The year 2011 ought to be remembered fondly by fans of the Bay Area's electronic music scene. It was a year when the stars seemed to align and the city's nightlife seemed to explode around the arrival of new venues that cater specifically to the desires of dancers and partygoers. With these venues came the beginnings of a new scene influenced by the larger amount of acts making their way through the area. Maybe it's not a directly causal relationship, but we think this year's seen some of the best music to come out of the Bay in a long time. Join us as we round up the best local electronic records of 2011.
Means & Ways
This was a big year for Aybee's Deepblak label. Not only was it the imprint's 10 year anniversary, but 2011 also saw the release of Eric Porter Douglass' (a.k.a. Afrikan Sciences) excellent Means & Ways. Sounding like Oakland's answer to the slick leftfield sound of L.A., Means & Ways is a challenging record of complex rhythms that draws less from Dilla and more from the Oakland scene's affiliation with Ron Trent and the deep house sound of the upper Midwest. (Aybee was after all signed to Prescription, and handled its sub-label, Future Vision.) Tracks like "Go Speed" and "A-Tonk" see Douglass sharply cutting up jazz samples and mixing them with stoned rhythms and clever bass riffs. Elsewhere on the record, Douglass creates more straightforward dancefloor killers like "Ejercicios" and "Nanorock Skank."
The Comeback EP
[Life and Death]
If there's one sound that's dominated the clubs in 2011, it's the new breed of vocal tech house coming out of such disparate places as New York, Berlin, and Toronto. While San Francisco has always been a consumer of this kind of music, until now there's never been a local answer. This year saw that in the form of Pillow Talk, a local supergroup comprised of Michael Tello, Ryan Williams, and Sammy D (of Kontrol). They first popped on the radar via the Visionquest Beach Collection 2011 compilation EP. There, sandwiched between tracks by Maceo Plex and Tale of Us, they dropped the excellent "Love Makes Parks." Later in the year, they re-appeared to release this big EP on the Life & Death imprint. Like all their material, it takes the sound of vocal tech house and uses it to cleverly interpolate aspects of Motown, Doo-Wop, and '60s soul. The end result is what we imagine Rookie Ricardo's might be stocked with in 2043. The title single, with its seeming alteration of Barbara Lewis' "Hello Stranger," has been causing serious damage on dancefloors both local and abroad.
Swimming With Sharks
The next one on our list comes courtesy of the Scion A/V club. A quickly growing force in American dance music, the tastemaker label/music promotion entity has set its eyes on San Francisco. This year's Swimming with Sharks compilation EP stretches across a broad spectrum of musical styles. One of the tracks on there is a remix of Poolside's "Do You Believe" by local producers Vin Sol and Charles Mccloud. They take the original (which is partially a local record in its own right) and convert it into a haunted deep-house dub, characterized by an infectious bassline and an overall aesthetic of cool restraint.
I Can Feel The Heat
Damon Palermo is no stranger to the San Francisco music scene. As the drummer (now rhythm machine composer) for Mi Ami, Palermo has been behind some of our favorite local records. Now, he's ventured out on his own under the guise of Magic Touch, his dance music producer alias. His first release is on LA's up-and-coming 100% Silk label, and it stands as an interesting interlude between the disco re-edits and re-fixes of the past couple years and a newer sound that incorporates live instrumentation. I Can Feel the Heat contains three blazing, dancefloor-oriented tracks that bring to mind both the moody funkiness of US garage ("Clubhouse") and the exuberance of early '80s HI-NRG ("I Can Feel the Heat").