The San Francisco Bay Area has played an important role in American dance music since the 1990s, when its unique blend of hippie paganism, liberal politics and high-tech futurism collided in a healthy rave scene and famous parties like Wicked and Toon Town. After a few (of what we perceived to be) somewhat-less-inspired years for local dance music after the turn of the new millennium, the Bay has once again proved to have fertile soil for house and techno producers. A growing number of artists from the region have hit our radar in recent months, so we thought it was time for a round-up of some of our favorites. With help from fast-rising DJ and producer Matrixxman—who supplied us with a guide to some of his favorite synths, drum machines and music gear just last month—here are eleven producers making waves in and around San Francisco.
Matrixxman is pretty ubiquitous throughout this guide, which is a reflection of his success and his standing in the local scene. He has risen through the ranks over the past year or so, turning out in-demand 12″s on labels like Spectral Sound, Unknown to the Unknown, and Dekmantel, as well as a handful of remixes for many of the other artists we’ve listed here. His debut album, Homesick, dealt in not-so-distant technoid futures and was released on Ghostly International earlier this summer.
Vin Sol has teamed up with Matrixxman on a number of projects: the Soo Wavey record label, a string of covetable white-label Sade edits, and a series of gear-hunting expeditions around the Bay. Vin Sol’s solo endeavors specialize in stripped-back ghetto house, and his contributions to Clone’s Jack for Daze series and Unknown to the Unknown display a modern take on the jacking sound of seminal Chicago label Dance Mania.
One of the San Francisco techno consortium’s newest members is Adra (AKA Alandria Sheffer), who’s pictured in the cover photo above. The Nevada native, who upped stakes to the Mission district eight years ago, reportedly favors the mechanized techno of Nitzer Ebb, Kraftwerk and Jeff Mills. Inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune series, her debut EP, Fear is the Mind Killer, was issued via her own newly minted imprint D.A.T. (Denied American Techno), and features an analog edit from Matrixxman.
Oakland resident Ben Versluis moonlights as a mixing and mastering engineer, which might help explain the high degree of technical acuity evident in his productions as Worker/Parasite. He’s also got a particular knack for hardware, as evidenced on his Proletariat EP for UK cassette outlet Opal Tapes. Check out his other projects, Headgear and Diem, for more.
Although she no longer lives in the area, Avalon Emerson’s involvement in San Francisco’s current scene seems undeniable. She has worked in music engineering since she was a teenager recording her friends’ high school bands, and started to make dance floor-oriented edits and originals when she moved to San Francisco in 2009. She threw regular underground parties with her roomates at Club 380, a “big industrial house” south of Market Street that housed 14 people. In 2014 she started to gain attention outside the state when she released a trio of EPs on San Francisco-based labels Icee Hot and Spring Theory. Emerson has since decamped to Berlin, where she recently delivered a five-hour closing for Leisure System at Panorama Bar, which testified to her growing popularity because it inspired in the dancers a level of frenzy the EB editors present hadn’t seen there in quite some time. She has a new record on the way for Uncanny Valley sublabel Shtum, which promises punky, trippy dancefloor tools.
Honey Soundsystem self-identifies as a queer DJ and arts collective that formed around a shared appreciation for “pivotal gay underground parties and dance music history [that] offered a take on dance music in direct opposition to what was blaring on mainstream club speakers.” Its members include Jackie House, Robert Yang AKA Bézier, Jason Kendig and Josh Cheon, who also fronts the excellent Dark Entries label. Recently, the crew relaunched its eponymous imprint with a pair of EPs from Bézier and Jackie House, with none other than Matrixxman assuming b-side remix duties.
Affectionately referred to as the “techno detective” by those in the know, Jack Murphy puts out lean, clean techno cuts primed for maximum dancefloor impact on Frozen Border sublabel Reference and Don’t Be Afraid. His productions are cool but his DJ sets—at the least the ones he recorded for The Trilogy Tapes and Truants—are extremely, extremely good. Really good. Seriously. Listen to them. And by the way, if anyone can ID the second track on the Truants mix, the first one with a kick drum, lettuce know.
Expect the unexpected from this longstanding California selector. Solar founded the Sunset Sound System outdoor party series, which is credited with helping to establish the Bay Area’s dance music scene. Championed by Dutch tastemakers Dekmantel, Solar’s international visibility was also boosted by Dixon, who invited him to tour Europe with the Innervisions crew after catching one of his sets. Mixes for Resident Advisor and Beats in Space offer a taste of his style, which spans Italo, new wave and acid.
Carlos Souffront is a Detroit native and core member of Brendan Gillen’s Interdimensional Transmissions outfit, which hosts the legendary No Way Back parties around Movement Festival every year. Having earned the badge of “DJ’s DJ” based on standout sets for The Bunker and what’s rumored to be an incredible record collection, he’s resettled in San Francisco where, according to RA, he lives a double life as a cheesemonger—his daytime occupation for the last 20 years.
Jacob Long’s earliest solo output under the guise Earthen Sea was confined to obscure cassette releases, but these days, the San Franciscan is most closely aligned with Ital’s Lovers Rock imprint. The two artists played together in a punk band, Mi Ami, and also produce together as Sleeper Cell. Long’s new solo album of textural, ambient techno is on the way, plus a conceptual release, Imaginary Feast, for Nicolas Jaar’s Other People imprint, which features Holly Herndon, Lorenzo Senni, Vaghe Stelle, William Basinski and more.
Mozhgan is one of our newest finds, and we still don’t know much about the San Francisco selector, save for the fact that she captains the We Are Monsters party alongside Solar and Greer. Her deep, dark guest mix for Honey Soundsystem, however, is worth a listen.