San Francisco has been an electronic dance music hotbed for decades. The Bay Area is home to beloved house labels like OM and Dirtybird, along with such luminaries as Dubtribe Sound System, Miguel Migs, and PillowTalk.
And on the more experimental tip of the city's dance music scene is DJ-producer Dave Aju, AKA Marc Barrite.
This is a guy whose first album, Open Wide on Circus Company, was produced entirely from sounds made with his mouth. So you know he's thinking outside the synth.
It's no surprise then that he recently partnered up with another recording mad scientist, Matthew Herbert, for a new release on Herbert's Accidental label.
What makes Dave Aju's new long player Heirlooms so interesting is that it gives us some background on the sounds that shaped the brilliant producer -- namely the music of his late father, jazz trumpeter Joe Barrite.
"The concept was to make an album with the musical influences I received from my father," Aju tells Crossfade. "Both in a technical sense, by using his old recordings as sound sources, and also in a stylistic sense by trying to combine some of his general directions in music with my own current path. It's not really a direct tribute album, but more like a collaboration in memoriam. And it's definitely not meant to be just a requiem -- he was a funny dude and lived it up too.
"I was raised around his various jazz bands pretty much from birth," he adds. "So between hearing them constantly playing, and the music I was exposed to through his record collection, that definitely shaped my own take on music. I've always been a lot more open to 'out there' ideas and material in a way, being raised on some groundbreaking jazz fusion records while most of my friends only knew pop music."
Heirlooms has also seen Aju embark on new sonic explorations. "The first step was to find the right material to start with, which was not easy since there's so much to choose from," he explains. "Once I had a good foundation there, I just started sketching out some basic ideas. At first it was tough, because the project could easily have gone a number of other ways -- doing more like edits or more blatant sampling of his material, for example. But in the end, I decided to work more in my natural direction and not force the concept to let the vibe of the sounds and the soul within the music carry the weight. Some tracks were decidedly more song-based, and some more like instrumental tracks, just like a lot of the classic albums he listened to. Variety is key."
"Since Open Wide was made strictly with my mouth and voice, there was a lot more processing and technical experimentation involved -- working on the sounds until they were ready for composition, which tended to be more minimalistic," he adds. "With Heirlooms, the process was more about digging through and finding the right sources to start with, then fit them together more in layers and textures, including an emotional layer, of course, from the personal nature of it. In a visual art sense, I guess you could say I evolved from a sculptor to a collage artist between the two albums, which is comfortable and closer to my roots, having started out in hip-hop production, digging for records and samples, etc."
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On Sunday, you'll have a rare opportunity to see Mr. Aju doing his thing live at Q Lounge Miami Beach, and we here at Crossfade can't think of better artist to defy the crass commercial standards of dance music on the Beach.
So what can you expect? "I'll be doing an extended DJ set that includes plenty of new and unreleased material, mixed with a wide range of classics and surprises," Aju promises. "And of course some mike shouts, which are a staple in all my performances. It lightens things up and helps me connect more directly with the people, and to my roots."
Dave Aju. With Basti, Fresca, Jeremy Ismael. Sunday, June 17. Q Lounge, 841 Washington Ave., Miami. The party starts at 11 p.m. Call 305-397-8056 or visit qloungemiami.com.