The history of electronic music is littered with singular decisions that have had long-lasting repercussions. For example, what if Roland, the Japanese electronics company responsible for producing drum machines, synthesizers, and corollary gear, had spent more time developing the TB-303, its “bass synthesizer” marketed to guitarists (for bass accompaniment)? Maybe then the TB-303 would have been more useful for its intended purpose, and maybe then it wouldn't have flooded the second-hand market shortly after its release, and maybe then DJ Pierre wouldn't have gotten a hold of one. And maybe then he, alongside partners Herb Jackson and Earl Smith (as Phuture), wouldn't have recorded the 1987 12-inch Acid Tracks, which featured the squelching sound of the TB-303 and inspired generations of imitators, who named a subgenre after it: acid house (and acid techno).
Would someone else have picked up the 303 and used it the same way Phuture did? It's impossible to say. Regardless, that first Phuture 12-inch remains one of dance music's few landmark moments, forever changing the landscape. Phuture itself was kind of an incubator for Chicago talent, launching the careers of DJ Pierre and Roy Davis Jr., a Chicago DJ and producer who linked up with Phuture after Pierre left.
These days, their styles have diverged somewhat — Pierre's calling card is still acid house, while Davis Jr. has incorporated vocals and samples from soul music. Considering their history together, the duo's extended back-to-back set should be something special. Galen, one of the Sunset Sound System resident DJs, will be on warm-up duty for the evening.
Cold Beat, Institute, REDREDRED, and Syndicate at The Night Light (Oakland), 9 p.m.-12 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 6. $8; thenightlightoakland.com
Not quite a techno party, but the perennial confluence of synthesizers and punk music (now enjoying a second — third? — act after first surfacing in the late '70s and early '80s), more than warrants its inclusion in this week's column. On offer are a slew of mostly local punk-ish bands who combine the raw energy of (post-)punk with the catchy irresistibility of pop and the fuzzed-out, buzzed-out sound palette of electronic synthesis. Female-fronted Cold Beat, from San Francisco, make beautifully ethereal power pop; REDREDRED, also SF-based, is a one-man, all-synth act whose intense, spirited live performances capture the spirit of classic EBM and new wave; Syndicate, from Oakland, are a bass-and-drums duo in the classic post-punk tradition; and Institute, from Austin, TX, are perhaps my favorite musical discovery from 2014, flawlessly channeling that one band whose T-shirt we're all wearing. Note that this is an early Oakland show — it's fully BART-friendly!
Passage presents White Visitation, Black Hat, and Aja Vision at F8, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 6. $10; feightsf.com
Future-minded techno fanatics, take note: Mexico City is on the rise. The enormous, sprawling city (8.8 million in the city proper; 21.2 million in the greater metropolitan area) is becoming a hotbed of electronic music, thanks to its huge pool of homegrown talent and its burgeoning status as a destination for international talent (see MUTEK Mexico City, for instance). White Visitation, a.k.a. Nicolas Guerrero, is one of the city's premier producers and DJs, with a handful of releases on hotly tipped labels around the world (including New York's L.I.E.S. and Blank Slate). His productions are brooding, slowly building scorchers, the kind of tunes that sneak in unassuming-like and then unfurl into melodic opuses. Supporting him are two Oakland-based artists: Black Hat, who produces shifting, cinematic experimental soundscapes, and Aja Vision, whose music pairs dreamy romantic vibes with analog electronics and throwback rhythms.
Public Works presents Wolf + Lamb and Gazeebo at Public Works, 9:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 7. $17-$20; publicsf.com
It's been a very successful decade for New York DJ duo Wolf + Lamb. Ten years ago, the duo had been doing their thing for a couple of years, earning their DJ chops by playing out at NYC institutions like The Bunker. In 2005, they opened their own venue, The Marcy Hotel, an underground dance club in Williamsburg designed to look like a cheeky boutique hotel. Soon after, the two launched their own record label, and now, in 2015, they are a global presence. They DJ all over the world with a network of friends and family including Soul Clap, Nicolas Jaar, Deniz Kurtel, and more. The duo's success is no secret: their long-form DJ sets of slow, languid, poppy house mixed with smart disco edits are easy and delightful to dance to, no matter how little (or how much) you know about dance music. Colorado's Gazeebo, a disco-edit purveyor himself, is on warm-up duty.
Holly Herndon and Infrasound (Scott Arford + Randy Yau) at The Chapel, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8. $15-$18; thechapelsf.com
For those of you haven't been following the independent music press for the last year or so, Holly Herndon is a Bay Area-based musician and artist who has become quite the music-media darling. Her work smartly wraps up several discrete but connected narratives into a total package: She's a woman working in electronic music; she comes from a dance music background (Berlin, etc.); she has academic electronic music chops (graduated from Mills, now teaches at Stanford); she collaborates with numerous talented, cutting-edge visual artists; her work is infused with timely socio-political commentary; and her music is danceable, but not dance music, and poppy, but not pop music. Her return to the Bay Area should make for a fascinating show, but honestly, the secret star of the gig may be Infrasound, a long-running two-man collaborative project that uses sound, frequencies, and acoustic space to evoke full-body physiological reactions from the audience.