Windex music

Neominimal techno finds its footing on the Bay's dance floors

SUPER EGO Swooning in the aural vortex of the last How Weird Street Faire, I lean against the central shade tower — heavens, it's hot! — as four separate whiz-bang DJ arenas writhe at my compass points like electronic eels. Psytrance, tech house, tribal, and jeep beats overlap in a fun fuzz of dissonance: a Euterpean kaleidoscope, if you will.

A shirtless Pan in crooked BluBlockers emerges from the sonic haze and politely offers a welcome quench from his Camelback. Ah, agua ... that's better. Pan hightails it back into the neon-freaky crowds, his shadow a tongue of purple flame darting through the throng. Uh oh, the colors — they're starting to come alive. I can see the music. I am the Lizard Queen. Goddammit, I've been dosed unbeknownst!

Does that mean I'm still cute enough to date-rape? Whew.

There's no real need for chemical alteration at Burner-powered musical affairs like How Weird. The beats are gleefully conservative, locking hearts and minds into a virtual retro techno shroom step of the middle–late '90s. You can just stop dropping and roll, Siddhartha. Close your eyes, and Smurf the vibe.

The ultimate expression of this baroque kind of bubble-icious bounce back is the continued global triumph of DJ Tiësto's 2005 Eurotrance classical gasser Adagio for Strings (Universal France) — from Barber to Burner, via Coachella, with a $50,000 light show, a Lycra Tony Montana jersey, and a passé Jesus pose. Gord lord, lady. Tone it down a little. Tiësto's not the lowest of the low — some trancers still work bastard Carl Orff tracks — and the high's all the dedicated protofairies making laptop tribal in their parents' incense-clouded basements. Whether they'll trade in the oms for Armani once they graduate to clubland is anyone's guess. It's become such a thin, thin line. Still, you know if you threw on some neu-rave Klaxons at the pre-Compressions, the kids would have an air-horn breakdown and an alien breakthrough.

Yep, in these fractious times, the speakers overflow with comfort food. And there's another retro techno movement snaking its way into the clubs, a splash of cool blue against the electroshocked Day-Glo patchwork of today's dance music: neominimal. Incubating for the past few years in art galleries like Gray Area and Rx, underground parties like Gentlemen's Techno and Moxie, unlikely bars like Detox, 222 Club, and the Transfer, and occasional Blasthaus and Daly City Records events, neominimal techno has lately come to the official fore, with major regular parties at the Endup and Fat City taking root and sold-out one-offs at Mezzanine fierce ruling.

The neominimal kids take their cues less from '90s London big beat and depunked Prodigy than from '80s acid house polychromatics and the Warp Records–Sheffield bleep scene, while paying heavy dues to laser-eared Detroit techno pioneers like Kenny Larkin and Richie Hawtin, whose classic 1999 full-length Decks Efx and 909 (Mute) kick-started the original minimal movement (he'll be at the Mighty on June 1). Hawtin told me at the time of DE9's release that he wanted to "cut through the clouds of contemporary techno" to produce something more loop focused, software malleable, and dynamic in terms of live manipulation. Eight years later, neominimal's tweeter-oriented arpeggios, atonal motifs, staticky sprezzatura, and clean, focused bass lines — plus a reliance on laptop programming and a healthy nullity of bombast and breaks — bear out his intentions to the nth. It's unimposing, almost shy music that hooks you with its lack of superstar pretense and leads you gently by your ears to the dance floor.

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