Under the Stars is a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and a number of other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes, thinking outside the margins. In this edition, we’re still catching up on releases from the last month of the previous year, so 2022 isn’t just over yet. Every day, new music is released. You can count on it.
DUB MISSION AT ELBO ROOM, OAKLAND, FRIDAY JANUARY 13
DJ Sep is hosting a special reunion of Dub Mission, one of the world’s longest-running reggae parties, with co-resident DJs Vinnie Esparza and Maneesh the Twister at Elbo Room, Oakland, which is sadly closing in spring. But for now you can relive the sunny vibes that lit up SF nightlife for more than two decades.
Since its inception in 1996, the party has hosted the likes of The Scientist, Mad Professor & the Ariwa Sound System, Mungo’s Hi Fi with Soom T and Solo Banton, Adrian Sherwood & the ON-U Sound System, DJ Vadim, and many other global deep-and-heavy icons.
Regardless of whether a guest is scheduled or not, the crew ensures that quality control is maintained at all times. Vinnie’s won Best Local DJ in Best of the Bay, he was the first DJ to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival (on its 50th anniversary). Maneesh co-founded of the Asian underground Dhamaal artist collective, and has toured India, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Bali.
And of course Sep, a global figure of dub, reggae, dancehall, bass, Jungle/DnB, Afrobeats, and more. We were able to aks a couple quick questions of the eternal ambassador.
48 HILLS What got you into DJing?
DJ SEP I’ve always loved music. A college mate of mine from San Francisco State University had a radio show at the KUSF, University of San Francisco’s famous college radio station. I expressed interest, and another mutual friend of ours encouraged me to get involved. I started volunteering at KUSF, and eventually got my own show.
48H What was the origin of this party, and what were you hoping to establish to distinguish it from the plethora of reggae clubs in the city and around the world?
DJ SEP I became very interested in dub and started playing a lot of it on the radio. One night a woman called in, and asked me where she could go to hear this music in a club. I couldn’t think of a place so I started Dub Mission. Both Vinnie Esparza and Maneesh the Twister, who’ll be playing the Dub Mission reunion on January 13th, have been part of it from the beginning.
48H Back in the day on Sundays in the Mission, you always seemed to be a changing crowd, but it was always a receptive crowd, full of first-time regulars and Dub Mission heads. What is the perfect combination, the perfect alchemy, the perfect type of DJ that has made this party so memorable?
DJ SEP I did want the club to be different. I wanted women to be able to come to Dub Mission on their own if they wanted, and not be hassled. I wanted a diverse crowd to share the same space, feel safe, and have a good time. I really aimed to expose a lot of people to the different aspects of reggae music, both classic reggae and the more contemporary works.
Dub Mission definitely attracted a lot of heads, but as it stuck around and its popularity grew, more people came to check it out, just to have a good time. I feel like we turned a lot of people on to the music, people who may not have encountered it, especially in the unique mix that we presented.
48H Have you noticed an increase in the number of women DJing reggae since the party started? If so, what would you attribute that to?
DJ SEP There have been more women over the years but it’s still an extremely male-dominated field, both music in general, and reggae in particular. Like anything else, times move forward and more women feel like they can have a place as protagonists in the fields that interest them. I hope it continues.
The party is free, but you can guarantee a spot here.
TWO SYLLABLES VOLUME NINETEEN (FIRST WORD RECORDS)
At this point, I would hope that the Two Syllables free download of indelible songs put out each year by the First Word label is part of your New Year’s ritual.
To put it bluntly, a good record label is akin to a great dentist, foot doctor, or mechanic. Once you’ve found it, you’ll never be able to function the same way again because of the immeasurable relief it can bring.
For almost a decade this London-based imprint has steadily provided an IRT version of where urban music is at. If that means bass-heavy beats meet jazz, soul, and hip-hop in the most austere British club culture way, then that’s what’s up. Talent changes trends. Ask First Word. That’s how they became named Label of the Year at the highly influential Gilles Peterson Worldwide Awards in 2019.
As usual, Volume 19 is packed with a sublime roster of talent this UK label continues put out year after year. I’m talking about Takuya Kuroda, Werkha, Allysha Joy, Quiet Dawn, Sarah Williams White, Don Leisure, and Kaidi Tatham. It’s a free download compilation that ANYBODY would drop serious coin on.
Take it as an invitation to make future purchases, but for now, get 2023 off the right way by copping this here.
THE MAGHREBAN, ”TREADING WATER”
Ayman Rostom, the son of Egyptian and Saudi immigrants who records under the alias The Maghreban, is obsessed with beats in all their sluggishness. His artistic name refers to the North African region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and he frequently draws inspiration from African music.
We wrote about Rostom’s last album, Connection, which was released in July of last year and was loaded with heavy micro-climates, or “the seductive sound of bewilderment,” as he describes it. There is a plethora of hip-hop under his Doctor Zygote alias that gives new meaning to the term diverse.
“Treading Water,” a new single released last November by the ever-elusive creative, leaves us with uncanny, sinister downtempo climates that bend your neck into bobbing to the rhythm while still looking around the door for critters or anything else that may be leering about.
“An old good friend lent me his collection of ’90s techno records a few years ago and I went through them slowly, ripping bits I could play out. I noticed quite a few of them would have a downbeat track on the B1 or the B2. I guess that was the fashion then,” Rostom says on the Bandcamp notes.
“I make hip-hop, so these tempos are familiar to me. I wanted to make something slower but like a techno producer would, not like how I would with my hip-hop head on. Perhaps more refined. Chin stroke.”
It’s a dome-piece soundtrack for sure, and you can get it here.
BORED LORD X BASTIENGOAT, LES DEUX
Latest EP Les Deux by Oakland electronic music creatives Bored Lord and long-time collaborator and friend bastiengoat snuck in here in early December and definitely gave The Bay something to bounce wit for a couple of months. Daria Lourd, aka Bored Lord, has been making some of the most sublime hardcore house for a long time now, built from drum and bass grumble, breakbeat with color chord expanses, pushing the levels up to red.
Their Les Deux EP contains a plethora of “lightah” and “shibiddy wubberly wibberly wobberly wOOOooooo” occurrences that blend contemporary bass music designs with proper OG breakbeat drum and bass foundation. We get a bit of that stammering house figure with the lead track “Thallium.”
However, the exhaulted drum and bass moment can be found in the low-pitched pressure of “Silence,” the EP’s closer. Oh, my Gush! I had to run it back like ten times. This atmospheric synth layer is alongside silvery Amen breaks flying everywhere underneath, with dart-correct bass drops, and soundsystem pressure of the highest regard.
Somebody page me for the rave meet-up point, meanwhile cop the EP here.