Katabatik — an Oakland-based collective of experimental electronic musicians, performers, and DJs — has been keeping the Bay Area weird since the turn of the century. Their irregular parties, often at underground locations, are like no others in the Bay. Mix together one part Mad Max–style apocalyptic dystopia, one part esoteric pagan ritual, one part warehouse techno rave, and one part experimental synthesizer showcase, and you begin to approach the mind-bending experience of a Katabatik party. Saturday's two-room showcase at F8 marks their first San Francisco event in years.
On deck are a handful of artists from within the Katabatik family. Performing live are Scott Arford, a manipulator of frequency and tone with deep roots in experimental and noise music communities; Only Now, who blends tribal percussion with heavy, deep bass rhythms; RPTN, who produces heavy acid techno; and Marmot, one of the group's newest performers. A slew of DJs will be providing a soundtrack of electro, acid techno, industrial, and beyond throughout the night.
Other worthy parties this week
As You Like It presents Axel Boman at Monarch, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday, May 19. $15-$20; monarchsf.com
It's hard not to love Axel Boman. The goofy, playful Swedish producer and DJ exudes a certain lovability — everything about Boman (his tunes, his persona, his DJ sets) shouts to the world: “Let's have a good time.” His career took off when his track “Purple Drank” became a club-floor standard (it's still better than just about anything released six years hence). These days, he's running a label, Studio Barnhus, while bringing deep house and disco to dancefloors worldwide.
Robot Ears and Public Works present Alan Fitzpatrick at Public Works, 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, May 20. $17-$25; publicsf.com
Alan Fitzpatrick is the latest and greatest in a long line of British techno artists who have made an indelibly English mark on continental European techno. Unlike the recent crop of Brits who've folded influences from dubstep, grime, and bass music into the techno continuum, Fitzpatrick is techno for techno's sake, and he does it better than almost anyone else. His performance Friday comes in support of his just-released fabric 87 mix disc, a proper techno journey.
BREAD #7 featuring Celestial Trax and Distal at Underground SF, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, May 21. $10-$15; undergroundsf.com
Genres. What are they good for? Absolutely nothing! No — actually, that's not true at all, but after listening to Celestial Trax's recent Electronic Beats mix, which susses out the links between R&B, grime, black metal, industrial, kuduro, and post-punk (yes, they are all linked), one must wonder if we've finally entered a post-genre world. Probably not, but whatever Celestial Trax is on, I want some of what he's having. Don't-call-it-dubstep artist Distal supports.
All Day I Dream with Lee Burridge, Hoj, and more at Golden Gate Park (Hellman Hollow), 1-7 p.m. Sunday, May 21. $40; alldayidream.com
Lee Burridge has been DJing for ages (he brought club culture, whole cloth, to Hong Kong in the early '90s), but he's still innovating. His latest endeavor, All Day I Dream, began on a Brooklyn rooftop in 2011 and has since spread around the globe, taking place exclusively in outdoor venues — like Golden Gate Park's Hellman Hollow. Behind the decks, Burridge spins effervescent, tribal tech-house — just right for dancing in the sun.
Notable Local Records
Kalophain by Powel; Das Sind Wir
Paul Chriske, aka Powel (not to be confused with the double-L Powell, a British artist whose high-octane body music is quite unlike Powel's), has spent the past few years quietly establishing himself with a handful of records trading in a particular strain of carefully produced, delicately melodic tech-house. In Berlin, where Chriske resides, this contemporary strain of tech-house has its roots in labels like Mobilee and in Waterhouse, a popular club; internationally, it's championed by Lee Burridge and his All Day I Dream parties (occurring here in San Francisco this weekend), and overlaps with Burning Man culture.
Kalophain, a five-track EP, is about as fine an example of this sound as you could ask for. It's mellow and subtle in its production, but not so much in its atmosphere.
That sound is encapsulated by “War 25,” the EP's first and most obvious track. Gentle, pastoral melodies float by, buoyed by a simple bassline, until a male voice (the kind you might expect to whisper “namaste” in your ear) languorously intones: “Well, this is it.”
In a manner of speaking, yes.
Despite that tune grating on me much the same way flower headbands at music festivals do, the rest of the EP features excellent production and less overt sampling. “Blaadsch” is smoky and sexy, with a smart bassline, and “Crash Room” features cozy, nostalgic trance grooves. For those who venture to the Playa each year, this EP should make you feel right at home.
Sweaty Fingers by Maroje T; Chem Club Records
Sweaty Fingers is the first release by Maroje T, a Brooklyn-based techno producer, and also the first release from Chem Club Records, a new Oakland-based record label affiliated with Shuffle Co-Op, a local party promoter. It's a three-track EP of no-nonsense warehouse techno, delightfully minimal and featuring two distinct moods.
The EP's first track, “Acid Plan,” is aptly titled — this is the stuff acid techno dreams are made of. It begins with a moody, nervous synthesizer that gradually works itself into a tizzy until a throbbing bass drum kicks in and relieves tension. It works just as well opening a DJ set as it does much later on, to reset the mood — simple yet versatile.
Its simplicity is key, as a matter of fact. The track's only other feature is a murky acid squelch that shows up later on. That's all it needs — the hauntingly insistent synthesizer that opens the track is a textbook example of an unforgettable techno earworm.
“Sweaty Fingers,” meanwhile, is a beautiful, undulating celestial starscape undergirded by a rolling kick drum. Listening to it feels like staring into the sky. Deployed carefully, this track will lift a dancefloor into outer space.
Bostonian John Barera's remix of “Sweaty Fingers” adds percussive big-room flavor, but feels garish in light of the original's elegance and verve. DJs may find it utilitarian, however. Techno lovers: Don't sleep on this one.