. This year it runs from Thursday, September 8th to Sunday, September 11th at the SF MOMA and the Brava Theater Center.

The big draw of this edition is perhaps Christian Marclay, the legendary artist who recently got honored with a Venice Biennale Golden Lion and a Whitney Museum exhibition. The work that made a lot of buzz was The Clock, a mind-boggling 24-hour video collage composed entirely of film clips, each of which tells you what time it is. He has created similar videos before: Video Quartet features fragments of movies where characters play music or sing, and The Phone is woven out of episodes where people pick up the phone. Marclay has been a seminal figure for the contemporary aesthetic, which relies heavily on wholesale appropriation of cultural material and sampling. He has employed those methods not only in his video art but also in his work with sound. In fact, when he started at the end of the 1970s, he wanted to be a musician, not an artist. Marclay has been hailed as one of the fathers of turntablism, which is creating sound compositions with the record player as the main instrument. Oh, the many vinyl records he has tortured to death in his long career. Here is a short film where you can see turntablism in all its glory.

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Tri Angle Records Showcase: 2011 Reality Tour – 103 Harriet – SF [Review]

Hipster triangles, anyone? Robin Carolan’s Tri Angle must be shiniest one around, with the #1 spot on the Billboard list of “Best Indie Labels” and a recent “Record of the Month” from London’s legendary Rough Trade record store (for Balam Acab‘s Wander / Wonder). On August 19, Tri Angle celebrated its first birthday at 103 Harriet, a pretty spacious club in San Francisco. When you think about it, such acclaim and hype sit kind of incongruously with the general “feel” of the music that the label puts out, which could be described as “introverted.” Bedroom producers making heady electronica with influences from hip hop and bass music, and a flavor of Goth – not exactly what you would consider a recipe for world domination. That being said, since England’s Burial got a Mercury Prize nomination in 2008 (his tunes are among the most introverted I’ve ever heard), I may have to take back my words.

White Ring. Photo by Bryan Glosemeyer.

At the Tri Angle party we got to see the critical darling oOoOO, as well as labelmates Babe Rainbow, Water Borders and Clams Casino. There also was Brooklyn duo White Ring and two guys from Cali’s own Wedidit collective: Shlohmo and D33J. The latter played first, seducing the audience with instrumental hip hop as starry-eyed and lovey-dovey as certain strains of trip-hop. One of his tracks was a standout, all sensuous sub-bass with an occasional forceful beat or noisy fragment (a trick inherited from dub producers – the occasionality provides for a more visceral impact).

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