It may have been a stressful workweek, but who cares? It's almost Friday, which means its time to start blocking out the weekend's festivities. As usual, we've got you covered with a handy list of fun stuff that ought to appeal to seasoned heads and casual fans alike, with a probable highlight coming from one of Detroit's most respected dub-techno duos. If that's not your speed, don't worry, there's plenty more where that came from. Read on--your weekend awaits.
9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 $10-$20
Techno, as a general rule, is obsessed with musical texture. To listen and enjoy it at home or on a dancefloor is to suspend the usual desire for musical narrative in favor of a totally immersive sonic environment. Nowhere is this truer than in the murky world of dub-techno, an atmospheric strain of dance music that, as the name suggests, uses Jamaican dub elements -- woozy tape delay, damp reverb, and that distinct off-beat reggae rhythm to augment techno's futuristic core. One of the groups responsible for the development of this sound is Detroit duo Echospace (Rod Modell and Steven Hitchell), who, like many of their followers, exploit the oddities and imperfections inherent in analog technology and field recordings.
This commitment to imperfection has characterized the duo's output ever since since The Coldest Season, their 2007 debut. On that record, they affirmed their dedication to the roots of dub-techno, with extremely long tracks that ran into one another. First, they created a world of pulsing minor chords, then they buried it deep beneath windy tape hiss and morphing white noise. The result went beyond convention, setting a new high water-mark in a genre that was considered to have peaked in the early '90s, when first pioneered by the revered German duo Basic Channel.
There's a definite sense of life in the music of Echospace. Though it moves at a glacial pace, all the elements breathe and grow, partly because they come almost exclusively from analog sources. "Steve and I like analog because it's alive," Modell told the online publication Textura in 2007. He provides the example of his Korg MS-20 synthesizer, which, when played after being placed outside during a Michigan winter, will create perceptibly different tones for hours afterward. "[It's] so organic," he says. "Its personality would change as it warmed up and became more comfortable, just like a human being's would."
The mutable quality of the music also comes from the duo's use of acousmatic sounds pulled from an extensive library of field recordings (which includes samples from a forest that Modell insists is haunted). The group reduces these sounds to their rawest grains, slowing them down to reveal what would otherwise be an imperceptible ocean of texture. "When you listen deeply," Modell says, "You can start to comprehend a world of sound beyond typical reality."
That goes for Echospace's music in general. And amazingly, it's as good live as it is on record, with Modell and Hitchell improvising new versions of their groundbreaking work on chunky vintage synthesizers and racks of obscure sound processing equipment. This Friday, the two play their debut San Francisco performance for Direct to Earth's second anniversary presented by Teknokitchen and Pulselocker. Expect a night of warped, immersive imperfection. Get a feeling for the sound by checking out "Sunset."
9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 $15-$20
Abrasiveness on the dancefloor is nothing new. But throughout the '00s, New York label Trouble and Bass has pushed things to a new level through its creative marriage of adrenaline-soaked electro and gut-wrenching dubstep. This Friday the label celebrates its seventh anniversary with a special showcase featuring crowd-pleasing label luminaries Drop the Lime, Star Eyes, and AC Slater.
10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 $15-$20
Most people will head to this show for its headliner, the tripped-out rapper Kool Keith. But we're more excited for the side room, which features a set by up-and-coming London house DJ T. Williams. His sound is on the cutting-edge of the contemporary, incorporating the futurism of U.K. bass with the extreme tempos and screaming divas of late-'90s speed garage.
8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 $10-$12
San Francisco has some great dance music labels; the only problem is that many of them fly under the radar. Such is the case with Voltaire Records and Aerobic International, two imprints whose artists combine the aesthetics of '80s funk with the DIY attitude of indie rock. They're teaming up this Friday to present a live showcase headlined by blue-eyed party-starters Yip Deceiver--check out the video for "Get Strict."
10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 $10-$20
Club music, as it currently exists, is usually a collection of serious scenes that rarely overlap. Not so in the free-spirited world of Chilean producer Matias Aguayo. His music as well as his über-tasteful label Cómeme offers a needed dose of playfulness from a collage of cumbia rhythms, minimal techno blips, and off-beat disco sounds. Listen to "Do You Wanna Work?" off his recent LP, The Visitor.