We made SFGATE! Thanks to the coolest show in the city: Cold Beat at Grace Cathedral
Plus reviews of two new club EPs by Taraneh and Agropol, a Ghost Ship Fire memorial compilation, and more by Frank Ene, Pacific Yew and Tomu DJ
Well, this is a nice surprise:
Just when we thought we couldn’t be prouder of what we put together in partnership with the many talented people who helped host the awe-inspiring Cold Beat show at Grace Cathedral last Friday, we see this fantastic piece from SFGATE—“Rock band sells out San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, covers David Bowie”—featuring writing by Dan Gentile and photography by Adam Pardee. All due praise to Hannah Lew and the band for their incredible vision and to everyone who made this performance possible.
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KILLER MUSIC STYLE
It’s not often we get treated to a surprise rave jewel from Alameda. But because the real housewives of that famed bayside island have only our best interests at heart, we’ve just been blessed with Taraneh’s KMS JUICE, the second NO BIAS release of the year. What is this “KMS” juice? The artist assures us it stands for “Killer Music Style” and so we confidently take our first sip. Immediately we begin hearing voices, serene and spiritual over a tense buildup, noisily declaring “God is Love.” By the time the second track arrives—”Drowning in My Sleep,” co-produced by Bored Lord—we start to wonder if the juice was spiked. But it’s too late, it’s already two-thirds drunk, and so we swallow the rest, fading into a blissed out ego death soundtracked by stately grand pianos, twittering synths, and a thousand pounds of reverb.
You can catch Taraneh spinning alongside Technopagan, Ron Mexico, Jetalone, and Ritchrd at the Orifice x No Bias party in San Jose tomorrow night.
— Ronny Kerr
GROOVY OSCILLATING BREAKS
Next time you’ve gotta do that 20-minute-ish drive to or from the city, here’s the perfect little thing to make it go a little more smoothly: TRAX SOLAR by agropol weaves in and around groovy oscillators, throws down into badass breaks, and generally keeps it interesting across five tracks of uptempo club beats. It’s dynamic, never getting too comfortable in any loop, evolving, shapeshifting, and effortlessly gliding through techno, acid, and jungle.
Want to get your breakbeat fix tonight? Though agropol has previously played at Lotek, this month’s lineup features SWAP MEET! (Birmingham, AL), BC Rydah (Long Beach, CA), Lonald J. Bandz, Soulox, and Soeneido. It’s also happening at a new venue: Commune in downtown Oakland.
— Ronny Kerr
A GOOD DYSTOPIA
“Good dystopia” may sound like an oxymoron, but a lot of good dystopia-pop has come out of the Bay lately, particularly within the San Francisco synth scene: There’s Vice Reine, ContainHer, OVRGRWN—and Frank Ene, who emerged solo with EP No Longer in the thick of the pandemic in 2020. On his first solo full-length Cruel a l’amour, Ene further embraces minor-key darkness, this time filtered through brooding synthesizer sounds, while keeping it danceable and club-ready. It’s Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” transposed into song.
And is it any surprise that some parts of the Bay have taken a turn for the morose? It was going through a tumultuous transformation even before COVID-19 changed nightlife as we know it. But we still make our own fun as we have for decades. And there’s no better summation of the irrepressibly lively Bay Area—one that’s now imbued with the lingering dread of the pandemic—than an album like Cruel a l’amour. (By the way, the title isn’t just for show: The album is sung partially in French.)
— Jody Amable
IN MEMORY OF JOHNNY IGAZ
Featuring club tracks by many of the Bay’s best producers, Dear Johnny is the inaugural release in As You Like It’s OAK series, an inspired tribute to ALYI DJ Johnny Igaz, who lost his life in the Ghost Ship Fire. Each OAK release will see its proceeds donated to social justice organizations; for OAK001, it’s the National Federation of Abortion Funds.
In addition to the good cause and fitting memorial, the music here is as high-quality as it is diverse. There’s trancelike techno on “Friday 13th” by Eichef, soothing deep house on “Catching Up From Being Left Behind” by Indy Nyles, industrial body music on “Spiral” by Kudeki and “Web of Dispirit” by Only Now, and uptempo breakbeat on “Rebirth” by RITCHRD.
— Ronny Kerr
POETRY PROVIDES THE BEAT
Where exactly did these frequencies originate? Oakland? LA, alongside the I-10? Fort Worth, Texas? Or maybe Alexandra, Louisiana? It’s not totally clear, but perhaps place disappears when you step inside Son of Rene by Pacific Yew (aka Jeremy Williams). Introspective, entirely downtempo the album’s sounds are built around minimal soul jazz guitar and piano arrangements, scratchy and soulful as if lifted from avant-garde 1960s French films about love. It is minimal but anything but simple, each track gathering overdubs as they progress, while Williams provides the persistent wordbound thread through bars that skip and repeat like a rhythmic mantra. Poetry—mostly muttered, practically whispered—provides the beat.
— Ronny Kerr
COZY PIXELLATED UNIVERSE
Tomu DJ’s latest release If You’re So Cool, How Come No One Likes You? could easily soundtrack some cozy pixellated universe. The opening tracks “Dirt,” “Stylism,” and “Exposure” in particular evoke a kind of organic imagery, despite their unmistakably electronic sources. Perhaps a portal emerges from freshly moistened earth, or a constellation of firefly lights tinkle out of tune with a steady stream of dream-consciousness. A buzz of dragonflies may keep each other company by a bubbling creek, while whimsical forest creatures observe curiously from nearby trees. And after being out and about in the big, big world outside, the sleepy adventurer retreats to their “Shallow Ending” cavern-home—or a cave of their own making—to hibernate, to keep safe and hidden from the glaring eyes of the world.
— Elise Mills
Our top show recommendations for the coming week:
[club] LOTEK ft. Swap Meet, BC Rydah, Lonald J. Bandz, Soulox, Soeneido — Jan 27 at Commune
[club] Juan Atkins Techno Symphonic presented by Mercury Soul — Jan 27 at Public Works
[rock] Sweet Plot, Mild Universe — Jan 27 at the Independent
[experimental] Victoria Shen, Alexa Burrell, Noah Berrie — Jan 27-28 at Audium
[club] NO BIAS ft. Technopagan, Ron Mexico, Jetalone, Taraneh, Ritchrd — Jan 28 at Orifice
[rock] Tony Molina Band, Kids on a Crime Spree, Monster Treasure, Galore — Jan 28 at the 4-Star Theater
[r&b] Madison McFerrin, Satya, DJ Wonway Possibul — Jan 28 at the New Parish
[rock] Flamin’ Groovies, Cocker Power, Fantasy — Jan 28 at the Chapel
[indie] The Mattson 2 & Paul Cherry, Healing Potpourri — Feb 1 at the Chapel
[indie] Sarah Bethe Nelson, Tony Jay, Graham Norwood — Feb 2 at Little Hill Lounge
Want even more? Join us on Patreon to get access to our full concert calendar, featuring specially curated recommendations for upcoming Bay Area shows.