Christmas is coming! Withhold your excitement for a minute and consider this: you have one last weekend to party before everything shuts down 'til New Year's Eve. To help you relieve your holiday stresses, we've assembled this handy list of top parties. So go ahead, slip in a dance or two between your frantic last-minute attempts to buy gifts for the family, you deserve it. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
9:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20. $10
Rain-swept Seattle might not be the first place that comes to mind when electronic dance music is concerned, but the city has long harbored a small yet prolific underground. One of this scene's central figures is David Pezzner, a dance producer who's been working since the late '90s, first producing tech-inflected house via his involvement in old-school outfit and DJ duo Jacob London, and then later as Pezzner, his more impressionistic and experimental solo alias. In November, he released Last Night in Utopia, his second LP under the Pezzner moniker, which represents a maturing of his deep house sound: 15 tracks unified by sharp sound design, compelling melodies, and clever use of found samples.
Much of the underground American dance music of the last year deals in a kind of lo-fi abrasiveness. By contrast, Pezzner's productions come with a polished, high-fidelity sheen that allows the tracks to emerge with three-dimensional clarity. In many ways his stuff sounds European, or at least informed by continental sensibilities toward dance music, where production for clarity on the more ubiquitous high-tech sound systems warrants a different approach. The title track, for instance, runs a flurry of chopped, soulful vocal samples above crystal-clear organ swells, percolating rhythms, and a bubbling synth. Each element fits perfectly in the mix like a completed jigsaw puzzle: The picture is there, but the edges of each piece are invisible.
Part of that European sensibility is due to Pezzner's extensive European tour schedule. He produced the majority of the new album between gigs in Europe, even renting an apartment in Malta as a home base. In an interview with Chicago's 5 Magazine, he even goes so far as to say that he had certain European dancefloors in mind: "When I write, it's hard not to close my eyes and picture how [my tunes] will go over on the dancefloor. I'll picture myself in a club like Panorama Bar, and imagine myself in the audience."
The influence of the dancefloor can also be felt in the way the album segues between its tracks. This isn't an LP of disconnected elements; instead, each song melds into the next, like a DJ set. This means there's a constant narrative flow, with rhythmic interludes leading to more full-featured peaks: "Bell and Whistle" is a hypnotic workout with tense, flanged drum sounds that whir above pulsing monophonic synthesizer hits. "Give It Up," however, realizes a peak, with a round, booming round kick drum that's lifted by the soulful crooning of '90s garage house vocalist Sam Mollison.
Overall, Last Night in Utopia is a transportive experience. Considering Pezzner plays much of his original material in his DJ sets, you can expect something similar when he headlines at high-fidelity SoMa hot spot Audio Discotech this Friday. Listen to this mix he recorded for John Digweed's Transitions radio show.
6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20. $15-$25
If a night of Kandi-coated, PLUR-heavy raving is what you desire, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better party than So Stoked's Christmas edition. This month, the crew heads to Oakland for an all-ages blowout featuring a soundtrack of uptempo trance and aggressive hardcore. Check out Maromi's Kandiland 2013 mix, she's one of the headliners.
10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20. $15-$20
New York house DJ duo Wolf + Lamb have a reputation for being dance music's goofballs. But while they might not take themselves too seriously, it's obvious that they're dead serious about partying. For the past few years they've been at the fore of a new sound in East Coast house music that uses soulful vocals and techy loops for massive dancefloor effect. Hear this recording of them tearing it up at last year's Detroit Electronic Music Festival.
9:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21. $10-$20
When it comes to European party DJs, it's hard to beat tINI. She spins a melodic brand of house music that's as deep and techy as her releases, like the chugging anthems on 4th Street ("Hat Baxx" in particular), her latest on Supplemental Facts. She's usually found spinning in Ibiza superclubs, which means she'll feel right at home behind the booth in the main room. Get a feel for her style by listening to her Resident Advisor podcast.
10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21. $10-$20
There aren't a whole lot of late-night options in San Francisco. In fact, if you're looking to party from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m., there's only one place for you: The EndUp. This Saturday, the venue will feature a special edition of The Show: a 12-hour marathon of continuous dancing featuring the electrohouse talents of local DJ crew Strategik.