San Francisco has always had a well-respected, underground house scene thanks to long serving to veterans such as Mark Farina and DJ Garth. However, ever since psychedelic stoner’s Jefferson Airplane hung their guitars and tambourines up, no one has brought the musical-spotlight to North California quite like DJ Shadow did in the mid-nineties.
Thirteen years back, Shadow’s seminal ‘Endtroducing’ hit the racks (anyone else suddenly feeling quite old?). A debut album so unconditionally adored by anyone with a passing interest in the concept of electronic music, it practically started a new religious faith. After setting himself a follow-up task harder than having to play The Joker in the next Batman film, he released his second album ‘The Private Press’ in 2002. Despite falling short of Endtroducing’s utter brilliance, the general consensus was that the producer had delivered a good album, given the tricky circumstances.
Five years later, on the eve of the release of the always-inevitable third album, whispers started circling on message boards suggesting a disappointment of Stone Roses-sized proportions was coming. The die-hard fans wouldn’t hear a word of the blasphemy, whilst most just put the slurs down to fairly amusing wind-ups posted by bored office workers.
Then on September the 19th 2006, judgement day came and ‘The Outsider’ was finally released. Concentrating heavily on San Francisco’s somewhat unpleasant hip-hop offshoot, hyphy, the eagerly anticipated LP lived-up to the warnings and was met with er…. lets say ‘mixed feelings’. Probably in response to weeks of electronic hate mail from distraught skaters and heartbroken graphic-design students, he eventually released this rather unapologetic statement via his blog: “Repeat Endtroducing over and over again? That was never, ever in the game plan. Fuck that. So I think it's time for certain fans to decide if they are fans of the album, or the artist." Unfortunately, for the clearly riled producer, the fans did decide and with that, the spotlight of attention moved away from Shadow, San Francisco and thankfully hyphy.
Three years on, the cosmopolitan city is once again moving back into electronic-music’s spotlight. Whilst the laid-back house veterans of yesterday-year have quietly continued to spin to their fan base, several new names and scenes have since emerged.
Claude Von Stroke (Barclay Crenshaw to his bank manager) rose to fame with the distractingly catchy ‘Who’s Afraid Of Detroit?’ in the summer of 2007. Starting up a label and promotions force called ‘Dirty Bird’ in his adopted city, Crenshaw (with help) has elevated the imprint up to be one of the most forward thinking and closely watched tech-house stables in the game. A producer of all things off-kilter, jacking and generally greasy, Von Stroke has recently raised his credentials further, by quite remarkably dropping the deep house track of the year from absolutely nowhere. [Ed: Not forgetting his rather remarkable fabric mix that was dropped in May (ahem).]
Fellow Bay resident and Dirty Bird right-hand man, Justin Martin, has helped stage many nights around the city, including the infamous Golden Gate Park raves. As a result Martin’s has now emerged as a globally in-demand DJ in his own right, who’s set to perform at Sonar (Barcelona), Panorama Bar (Berlin) and The Exit Festival (Belgrade) in the next three months. Other house producers now settled in the area are serial Britney remixer Miguel Migs, Christian Martin (Justin’s Brother) and Dirty Bird’s Worthy. Not to forget the still-serving DJ’s DJ, Mark Farina.
In the Mission district of the city, the Sunday night roots institution, ‘Dub Mission’ has provided a creative hub for local reggae-minded producers since the mid-nineties. Over recent years, Dub Mission’s key-players have turned their attention to dubstep, with a local website (Dubstepped.net) and sister radio station supporting the cause, SF has now firmly established itself as the home of the stateside scene. In turn, many of London’s established heads have started flying over on a regular basis, with Skream, Benga and Distance having all spun at different events in the last two weeks alone. The nights of deck sharing with the heavyweights, has also proved fruitful for some of the local producers, with Djunya, Sam Supa and Cyan all being recently grabbed-up by UK-based leading labels.
The highest profile of the Bay Area’s steppers is Justin Shields. Recording under the alias ‘Jus Wan’, his track ‘Action Potential’ came to surface last year when it featured as one of the stand out tracks on Appleblim’s ‘All Stars mix’. Shortly after the influential Bristolian signed him to his Applepips imprint and released the track as a 12”. Having recorded several new cuts set for issue and a brand new release out on Naked Lunch Records currently turning heads across the UK scene, the future looks more than bright for the American newcomer.
Earlier this year, DJ Shadow announced he was working on new material. No release date was given.