For whatever reason, the Netherlands isn't often considered a critical locus within the pantheon of electronic music history. Perhaps it's because temperance and humility seem to be central to the Dutch as a nation and as a people. Quietly doing your own thing and doing it with style seems to be central to the Dutch way of life, or so goes my limited understanding based on the too-brief time I spent in their country. Whatever the case may be, the Netherlands has produced some of the world's most crucial electronic music (Speedy J, I-F, Legowelt, etc.) and, also, some of its most tasteless (Ferry Corsten, DJ Tiësto, gabber, etc.). The Hague's DJ TLR and his one-of-a-kind record label Crème Organization pair together a little bit of column A (impeccable, raw, punk-derived electro, techno, and house) and a little bit of column B (a fondness for tacky Italo-disco aesthetics) to create one of the most idiosyncratic sounds and vibes within electronic music worldwide.
TLR's humble roots begin in the '80s and '90s in The Hague on the west coast of the Netherlands, as the infamous squat parties thrown by Unit Moebius (who later started the massively influential Bunker Records label) began crystallizing a no-holds-barred form of acid techno, inspired as much by punk, industrial, and noise as it was by the electronic sounds of Chicago and Detroit. In 2000, he launched Crème Organization, a kind of illegitimate son of Bunker Records that took the electro-splatter-punk Bunker aesthetic and modernized it for the 21st century. There's acid techno, deep house, Italo, electro, synthpop, and more on Crème, and the thing that brings it all together is an unabashed "outsider" quality, an insistence on staying true to one's vision.
TLR's DJ sets, as you may imagine, include all of these sounds and more, often including broken-beat tunes and deep-space techno in the mix. His appearances in the U.S. are few and far between. And, of course, if TLR's outer-space vibes aren't enough for you, then former S.F. resident Dave Aju will sweeten the deal — alongside Sunset Sound System's Solar and a live set of impeccable acid techno from As You Like It resident Christina Chatfield.
Other worthy parties this week
Play It Cool presents Avalon Emerson at The Basement, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, Dec. 11. $10-$15; thebasementsf.com.
It comes as no surprise that Berlin is one of the most popular destinations for San Francisco expats. It's astonishingly cheap, with a brand new rent-control system enshrined in law this year. It's an "anything goes" city, even more so than S.F. in its heyday. And, for the electronic music inclined, it is the capital of the world. Play It Cool's latest features a Berlin-by-way-of-S.F. lineup — the original Play It Cool lineup, in fact. Featured is Avalon Emerson, a young, steadily rising producer and DJ who has released a handful of records featuring brilliant, modern takes on acid house. Her tracks are playful and groovy but hit hard, infused with warehouse-rave flavor. Since moving to Berlin, she's embarked on several European tours and plays regularly at Berghain and Panorama Bar. Show her (and fellow expats Derek Opperman and Xander M) a homecoming by tearing it up on the dancefloor.
Robot Ears Holiday Party featuring Jamaica Suk at F8, 10 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 11. $8-$15; feightsf.com.
This weekend there's not one but two talented female DJ-producers returning to the Bay Area from their new homes in Berlin. Robot Ears, a party dedicated to hard-hitting, purestrain techno, is welcoming Jamaica Suk back to San Francisco for her first appearance after moving to techno Mecca. Her discography is small — she only has two releases to her name, with a few more coming by the end of the year — but her sound is refreshing and remarkable, pairing the standard heavy kick drum with the occasional submerged, lurking breakbeat or an atmospheric melody. Behind the decks, she's a fan of piston-pumping techno, clean and composed. True to the Robot Ears sound and ethos, she doesn't dabble in house music — what you get from Suk is techno, through-and-through, with the occasional broken-beat tune to keep things interesting. Robot Ears resident DJs will be supporting in F8's front and back rooms.
Lights Down Low Holidaze Party featuring Lee Foss, Anabel Englund, Ben Browning (Cut Copy) and more at Mighty, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12. $25-$30; mighty119.com.
Lights Down Low is celebrating Yuletide with the return of Lee Foss, primary member of tech-house institution Hot Natured and director of their affiliated record label, Hot Creations. In many ways, Hot Creations represents the sound of modern house music: Sunny, warm, full of easy grooves and more than a bit of pop influence, Hot Creations owes more to the beaches of Ibiza than the warehouses of Chicago. It's party music, but it's party music with class. Hot Natured has become something of a supergroup of late, adding two producers (Ali Love and Luca C) to the roster, and frequently working in collaboration with vocalists, like L.A.-based Anabel Englund, who is in fact joining them for this party, contributing live vocals. Rising Aussie Ben Browning (of beloved disco-pop act Cut Copy) is DJing, too, while Mighty's side room features a handful of techno-minded local DJs (disclosure:including myself).
The Midway presents Bonobo (DJ Set) at The Midway, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12. $40 at door (if available); themidwaysf.com.
Bonobo, aka Brit Simon Green, has built an enormously successful career honing in on a very specific sound. Simply called "downtempo" and built around sampled instrumentation and cut-up drum breaks, the quintessential example of the sound may be the first Thievery Corporation album, Sounds From The Thievery Hi-Fi, which catapulted that duo into worldwide success in the 90s. Bonobo is kind of the British analogue to Thievery Corporation. But, whereas Thievery Corporation settled into comfortable re-hashing of their "lounge-y" sound, Bonobo doubled down on the cinematic vibe in his music, culminating in 2013's The North Borders, a multi-genre journey including a collaboration with none other than Erykah Badu. When Green's behind the decks, he includes amped-up edits of Bonobo tracks in his sets, reconfiguring relaxing cuts for the dancefloor. Pre-sales for this party are sold out, but additional tickets may come available online or at the door; keep an eye on The Midway's website.