Classical piano or dub techno? The mysterious, mesmerizing world of VAGUETRACKS
NO BIAS doesn't miss a beat with new full-length from technopagan; Channelers releases new ambient work "Time, Space, and Thought"; plus more Bay releases
Anyone else having trouble keeping up with all the amazing music events around the Bay Area? Such a good problem. But here are some big things happening.
Noise Pop announced the 30th anniversary of its music and arts festival, set for February 20-26. You can pick up super early bird tickets today at 10 AM.
Last month, Noise Pop heralded the return of Due South, a festival hosted at McLaren Park at the end of August in partnership with DoTheBay and the SF Parks Alliance. Not all, but most of the artists performing are from the Bay: Deafheaven, Marbled Eye, Thao, Ruby Ibarra, Ozomatli, and La Misa Negra.
Outside Lands announced this year’s night shows. If the full festival is too much for you, this is a great way to see some of the artists from the full lineup. Phoebe Bridgers and Mac DeMarco already sold out but there are plenty of other great shows to catch.
The stacked lineup for Portola (happening at Pier 80 in September) is old news by now, but another big DJ festival was just announced, this one on Treasure Island in October. Hosted by All Day All Night Events, Dj Dials, and Audio SF, Day to Night has lined up Dom Dolla, ARTBAT, Lee Foss, Tinlicker, Booka Shade, and more.
Festival season never ends in SF. Why should it?
A BLISSFULLY HUMAN ENIGMA
Despite the norms of information-drenched social media—packed to bursting with endless promotions, disheartening news stories, and extremely personal life updates from the most important to the mind-numbingly inconsequential—it is still easy to be an enigma. As a musician, you must simply pick an alias, or several. Share no photos of yourself, or anything personal. In fact, share nothing at all except what is absolutely necessary: an artist title, an album title, artwork, and the music itself.
Even the most enigmatic artist will stand out amid all the noise if they’re great. Perhaps mystique will lend them even more greatness. RAVEN, an alias associated with VAGUETRACKS, is one of these. (Or is it multiple artists? It’s hard to tell.)
From what I know of the VAGUETRACKS discography, their latest release is some anomaly. USER ILLUSION 2 features 10 solo piano performances of famous classical pieces, from the first movement of Vivaldi’s “Winter” concerto to Ravel’s “Pavane for a Dead Princess” to the more modern “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” by Ryuichi Sakomoto. These are not precise and crisp Deutsche Grammophon recordings, and that is part of their joy. They are human. But they are not just that either; they are also clearly produced by someone with an ear for the wide possibility of modern music.
The pieces on CODEX—released at the end of June but produced over several years—would not be performed at Davies Symphony Hall. If presented publicly at all, they would come through a massive soundsystem at some late night rave hosted in a dark basement of somebody’s house, the address you would only know via DM. Most likely of all, you would never stumble upon these sounds in person, but rather encounter them at that same late night hour while scouring Bandcamp on your headphones. At midnight, you had been listening to upbeat club music, which had led you to dub techno, which had for a moment led you to some strange hypnagogic vaporwave corner before somehow—you will never remember exactly—laying you at the doorstep of this devotional, deeply dubby, irresistible dance music for the brain.
BIRDLAND—released in May—is different still. It starts off like that hypnagogic vaporwave just mentioned, but halfway through side A you would be rudely awakened by something funky, which would then devolve into juke. USER ILLUSION 1—from the end of 2021—is solo piano like its sequel, but seems to be original compositions.
What is this music? Who is this artist or group of artists? Definitions be damned. Absolute truth is an illusion. They’re SF-based, and they sound incredible. All I need.
SKIP, HOP, HUM & BASS
“I still believe life is what you make of it. The difference is: Now I understand that not everyone can be strong all the time. Because of that, I’m nicer to people now than I was back then.”
This might be my favorite club-ready album of the year so far—and not just because there’s a flip of “G3 N15” (originally by my music crush Rosalía). The latest release from SF dance label NO BIAS, masochists get all the girls is technopagan going hard. Hard, but nice. It’s extremely energetic, maybe even frantic sometimes, but always in a loving way. Fizzy, bright, and sparkling, it’s designed for peak dance floor happiness. Hear technopagan spin techno, gabber, remixes, and more every first Sunday 6-8 PM PT on Lower Grand Radio.
PEACE IN PROCESS
“An ongoing personal ancestral dialogue with the folk musics and drone-based traditions from the British Isles and Ukraine.” Released on their Oakland label Inner Islands, Time, Space, and Thought is Sean Conrad’s 13th full-length album as Channelers. As on Another Entrance and Messages from One of Deeper Within—both featured in our list of the best ambient music from the Bay Area in 2021—the new work is a largely acoustic journey into sonic exploration and spiritual meditation. The title suggests the process, as Conrad dedicated deep wells of time, space, and thought to themselves and their practice, allowing the instruments to lead the way in a free, improvisational way. It’s perfectly peaceful, as good for the early morning and midday sun as it is for middle of the night. Press play and float away.
“Full Time Job II” by Michael Sneed, produced with P-Lo and Emilio
hip hop, Oakland
From the Minds of Angels by Bimbo Hypnosis x Bored Lord
electronic, breakbeat, club, Seattle, Oakland
Suite San Francisco by Jazz Mafia
funk, hip hop, jazz
“Witness” by Sour Widows
alternative, rock, San Francisco
No Past No Future by Spacemoth, spotted in Bandcamp’s New & Notable: “This debut album from the psychedelic and space-rock artist features vintage synths and electronic beats.”
alternative, ambient, art pop, Berkeley
LICK THE FLESH by Vorlust
black metal, death metal, thrash metal, Oakland
Here are our top show recommendations for the coming week:
[cumbia] Philthy Dronez, Datura, Chulita Vinyl Club — July 22 at Batcave
[club] Adware, SF Cowboy, Posh Princess, Proper Question — July 22 at Mothership
[club] CLUB TRISTE ft. J Manny, SUCIA!, Mars Kasei, JTRA — July 22 at Monarch
[club] Trevern, Skyler Redondo — July 22 at Slug Bar opening weekend
[club] Space Ghost — July 23 at Slug Bar opening weekend
[club] BODY HIGH ft. Guerrilla Pump, Varsha, Ritchrd, Amina Acid — July 23 at 4268 Broadway, Oakland
[club] Lil Zé, Juanny Depp, Sabetye, Lonald J Bandz — July 23 at Brix 581
[rock] Tommy Guerrero — July 23 at the New Parish
[rock] WAVVES - King of the Beach 12 Year Anniversary Tour — July 23 at Crybaby
[rock] Catch Prichard, Blue Ocean, Dear Banshee — July 28 at Rickshaw Stop
[hip hop] Tall Tee, Cardboard People, James Wavey — July 28 at El Rio