Sci-Fi Witch Doctor
With a bumper crop of indie dance labels sprouting up all over the city, spurred on by an equally burgeoning pool of topflight DJ talent, quiet as it‘s kept, Los Angeles has been the Left Coast electronic-music beachhead for quite some time now. While Bay Area labels such as Om Records’ cornerstone on ambient, acid jazz and trance have fed San Francisco‘s on-’n‘-off-again reputation as Cali’s ravin‘ haven, recent Southland upstarts like Phatt Phunk Records not only deliver the bpm goods but also showcase the diversity among L.A.’s established and up-‘n’-comin‘ underground wax jockeys. Phatt Phunk’s latest trio of releases — Mark Lewis‘ West Coast Vibe Volume Four, Inner-vation production duo Simon Huxtable and Dave Parkinson’s Movements, and Sci-Fi Witch Doctor‘s Enter the Now — masterfully chart electronica’s landscape, from seductive hydroponic melodies to wall-jarring four-to-the-floor aural dementia.
L-a-w-d h-a-v-e m-e-r-c-y! By the midpoint of West Coast Vibe Volume Four, such an exclamation would be not only appropriate but pretty much on the mark. A one-man English invasion, Mark Lewis, not long after arriving in L.A. from London in 1986, established the Westside‘s legendary Club Logic. Co-hosting Logic’s DJ booth from 1994 to 1998 with guest mix marvels like Little Louie Vega, David Morales, Marques Wyatt and Carl Cox, Lewis, also a producer, has a grab bag of remix and production credits ranging from Erasure to Chaka Khan. Now a major player on the international club circuit, spinning regularly in continental Europe and at spots such as the U.K.‘s Gatecrasher and Cream, the adroit turntablist pays a handsome tribute to the thumpin’ house beats of the City of Angels. The album‘s highlights include kamikaze mix “The Ultimate Disco Groove,” redolent of Club Logic’s sweaty hedonistic chaos, plus high-energy Euro-style tracks “Greece 2000” and the effervescent “Trip to Know.” Lewis includes garagey cuts like “Reach,” featuring the commanding chants of one of the many faceless house-music divas whose repetitive vocal prowess has served as soulful backdrop for plenty a dance track.
If furious beats immersed in ambient grooves are what get you off, then look no further than the drum-‘n’-bass magic of Simon Huxtable and Dave Parkinson, also known as Inner-vation. Also native Brits, Huxtable (a.k.a. Aural Imbalance) emerged from a hip-hop background, while Parkinson earned his name as a producer in the electronic-music arena. In their first outing on Phatt Phunk, the two tech masters take you on a tumultuous foray through soundscapes of abstract breakbeats, bass signals and virtual reality. The 10 tracks featured on Movements are nothing less than an elongated, capacious vision quest, which, at its best, is exactly what drum ‘n’ bass ought to achieve. “Inverse Nebula” opens the disc with ominous, rich bass lines that are eventually accompanied with an upbeat cacophony of snare and cymbals. From then on out until “Dream Reality,” the last track, the far-fetched imagery suggested by these outland melodies may take the form of long-legged haute couture models hip-swaying their way down a Parisian runway in slow motion, or streams of water rolling and roiling their way through time and space on an infinite journey to nowhere. You get the picture: Turn on the spigot, press play and step into the tub.
On Enter the Now, Sci-Fi Witch Doctor raises the level of the anarchic mysteries of the subconscious to a funky, erratic apogee. A West Coast native, Sci-Fi got his start playing bass and guitar in local funk bands, but after being exposed to house music in his late teens he turned to deejaying, and has been spinning and producing tracks ever since. Featuring hybrid mixes of electro, techno, dub and funk, Enter the Now jacks ya back with progressive ravester cuts such as “Stop Thinking Start Dreaming,” “Koan” and the tribalistic tin drums of “Pharmacy Flowers.” Descending ever further into a jungle of futuristic synths, percussion and phat dubs, Sci-Fi‘s impressive DJ skills drive Enter the Now through maze after trippy maze. But you’ll never get lost — like the eerie “Beyond Illusion” says, “Infinity is everywhere.” Then again, there‘s always the door marked “EXIT.”