On Friday, 1015 Folsom hosts a massive affair headlined by Erykah Badu, the award-winning neo-soul singer/songwriter. Badu is best known for her albums in the late '90s and early aughts, but as of late, she's reinvented herself as the quintessential postmodern American DJ. Badu is not a particularly talented DJ — technically speaking — but that barely matters to her legion of fans. She sells her presence and charisma on stage, playing edits of funk and soul tunes.
For the traditionally dancefloor inclined, there's Moodymann, an incomparable Detroit legend. Moodymann is a remarkable producer, channeling black musical history (soul, funk, jazz) into modern techno and house rubrics. As a DJ, he's a consummate performer, often toasting on the mic to whip up the crowd while inviting his posse up on stage with him to share champagne and Hennessy. In truth, Moodymann is in a league of his own.
There's more, too: UK selector Benji B, LA beat maestro Kingdom, and others will be there. There'll be something for everyone — and then some.
Other worthy parties this week
Robot NightLife feat. Pixel Memory and Mozhgan at Academy of Sciences, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 24. $15; calacademy.org/nightlife.
Thursday nights at the Academy of Sciences means NightLife, in which artists, DJs, bands, and a whole lot of people on first dates fill out the Academy to throw a party. Sonically, the Academy isn't great — glass walls do not make for good acoustics — but grooving to music in the colossal aquarium downstairs while sipping on a cocktail feels gloriously illicit. (Plus, the people-watching is first-rate.) Tunes come from kaleidoscopic selector Mozhgan, live act Pixel Memory, and more.
Club Lonely at Club OMG, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, Mar. 25. $5-$10; clubomgsf.com.
“A safe place to play house.” So goes Club Lonely's motto, and having just celebrated its one-year mark, it rings true. For newcomers, Club Lonely is a cheap 'n sleazy monthly party at Club OMG, a gay bar on Sixth St., with a sound system and a psychedelic dome above its (small, easily crowded) dancefloor. Its resident DJs are Vin Sol, ghetto-house extraordinaire; Primo, easily San Francisco's most versatile DJ; and Jeremy, a young selector with excellent taste.
BREAD #5 with Jlin at F8, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, Mar. 25. $15; feightsf.com.
Since the '80s, footwork (or juke) — a very particular breed of fast, rubbery, snare-heavy bass music — has been produced by Chicagoans for Chicagoans. By 2010, one Chicago footwork artist (DJ Rashad, and his Teklife crew) had become global sensations, inspiring copycats worldwide. Jlin, a young woman from Indiana, broke the copycat mold, launching footwork into the stratosphere. In her hands, footwork transcends its party music roots, becoming intensely personal, emotional, and even revolutionary.
IN•SIGHT presents Daniel Bortz at Monarch, 9:30 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Mar. 26. $15-$20; monarchsf.com.
With certainty, the grand overarching narrative of European dance music over the last decade (give or take) has been marked by a return towards melody and a departure from minimal, bassline-oriented techno and house. Daniel Bortz, a DJ and producer from Augsburg, Germany, has ridden this wave to global success with his warm, easygoing take on house music, which is equal parts soulful, funky, brooding, and psychedelic. He's bringing his grooves to Monarch alongside locals Bells + Whistles.
Notable Local Records
Despairer by Marc Kate; Failing Forms
“Ambient music” is truly an inaccurate application of nomenclature. Coined by Brian Eno, the name “ambient music” suggests background music, or rather, music to be ignored. Certainly, much ambient music works perfectly well as background listening (which, for the record, is not a criticism), but just as much so-called “ambient” music is forceful, impactful, and engaging. San Francisco electronic composer Marc Kate's latest record Despairer falls very much in this latter category.
Despairer — as one may gather from the album's name and track titles — is a study of lament, an exploration of loss. There's clearly a backstory here, which Kate touches upon in the album's press materials, but I suggest you're better off not knowing it. That's to the album's credit — crafted entirely on synthesizers, it is an adept exploration of emotion, mood, and feeling, evoking a portrait of grief that is remarkably relatable.
Despite its grey mood, it isn't a depressing listen, and each song takes a slightly different tack. “Of All The Books We Burned,” its opener, sounds like an expression of cosmic awe. “Sister Hyde” is raw, noisy, and pained. “Abject-Oriented Ontology” sounds almost like it was crafted on guitar — but it wasn't.
The beauty of arrhythmic music like Despairer is that it works as a kind of Rorschach test, allowing the listener to discover a cinematic world within it. It's a fine, powerful work, and an emotional (and emotive) listen.
Starving At The Palace Gate by Kit 'n C.L.A.W.S.; Jacktone Records
The latest transmission from the wonderfully named Kit 'n C.L.A.W.S. (a duo consisting of San Francisco luminary Joshua Kit Clayton — a.k.a. Kit — and Brian Hock — a.k.a. C.L.A.W.S.) is a six-track EP of lurid, lurching grooves recorded straight to tape. It's an uncompromisingly weird record that doesn't fit in, and it's proud of that.
The EP opens with “Neither Hawk Nor Hound,” its most lazy, languid track, and easily my favorite. It's a brilliant downbeat acid journey, chugging along at just above 90 beats per minute. It's at once effortlessly groovy and impossible to pin down, featuring a lavender-colored minor key mood.
I'm no gear hound, but I'm quite certain that whatever hardware was used to record this EP isn't the kind you hear on most other records. A distinct sort of “lo-fi, 8-bit” sound palette pervades, making the whole record feel like the soundtrack to some bizarre video game from an alternate dimension. It's an odd dichotomy: The EP sounds retro, but it doesn't particularly feel it — throwback music this is not.
In fact, Starving At The Palace Gate feels completely time-out-of-place, a glimpse into an alternate universe where present-day electronic music referents just don't exist. It's a bewildering listen — I've found myself struggling to “figure it out” — but the more I just let it be, the more I come back, unable to stop thinking about it.