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Music Picks: Rusko, HARD Summer, SMOD 

Also, Beachwood Sparks, Jesca Hoop, Ravi Coltrane and others

Thursday, Aug 2 2012
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SMOD: See Saturday.

PHOTO BY FOUAD ALLAOUI

SMOD: See Saturday.

fri 8/3

Rusko

AVALON

click to enlarge PHOTO BY FOUAD ALLAOUI - SMOD: See Saturday.
  • PHOTO BY FOUAD ALLAOUI
  • SMOD: See Saturday.

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Quite possibly the most honest man in dubstep, Leeds-born, L.A.-dwelling producer Rusko has taken responsibility for the existence of the much-maligned "brostep" trend — which is to say, injecting the dark atmospherics and effects of the original genre with a distinct high-energy aggression that seems to appeal to the, ahem, frattier among us. His latest album is tellingly called Songs, and while it relies upon a few familiar tricks (wonky bass, mechanical skronk), the record also incorporates playful Basement Jaxx–like house, melismatic R&B-style vocals and actual dub music — the Jamaican kind. And no matter where you sit on the love-it-or-hate-it seesaw, Rusko throws a helluva show, barefoot and hopping wildly like a cartoon rabbit, wielding the power of the beat with a brilliant light display over his shoulders. Plus, dude just wrapped a collab with Cypress Hill, so a special guest could be in the cards. —Chris Martins

HARD Summer

L.A. STATE HISTORIC PARK

The big news out of Gary Richards' HARD events this summer is the L.A. firm's acquisition by concert-promotions behemoth Live Nation. Will the corporate alliance boost EDM's profile in the United States? Kill it? Time will tell. Until then, Richards is doing what he does best, beginning with the annual HARD Summer festival, which this year boasts a typically impressive lineup likely to appeal to hard-core dance heads and reformed rockers alike. Our picks to click for Friday: mutant hip-hop producer AraabMuzik, Swedish-American electro-popsters Miike Snow, daffy Detroit MC Danny Brown, reformed post-punks Bloc Party and an after-midnight set by — oh yes — Bootsy Collins & the Funk Unity Band. Also Saturday with Skrillex, Squarepusher, James Murphy and more. —Mikael Wood

Beachwood Sparks

ECHO

L.A.'s Beachwood Sparks are back together, and their new album, Tarnished Gold, is every bit the California sunset its title suggests — light turning to night and then dark turning to dawn again, and by the time you get to the last two songs, you'll probably be about to burst or collapse into that glorious train-wreck heartbroken hallelujah! feeling that haunts the final 30 seconds of certain Terry Allen or John Prine songs. Cosmic country? You can call this "cosmic" because they're thinking about the stars, and you can call it "country" because you hear the ghost of Clarence White click-clack across the horizon. But we're gonna call it "beautiful," with the awe and reverence we could never put in the word if we said it out loud. Welcome back, and welcome home. —Chris Ziegler

Also playing:

REAL ESTATE, SUN ARAW at the Fonda; LIKNUTS (ALKAHOLICS + BEATNUTS) at Key Club; CINDERELLA, SEBASTIAN BACH at Pacific Amphitheatre; BELLE BRIGADE at California Plaza; THE HOOD INTERNET at Central Social Aid & Pleasure Club; SOUL AND SKA WEEKENDER at the Alexandria Hotel.

sat 8/4

SMOD

CENTRAL SOCIAL AID & PLEASURE CLUB

If you think you hear beguiling traces of Amadou & Mariam in the febrile rap-rock reveries of SMOD, it's not your imagination. The Malian group's name is an acronym of the first names of members Sam, Mouzy, Ousco and Donsky, and Sam is the son of the blind singing duo. The unusual way SMOD's songs blend traditional African rhythms, acoustic-guitar dreaminess and French-language rap lyrics also evokes the hazy fantasies of Manu Chao, who produced SMOD's self-titled 2010 album. But even apart from their celebrated mentors, Sam, Mouzy, Ousco and Donsky have conjured a distinctive and weirdly mesmerizing brew in songs of protest like "Les Dirigeants Africains" and "Ça Chante." For all the power of SMOD's themes, the quartet's raps aren't strident and preachy. Instead, they unwind in a serpentine, hauntingly seductive manner. —Falling James

Pigmy Love Circus

DRAGONFLY

The Pigmies were L.A. underground royalty in the early 1990s, when they shared stages with the likes of Jane's Addiction and L7, and are all too often dubbed a "could've/should've" band. Yet they utterly succeeded in their mission to mate belligerent truck-stop rock with primal punk wrath to spawn something of almost bestial power. Beneath the ominous, wrong-side-of-the-tracks rantings of eccentric frontman Michael Savage lurks a deceptively articulate musical unit, rich with guitarist Peter Fletcher's succulent '70s rock meanderings and sudden flamboyant flourishes from drummer Danny Carey. Pigmy Love Circus' famously chaotic live shows have become increasingly infrequent (mostly due to Carey's commitments with prog-lords Tool), but these remain meetings of confrontation and inclusion, humor and heft. —Paul Rogers

Lionheart

COBALT CAFÉ

Not to be confused with the new-wave-of-British-heavy-metal band of the same name, this Lionheart is a back-to-basics Bay Area hardcore crew. Blissfully untainted by metalcore's Hot Topic trappings, they're a proudly straight-to-the-point slap in the face of accusatory lyrics, bleak riffs and machine-gun kick drums. While the quintet plays it pretty much straight from Hatebreed's hardcore handbook, with singer Rob Watson perpetually sounding just syllables away from a fistfight, there's subtlety to Lionheart's twin-guitar interplay and real guile in the stop-start songcraft. A flashback to a time when hardcore was not just an influence but a style (and mindset) unto itself, Lionheart are no revival — they just don't seem to know (or want to know) any different. —Paul Rogers

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