At this point, it's simply a matter of fact: Who runs the world? Girls. It's as true in dance music as it is everywhere else. Here, Honey Soundsystem highlights three women from around the globe who each have made a mark on the scene in their own way.
Headlining is Steffi, a Dutch-born producer/DJ and one of the finest selectors of techno and electro in the world. Her career took off when she became a resident DJ at Panorama Bar (inside Berghain) in Berlin. These days, her visibility as a producer is rising, and on Saturday she performs live for the first time in San Francisco. (I had the pleasure of witnessing her first live performance ever at MUTEK last year in Montreal. It was flawless, a contemporary recreation of Detroit techno history.)
Joining her is The Black Madonna, a Chicago-based veteran selector whose profile has exploded worldwide thanks to her penchant for blending hard-hitting disco, raw techno, and acid house. Detroit's DJ Minx, meanwhile, goes for funky, deep house.
Other worthy parties this week
Disaffection featuring Mario Ruiz (All Your Sisters) at The Knockout, 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday, April 14. $3; theknockoutsf.com
Disaffection, a new party dedicated to the sleaze, the glam, and the excess of electroclash, returns this Thursday at The Knockout. If you have fond memories of Miss Kittin, Fischerspooner, Adult., or Tiga & Zyntherius — or if you dug a little deeper and preferred Legowelt and I-F — Disaffection is the blast of nostalgia you've been waiting for. This month they feature guest DJ Mario Ruiz, of local post-punk act All Your Sisters, alongside residents Nickie and Glass Ghost.
Another Planet Entertainment presents Underworld at Fox Theatre (Oakland), 8 p.m.-12 a.m. Saturday, April 16. $50+; thefoxoakland.com
OK — this isn't a party, it's a concert. So goes Underworld's success that they long ago left clubs behind and now pack out stadiums and theaters. And truth be told, the Underworld of today bears little resemblance to the Underworld of yesteryear. No matter — Underworld remains Underworld, and their accomplishments (writing two of the finest techno albums ever made; elevating electronic music to a high artform) are beyond reproach. Here's hoping they dip deeply into their back-catalogue.
Deep Blue and Public Works presents Nina Kraviz at Public Works, 9:30 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, April 15. $22-$30; publicsf.com
Nina Kraviz can't be pinned down. The Russian-born DJ debuted in 2009, when she released a slew of records on various labels — REKIDS (tech-house), Underground Quality (deep house), and Naïf (long-form vocal-centric minimal techno); she's also got a thing for raunchy Chicago ghetto house and raw acid techno. In 2014, she launched her own label, Trip, primarily releasing compilations of like minded artists (Terrence Dixon, Fred P, Kelli Hand). In between, she DJs all over the world.
Love International Warm-Up Boat Party feat. Mike Huckaby aboard San Francisco Spirit (Pier 3), 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday, April 17. $65; sunsetsoundsystem.com
'Tis the season — the first Sunset Sound System boat party of 2016 is here. To kick things off, they're teaming up with Burning Man camp Disco Knights for a Bay cruise aboard the San Francisco Spirit featuring Detroit techno artist Mike Huckaby. Huckaby's trademark, like other Detroiters, is deep, soulful techno — but he's also an accomplished teacher of sound design and synthesis (not coincidentally, his own record label is called “SYNTH”). Sunset and Disco Knights DJs support.
Notable Local Records
Muse Ecology by Conspiracy of Venus; CoV Records
Think choral music. What springs to mind? Gregorian monks? Gospel? Barbershop quartets? Avant-garde composition? How about a 30-strong choir of women performing covers of curious not-quite-standards (like Bowie, Björk, Waits, Cohen)? That's precisely what you'll get from Muse Ecology, the debut album from San Francisco choir-and-more, Conspiracy of Venus. It's a strange, intriguing listen, and probably not what you're expecting.
The album opens with an original composition from Joyce Todd McBride, the Mills College alumnus who directs Conspiracy of Venus. “Wildwood” is breezy and folksy, but it gave me the wrong impression of what was to come. To be honest, it's my least favorite piece on the album.
But soon after, the chorus launches into “Jockey Full of Bourbon,” a sultry, salty classic by Tom Waits. It's lovely, and accompanied by marimba that emphasizes the Caribbean flavor of the original and adeptly replaces the original's guitar licks with harmonized singing.
Cover versions are always tricky, especially with voices as distinctive (and singular) as Waits', Bowie's, and Björk's. It's hard to imagine how their originals could be improved upon. Thankfully, Conspiracy of Venus sidesteps this issue altogether — with interlocking, contrapuntal harmonies, no one voice dominates, and the Venus versions are less covers than re-imaginations.
And despite “Wildwood,” McBride's original compositions are remarkable. The album's centrepiece is a nine-minute choral interpretation of Bertolt Brecht's “The Buddha's Parable of the Burning House;” it's cerebral, moving, and experimental. For something altogether different, Muse Ecology can't be beat.
Split by Karaoke and Riddler Smoke; Uncle Daddy Ltd.
Ah, the cassette tape. What was once all but relegated to the dustbins of irrelevance — alongside other anachronistic, outmoded ghosts of media like 8-tracks and Betamax — has resurged, becoming the physical manifestation of DIY culture. Unlike vinyl, tapes are dirt cheap, super fast (to produce), and dirty (in sound and in feeling). In other words, if you want to hear truly weird shit, you need a tape deck.
This untitled split cassette tape from Oakland's Karaoke and LA's Riddler Smoke is the first release on Uncle Daddy Ltd., a cassette label I can't find any information about. In sum, it's everything a cassette release should be: Short, bizarre, enticing, exciting, amateur, and weird.
Each artist takes up one side, each coming in just under 20 minutes. Speaking in the loosest of terms, both artists work in a hip-hop mode. Both work with looped beats, samples, and write short sketches, not songs. But both artists commingle hip-hop derivation with something else entirely. In fact, this tape reminds me most of the formless experimentations of “post-rave” freaks Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland (aka Hype Williams).
To be clear, polish isn't what you'll find on this tape — nothing feels quite finished, with the exception of the final tracks on both sides, which are beautiful, melodic, ambient works. Karaoke's in particular reminds me of vintage Boards of Canada. Regardless, there are brilliant ideas at work here, with real talent lurking not far below the surface.