Although most histories of American rave culture began in the Midwest — and rightfully so — a parallel history was written here in the Bay Area, beginning in the late '80s and early '90s. Jonah Sharp, a Scottish expat, perhaps better known as Spacetime Continuum or as half of Reagenz (with techno legend Move D), is one of the founding fathers of Bay Area rave culture, and he's bringing all that history to Pulse Generator's second anniversary party this Friday.
Sharp's credits are too long to list here (to pick but one, explore his 1994 album Sea Biscuit, still a masterpiece of ambient techno 18 years later), but suffice it to say that he has been around the block. He's also a phenomenal DJ, picking bits and pieces throughout the techno continuum and pairing them with melodic, soaring IDM jams. If you already know your Bay Area techno history, you know this is a must-attend; if not, it's time to learn up, and tear it up on the dancefloor in the process.
Passage featuring Russell Butler, Liquid Asset, and The Creatrix at F8, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 11. $10; feightsf.com.
Other worthy parties:
Bay Area electronic music is burning brightly right now, and Russell Butler is one of its shining stars. The Oakland-based artist has been hard at work the past several years, building a body of work that includes last year's God Is Change for cult U.K. label Opal Tapes (which was selected as one of NPR's 10 Favorite Electronic Albums of 2015). He'll be spinning left-field house and techno Thursday night, alongside live performances from Chapel Hill's Liquid Asset and The Creatrix, from SF.
Sunset Sound System's Free Party at Mighty, 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, Feb. 12. Free; mightysf.club.
When life gives you party lemons, make a delicious bowl of free party lemonade. That's what Sunset did when British legend Andrew Weatherall, scheduled to perform on this date, postponed his appearance because of visa problems. Unfortunate indeed, but in his absence, Sunset are throwing a free party featuring their own DJs (including Solar, profiled last week) with special guests in tow. It's not often you get to party, for free, at Mighty, all decked-out Sunset style. Take advantage!
As You Like It presents Robag Wruhme and Doc Martin at Public Works, 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 14. $15-$20; publicsf.com.
There's few more fitting DJs for a Valentine's Day dance party than Robag Wruhme. The mouthfully-monikered musician (real name: Gabor Schablitzki) has a real knack for tugging on heartstrings, and he's unafraid to get overly emotional in his productions or DJ sets. While emotional, melodic dance music is all the rage right now, Robag has been playing this style for decades, and he's better than all the rest. Los Angeles veteran and house music maestro Doc Martin joins him.
BREAD 1st Anniversary Party featuring Addison Groove at F8, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15. $5-$15; feightsf.com.
BREAD, a party dedicated to footwork, juke, Baltimore/Jersey club and more, is celebrating their first anniversary by throwing an afternoon-to-night rager featuring British DJ/producer Addison Groove.to cap off the three-day weekend. Of the 2010-ish cadre of Brit producers whose careers are rooted in dubstep, few have the versatility and verve of Addison Groove. His works vary wildly in tempo and style, but are united by a knack for rhythm few others can match.
Notable Local Records
“Young Forever Remixes” by David Sylvester feat. Saturn Rising
Musical tastes are a funny, nebulous thing. Personally speaking (and, I imagine, for others, too), I rarely love the music I love for “rational” reasons. My musical taste is tied closely to feelings, memories, scenes, histories, and people. In much the same way that smelling a certain scent can trigger a flood of remarkably specific memories, listening to a certain tune, or even a certain kind of music, can bring me back to a memorable time or place. Even though I'm a straight man who hasn't spent much time in gay clubs, I have a deep, abiding love for certain kinds of gay club music because of the time I spent as a tween riding around in my sister's 1987 Volvo while we talked aimlessly about myself, herself, and her blossoming queerness to the soundtrack of dubbed cassettes of Todd Terry, Junior Vasquez, Madonna, and more.
David Sylvester and Saturn Rising's “Young Forever” is a contemporary vision of a '90s gay club hit, and I love it for precisely this reason. Anchored by Sylvester's delightfully retro production — glitzy, glammy, upbeat pop-house — the tune soars thanks to Saturn's beautiful, heartfelt vocals. Is it cheesy? Perhaps, but it's earnestly, unapologetically so, and it's so brilliantly catchy you might find yourself singing along in the shower. The remixes, well-produced as they are, do little for me — the original is just too spot-on. That's a fine problem to have.
Sutures, EP, by Sutures
Sutures' debut EP came out last year as a limited-edition cassette courtesy of Ascetic House, an Arizona-based collective of highly productive freaks who publish a seemingly endless stream of cassette tapes containing dispatches from the industrial-experimental-electronic underground. And last week, they re-released the EP as a fresh digital release.
Sutures are a bicoastal duo consisting of Baltimore's Alex Bennett and San Francisco's Nihar Bhatt, and their first release is a 30-minute long vision of cyberpunk electronica that feels like techno but doesn't quite sound like it. (Oddly enough, this turns out to be the EP's greatest strength and its most noticeable weakness.)
Sutures' knack for sound design is remarkable. Each of the EP's six tracks is rich and idiosyncratic; no track sounds like the other, but they're united by a dark mood that, refreshingly, is neither bleak nor grim. (Noisy, blackened industrial techno, this is certainly not.) Indeed, after several thorough listens, I find myself gravitating to very different elements throughout: The needling, emotional melodies in “Stitch” contrasted against the brooding, dub-flavored basslines of “Interrupt,” for instance.
The percussion is where the record leaves me wanting. With the exception of “Stitch,” which features lovely staggered drums, most of the tracks employ a fairly simplistic 4/4 beat — hence why they feel like techno, even though they don't sound like it. As such, the record feels a bit confused about its purpose. Nevertheless, it's an accomplished debut and recommended listening, and with tightened focus, their following works will be something to behold.