In case you haven't noticed, dance music is a boys' club. Behind the decks, that is — there's certainly no shortage of women on the dancefloor. Discwoman, a New York-based DJ collective, booking agency, and movement, aims to change that by centering and showcasing female-identified talent. And, judging by their explosive success and worldwide press over the past two years, their strategy is working.
Discwoman's mission is simple: Place women in positions of structural power (as booking agents, promoters, club bookers, etc.) and make the dancefloor an explicitly safe space for women. It helps, of course, that they have killer resident DJs — including Umfang and Volvox, both of whom will appear this Friday. Umfang is a full-spectrum selector, mixing up high-octane techno with breaks and the occasional drum and bass tune. Volvox tends towards moody, melodic deep house, with frequent diversions into EBM and new beat. Two local ladies join them: Dhra, purveyor of broken beats and beyond, and Jaqi Sparro, who pairs techno with R&B- and hip-hop-inspired sounds.
Other worthy parties this week
As You Like It featuring Ben Klock and DVS1 at Public Works, 9 p.m.-4 a.m Friday, Apr. 1. $20-$30; publicsf.com.
"Ben Klock" and "techno" are practically synonymous. The German selector has been DJing for decades, but it wasn't until his 2005 residency at Berghain — the Berlin techno palace turned pop-cultural synecdoche for hedonism and excess — that he achieved global superstar status. Joining him is DVS1, a Minnesotan who may be America's finest techno DJ (that's not hyperbole — he is the realest possible deal). Providing disco respite are Jacques Renault and Urulu, representing Let's Play House upstairs.
Push The Feeling featuring Cooper Saver at Underground SF, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Apr. 2. $5; undergroundsf.com.
If you've partied in LA any time over the past couple of years, you surely recognize Cooper Saver's name (and even if you haven't, you still might). The young DJ and promoter has made a splash with his underground Far Away parties, featuring DJs like Floating Points, Anthony Naples, Tim Sweeney, and many more. He's a killer DJ himself, selecting smooth, cocoa butter-scented Balearic jams that exist somewhere along the outer fringes of the disco-house continuum.
Parameter presents Tessela B2B Pearson Sound and Solar at F8, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Saturday, Apr. 2. $20; feightsf.com.
It's hard to imagine a recent electronic musician more vital than David Kennedy (aka Pearson Sound, Ramadanman, and more). Over the past decade, he (and the label he co-founded, Hessle Audio) melted dubstep, jungle, and grime into slag and re-cast them in techno's form, resulting in the most creative, boundary-pushing dance music the world has seen since Warp Records' heyday. Here, he teams up with fellow bass-music chameleon Tessela for an extended B2B set; Solar supports.
Modular presents Extrawelt, Ambivalent, Mark Slee, and more at The Midway, 8:30 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Apr. 2. $20-$25; themidwaysf.com.
Extrawelt is the current alias of a pair of German producers who have been producing top-flight electronic music for decades. Their early work as Midi Miliz and Spirallianz sat firmly in the psychedelic trance camp, but was relentlessly minimal and industrial-influenced, setting them apart from their peers. As Extrawelt, they bring similar influences to bear on a modern tech-house palette, pairing exquisite production with loopy, melodic grooves. Well-rounded techno producer/DJ Ambivalent co-headlines, with local Mark Slee supporting.
Record Label Spotlight: Jacktone Records
Experimental music and the Bay Area go hand-in-hand. For decades, the Bay has been home to numerous well-regarded left-field musicians and artists (to drop but a few names: Morton Subotnick; Tuxedomoon; Survival Research Labs; Factrix; Robert Rich; Kit Clayton; Kid606; the list goes on). Despite San Francisco's currently inhospitable climate towards the arts (especially the stranger ones), nothing has changed — vital electronic and experimental music is still produced right here at home. Jacktone Records, a small-but-growing record label launched in 2013, has dedicated itself to Bay Area electronic music, providing a platform for new, rising artists to share their craft with the world.
The label is the product of the efforts of Darren Cutlip (aka Dabecy) and Melissa Maristuen (aka Doc Sleep) — both longtime Bay Area residents, now recent expats. Cutlip is a Bay Area native and was a lifelong San Francisco resident until a recent move to Detroit to be with his boyfriend; Maristuen lived in San Francisco for years after relocating from Minneapolis, then decamped for Berlin last year. Cutlip had long been involved in San Francisco's noise and experimental scene, and Maristuen was an in-demand underground techno and house DJ. The two crossed paths at a Honey Soundsystem party (during their legendary Sunday night weekly residency at the Holy Cow), and soon after, Jacktone Records was born.
Jacktone's first release was a 12" by Oakland acid-techno artist Exillon. After that came an ambitious 23-track double-cassette compilation, featuring almost entirely Bay Area artists. "There's a resurgence of bedroom musicians producing really high quality music in the Bay Area — not just house and techno, just really good electronic music, totally pure and uninfluenced by trends," Cutlip tells me. "There will always be an experimental streak that runs through Bay Area music, whether it's ye olde psychedelic influence or just a tendency for things to be a bit left-field and raw," adds Maristuen. "The Bay has always been a haven for freaks and queers, for politically-minded folks, and what you get from that is a strong DIY ethos, and that resonates [with Jacktone Records] for sure."
Jacktone's biggest strength is the diversity of artists on its roster. "We've released industrial, post-rock, techno, house, dark ambient, and noise," explains Cutlip. "Our goal is to press interesting electronic music that we love." Indeed, a jaunt through the Jacktone catalog will reveal heavy-duty club-ready techno (Worker/parasite); beautiful melodic ambient (Lavender, whose Mystique Youth I selected as one of SF Weekly's best albums of 2015); glimmering Krautrock-derived pop (Dechirico); foggy, cavernous dub techno (Michael Claus); and more.
What does the future hold for the label? "We've been growing up — showing up in DJ charts and sets, getting press coverage, growing our distribution channels, and just becoming more organized," Maristuen says. Cutlip sums it up: "My hope is that Jacktone will continue to grow and become a household name in the underground."