Question: How often do you get the chance to see a reclusive Japanese musician who has been producing idiosyncratic, unparallelled house music since 1988 perform live?
Answer: Not often.
Soichi Terada is a fascinating example of convergent evolution as applied to music. Born in Tokyo, he studied computer science and electronic instrumentation at university, then proceeded to launch his own record label, Far East Recordings, to showcase his unmistakably house music productions. But, unlike his contemporaries in the West, his reference points are completely different: Instead of disco and funk, Terada's work is informed by the kitschy, playful world of Japanese rock and electronic pop (think Yellow Magic Orchestra). The result is a kind of dance music that sounds, to the Western ear, at once totally familiar and wondrously alien.
Terada's work is finally becoming widely available, thanks to the reissue efforts of Dutch label Rush Hour and cratedigger/DJ extraordinaire Hunee. Saturday is his San Francisco debut, alongside New York jock Justin Strauss. Don't miss it.
Other worthy parties this week
Common Ground presents Session Victim and Tone of Arc at Mighty, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, Feb. 5. $15-$20; mightysf.club.
Not especially well-known in the U.S., German duo Session Victim is nonetheless one of the world's most sublime practitioners of contemporary deep house. Like the duo's peers, the music is rooted in funk, disco, and soul samples, but it's paired with a deep affection for old-school hip-hop and live bass guitar. The live performance is truly a sight to see, with one of the pair shredding on bass like a fiend, while the other maniacally works electronics.
Parameter presents Truth, Swindle, and Commodo at F8, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.Friday, Feb. 5. $20; feightsf.com.
Dubstep — heavy, half-time 140 bpm bass music propelled by subterranean bass rhythms — ain't what it used to be, but don't tell that to Deep Medi Musik. The record label, helmed by the legendary Mala of Digital Mystikz, is still pumping out dubstep with old-school flavor: deep, dark and dangerous. Truth, Swindle, and Commodo are all Deep Medi affiliates and will be making a rare pitstop at F8 this Friday, with Ritual Dubstep holding down the back room.
Lights Down Low 1st Annual Super Bowl Party at Monarch, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6. $5-$15; monarchsf.com.
There's a football game happening this weekend, isn't there? Lights Down Low is throwing a party with a handful of local disc jockeys to celebrate the closure of numerous San Francisco city blocks and its attendant $5 million bill. Richie Panic and Corey Sizemore, LDL resident DJs, carry the torch of acid techno and rave; Vin Sol, Club Lonely affiliate, goes for ghetto house and drum tracks; and Eug, FACE resident, plays all manners of disco.
WERD. featuring Ghosts on Tape at Monarch, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 7. $5-$10; monarchsf.com.
From 2010 until 2015, San Francisco dancefloors were pushed toward the bleeding edge courtesy of Icee Hot, a collective of DJs who threw parties featuring eclectic guests from all over the house-techno spectrum and beyond. Ghosts on Tape was an Icee Hot founding father and remains one of San Francisco's finest DJs, weaving together deep house (the real thing — not “ultra lounge” crud) with acid techno, bass music, and more. He's soon departing for Berlin — catch him while you can.
DJ Spotlight: Solar
Solar Langevin's life-long love affair with dance music began in a San Francisco of a different era. “It started one night, sometime in 1991, I think, in Golden Gate Park,” he tells me. “We were told to meet on the night of the full moon. A small group had gathered when a van comes rolling up, and out comes a crew of scruffy-looking Englishmen. In a matter of minutes, they had a soundsystem set up. That was the first time I heard acid house. I'll never forget it.” Those Englishmen were known as the Wicked crew (DJs Garth, Jenö, Thomas, and Markie), whose renegade techno parties became Bay Area legend, and we owe them a debt of thanks for inspiring one of San Francisco's best (and hardest-working) DJs.
If you've gone out dancing in San Francisco over the past two decades, you've almost assuredly heard one of Solar's DJ sets, or at least seen his name on a flyer. His career began when he joined up with fellow local jocks Galen and J-Bird, who had just started hosting their own renegade parties on the Berkeley Marina, as Sunset Sound System. Twenty-plus years later, Sunset is still at it. “In no way did we think [back then] we'd be where we're at now [with Sunset],” says Solar. No longer illegal, their parties are now some of the Bay Area's biggest (and finest), always taking place at unusual venues — Stafford Lake in Novato, aboard a yacht traveling the San Francisco Bay, or their annual weekend camp-out up north in Belden.
The latest chapter in Solar's story began just a couple of years ago, as the world began to notice how talented he is. “It kind of started snowballing in March of 2014, after Dixon invited me to do a little European tour, playing some big clubs over there,” he explains. “On my way over, Tim Sweeney invited me to play [his radio show] Beats In Space. Then, I met the Dekmantel crew [Dutch techno festival promoters], and they were super supportive, booking me at their festivals, inviting me to record a mix and play their Boiler Room. Olaf and the Trouw crew [a vaunted Amsterdam club] booked me several times, and then artists like Traxx, Midland, Joy Orbison, and others began supporting me, too. So it has a lot to do with all the people I just mentioned, a lot of luck, good timing, and hopefully, a bit of skill.”
His explanation is characteristically humble, but give one listen to Solar behind the decks and you'll know why he's blown up. Techno, acid house, industrial, EBM, dub, post-punk, disco, bass music, and more feature in his sets, mixed seamlessly. “I find the connecting threads in all these sounds,” Solar says. “You can hear the influences [between genres] back and forth throughout. I guess that's my job: to string them together in a cohesive way,” he says with a laugh. It's a job indeed, and one he happens to do astonishingly well.