Out of the Dubstep Ashes: Tessela Maps Out His Own Eclectic New Territory

Magic Touch

The story of how Tessela came to be one of the most exciting and innovative electronic musicians active today begins with the death of one of the most vital and groundbreaking scenes in recent electronic music history. Dubstep — the original, moody British breed, dedicated to sub-bass worship, sparse percussion, and atmospheric dread — began to exhaust itself four or five years ago, as its originators moved on or shifted gears and the term itself came to be associated with a particular breed of embarrassingly awful music, mostly American, that bore no relation to the genre's roots whatsoever.

But creative destruction bears sweet musical fruit, and out of the ashes of dubstep rose a spate of particularly brilliant producers who borrowed the genre's trappings to begin mapping out their own territory. Tessela, also known as Ed Russell, is one of these producers — his early 12-inches in 2011 and 2012 clearly contain dubstep's genetics, speeding along at 140 beats per minute, but his percussion samples (whirs, snaps, clanks, and thuds) lend them an entirely different feel. In 2013 he found his niche with “Hackney Parrot,” reaching further back into the annals of U.K. dance music (jungle and hardcore in this case) to craft a brilliantly simple-but-effective banger that had the arms-in-the-air feel of a jungle classic but was unmistakably new and timely.

Lately he has been exploring more straightforward techno rhythms, slowing his productions down further and letting atmosphere play a larger role in his work. Tessela's DJ sets are as eclectic as his productions, incorporating tunes from different genres, eras, and styles of dance music history. Last but not least, support comes from a bevy of local DJs from different crews and collectives, including As You Like It, Outpost, Surface Tension, Housepitality, Bread, and more (full disclosure: Your humble party columnist is one of these supporting DJs).

Other worthy parties this week

Noise Pop, DJ Dials, and 1015 present a PC Music Showcase with Sophie, A.G. Cook, Q.T. and more at 1015 Folsom, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday, March 26. $18-$20; 1015.com
PC Music will be familiar to anyone who has followed underground electronic music news, blogs, or magazines over the past year or two. Perhaps nominally understood to be a “record label,” even though it has released no records (all PC Music releases are published and distributed on SoundCloud), it is better understood as an artist collective, with founder A.G. Cook acting as ringleader, spokesperson, and A&R honcho. Comprising many different artists, the PC Music sound is remarkably consistent — and remarkably polarizing. Steeped heavily in irony, pastiche, and digital or “net art,” PC Music releases tend to sound like American EDM (i.e., Kaskade or Calvin Harris, not traditional techno or house) artists pushed to their logical extreme — like EDM in drag. (Not coincidentally, many of the label's artists seem to disdain the gender binary.) The music is kinetic, hyper-stylized, saccharine, and may not be to everyone's taste, but given how much of a splash PC Music has made in such little time, will certainly make for an interesting night out.

Bodyshock's Two Year Anniversary featuring Lust For Youth, Marshstepper, and Varg at Elbo Room, 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, March 27. $10-$13; elbo.com
Quietly, Bodyshock — a monthly-or-so party dedicated to the vintage sounds of Belgian new beat, EBM, and acid house (think Front 242, Front Line Assembly, and Lords of Acid) — has made it to the two-year mark, after playing host to numerous live industrial and synth acts from around the world. This anniversary lineup is their strangest, most creative, and most exciting yet, headlined by Lust For Youth, a buzzy post-punk band from Denmark whose newest album is actually brilliantly catchy synthpop. It's joined by Marshstepper, a noisy duo whose live shows blur the line between performance art and industrial music, and Varg, a new producer from Sweden (not to be confused with Varg Vikernes, aka Burzum!) who has rapidly built up a catalog of moody, romantic dark techno that manages to be atmospheric and danceable at once. Before, between, and after the headliners, resident DJs BLK Rainbow, Crackwhore, and Unit 77 will be spinning like-minded sounds to get the body moving.

Monarch presents Nikola Baytala, DJ M3, and Mozhgan at Monarch, 9:30 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, Mar. 27. $10-$15; monarchsf.com
One of the best things about clubbing in San Francisco is the generally-high level of quality of our resident DJs, meaning local DJs who work with or for a promoter or club and play before or after the headlining guests. Nikola Baytala and his legendary [KONTROL] parties (with fellow residents Sammy D, Alland Byallo, and Craig Kuna) re-established San Francisco as a techno destination, responsible for bringing some of the world's most well-respected techno producers and DJs to San Francisco. Now based in New York and regularly traveling around the world, Baytala is making a return to San Francisco in the headlining guest slot, bringing his minimal techno and tech-house expertise with him. Joining him is DJ M3, a Monarch resident also known for his Green Gorilla Lounge parties, whose DJ selections tend towards the disco and funky house end of the spectrum, and Mozhgan, a stalwart of the Sunset Sound System parties who is just as comfortable with new wave as she is with psychedelic acid house.

Mighty presents Terry Francis and more at Mighty, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, March 27. $15-$20; mighty119.com
One of England's hardest-working DJs, Terry Francis has been around the block and back again. Francis got his start by DJing at a bar in Leatherhead (yes — that is actually the name of a real city in southeast England), mucking about until he was bitten, like so many others, by the house music bug. Soon enough, he made his way to London, eventually earning a spot as a resident DJ at the city's mega-club, Fabric. It was at Fabric that he developed his own style, threading together different kinds of house music, pairing the jack-your-body style of old-school acid house with modern deep house and tech-house sounds. Francis' groove is easy to listen to but just as easy to lose yourself in — the mark of an excellent DJ. Joining him are two of San Francisco's finest resident DJs, Tyrel Williams of Housepitality and Solar of Sunset Sound System, who have an endless knowledge of the house and techno underground between them.

View Comments