In 2004, a pair of South Londoners known colloquially as Mala and Coki released their first record together as Digital Mystikz. Uptempo, filled with dread, and carried by sub-bass rhythms, these early Digital Mystikz records (plus those of collaborator Loefah) defined the blueprint of what came to be known as “dubstep.” After Digital Mystikz became standard-bearers, Mala launched Deep Medi Musik, a record label showcasing music from Mystikz's friends and allies. Ten years later, Deep Medi celebrates a decade of incomparable bass music — featuring Mala plus new-school heroes Kahn, Neek, and Om Unit.
Each artist on this bill represents a different facet of the bass music continuum. Mala is dubstep made flesh — he's an idiosyncratic, one-of-a-kind DJ who primarily plays his own tunes. Rising legend Kahn and partner-in-crime Neek will perform a dub reggae set as Gorgon Sound, and then will switch gears and play their calling card: percussive, high-octane grime and dubstep that is hard-hitting and uncompromising. Om Unit, meanwhile, is a jungle and footwork extraordinaire.
Other worthy parties this week
1015 Superparty featuring Green Velvet and Buraka Som Sistema at 1015 Folsom, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, April 8. $20-$25; 1015.com.
1015's back at it with another bizarre-but-inspired party lineup. Here, they're pairing Green Velvet, Chicago house superstar, with Buraka Som Sistema, the kaleidoscopic Portuguese supergroup. Green Velvet — also known as Cajmere — is a true Chicago original, with a discography that spans 25 years and features hard-hitting vocal house jams. Buraka Som Sistema, reductively, are a kuduro band; they're intoxicating, high-energy, and impossible not to dance to.
Pulse Generator featuring Mike Bee and Jason Greer at Underground SF, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, April 8. Free before 11 p.m., $5 after; undergroundsf.com
Mike Bee and Jason Greer both have deep roots in San Francisco that goes back decades. Mike Bee, current proprietor of Vinyl Dreams in the Lower Haight (profiled recently in this column), has been DJing since the '90s, playing a diverse array of music; Jason Greer launched his first SF party in 1998, and is currently co-creator of We Are Monsters. These days, both selectors highlight spacey, psychedelic cosmic disco, but range is their trademark. Pulse Generator resident Rubidium supports.
Monarch presents DJ Spun vs. Spacetime Continuum at Monarch, 9:30 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, April 8. $10-$20; monarchsf.com
DJ Spun and Jonah Sharp (aka Spacetime Continuum) go way back. They became friends and compatriots in the early '90s, when both were fixtures in the early Bay Area rave scene. Sharp remained in SF, but Spun took off to New York. In 2003, he launched Rong Music, an imprint that helped usher in the then-nascent disco edit craze. These days, they collaborate as the Loose Control Band. Here, they DJ together with decades of history in tow.
Sure Thing presents Abdulla Rashim and DJ Stingray at F8, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Saturday, April 9. $15-$20; feightsf.com
Sure Thing bills its latest party as “A Nature of Weight.” That's an excellent summation — showcased here are two techno artists who, despite major stylistic and geographical differences, produce very heavyweight music in their own way. Abdulla Rashim, from the impaled northern “moon forests” of Sweden, crafts crisp, icy, bleak minimal techno that sounds like a glacier looks. Stingray, from Detroit and never seen without his trademark balaclava, produces and DJs high-tempo electro that hits harder than a wrecking ball.
Notable Local Records
SCS05 by Secret Studio; SS Records
At first glance, this record is about as non-notable as they come. Its only title is its catalogue number; its artwork, or lack thereof, consists of a hand-stamped tracklist and SS Records logo on a white paper sleeve; and “Secret Studio,” the artist name, seems designed to be taken literally.
Secret Studio is the alias of two DJs who hail from Chicago but call San Francisco their home: Tyrel Williams and Bryan Balli (aka Bai-ee), both Housepitality resident DJs. Secret Studio is exactly what you might expect from two career DJs who have been picking and playing dance music for decades. In simpler terms, it bangs.
Secret Studio has released five records, all but one of which come courtesy of Williams and Balli, and the common theme is acid house. Not your father's acid house, mind you — this isn't '80s revivalism or nostalgia. Instead, it's acid house modernized, engineered, and updated for the 21st century. In other words, it's heavy, hard, and brilliant.
“Thought Subtraction,” the A-side track, is a long tune propelled by an undulating bassline and a jacking synth that builds to critical intensity thanks to carefully employed percussion. The flipside's “Let Me Hit It” is the standout, featuring a hypnotic, mesmerizing acid wobble that worms its way throughout the entire track. It finishes with “Satya,” slower and more introspective than the others. As far as home-grown dance music is concerned, it's hard to think of a finer example than Secret Studio.
AXT by Roche; Jacktone Records
Roche (aka Ben Winans) is a dedicated local hardware producer who crafts twinkling, psychedelic house music, with releases on LA's 100% Silk imprint, SF's own now-shuttered Icee Hot record label, Hieroglyphic Being's Mathematics Recordings, and now his latest on Jacktone Records (profiled in last week's column). A swirling, shimmering work, AXT is my favorite Roche release yet.
Perhaps it's listener's bias on my part, but Roche has always struck me as a particularly “Californian” producer. That is to say, the kind of tropes commonly associated with California — psychedelia, breeziness, warmth, positive vibes — are what I associate Roche's music with. AXT, in particular, seems to be honing in on a particularly Californian take on dance music.
The A-side opens with “Circadian Rhythm,” which pairs a pulsing, bassy synthesizer lead with a brilliantly insistent percussion sample. “Congé,” the next track, is the record's psychedelic opus, featuring a modulating, filtered synth that reminds me of something you might have heard on a FAX Records 12″ from 1992. The B-side is taken up by the record's title track; it runs at a slightly slower pace than the A-side, and although it's dynamic and varied, it doesn't grab me quite the way both A-side tunes do.
While AXT is certainly fit for dancefloors, this record isn't a mere DJ tool. The A-side tracks, especially, work well for home listening. Roche seems to be truly settling into his own sound — I'm excited to hear what comes next.