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There’s a curious kind of rapid acceleration in both exposure and acclaim that occasionally befalls so-called ‘DJ’s DJs’. They quietly ply their trade on a local level, wholly happy with their lot, before everything just…sorta falls neatly into place all of a sudden. Impossible to say who’s flipping the cosmic switch from ‘unsung’ to ‘ubiquitous’, but the next beneficiary of this heartening o̶v̶e̶r̶n̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ decades-in-the-making success story seemingly has his cards marked.
The planets are aligning for Solar Langevin.
The dedicated (and thoroughly charming) Cali vet has been busy as of late. Having wowed Dixon on the off-chance, he’s been welcomed into the wider Innervisions family under the don’s patronage; there have been BiS radio slots and instalments in various podcast series, Dekmantel included; he even starred in Trouw‘s farewell run, spinning alongside BR favs Patrice Baümel and Gilb’r. Much of this is built atop the groundwork of the enormous Sunset Sound System communal gatherings, as well as the No Way Back series of parties he co-helmed alongside Conor in their native San Francisco and L.A.
Some serious guests have come through over the years: Willie Burns, Xosar, and Daniel Avery rub up against heavyweights like Model 500, Alexander Robotnick, Metro Area, and heaps more besides. It all mirrors the bossman’s impeccable taste and verve as a selector, bridging the gap between contemporary luminaries and their singular forebears with panache. Even Conor’s distinctive flyer aesthetic tips the hat to camps both old and new.
Ahead of his inaugural Boiler bow at our Dekmantel x IR party within Barcelona’s El Monasterio next month, it felt appropriate to tap up Solar and get a keyhole look into his encyclopaedic brain while we still could, given that he won’t be sat still for much longer. Read on for a primer on a dozen curios from his hometown’s formidable scene – or, as the man himself would have it, “scratching the surface and connecting the dots through my influences and inspirations from San Francisco/Bay Area’s affluent musical heritage.”
Like we say: dedicated.
SOLAR: “My parents were both in the rock’n’roll world with Grateful Dead and such, so that was the kind of music I listened to in the background as a kid. A lot of San Fran bands emerged from both the punk and psychedelic scenes at the end of the 70s. I wasn’t around during that time, but I heard them in my later teen years, and that definitely spun me in all kind of directions: weird psych rock, more left-field experimental, and Skinny Puppy kinda stuff. There was a kinda hard-nosed attitude in the era that branched out quickly, using instruments but leaning on the electronic side.
A lot of the selections below are before my time. I cut my teeth attending punk rock shows, then hitting the clubs around the time acid house kicked over here. There were a lot of weird clubs that would play a mixture of this stuff in the late 80s. Just now my girlfriend was looking over the list and said, “oh you have a lot of women in there.” I don’t quite know what draws me to that, but it was prevalent in the era. It’s stuck with me.
I’ve had great shows lately in Zurich and Amsterdam, plus four hours at Panorama Bar [alongside Surgeon, Gerd Janson, Mr Ties, Dixon & more] which was obviously a highlight. Making concessions for crowds can be a bit tricky. My sets are never going to be 100% obscurities – there’s tons of current stuff that I enjoy playing, for sure – but I always try and keep some originality in there. I like slipping curveballs in that you might not know; music I’d like to hear on the dancefloor.
For me at least, you have to be feeling super confident to pull off some records. I think, ‘oh I wanna play this, I wanna play this!’ but some tracks with sloppy drumming and crazy tempo changes are hard to mix, especially given they’re non-digitised, so they just sit in my bag. But you work around it, and hopefully people give you a little understanding that you’re taking a chance. I understand the fear of fucking up, I really do get it, but there’s just so many people playing it safe…
There’s loads more I’d love to speak to from all over the place – old material outta Canada from Ceramic Hello and Vanishing Heat; newer Krauty stuff from Gnod; the chase scene from The Warriors – but I know we’re crunched for time. So let’s roll with this dozen from S.F.”
Stevie Nicks – “Doing The Best I Can (Long Drum Demo)” [Modern Records; 1989]
“So this is bit of a strange one as Stevie Nicks would seem a little out of place with the rest of the music here. The Sisters of Mercy sounding drum machine, Simon Gallup bassline and Stevie’s aching voice on top: my dream track if there was a clean version of it.
She was originally from the Bay Area, and when I first moved to California as a child her voice was always around on the radio or my parents’ hi-fi. I was totally hypnotized by that haunting, raspy voice. I used to cut out pictures of her and tape them all over my school binder. This demo as far as I know is not available anywhere except this really poor quality Youtube version.”
Megan Roberts – “I Could Sit Here All Day” [1750 Arch Records; 1977]
“This was laid down in early ’76. Megan Roberts was a Mills College Center for Contemporary Music graduate, where a lot of the early electronic experiments happened. The track has a very primal scream therapy quality to it with mad drums and crazy synth lines coming in and out. Kind of pre-dates the no-wave/post-punk sound that would soon follow. Definitely not easy listening!”
Pauline Anna Strom – “Freebasing” [Trans-Millenia Consort; 1983]
“I found this record digging at Groove Merchant here in San Francisco a few years back. This record is more of a synth/ambient/new age thing made in 1983. The names of the tracks caught my attention: ”Mushroom Trip”, “Freebasing”; although she claims to never have experimented with drugs. She explains it “a mind trip without the chemicals.”
This was all made on a Prophet 10 synth (built by Dave Smith who manufactured them in San Francisco and continues to build high quality synths here). As soon I put the needle down on the wax I became obsessed going on a mad three year search to find the rest of her otherworldly LPs. There’s a nice description on her Discogs bio, too.”
[Dep Ed – As far as closing bio sentences go, you could do a whole lot worse than the following: “She shares her apartment with Little Solstice – her beloved Cyclura Iguana.”]
Tuxedomoon – “Day to Day (Demo 78)” [Cramboy; 2011]
Minimal Man – “Jungle Song” [Subterranean Records; 1981]
“Slo-mo, sci-fi funk sleaze from some more San Francisco electronic legends, this time in the form of Patrick Miller. This is the kind of stuff I love to put on mixes as I feel the tempo and mood is perfect.”
Chrome – “Distance” [Dossier / King of Spades; 2002 / 2014]
Damon Edge – “Alliance of Hearts” [New Rose Records; 1985]
“Can’t say enough about Chrome/Damon Edge/Helios Creed. My mind was blown open from the first time I heard them, and still is all the time. A huge influence on so many levels. Sometimes I wonder what music would be like if they didn’t exist. Fun fact: I actually put them on the first mixtape I made after purchasing my first pair of Techniques before I know how to beat-match!”
Baby Buddha – “Little Things” [Posh Boy; 1981]
“Picking the tempo up a bit with some freaky spoken word robotics. Josh Cheon from Dark Entries actually put this and the Tuxedomoon on the latest BART compilation, amongst a bunch of other killer Bay Area post-punk oddities. Definitely something to check out!“
The Vanishing – “Lovesick” [Gold Standard Laboratories; 2004]
“The Vanishing was an SF band that were actually from my time as I was a bit too young to catch the previous artists mentioned. They were always playing amazing shows here and I tried to never miss them as it was always a memorable night. The combination of front-woman Jessie Eva, Brian Hock’s primal drums and wild, heavy synths of Billy Bates would always turn their shows into a total frenzy.
Brian and our good friend Tasho (aka Its Own Infinite Flower) do an event together known as Hostile Ambient Takeover which focuses on our influences from all of this crazy music and live contemporary acts exploring noise, electronics, left-of center body-music, and visual performance. We have had some great shows with Hieroglyphic Being, Business Etiquette, Thrones, Pharmakon, Kit n Claws, etc…”
Its Own Infinite Flower – “Cloudburst Of Honey” [self-released; 2011]
“So this is one of Tasho’s beautiful drone pieces. I think this was filmed at Bay Area 51, the compound where we host Hostile Ambient Takeover and where Tasho and Brian live and have their studios.”
Kit n C.L.A.W.S. – “Toxoterror” [Gooiland Elektro / Enfant Terrible; 2014]
“Another new group out of SF doing some killer live shows and recordings. It’s Joshua Kit Clayton and Brian “C.L.A.W.S.” Hock with their EBM, acid-sludge lurker “Toxoterror”. C.L.A.W.S just sent me a bunch of solo stuff that I hope sees the light of day soon. Totally destroys!”
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