Roughly a year ago, a young New York-based blogger named Robin Carolan did what many lovers of music often only dream of: He started his own record label. Calling it Tri Angle Records, Carolan launched his imprint with a couple of outstanding EPs, including the debut by a somewhat unknown San Francisco producer with a strange moniker: oOoOO.
The project went well — really well, in fact.
"I'm really glad I [released my record] with Tri Angle," says Christopher Greenspan, who makes music under the name oOoOO (pronounced "oh"), "because everything the label has put out is amazing. [It] really feels good to be a part of it." Greenspan's brand of dreamily screwed, beat-heavy tunes helped solidify Tri Angle as an outpost for the dark and spectral side of electronic music. Along with singer Laura Clock (aka Butterclock), oOoOO crafted five gauzy tracks for his self-titled EP, which linked him — unwittingly — to a rising genre known as "witch house" and garnered him international notoriety.
Local prominence, however, is another story. "I don't really think of [oOoOO] as part of San Francisco's music scene," Greenspan admits, and it's a fair statement from an artist who has never performed live and only rarely DJs around town. "I think more people in Moscow know about oOoOO than in the Bay Area."
Water Borders, an S.F. duo fronted by singer-producer Amitai Heller and producer and drummer Loric Sih, aims to tread a path similar to that of oOoOO when Tri Angle puts out its first LP, Harbored Mantras, in October. Its sound is already advancing. "There's more of an emphasis on rhythm now," explains Heller on the differences between his band's 2010 EP, Akko, and its forthcoming album. "It's not necessarily dance music, but the rhythms are much more aggressive and the drums are louder in the mix."
What Heller fails to mention is the extent to which Water Borders' creepy and downright strange sound is inspired by early industrial bands, Eastern music, and the bass-centric club tunes lately coming from the U.K. Yet despite the myriad of global influences, Water Borders still feels in touch with the city's rich musical past. "I'd like to think that we are spiritually following in the footsteps of San Francisco's history of electronic music explorations, like Tuxedomoon, Monte Cazazza, Patrick Cowley, Z'EV, Kronos Quartet, and Terry Riley," Heller says. Those aspirations could be a touch lofty for a group without even a proper album release, but Water Borders' more immediate mission is certainly appropriate. "[We strive] to be personally experimental, and compose music in a way we [haven't] experienced," Heller says. "To do something with no familiar restraints."
Both oOoOO and Water Borders have a chance to share their unique sounds this Friday, Aug. 19, during the Tri Angle Records showcase at 103 Harriet. Along with New Jersey-based labelmate and Lil B collaborator Clams Casino; fellow West Coast beat aficionado Shlohmo; and a few other traveling bands, DJs, and producers, the burgeoning acts will bookend a night intended to celebrate forward-thinking music, brooding electronic arts, and, of course, Carolan's year-old imprint.
The concert will also be the world premiere of oOoOO's live set. For someone embarking on such a long-anticipated occasion, Greenspan seems completely nonplussed. "Butterclock is doing vocals. We just wrote some new tunes together, and we're going to play some of them," he says placidly.
Heller also plays it cool, but can't suppress his enthusiasm about what's on the horizon for Water Borders. "We are adding a third member to the band, who should be playing the show with us," he says. "We'd love people to dance, and that happens from time to time, but our goals are a bit loftier: Ultimately, we strive to elicit an emotional response from [our] audience, and to achieve a personal sense of catharsis."