The “back-to-back” (or “B2B”) set is an interesting peculiarity in modern DJ culture. In simplest terms, a back-to-back set consists of two (or more) DJs playing tunes, well, back-to-back — generally two or three records each, then they swap. When it works out well — generally, with DJs who know each others' musical tastes — a back-to-back set can create an entirely new kind of push-pull energy that a single selector just can't achieve on his or her own.
Matthew Dear and DJ Koze, friends and musical collaborators, know each others' taste very well. Each artist comes from a different background — Dear hails from Detroit and works with a minimal, synthpop-esque rubric, while Koze, from Hamburg, plies deep house and tech-house — but converge at a similar nexus point, where underground electronic and pop meet.
On Friday, they perform a seven-hour back-to-back set, open to close — the dancefloor will be theirs and theirs alone, start to finish. Upstairs, meanwhile, features the slow, sludgy vibes of Detroit label How To Kill.
Other worthy parties this week
The Gray Area Festival featuring Telefon Tel Aviv, Pharmakon, and more at the Grand Theater; Thurs.-Sun. April 21-24. $20+; grayareafestival.io
The second annual Gray Area Festival features three days and four nights of programming focused on the intersection between art and technology. Tech-minded folks will appreciate the workshops and conferences, while music- and art-minded crowds should pay attention to the performances on Friday and Saturday nights. Friday features the melodic, inviting flavors of IDM-styled artists Deru and Telefon Tel Aviv, making a long-overdue comeback. Saturday switches gears entirely, featuring the harsh but beautiful noise of Pharmakon and Container.
Voltage Drop presents Kid606 and Russell Butler at The Legionnaire Saloon (Oakland), 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, April 22. $5-$10; legionnairesaloon.com
Around the turn of the millennium, Bay Area electronic and experimental music crystallized around Tigerbeat6, the record label operated by Kid606. Then, Kid606 was a voraciously productive musician (perhaps to his detriment), releasing album after album of demented, glitched-out experimental electronic music. These days, he's mellowed out. Friday's performance will be his first in the Bay in years — a homecoming of sorts. Modular techno wizard Russell Butler (profiled recently in this column) will perform live in support.
120 Minutes presents DJ Hell, DJ Assault, and DJ Spinn at Mezzanine, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, April 23. $10-$20; mezzaninesf.com.
A lineup this diverse is nothing short of genius. DJ Hell, German raunchy disco-house über-selector, runs the International Deejay Gigolos record label and was instrumental in bringing sleazy, sexy house and techno to the masses. DJ Assault, a Detroit legend, crafts blisteringly fast ghetto house featuring tracks like “Ass 'n Titties,” “Love The Pussy,” and “Nut In Your Eye,” with vocals to match. DJ Spinn, from Chicago, is a footwork and juke producer with releases on British label Hyperdub.
Parameter Instance 10 featuring DJ EZ, Batu, and Low Jack at F8, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Saturday, April 23. $20; feightsf.com
DJ EZ isn't well-known in the United States, and that's a shame. EZ is the premier selector of a particular regional subtype of house music known as “U.K. garage” (pronounced “garridge,” mate), which took the U.K. by storm in the '90s and early aughts, but was actually invented by an American (Todd Edwards). Confused? Don't be — just know that UKG is fast, bouncy, bubbly, impossible not to dance to, and EZ is its king.
Notable Local Records
The Roswell Incident by Adra; Denied American Techno
Adra is the alias of San Francisco-based techno producer Alandria Sheffer, and the evocatively titled The Roswell Incident (the truth is out there) is her second release. With three tracks of spare, minimalist acid techno plus a remix from fellow local Vin Sol, The Roswell Incident is a study in how less, as far as dance music is concerned, is often more.
The EP opens with “Project Mogul,” featuring a booming kick drum and a squirrely Roland acid loop. Soon, the track fills out, courtesy of a steady, pulsing synth and a spate of percussion which builds upon that foundational acid loop. It changes little over its runtime, but it's an oddly hypnotic listen.
Track two, “Disaffect,” functions much like “Mogul,” except it's anchored by an in-your-face acid riff. The drumwork here is simple — basic, even — but the filtered, endlessly unfurling acid synth is one I could listen to for hours without noticing.
“Machinate” is the moodiest track on the record, and its highlight. The track runs at a noticeably higher tempo than the other two, and features much more tightly engineered percussion, with a kick drum like a rubberized thump. It's a gloomy, eerie listen, and it truly does the record's title justice. Finally, Vin Sol reworks “Mogul” into an uptempo jack track with claps and snares.
Roswell doesn't innovate, but it does double down on the mesmeric power of acid techno. Hopefully, Adra's next release explores this space even further.
Sudden Haircut by Frak; Dark Entries
San Francisco-based record label Dark Entries is renowned worldwide for reissuing hard-to-find, long out-of-print post-punk, minimal wave, and Italo disco records, rescuing critical music from obscurity (and obscene collectors-only resale prices). But Dark Entries doesn't just dig into the past: The label also releases new records by contemporary artists, too, like Sudden Haircut, the new EP by Swedish techno freaks Frak.
Frak are, in a word, idiosyncratic. Made up of three analog hardware enthusiasts from rural Sweden, Frak are wildly prolific, with a slew of cassette releases stemming back to 1987, when they launched their own label, Börft. Speaking loosely, Frak's music is “acid house,” but their purview extends well beyond that.
Sudden Haircut is a relatively easy listen compared with some of their back catalogue. In fact, it's some of the finest dance music of 2016 so far. The record opens with its eponymously named track, and at just shy of 10 minutes long, it's a serious journey. It's built around a wobbly, undulating, modulating synthesizer, pumping drums, and cacophonous blasts of noise. It's completely unhinged in the best possible way.
“Synthfrilla” and “Synthgok” were originally issued on DJ Sotofett's Sex Tags Mania label, and are straightforward acid house tunes, just as nice to listen to at home as on a dancefloor. “First Glimt I Ögat,” recorded in 2001, is a simple but charming listen.
Despite their dance music bona fides, Frak are more punk than most punks, and Sudden Haircut is a record with appeal well beyond the dancefloor.