Producing electronic music is more accessible than ever these days. All it takes is a laptop, a bit of software, and a tutorial or two and you're up and running — although results may vary. For the most part, this widening of the field is a good thing — there are a lot of young, talented electronic musicians doing their thing on a shoestring budget, sometimes to amazing effect.
But there's something to be said for hardware. Hardware synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers all possess their own eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, which produce particular timbres that software will simply never be able to replicate. Certain electronic musicians have worked with hardware for decades, and have developed a symbiotic working relationship with it, understanding the machines inside and out: Enter Jonah Sharp and David Moufang (aka Move D), together known as Reagenz.
These two are some of electronic music's old guard, their histories reaching back into the early '90s. Sharp is a longtime San Franciscan responsible for some of techno's finest moments under the name Spacetime Continuum (and others); Moufang is a German, from Heidelberg, with a mile-long discography encompassing spaced-out ambient, cerebral techno, and beautiful deep house. They met in San Francisco in 1994 and shortly thereafter began working together as Reagenz, a project that persists to this day.
Reagenz is all about improvisation — setting up a bunch of gear and letting the machines sing with no plan ahead of time. Their live sets ebb and flow, with upbeat dancefloor grooves bleeding into shimmering deep ambience and back again. They're truly a treat for the ears (and eyes — watching them work together is half the fun). Move D is a phenomenal DJ to boot, and he'll be closing out the night with deep house and techno selections, while As You Like It residents Sassmouth and Mike Gushansky get the party started.
Other worthy parties this week
Lights Down Low presents Skream and Scuba at Mighty, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, May 22. $22-$25; mighty119.com
Two of the biggest DJ-producers of the last decade are coming together, high school reunion style, this Friday at Mighty. Both Skream and Scuba launched their careers at roughly the same time (2003) in England, as they began developing a unique, bass-heavy sound that would soon come to be known as “dubstep” (which meant something quite different back then in England than it does in America today). These days, they've moved on from that sound: Scuba is exploring atmospheric techno and Skream has started to produce funky disco-house. Their selections (as DJs) roughly match the kind of music they make these days, as Scuba hews towards deep-space techno and hypnotic tech-house, while Skream is fond of bass-heavy U.K.-styled house music with a bit of disco to whet the appetite. Lights Down Low's resident DJs Corey Sizemore and Richie Panic will be on hand to get the party started, per usual.
Galaxy Radio featuring Cherushii at The Knockout, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, May 23. Free; theknockoutsf.com
Galaxy Radio is an Italo disco party, a genre which is “neither Italian nor disco,” in Galaxy's own words. And Italo really is its own thing, distinct from disco itself — Italians were instrumental in disco's success, of course (imagine the genre without Giorgio Moroder!), but as the '70s gave way to the '80s, Italian (and otherwise) disco producers wrote tracks focused on robots, space, and a general fascination with extraterrestrial and nonhuman lifeforms, which became one of the genre's touchstones, alongside a reliance on electronic synthesis and digitized vocals. This time around, Galaxy Radio has invited S.F.-based producer and DJ Cherushii to work her magic behind the decks. Cherushii's tunes are perfectly rose-colored updates of vintage house music, fresh and modern-sounding with just enough nostalgia to feel comfortable. She's also a talented DJ, with a collection of Italo hits that should fit right in at Galaxy Radio. Residents Smac, PlaZa, Emils, and Un Homme will open and close the festivities.
Outpost presents Delivery, GLSS, and Michael Claus at Underground SF, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, May 23. Free before 11 p.m., $5 after; undergroundsf.com
Bouncy U.K. bass-centric party Outpost returns to Underground SF this month with its most diverse lineup yet, featuring the crunchy hardware techno of L.A.-based producer Delivery. Delivery has only one release, a record out on Delroy Edwards' L.A. Club Resource record label, but it's quite the opening salvo, comprising two long, twisting techno cuts overlaid with distortion and fuzz. He's also responsible for Face2Face, an L.A.-based party that has hosted guests from the burgeoning American “outside techno” scene—to give you an idea where he's coming from. In a contrast from Delivery's rough, raw sound, Outpost is also hosting San Francisco duo GLSS, affiliated with local label Popgang, who produce glossy, upbeat house with a touch of nu-disco flavor. They're accessible and easy to groove to and should make an excellent appetite-whetter for the evening. Michael Claus, Outpost resident, will be on warmup duty, and will likely be packing some of his latest productions to play out.
The Gray Area Festival featuring Shigeto, Teebs, Lustmord, and Alessandro Cortini at Gray Area Art + Technology, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday + Saturday, May 22-23. $25/night; grayareafestival.io
For the past seven years, Gray Area has been working to foster and develop relationships between the arts, technology, and music communities in San Francisco by hosting seminars, workshops, and outreach initiatives. They've also hosted some killer events, culminating in this weekend's Gray Area Festival, their largest yet, featuring a slew of panels, keynotes, and discussions with arts and tech luminaries. They're also hosting live performances by artists across the electronic music spectrum: On Friday, dark ambient pioneer Lustmord joins forces with analog synth wizard Alessandro Cortini for an evening of enveloping, psychedelic atmospheres; and on Saturday, American beatmakers Shigeto and Teebs will kick the tempo up and bring the grooves out. Both nights feature collaborations with visual artists, so expect full-scale audio-visual experiences the whole weekend. All of it goes down at Gray Area's newly renovated space in the Mission, the Grand Theater, which is a sight to be seen unto itself.