Clued-in techno heads have likely noticed some uncommonly exciting music coming out of Seattle in the last several years. The evergreen capital of the Pacific Northwest isn't generally considered a hub for underground techno music (with the exception of Decibel Festival, which ended its tenure in the city last year after a decade-long run), but things are changing, as several groups of talented, committed producers, artists, and DJs rewrite the narrative.
Particularly notable are secondnature and MOTOR, two crews who throw parties, book marquee artists, nurture their own musicians and DJs, and in MOTOR's case, release their own records. Both have invigorated Seattle's techno scene in different and complementary ways. One of MOTOR's newest artists is IVVY, a Seattle techno producer whose just-released debut EP is a masterclass in murky minimal techno. They pair hypnotic, psychedelic minimal techno grooves (think Sandwell District) with distinctly PNW-inspired organic sound design; it's cosmic, heady stuff that will light up the dance floor.
Friday marks IVVY's San Francisco debut, with MNML:FUN residents supporting.
Other worthy parties this week
BREAD presents Neana and Bleaker at Mighty, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Thursday, June 16. $10-$15; mightysf.club
BREAD's latest features the San Francisco debuts of two genre-flattening weirdos, Neana and Bleaker, associated with two critical “post-everything” record labels, Night Slugs and Unknown To The Unknown, respectively. These labels (and artists) could exist only in the internet generation: They begin with a certain genre (grime; R&B; U.K. garage; house; B-more club) and then twist it at the roots until it becomes something else altogether. The result is exhilarating dance music that feels particularly future-minded.
Blasthaus and HUSHconcerts present Nightmares On Wax at Public Works, 9:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Saturday, June 18. $20-$25; publicsf.com
“Trip-hop” springs a raft of '90s cliches to mind: Portishead, Tricky, and DJ Shadow; velvet bucket hats; neon vests; the movie Go. Sure, trip-hop may be a relic, but it came at a crucial juncture as hip-hop and electronic music cross-pollinated, resulting in some of the most potent music of the 1990s. Nightmares On Wax is one of the genre's essential artists. Here, he presents a DJ set of stoned downtempo grooves from throughout the decades.
Well Nourished Rhythms featuring Jasmine Infiniti at The Rock Steady (Oakland), 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, June 18. Free; therock-steady.com
Well Nourished Rhythms have been bringing the sound of underground house and global club music (think Baltimore, Jersey, and beyond) to Oakland for just under two years now. This Saturday, they move to a new location downtown at The Rock Steady and feature Jasmine Infiniti, a Bronx-to-the-Bay transplant who hails from NYC's vogue and ballroom house scene. Her selections are rooted in vogue's clap-heavy sound, but extend outward from there, incorporating R&B edits and even noisier, industrial sounds.
Surface Tension 16 featuring Appetite, Cienfuegos, and The Creatrix at F8, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, June 17. $10; feightsf.com
A fascinating new crop of artists have emerged as the DIY ethos that illuminates noise and punk and the transcendent dancefloor spirit of techno and dance have become increasingly common bedfellows. Appetite, the duo of Ciarra Black and Jane Chardiet (sister of fierce noise technician Pharmakon) and Cienfuegos, two rising artists from New York, encapsulate this dichotomy: They marry raw, uncompromising atmospherics with club-ready beats and rhythms. The Creatrix, a local live murky techno artist, will support.
Notable Local Records
Black Interiors by Black Spirituals; Ratskin Records
Black Spirituals are a force to be reckoned with. The Oakland-based duo (Zachary James Watkins and Marshall Trammell) craft a psychedelic vision of free improv music, in which guitars, synths, and drums collide with each other like particles in an atom smasher.
Improvised music operates on an entirely different set of rules than “conventional” music; there are no hooks, no choruses, no verses, and oftentimes, no rhythm or melody. But in giving all this up, improvisers make available a new and unique kind of musical experience, in which they seem to interface directly with their instrument, and if performing with others, directly with them, too.
My first encounter with Black Spirituals came when I saw them perform live at The Lab, opening for Oxbow. Their performance, some 40-odd minutes long, ebbed and flowed like a rushing river, with moments of brilliance interspersed with bouts of chaos.
Black Interiors is different: Here, Watkins and Trammell perform solo works, on processed guitar and drums, respectively. Listening to this record is a remarkably different experience than watching them perform together; without the other to push and pull against, their music is simultaneously less and more.
Watkins' four works are relentless and engaging, focused on grinding textures, with brief respite in “Mass,” a beautifully plaintive guitar loop lasting but two minutes. Trammell, meanwhile, unleashes a barrage on his drumkit, producing rhythmic patterns that float like bubbles in air and burst accordingly.
Easy listening this is not, but there's nothing else quite like it.
Uncomfortable Skin by All Your Sisters; The Flenser
When I recently interviewed All Your Sisters, a San Francisco post-punk duo, bandmember Mario Ruiz described their forthcoming record as “more visceral” than their first. After listening, I find myself in complete agreement: Uncomfortable Skin (released June 27 via SF label The Flenser) is a thrilling gut-punch of a record, a contemporary vision of vintage post-punk that is as catchy and memorable as it is moody and bleak.
Uncomfortable Skin is one of those rare records that manages to make a familiar sound feel fresh and new again. All Your Sisters aren't reinventing the wheel — they operate firmly in the tradition of Joy Division, Gang of Four, and Bauhaus, among others. What they bring to the table is a serious knack for songwriting and pop hooks that will worm their way into your head and keep you coming back again and again.
A couple things in particular separate All Your Sisters from the pack: Jordan Morrison's fantastic vocals and their brilliant use of drum machines. Morrison's richly emotive baritone is tailor-made for post-punk, minimally processed for extra oomph. And while many similar bands use drum machines as either a crutch or a shortcut, it's hard to imagine Uncomfortable Skin without its programmed drums; there's a diverse set of rhythms throughout its 10 songs, and the drum samples used are pitch-perfect.
For post-punk aficionados, Uncomfortable Skin is a must-listen. And for those new to the genre, you will find yourself converted.