The concentration of musical ability that runs through the Bay never ceases to astound. A dazzling array of musical expression keeps our ears buzzing 24/7 as we listen to projects from large and small labels, and self-released sounds. We decided to start a column featuring the SF Bay Area’s vast assemblage of talent; here’s Local Listen.
DJ DELON, SUNDOWN SESSIONS MIX
DJ Delon, AKA Alain Grissette, is a veteran DJ with a stellar record. In the late ’90s, he fought the SF Bay Area electronica wars, and won, by founding the legendary Berkeley party Beatdown, an outdoor home for all of the competing sounds of the day (house, downtempo, drum ‘n bass, two-step garage) to come together under the stars. Later, he held longtime residencies at Lazlo in SF’s Mission District and most recently at Miranda Bar in Uptown Oakland.
His strident command for curating “that vibe” kept his programming duties a 20-year plus engagement as director of entertainment for Drake’s Brewing. Booking Norah Jones, Charlie Hunter Trio, and Mingus Amungus are just a few of the local-meets-global talents, encompassing jazz, funk, and bluegrass, that he arranged to have perform at that venue.
The Sundown Sessions mixtape series, filled with yacht soul, purple funk, nu-jazz, and custom edits, fits the description of what he likes to describe as “you know… funky shit.”
This live mix from April was performed for, enjoyed, and ooh-ahhed by a fun-loving crowd in Murphy, Ca. It’s a gift y’all. Take it on your mobile speakers, pods and pills. It’s the correct groundwork we need heading outdoors for festivals, concerts, and DJs gatherings. Drakes and Jupiter will be booking and ramping things back up again in June-July. Tell em DJ Delon sent you.
MIKAL AMIN, SIR TUMES, LONG DIVISION, PROFESSOR BRIAN OBLIVION, MOSES HERMAN JACOBS
Listen mane, San Francisco-based DJ and producer Professor Brian Oblivion remains an enigma of sorts. You never know how or where he’s gonna strike, but when he does, you know it’s him, by the way, your mind’s inner voice says “Cotdamn maaaan.”
This time PBO teams up with the svelte New York City emcees Sir Tumes, Mikal Amin, and Long Division, for the “Moses Herman Jacobs” project, based on Jane Jacobs’ seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (and also named after problemmatic city planners Robert Moses and Justin Herman). Her vision for a city “created for everybody” has instead become one in which economic inequality and gentrification have forced us to confront the idea of “home”: what we’ve created for ourselves and what has been shaped by the socio-political forces beyond our control.
These questions seem ever more pertinent for those who live in the dense city space during the pandemic. The project started years ago by designer Jacques Dupoux and given life by everyone involved. It’s being released under DUPO, a design studio that occasionally tries to do more than just design.
As quick with the wordplay as all three emcees are, it’s Oblivion’s production that actually becomes the fourth emcee. Playful, animated, and verbose but never too dominating, just funk-punches and that good ole boom-bap. All proceeds from album sales are being donated to Equality for Flatbush. For years they’ve confronted gentrification head-on, fighting landlords and the city, to keep people in their homes and neighborhoods. For more information here is an interview with the artists on how it all came about.
XYLA, XLR8R MIX
Xyla, the Sunset District bedroom electronic artist, makes music that blurs categorization and inspires feeling.
She recently put together her first mix, ever, for XLR8R, and that too defies categorization as well. It’s a fun, trippy, mood melting organism, filled with shadowy and restless beats.
As she explained in XLR8R: “Oh man, I have a lot of music in this mix from different friends in the Bay Area; it’s full of music that brings me back to specific places and conjures up great memories of getting down on a dancefloor. I cover a variety of genres including ambient, house, footwork, hip-hop, club, glitch, and more.”
MAE POWELL, “FUCK I.C.E.”
According to Mae Powell’s website, she’s a singer and songwriter based in San Francisco, who began frequenting Bay Area venues in 2019 with full band: Mayya Feygina (of Mayya) on bass and Sam Jones on drums. Powell’s set to release her debut full-length album Both Ways Brighter this year. According to the budding star, the album is a celebration of life, friendship and love including an homage to past selves.
Listen I was ready for the “Kumbaya” protest song, with the extra hippy dippy patchouli stink sentiment. I was wrong. Way wrong.
Instead, “Fuck I.C.E.” is this delicious earworm of a tune featuring Powell’s casual vocal delivery, sing-song ennuciation, that still packs heat with “call your racist grandma” and “no one is free until we are all free” medicine snuck in with those great lines. Simply put, this is great pop. The clock is ticking Mae, you have our attention.