By Ian S. Port
By Cory Sklar
By Godofredo Vasquez
By Gil Riego Jr.
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Christopher Victorio
By Ian S. Port
The latest in a long line of San Francisco electronic acts to find a home on a German label, Broker/Dealer brings the spirit of Teutonic minimalism to sun-dappled, fogbound productions of the Bay Area. Launched in 1996 as a series of radio broadcasts, the band -- Ryan Fitzgerald and Ryan Bishop -- quickly gained recognition for its involvement in "Pop," a weekly party showcasing the punchy spring of reductionist dance music and the unabashed glow of new wave and vintage chart pop. Don't believe the fusion is possible? Just check out "Haulin' Oats," Broker/Dealer's track on the first 12-inch from Los Angeles' Sentrall Records. As the title pun suggests, Hall & Oates provide the source material for the song's slow-burning groove, in which the disco-rock strains of "I Can't Go for That" are folded almost unrecognizably into a thick, viscous swirl. Such amalgamations continue to boost Broker/ Dealer's profile. This year, the group executed two singles and two compilation contributions for Cologne's esteemed Traum Schallplatten imprint; garnered glowing press coverage in URB, XLR8R, and highbrow U.K. music mag The Wire; and licensed "Haulin' Oats" for the third volume of Proto Tracks, a subscription-based series for independent electronic music. Clearly Broker/ Dealer understands the salesman's maxim, immortalized in Glengarry Glen Ross: "ABC: Always Be Closing."
If the pulse of Western culture is accelerating, as many trend watchers would assert, Miguel Depedro might just be its pace car. Everything about Depedro (aka Kid606) is fast. He talks a mile a minute, travels with the frequency of a flight attendant, and turns out so many records on his Tigerbeat6 label that fans have to skip meals just to keep up. But all that gas looks positively slo-mo compared to the frenetic velocity of Kid606's recordings and live sets, which reroute dance music's gentle thump into a jackhammer pounding. Quite possibly the first person ever to grace the cover of U.K. magazine The Wirewearing braces, the barely post-adolescent musician got his start in the San Diego punk scene, before discovering digital composition. Since then he's released an untold number of singles, albums, and compilation tracks for labels such as Force Inc. and Ipecac as well as his imprint. His own music ranges from lush, subdued minimalism to take-no-prisoners speedcore, but the Kid's greatest contribution may be in the realm of remixes. A pioneer in the field of "bootlegging" -- illicitly remixing pop songs -- he specializes in cheeky, highly illegal reworks of chart tunes, such as a set of Missy Elliott versions he released as the initial effort from the Tigerbeat6 spinoff Violent Turd. Kid606's live sets, executed on two laptops simultaneously, challenge not just copyright rules but also the logical limits of processing power, muscling against the outside edge of his PowerBook's RAM to fuse Top 40 tunes into a blur of beats and cultural references, rendered at a blink-and-you'll-miss-'em speed.
The Fucking Champs
The Fucking Champs weren't always fucking. Tim Soete and Josh Smith were just the Champs when they originally got together as a guitar duo in 1992. Back then, Soete and Smith were living in Santa Cruz, playing a kind of transgenre instrumental rock that borrowed equally from prog, '80s metal, and hardcore punk. When the lads decided to relocate to San Francisco in 1996, Soete moved to drums and ex-Nation of Ulysses axeman Tim Green joined up. The music unleashed on the band's debut III was a riff maniac's dream. Crunchy and distorted, the band's sound was also marked by a sense of melodic experimentation usually missing in mainstream metal -- as well as a sense of humor. Though the trio's songs are painstakingly composed and layered (III took years to record), the band isn't afraid to have a laugh at its own expense, giving tracks names like "I Am the Album Cover" and "Happy Segovia." When a '50s combo also called the Champs complained about their moniker, Green, Soete, and Smith officially add "Fucking" to their name in 2000, for the release of their sophomore LP, IV. The three's latest release, titled -- you guessed it -- V, continues to push the boundaries of metal, mixing in quieter guitar lines with the adroit, bombastic soloing that has made their appellation such an apt one.
On Ludicra's Web site, www.ludicra.org, the band lists the instruments played on its debut album, Hollow Psalms, starting with "guitar" and ending with "misanthropy," which says quite a lot about the group. Featuring members of Hammers of Misfortune, Fölcainö, Impaled, Ominum, and the Lord Weird Slough Feg, Ludicra has steadily gained a cult following in the Bay Area's black metal community. But the outfit's real claim to fame is the spine-shaking vocal assault of Laurie Sue Shanaman and Christy Cather, which sounds a little like feeding time at the hellcat enclosure of the devil's zoo. The group's thoroughly dark and disenchanted lyrics complement the women's unholy din. On "The Final Lamentation," for instance, the subject of the shrieking has just slit her wrists, and "still ruby ribbons/ From outstretched arms/ Paint a room red with regret." It's pretty strong stuff, but any black metal band worth its trench coat can be sinister; Ludicra has the good sense -- and top-notch musicianship -- to break up the violent, wrenching passages with beautiful interludes. The band's secret weapon may be second guitarist John Cobbett, who knows exactly how to temper Ludicra's explosive menace with delicately restrained playing. Drummer Aesop and bassist Ross Sewage also help take the complex sound to the next level. The group's combined assets all work together to devastating effect, most notably on epics such as "Userpent" and "Heaped Upon Impassive Floors." These are the kind of songs that can't help but raise the question: If misanthropy can fuel music this powerful, how bad can hate really be?
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