The Top Five Parties in San Francisco This Weekend

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Juan Maclean plays Audio Discotech on Friday.
Well, it's almost the dead of winter. And while that might lead some to believe that San Francisco's party scene is slowing down, the truth is that it's just as vibrant as ever. For this week's round of parties, we've assembled some killer options, with most falling towards the more accessible end of house and techno. Don't be left out in the cold, here are our picks! Read on -- your weekend awaits.

La Boîte and Uni4rm present Juan Maclean at Audio Discotech
9:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13. $5-$20

Though they might seem very different, synth-pop and house music have a lot in common. It was partially the alien novelty of British new wave acts like Depeche Mode, Yazoo, and Gary Numan that influenced the first wave of house producers in the genre's early days. Despite this connection, the two are rarely successfully combined today, which makes the music of John "Juan" Maclean, and his solo project The Juan Maclean (which features the vocal talents of LCD Soundsystem's Nancy Whang), something of an oddity. For the past decade, his work -- most of which has been released on seminal New York dance label DFA Records -- has shown that there is a common ground between the two, with clever lyrics and hooky analog synth lines glued together by the driving momentum of four-to-the-floor dance music.

The genesis for this blend comes down to the fact that Maclean, like many of the other artists on the DFA roster, came to house from a punk-rock background. Prior to making his signature blend of electronic dance music, he was busy as the guitarist in the noisy post-hardcore outfit Six Finger Satellite. While with that group, he gradually acquired a taste for more experimental electronic fare. His earliest work as Juan Maclean, 2002's "By The Time I Get To Venus," was a rough-around-the-edges 12-inch whose primitive Kraftwerkian rhythm and madly spiraling robotic voices recalled a lighthearted Throbbing Gristle, placing it in stark contrast to the more serious progressive house and trance sounds that dominated the era. Later works elaborated on this core concept, adding the considerable vocal talents of Whang while branching off into such diverse territory as piano house ("Happy House"), Human League homage ("One Day"), and even '80s disco ("Give Me Every Little Thing").

So far, 2013 has been a return to form for Maclean, who, prior to this year, hadn't released an EP under his "Juan" alias in three years. The name of his latest is "You Are My Destiny", and it picks up right where he left off, albeit with a clubby twist -- he's reconfigured his synthesizers to create pop songs with a more traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, and with more polish than anything he's released before. It's house, but Whang's voice pops up and down in pitch while navigating the pauses between lyrics, recalling a contemporary version of the percussive sampler tricks of groups like Yello.

His recent turn towards clubbier material mimics his DJ sets, which are similarly far-reaching in their scope. Hear him connect the dots when he headlines this Friday, at La Boîte and Uni4rm's latest offering at new SOMA hotspot Audio Discotech.


Om Unit at 1015 Folsom
10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12. $15

After years of dormancy, sampled breakbeat records are back in style. Case in point is the recent output of Om Unit, a British producer who's dropped his dubstep aspirations in favor of the clattering snare drums and weightless melodics of drum 'n' bass. Expect a serious amount of gut-wrenching low frequencies when he headlines at 1015 Thursday. Check out this recent mix from London radio station Rinse.FM

Mighty 10-Year Anniversary and Set present Hernan Cattaneo at Mighty
9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13. $15-$20

As noted previously, it's Mighty's 10th anniversary month, and the Potrero Hill hotspot is keeping the party going this weekend with a special appearance by Hernan Cattaneo. He's an Argentine producer whose sound straddles the line between trance-inducing progressive psychedelia and sensual tech-house. That is to say, his music is big, which makes it a perfect fit for the venue's larger-than-life size. Listen to his Burning Man mix.

No Way Back with Mudd and Felix Dickinson at Monarch
10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. $7-$20

"Balearic" is a term you hear often, but what does it mean? It's shorthand for a kind of music that's similar to the breezy, ecstasy-friendly soundtrack played on the Spanish island of Ibiza in the late-'80s. UK producers Felix Dickinson and Mudd are both exemplary practitioners of this form, producing tunes that are laid back and funky, hitting all the right spots for late-night partying.

Galaxy Radio presents Matrixxman at The Knockout
9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. Free

Thanks to Daft Punk, everybody knows Giorgio Moroder. But did you know that Italian disco goes deeper than Donna Summer? In the '80s, Italy birthed an awesomely cheesy sound called "Italo" that fused New Wave synth-work with nonsensical pseudo-English lyrics. Galaxy Radio is a free party that specializes in this obscure genre, with each month featuring a different Italo-obsessed guest DJ from the local scene. This month it's local techno talent Matrixxman. Check out Galaxy Radio's soundcloud page for a sampling of mixes that reflect the party's unique soundtrack.

-- @derekopperman



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