Electronic music has always had an image problem. Born of — and often written for — the dance floor and the club, establishmentarians often dismiss electronic music as purely functional, not to be taken as seriously as “Music” with a capital “M.” Nevertheless, high-minded electronic music has always existed, and Floating Points is its newest and most visible evangelist.
Floating Points' feet are planted firmly on the dance floor: His discography, stretching back to 2009, is comprised almost entirely of 12-inch singles that delicately and skillfully blend deep house and delicate techno with jazz influences and flourishes. Late last year came his debut album, Elaenia, which turned the equation upside down — it's a brilliant jazz record that just so happens to be composed primarily with electronics. More than an album, it feels like a statement of purpose.
Along with the album came a new live performance featuring a full band. On Friday, he debuts this performance in San Francisco. If it's even half as sublime as the record, it will be one for the ages.
Other worthy parties this week
Brouhaha featuring Chrissy and Ghosts of Venice at The Basement, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, April 29. Free before 10 p.m., $10 after; thebasementsf.comIt's easy to sum up Chicago DJ/producer Chrissy in a single word: versatile. His career began more than a decade ago, as Murderbot, with a 12-inch of pitch-perfect jungle revivalism. Then he became Chrissy Murderbot, and was one of the first to spread the gospel of Chicago footwork around the world. These days, he's just Chrissy, a brilliant and underrated selector who trades in disco edits and high-energy house. LA disco obsessive Ghosts of Venice joins him.
Monarch presents Cassy and Mozhgan at Monarch, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, April 29. $15-$20; monarchsf.comHere's a particularly inspired pairing of two DJs (both ladies, coincidentally) who consistently defy expectations. Cassy, former resident at Berlin's Panorama Bar, has been DJing since the early aughts and began her career as a vocalist on other productions. She's often thought of as a “minimal” DJ, but her range extends well beyond into nervous, eccentric techno and classic deep house. Local selector Mozhgan, meanwhile, makes disco sound ominous while playing up the funk inherent in industrial and acid house.
As You Like It presents Voices From The Lake at The Midway, 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Saturday, April 30. $20-$25; themidwaysf.com
Voices From The Lake (aka Italian extraterrestrial techno conjurors Donato Dozzy and Neel) are, without doubt, some of the foremost live electronic musicians in the world. The pair work in two distinct modes. On record, they craft long-form ambient techno designed to lull the listener into hypnotic bliss. Live, they go full throttle, unleashing a psychedelic techno onslaught, improvising for hours on end. Supporting is Christina Chatfield, local acid techno specialist, and The Bunker New York's Bryan Kasenic.
Lights Down Low presents Fort Romeau at Monarch, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, April 30. $10-$20; monarchsf.comIt's no secret, but it bears restating: Disco is forever. The ancestor of all modern dance music has lately been reappearing in some very interesting ways. A crop of new producers from the U.K., Australia, and the U.S. have moved beyond merely sampling disco classics toward using its DNA in whole-cloth new productions. London's Fort Romeau stands out amongst this cohort, crafting easy-going house music that wears its disco roots on its sleeve — to fine effect.
Artist Spotlight: Bézier
Synthpop, generally, isn't high-minded music. To most, “synthpop” conjures up images of silly hair, stretch neon, and '80s revivalism — fun, but not to be taken seriously. And then there's Bézier, the musical alter ego of San Francisco artist and DJ Robert Yang, here to prove that's all wrong.
When I ask Yang to describe the influences animating the project, he speaks volumes: “I tend to think about things that are under the surface and open to interpretation and imagination. I focus on depth, movement, and ecosystems. My first record, Ensconced, looked at water motifs, celestial symbolism, secrecy and hidden agendas. The second, Telomeres, spoke about methods, processes, analysis, test tubes, beakers, centrifuges, and steel.”
Hardly your usual themes for synthpop, but then, Bézier is not your usual synthpop artist. “Synthpop,” in fact, doesn't cut it — Bézier's music is entirely instrumental, and although it's retro-inspired, it's decidedly not throwback music. “I use old, vintage equipment, which sets me up for a 'retro' sound,” Yang tells me. “But to avoid it, I try and acknowledge the cliches in songwriting and figure out how to deconstruct them — turning melodies into gags, or maybe a kind of punchline.”
Listening to his music, it's easy to hear what he's talking about. “Silhouette,” from his first record Ensconced, sounds like a debut single, but instead of harmonized vocals and a typical structure, it features melancholy, sing-song synths cascading above a steady, plodding beat. It's synthpop to be sure, but Tears For Fears it ain't — it feels simultaneously timeless and time-out-of-place, an intoxicating combination.
Last year, Yang released Mina, a single by the newly rejuvenated Honey Soundsystem (Yang is a core member of the four-man crew). The eight-minute long title track is like nothing he's released yet, combining videogame-flavored sound design with dancefloor-friendly structure and live drumming, marking a real evolution in the Bézier style. “Mina is the sum of all my previous musical experiences starting to coalesce,” Yang says. “Writing music [for my previous two records,] I wanted to write experimental pop songs, using a minimal setup and live takes. As I became more intimate with my equipment, I wanted to focus on dancefloor compositions without sacrificing the spirit of the two records that came before. Mina is the result,” he explains.
Yang is also a remarkable live performer. When he learned how to play improvisational jazz as a kid, his instructor would “prompt [him] on the spot to construct melodies and solos.” Yang tries to mimic this vein of improvisation when he performs, by creating “a framework fluid enough to allow [him] to make decisions quickly, riffing on ideas.” The result allows him to test out new ideas and gauge crowd reactions to new work while remaining playful.
Coming next is a new record for Honey Soundsystem, entitled Cosmologist, followed by a 12-inch single on Dark Entries. For those interested in the outer reaches of electronic pop music, look no further than Bézier.