Southern California electronic beat producers generate almost as many wild rhythms as the region's freeways do traffic. In its sheer bounty, this seemingly endless supply can overwhelm. As soon as a producer drops one beat, another dozen are blossoming. Below, a few futuristic tracks from the city's underground electronic music scene.
The Acid, "Modern Propaganda" (Soundcloud). Given its origin and intention, the menacing tone of this new instrumental track makes sense. It's a selection from the score to "The Bomb," a documentary on nuclear war that premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
The immersive 360-degree film, which was directed by Smriti Keshari and Kevin Ford in collaboration with writer Eric Schlosser, longtime Radiohead affiliate Stanley Donwood and others, screened last week at the Glastonbury music festival in Somerset, England.
On hand to perform their score were the Acid's Steve Nalepa, Adam Freeland and new member Jens Kuross.
The L.A.-based Nalepa is an electronics educator and a founder of the popular Team Supreme beat collective, and Freeland is a Grammy-nominated beat producer whose work has scored video games, including "The Sims 2" and "Grand Theft Auto IV." Kuross had been a touring member of the Acid, but has officially joined the group, according to Nalepa.
The three — minus, on this track, the Acid's fourth member and vocalist Ry X — employ what sound like vintage modular synthesizers on "Modern Propaganda," weaving rhythmic loops that gather momentum and heft as the track progresses. Dense with a sonic foreboding, "Modern Propaganda" suggests doom from its first moments and never lets up, but does so while conveying a warm tonal beauty.
King Henry and Ry X, "Destiny" (Duke City/Black Butter). Vocalist Ry X might have been absent from "Modern Propaganda," but his presence transforms a new song by Los Angeles producer (and Team Supreme affiliate) King Henry.
The rising producer, who served what he has described as an apprenticeship with hitmaker Diplo before becoming his collaborator, has earned some major credits in the last few years, working on tracks with artists including Beyoncé, the Weeknd, Sting and Justin Bieber despite coming from a more experimental background.
King Henry has found a perfect foil in Ry X, whose breathy, seductive tenor moves with a lubricated shine as Henry's freaky, British garage-inspired rhythm dances gleefully. As with Henry's 2016 song "Don't Stay Away," "Destiny" revels with delicate but insistent percussion, uncluttered and with a kind of atmospheric clarity. Every sound is sacred.
DJDS, "Trees on Fire (feat. Amber Mark and Marco McKinnis)," (Body High). The new house track from the beat-based Los Angeles duo of Samo Sound Boy and Jerome LOL, who these days are best known for their collaborations with Kanye West, opens with lyrics regarding the titular flaming foliage.
It arrives via New York singer Amber Mark, whose voice is introduced with the minimal accompaniment of a bass line and hollow claps before blossoming as a full-blown, bottom heavy dance floor banger arrives to carry her away.
On past tracks, DJDS tended to upend house music's celebratory optimism with words that focused on urban isolation and the loneliness that can come after the party's over, when daylight reveals scars and wrinkles invisible on strobe-lit dance floors.
"Trees on Fire" further twists the knife by seeming to celebrate that climactic moment when coupling intertwines with music and joy to sizzle the synapses — only to be snapped back to reality by missed connections and a lover (vocalist Marco McKinnis) who bemoans "a couple late nights, a couple fights daily/ If it don't hurt it don't count, baby."
Throughout the lyrical drama, the producers keep their focus on that uptempo dance rhythm, one that draws from classic house music without being nostalgic about it or relying on tired vocal tropes.
Matthewdavid, "MD Jungle Rankin' (Leaving Records). Those who only know the Highland Park producer's ambient and meditation music might want to readjust their thinking — and the headphone volume — before queuing up this experimental electronic jam.
"MD Jungle Rankin'," which the producer suggests is part of a series, buzzes with a frenzied aggression. Bottom-end bass notes seem to collide from the start. Eight-bit video game sounds zip through the mid-range. Snares snap randomly.
Then, a few moments in, the whole mess locks into a super-fast rhythm, one that recalls Jamaican roots reggae, British drum 'n' bass music of the 1990s and the deconstructed dance music that evolved on labels like Warp and Plug Research in the years following. It's an overwhelming din, one with a rhythm that moves with such haste that it feels like it could explode at any moment.
9:03 a.m.: This post was updated to include mention of the Acid's new member, Jens Kuross. Formerly a touring member of the group, Kuross has been added to the official line-up.