Is the rave spotlight shifting back to the alternative Los Angeles scene?

Rupert Howe
Monday 09 June 2008 10:00 BST
Francophile: US expat Uffie is popular in the clubs of Paris
Francophile: US expat Uffie is popular in the clubs of Paris

For a brief period in the early-Nineties, Los Angeles was the epicentre of rave culture in America, thanks to a series of epic, hedonistic parties and the presence of Mars FM, the country’s first radio station dedicated to dance music. Yet unlike, say, San Francisco, the city never developed a reputation as a nexus for electronic music makers.

Finally, it seems things are changing, with two fresh creatives surfacing on the alternative Los Angeles scene: Daedelus and Flying Lotus. Daedelus is the alias of Alfred Darlington. His new album Love To Make Music To (Ninja Tune), channels electronica, hiphop and R&B through an array of unusual guest vocalists, including Michael Johnson of Sub Pop band Holopaw and Brooklyn soul diva Erika Rose.

The album includes the startling “If We Should”, which blends rave urgency into a miasmic vocal from Darlington’s wife Laura. The duo also record as a more conventional-sounding“ electroacoustic” duo called The Long Lost, but her voice seems more suited to electronics. A view perhaps shared by Flying Lotus, on whose debut Los Angeles (Warp), her Cocteau Twins-style harmonies entwine with thepulsing bass and ticking percussion of “Auntie’s Lock/Infinitum”.

Simpler pleasures await on the latest from Swiss maverick Beat Soler, aka Seelenluft. Birds And Plants And Rocks And Things (International Deejay Gigolo) is a blithe mix of skewed Euro-house and pop electro, topped off with a sunny cover of America’s 1972 folk-rock perennial “A Horse With No Name”.

No such frivolity contaminates the work of Johannes Enders, saxophonist and sometime collaborator with German “indietronica” group The Notwist. In his more reflective moments he apparently records church music, but discovers little inspiration in the jazz-inflected electronics which fill much of his Enders Room album Random Guru (Tuition). Only the quirky “Sister Peace” comes alive, his wheezing sax juxtaposed with tinkling vibraphone and abruptly programmed vocal loops.

After encountering such a composed musical experiment, it comes as a relief to hear the raucous “Motor” (Ed Banger), a Pimp My Ride take on techno-rave by prolific remixer Sebastian, all hard-revving riffs and nitrous beats. As a French DJ with the right connections (he’s supported Daft Punk on tour), Sebastian also features on Ed Rec Vol 3 (Ed Banger), the latest snapshot from the cooler-than-thou Parisian label which gave the world Justice.

His track, “Dog”, is a pounding but somewhat disposable hard rock pastiche. More intriguingly, the compilation also offers a chance to sample the latest from Uffie, a 20-yearold American expat whose unconventional rapping and fashion magazine looks have made her a VIP on the French club scene. But no amount of hip styling can disguise the fact that “Robot Oeuf” is a dud which falls far short of replicating her brilliant electro-rap debut “Pop The Glock”.

It’s intriguing to contrast the Parisians’ exuberant approach with the studied introversion of the UK dubstep scene – much of whose music now seems to exist in a digital dimension cut off from the world outside. Ital Tek’s coldly fascinating debut album Cyclical (Planet Mu) might have been made in Brighton by a man called Alan Myson, but his cyber-sounds bear only traces of pre-existing musical forms.

So, while two-disc dubstep round-up Steppas’ Delight (Soul Jazz) makes a convincing case for a more diverse scene than many outsiders might expect, it’s one of the newly commissioned exclusives which stands out – Japanese producer Goth-Trad’s sci-fi dub “Genesis”, whose liquid bass and slamming percussion brilliantly distills the genre’s uncanny evocation of the alien and familiar.

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