© t thaemlitz/comatonse recordings
In SF Weekly (US), Thursday, February 21 2013.
Hopefully your liver made it through last week's holidays in one piece, because there's another round of excellent parties approaching. As usual we've got a cheat sheet of our top picks, but, if you look, you'll also notice that we've done things a little differently this time. That's because starting next week, we'll be running our party recommendations in the print edition of the SF Weekly on a regular basis. To help the transition, we've switched up the format to accommodate a larger explanation for our top pick (you'll have to glance through to see who that is). The future is bold and looks an awful lot like a dialysis machine. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
5. Spilt Milk presents Safeword and Kimmy Le Funk @ Milk Bar
Mix a bit of techno and house together, add a sheen of youthful cool, and you've got Spilt Milk. Long a weeknight Upper Haight staple, the party is celebrating its second anniversary by moving permanently to the weekend. To celebrate, the crew has hired two big local names: First up is Safeword, a production outfit that specializes in a lean and driving sound that's found a perfect fit on the roster of esteemed German techno label Poker Flat (check out this mix). Joining the proceedings is fan favorite Kimmy Le Funk, who the party promises "will be delivering a pure vinyl set, so get ready to shake your ass to some legit mixing."
4. No Way Back presents Mutant Beat Dance (Live), Magic Touch (Live) @ Monarch
Though a good DJ will always be a spectacle worth experiencing, recent years have seen the rise of a trend towards live analog hardware performance. Centered around the traditions of old-school American dance music, producers are now dazzling crowds via the pleasures of knob-twiddling gear wizardry. This month's No Way Back lands in this vein with a headlining set by Mutant Beat Dance, a duo that practices a particularly raw and jacking form of Chicago house (listen to "Sketch III"). Balancing their roughness is a sample-heavy set by onetime Bay Area resident Magic Touch, who scored a hit last year with the disco-leaning "Anywhere You Want Me."
3. Face, Icee Hot, and Public Works present DJ Harvey, Falty DL, Anthony Naples @ Public Works
Few DJs attract as rabid a cult following as DJ Harvey. A British ex-pat living in LA, he's behind the infamous Harvey Sarcastic Disco parties -- all-night warehouse raves fueled by a playlist of deep New York garage house, looped-up tape re-edits, and fantastically cheesy Italo disco. His sets at Public Works never disappoint, offering a master class in the subtle art of long-form DJing. And though he'll undoubtedly kill it, be sure to check out young Brooklyn house upstart Anthony Naples (listen to the excellent "Mad Disrespect") and bass music pioneer FaltyDL (check out "Bells), both on the same bill, performing in the OddJob Loft upstairs.
2. Mighty Real presents Frankie Knuckles @ Mighty
The history of modern electronic dance music would be in a very different place if it wasn't for Frankie Knuckles. After all, it was he who, in the late '70s, first brought the sound of Manhattan's underground gay discos to Chicago. Playing at a club called "The Warehouse," he so enamored dancers that they began to affectionately refer to the music he played as "house." His appearance this Saturday at Mighty offers the opportunity to not just hear a master, but also the very DJ who started it all. Get into the mood by listening to this mix from back in the day.
1. Honey Soundsystem presents DJ Sprinkles @ Holy Cow
With an impeccable musical selection and well-curated ambiance, Honey Soundsystem is, without question, one of the best parties in the city. A weekly Sunday night affair, it maintains an underground vibe by regularly featuring big names in a low key setting. This Sunday marks a particularly special occasion with a rare appearance by DJ Sprinkles, the highly lauded house music alias of Tokyo-based experimental composer Terre Thaemlitz.
An American by birth, Thaemlitz originally found himself in the fertile climate of New York's club culture in the early 1990s. It was there that he first get his taste of DJing at a bar called Sally's II, a transsexual sex worker bar in the then-rundown Times Square district. Producing music concurrently on the side, he scored an early underground hit in '93 with his early ambient masterpiece Tranquilizer and its accompanying single "Raw Through a Straw." His music has always been confounding, and throughout the '90s he worked with increasingly experimental sounds, releasing material on seminal glitch label Mille Plateaux as well as on his own Comatonse. Today he's still active in this scene; his most recent release was a 30-hour meditation on religion and spirituality in music called Soulnessless.
This critically minded approach informs his dance project as well, and he's used the DJ Sprinkles alias as a means to deconstruct the very structure of house. Looking straight at the underground, he's concerned with the way in which the music has been removed from its original gay context and brought into increasingly more commercialized and heterosexual arenas. His 2009 album, Midtown 120 Blues sums up the mentality with an often quoted spoken word segment that boldly declares, "House is not universal. House is hyper-specific ... The contexts from which the deep house sound emerged are forgotten: sexual and gender crises, transgendered sex work, black-market hormones, drug and alcohol addiction, loneliness, racism, HIV, ACT-UP, Tompkins Square Park, police brutality, queer-bashing, underpayment, unemployment and censorship."
All this might be too heady if it wasn't for the music itself, which is calculated in the way it evokes the past for the purposes of the present. Tracks like the densely sampled "A Crippled Left Wing Soars with the Right (DJ Sprinkles Steal This Record Remix)" and unfathomably deep "Grand Central, Pt. 1 (Deep into the Bowels of House)" are contemporary classics that act as vivid reminders of the very real and sad place that this kind of dance music comes from. As a DJ, his sets draw from his long relationship with dance music to express the same sentiments he gets across in his productions. To get an idea of what his sets are like, check out his classic Little White Earbuds podcast from 2010.
Naturally, the distance between Japan and California means he doesn't make his way to San Francisco too often, so it's safe to say that his set as DJ Sprinkles this Sunday at Holy Cow is as close to can't-miss as a performance gets.