Sunny, Strange Sounds From a New Generation of L.A. Producers

[caption id="attachment_57806" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Suzanne Kraft Suzanne Kraft. Photo: David Fisher[/caption]

Every week or thereabouts, Mutant Dance Moves takes you to the shadowy corners of the dancefloor and the fringes of contemporary electronic music, where new strains and dance moves are evolving.

While fall has finally descended upon the East Coast, the sky a slat of gray to match the sidewalks in hue (to mention nothing of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and more Nor’easters to follow), the sunshine still feels eternal out in California. So while Brooklyn’s producers churn out gritty, tough tracks in their unheated loft spaces, the sort of music wafting out of L.A. right now tends towards the mellow, medicinally enabled, Balearic end of the dance-music spectrum. But it’s also getting very weird. And while a few years back, the scene in L.A. seemed meager in comparison with what was happening elsewhere, slowly the city has given rise to a new generation of producers, with all sorts of new strains arising.

"A few years back, the scene in L.A. seemed meager in comparison with what was happening elsewhere, slowly the city has given rise to a new generation of producers, with all sorts of new strains arising."

One of the most noteworthy is Suzanne Kraft, an electronic musician who turned some heads when her debut EP Green Flash (sleeved in a bright lemon and lime schema to match the candied tracks within) dropped on the excellent German imprint, Running Back. Only, Suzanne Kraft turned out to be a lifelong Los Angeleno, 21-year-old Diego Herrera. “I've never identified with ‘Suzanne’ in any feminine way,” he clarifies via email. “But it creates a distance/barrier between me and my music that I can sort of hide behind. Although a couple of times I’ve met some chicks who have been disappointed to learn I’m a guy.” Herrera got turned onto gateway electronic artists like Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada in middle school and started making his own tracks soon after. And he’s been part of L.A.’s eclectic and deep Dublab stable for a few years as well.

While Flash’s cuts favored the chunky disco samples at their core, Kraft’s latest EP, Horoscope, leans more on its analog components. The rims and claps of “No Worries” mingle with the springy melody, resulting in a boogie track that doubles as mellow assurance. And the low-slung title track chugs along, mellow and ever so slightly wobbly, leading into a breezy guitar solo perfect for sunsets in Malibu.'

[caption id="attachment_57819" align="alignnone" width="3888"]Poolside Poolside[/caption]

For those unable or unwilling to sit in traffic on the 10 to get to the ocean, the duo who comprise Poolside craft Balearic tracks that are ideal for the daytime and for being, well, poolside. Filip Nikolic and Jeffrey Paradise convened after numerous years working on other projects (Paradise’s roots reach back to the Calculators, the San Francisco hardcore band who would soon after turn into the Rapture). Their first single “Do You Believe?” wound up on high-profile mixes from the likes of Dimitri From Paris, Todd Terje and innumerable “chill out” Ibizian mix CDs.

This year, Poolside’s self-released single found the boys cutting a mellow version of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” and adding more thump to Sade’s “When Am I Going to Make a Living.” Out this week is the duo’s full-length debut, Pacific Standard Time, both as a disc and lovely colored double-vinyl package, full of low-100 BPM slow-chuggers. And slightly slower than all of them is “Slow Down,” which just nudges above 80 BPM. It’s syrupy and leisurely, meaning it’s the perfect speed for their message: “Don’t move so fast/ Slow down, let this feeling last/ Relax.”

[caption id="attachment_57820" align="alignnone" width="640"]SFV Acid SFV Acid[/caption]

Fellow Angeleno Zane Reynolds, age 23, hails from slightly more inland -- San Fernando Valley to be exact -- where its bedroom producer scene lags well behind its other, more notorious “bedroom” industry. Since 2007, he’s done DIY-style releases under the fitting name of SFV Acid. “Close friends of mine were crazy record collectors, so they had kraut, disco, acid, anything you can think of that was strange, they had it and a copy of it,” Reynolds recalls. “And I was really into all sorts of stuff on (Aphex Twin’s label) Rephlex, as well as a load of other UK things like Acid Quiff and Ceephax.”

A penchant for Aphex and his other impish cohorts and their strain of “braindance” definitely makes sense upon hearing SFV Acid’s latest EP for the UNO label. And with “Acid” already embedded into his name, that the tracks are drenched in 303s should come as no surprise. Add to it the warped black and white drawings that Reynolds renders for his cover art, and you have a peculiar producer indeed, one able to sit comfortably in the DIY scene of No Age (whose Dean Spunt released SFV’s #2 album earlier this year on his Post Present Medium label) and the city’s burgeoning electronic music scene.

Reynolds tells me drawing was always his release growing up. “The music thing came about more as a hobby,” he explains. “But they definitely go hand in hand. I need to do something all the time, so when I’m out of the house and can't make music, I draw.” With L.A.’s underground dance parties being so scattered and not always central to a scene or sound, Reynolds disjointed, playful, unsteady, jittery tracks are left to wander free. It’s music that’s ideal for heads, not so much for feet.