In the last five years or so, techno has gone dark. For most of the 2000s, techno was minimal, microscopic, and designed to sneak up on you, not slap you in the face. Sometime around 2008, as the bleak post-industrial stylings of the Sandwell District collective (aka Silent Servant, Regis, Function, Female and, later, Rrose, who performed in San Francisco last week) made a serious impact on dancefloors around the world, techno producers started getting heavier, fiercer, more intense, and more raw.
Enter Ancient Methods. The latest incarnation of German DJ/producer Michael Wollenhaupt (previously known as Trias, during his days as a resident DJ at Berlin's legendary techno club Tresor), Ancient Methods stands at the forefront of the pack of modern industrial techno producers. His productions are aggressive and sometimes harsh, but possess a heavyweight groove, never lacking in kinetic energy or rhythmic potential. Some dark techno is “dark for darkness's sake”; Ancient Methods never loses sight of the dancefloor, producing tracks that are as floor-friendly as they are moody. When he gets behind the decks, he turns into something of a virtuoso, blending techno (both vintage and new) with industrial, experimental, and minimal wave in such a way that all of it seems to make more sense than it did before — the true mark of a skilled DJ.
Joining him is local DJ/producer Skander, one of the proprietors of San Francisco's newest record shop in the Tenderloin, RS94109. The Surface Tension resident DJs (full disclosure: I am one of the residents) will be supporting throughout the evening, while Oakland's Katabatik crew holds it down in F8's back room.
Other worthy parties this week
FACE & Restless Nites present Museum of Love and New Build at Mighty, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 11. $20; mighty119.com
For most of the mid-to-late aughts, DFA Records ruled the roost, reinvigorating dance music in the United States and exposing a whole new generation of listeners — who otherwise scorned electronic music — to the wonders of a heavy, steady beat. Times have changed since DFA's heyday (electronic music has not only become acceptable in America, it's become mainstream), but they're still putting out the same caliber of tunes they used to. Enter Museum of Love, led by former LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney and Dennis McNany, aka Jee Day, another DFA affiliate. They sound, well, exactly like you might expect: tight, propulsive bass grooves, riffing on disco and post-punk, synth-pop-inspired beats, and haunting vocals, all tied together by excellent songwriting and strong musicianship. New Build, a trio (featuring two former Hot Chip bandmembers) with a slightly poppier flavor, joins them. Supporting throughout the evening are DJ Eug and the Restless Nites residents.
As You Like It's Ugly Sweater Party featuring Rebolledo, Beautiful Swimmers, and more at Monarch, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, Dec. 12. $15-$20; monarchsf.com
Three years ago, As You Like It threw its first “Ugly Sweater Party,” in which organizers encouraged everyone in attendance to dig up that red, white, and green monstrosity your grandmother gave you 15 years ago and wear it to the club to celebrate the holidays. It's turned into something of a tradition, and this year, the headliners are Mexican tech-house genius Rebolledo and Washington, D.C., disco-house practitioners Beautiful Swimmers. Rebolledo is probably better known as half of the duo Pachanga Boys, whose 15-minute epic “Time” is one of the most legendary dancefloor anthems recorded in the last decade. When Rebolledo takes to the decks, he gets a little weirder than expected, not afraid to keep the dancefloor on their toes. Beautiful Swimmers are always a treat, easy to enjoy and generous with the groove, perfect for a holiday party. As You Like It resident DJs Bells & Whistles open up the festivities for the night.
Lights Down Low presents Pleasure State (MK, Lee Foss, and Anabel Englund) at Mighty, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 13. $25; mighty119.com
Lights Down Low's holiday bash is headlined by Pleasure State, the new house music supergroup comprised of MK, aka house music legend Mark Kinchen, Lee Foss, one of the folks behind Hot Natured and Hot Creations, and Anabel Englund, an L.A.-based vocalist. Kinchen and Foss have some of house music's biggest hits under their belts; in the '90s, Kinchen released a slew of remixes, refiguring pop songs as house productions, making a name for himself alongside Masters At Work. Foss, meanwhile, is responsible for some of the biggest tech-house cuts of the past several years, Hot Natured's “Forward Motion” in particular. Anabel Englund, a young singer who they began working with in 2012, will join them, providing vocal accompaniment on top of their DJ sets. LDL residents Richie Panic and Sizemore will be supporting throughout the evening.
Monarch presents Stimming, DJ M3, Tyrel Williams, Miguel Solari, and more at Monarch, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 13. $20; monarchsf.com
There's an interesting dichotomy between electronic musicians who perform live, using hardware or computers, and those who don't. Many producers, when booked for a club or a party, will simply perform a DJ set; in some cases, producers are also excellent DJs (in some cases not). Sometimes, DJs produce tracks purely to elevate their profile and get themselves more DJ bookings. The smallest group are the producers who thrive on live performance, and Stimming is one of those. Performing live is where he shines; he produces clean, pristine tech-house, full of elegant melodies, often with vocal accompaniment, the kind of thing that sits just right for those who like their dance music on the classier side. Joining him are a handful of San Francisco's finest house DJs: DJ M3, a Monarch resident, and Tyrel Williams and Miguel Solari, Housepitality residents.