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Less Is More: Veronica Vasicka Explores the Past and Present With Always-Danceable Minimal Wave 

Wednesday, Jan 14 2015

In music, building a movement doesn't come easy. It requires you to have the right people, the right sound, the right network, and perhaps most importantly, the right timing. In 2005, Veronica Vasicka launched her record label called Minimal Wave, dedicated to reissuing lost, forgotten synth-pop from the 1980s that languished underneath the glut of new wave that flooded the radio and, later, MTV. The label's first release, a reissue of Oppenheimer Analysis's self-titled EP, laid out a perfect blueprint for what was to come, record after record of catchy, minimal (hence the label name, which was later retroactively adopted to describe the music itself), slightly gothic electronic pop.

It came at just the right time — for a confluence of reasons, various subcultures picked up on the minimal wave sound. It was simultaneously old but new, highly danceable, vocal-centric, and remarkably catchy. For most of the latter half of the aughts, it was the sound on alternative, underground dancefloors. Its popularity has died down somewhat, but it remains as brilliant as ever, and lately, Vasicka has been exploring the nether-regions between minimal wave, dark techno, and the Belgian-flavored styles of dance music known as new beat and E.B.M. ("electronic body music"). Her DJ sets combine the vintage with the brand-new in a way that makes perfect sense, outlining the links between the past and the present.

She's joined by Silent Servant, aka Juan Mendez, one of the most important figures in techno and post-industrial music of the past decade. Early in his career, Mendez lived in San Francisco and contributed to the city's nascent minimal techno sound; later, in L.A., he revolutionized the world of techno as part of the Sandwell District collective. He injected the sound, attitude, and atmosphere of post-punk into techno, bridging two seemingly disparate worlds. AN-i, responsible for some of 2014's most lethal techno records (released on Vasicka's other record label Cititrax), will join Mendez behind the decks. Last but not least is the local support, from Aaron J, Justin Anastasi, and Rachel Aiello.

Other worthy parties this week

Haçeteria presents Xerome, Sponge Bath, and Drippy Inputs at F8, 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, Jan. 16. $10;

After a brief hiatus, Haçeteria is back, doing what it does best — presenting live electronic music by up-and-coming artists from around the United States. This time around the crew has invited three folks from North Carolina: Xerome, Drippy Inputs, and Sponge Bath. Xerome produces raw, gritty techno, not unlike the kind of thing you might find on New York's L.I.E.S. record label, but with a melodic acid edge. It's excellent stuff — the kind of thing you should go see so you can say you were there before he blew up. Drippy is even more raw, with broken-beat rhythms and corrosive blasts of noise. Of the three, Sponge Bath's sound is perhaps the cleanest and most straightforward, but is no less groovy than the others. Between and after the live sets, the Haç resident DJs (Nihar, Tristes Tropiques, and Smaç) will DJ retro-styled house and techno, keeping the dancefloor bumping.

Bananas No. 2 with Huerco S., Sage Caswell, and Dr. Sleep at Underground SF, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 17. $5-$10;

Bananas, the party that's not a fruit, returns very soon after its first inaugural bash for part two, with a very similar theme, combining the talents of a steadily rising American outsider-house producer (Huerco S.) with an L.A.-based DJ/producer (Sage Caswell) and a San Francisco-based stalwart (Dr. Sleep). Hailing from Kansas City and based out of Brooklyn, Huerco S. belongs to a cohort of young American producers (including prior Bananas guest Austin Cesear, Anthony Naples, Gunnar Haslam, and more) who have, for the past several years, gained international renown by treading on the edges of contemporary house and techno music, creating music that's murky, mysterious, and abstract — but nonetheless fully primed for the dancefloor. Sage Caswell creates deep house with a sunny outlook, and Dr. Sleep remains one of our city's finest techno DJs. Bananas residents Steph and Ford Prefect will open the festivities.

Lights Down Low featuring Horse Meat Disco at Monarch, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 17. $20;

One of London's longest-running and most well-known club nights, Horse Meat Disco has long since burst out of the confines of its stuffy native Kingdom and are, at this point, a global institution. Designed as an homage to the classic New York disco and queer club scene of the 1970s, Horse Meat Disco began as a weekly Sunday night party (that still continues to this day, a decade-plus later) that became raucously popular, eventually becoming known as the "queer party for everyone." Courtesy of resident DJs James Hillard, Jim Stanton, Luke Howard, and Severino Panzetta, the Horse Meat Disco soundtrack is — as you might imagine — disco to the core, composed of the sweaty, sexy classics of yesteryear (the kind of thing you might have heard at a New York Club in 1978, for instance) and newer cuts, including disco-flavored house music. Lights Down Low residents Richie Panic and Myles Cooper will prime the floor for the Horse Meat boys to close it out later on.

Honey Soundsystem's Martin Luther King Day Sunday with Prosumer at Mighty, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 18. $15-$20;

There's one guest who has played at Honey Soundsystem parties more than any other since the party's inception some eight or so years ago, and that's Prosumer, aka Achim Brandenburg, a German house music DJ who has quietly and steadily become one of the world's most in-demand DJs. He spent much of the latter half of the '00s as a resident DJ at Berlin's legendary Panorama Bar, the house-flavored sister-club of Berghain, where he honed his style, a blend of the best of vintage Chicago jackin' house (think Larry Heard and Ron Trent) with the disco that these legends drew from, plus, of course, modern deep- and disco-flavored house tunes. The reason he's such a fine DJ (and the reason Honey has brought him back to San Francisco so many times) is his love for music, and it shows when he's DJing — his passion comes through in his selections and the energy he gives back to the crowd when he's behind the decks. As always, the Honey Soundsystem crew (Josh Cheon, Robot Hustle, Jason Kendig, and Jackie House) will be joining him, and you can expect Mighty to be transformed into a full-scale visual extravaganza.

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Chris Zaldua

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