YEAR IN MUSIC 2011: Pop goes the world -- a whirlwind year of nightlife and dance music. Plus a nightlife top 11 for 2011
The SF-via-Detroit Dirty Bird label head has developed such a delicious, instantly recognizable signature sound — booty bass meets tech-house somewhere in the Betty Boop-cartoon space jungle, timpani rolls and all — that it's come to represent the Bay on a global scale. Almost every track in this genius mix is a recent winner, from Throwing Snow's "Shadower" and Makossa Megablast's "Soy Como Soy" to the infamous Thomos edit of Armando's "Don't Take It." And when VonStroke drops that EPMD Easter egg toward the middle, I totally lose it. Plus, just as a control freak wink, the whole shebang is perfectly timed to end exactly at the 60-minute mark. This mix is a masterclass for DJs on how to gradually open up the bass on a system, but it's also a much needed injection of ass-pumping humor into a somewhat poker-faced dance scene.
OMAR S., "HERE'S YOUR TRANCE NOW DANCE" (FXHE)
Detroit techno came back in a big way: witness packed appearances here by classic innovators like Virgo Four, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, MK, and Claude Young — and catch Juan Atkins this Sat/17 at Public Works. Even though more recent Motown musicmaker Omar S.'s gig here in October was a disaster of tech issues and flared tempers, his latest album It Can Be Done, But Only I Can Do It shone with old-school Detroit grit and mysticism. Especially this cut, which lifts me by my curlies into a blissfully mechanized futureworld.
TODD TERJE, "SNOOZE 4 LOVE" (RUNNING BACK)
One of those joyful, deceptively simple-sounding ditties that makes me so happy I want to die.
ISAM LIVE, AMON TOBIN
Who needs music at all, really, when you have a freaking realtime three dimensional polygonal projection happening in your face? The Brazilian trip-master took a gamble on a huge concept, of which his familiar, intriguing dubsteppy-to-ambient electronica tunes were only a part, creating a live spectacle that combined state-of-the-art animation with some good ol' fashioned stagecraft — and kept the ILM employees around me at this year's Warfield show shouting, "What?!?" Returning on New Year's Eve for the Sea of Dreams party at the SF Concourse: don't miss it.
FOUR TET, "PYRAMID" (TEXT RECORDS)
One of the highlights of the jazzy broken beats eclectophile's Fabric Live mix from September, this gorgeous track took the budding two-step UK garage vocal snippet revival a step further into melodic ecstasy with typical intelligence. Other post-dubstep garage snippet faves: "Another Girl" by Jacques Green, Blawan's "Gettin Me Down," Lando Kal's "Further," and "Fleur" by Sepalcure.
TINARIWEN, TASSILI (ANTI-)
At a time of spectacular upheaval in North Africa, its most famous musical export scaled back the multiple electric-guitar polyphony and went more quiet and acoustic for this understated yet still complex masterpiece album. You'll be swaying and clapping along in no time as the Tuareg band elaborates its entrancing epics. Also check out Tinariwen's spunky cover of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's "Mustt Mustt" with Indian-Canadian vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia.