Saturday, the masses will be swarming Showbox at the Market mainly to see the Glitch Mob, but I urge you to get to the venue early to catch the openers, Free the Robots and Deru. Both artists are key, if thus far underrecognized, figures in Southern California's wildly fertile electronic-music scene—and both have excellent new albums to promote.
Deru (aka Benjamin Wynn) is the more experienced producer of the two, with at least five releases to his name. Say Goodbye to Useless (Mush), though, is his best work yet. This album is the equivalent of a genius molecular scientist who turns out to be a sex machine. Deru's tracks are precision-tooled wonders of melody and rhythm, scrupulously designed for maximum beauty and beatliness. The prevailing style here is a clipped funk festooned with gorgeous, richly detailed textures and tunes to cry for. The disc peaks on "Basically, Fuck You" and "Cottonmouth Lothario," stutter-strutting electro-funk jams to which you may have the finest and strangest sex of your life.
The debut album by Free the Robots (Chris Alfaro, who also co-owns the hot Santa Ana club the Crosby), Ctrl Alt Delete (Alpha Pup), instantly places him near the forefront of the future-bass hotbed that is the Los Angeles sprawltropolis. Free the Robots flaunts exceptional production skills, like some laboratory hybrid of Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing but with a better record collection. Alfaro's masterly distribution of high and low frequencies and knack for off-kilter funkiness make these tracks both dance-floor-ready and immaculate fodder for spliff-and-headphones sessions.
Album opener "Sci-Fidelity" zips you into a starry zone in which ululating theremin sighs and staccato bass frequencies ripple with impunity through your internal organs, while leaden funk beats pummel your ass into flex or flight mode. Alfaro here proves his ability to take decades-old tropes of sonic futurity and then recontextualize them for 21st-century ears acclimated to digital crispness and anything-is-possible mutations. He continues on with cuts that plow the fecund ground where post-Dilla hiphop fuses into dubstep and wonky. It's an increasingly crowded area, but Free the Robots distinguishes himself, especially on "Orion's Belt Buckle," whose massive dubstep wobble with lethally cracking beats should make it one of the year's big club tunes. For variety, check "The Eye," a mercurial prog-jazz rumble featuring Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens's strident organ vamps, and "Turkish Voodoo," which rides a down-pitched sample of a ridiculously funky Anatolian-rock classic into a bizarre bazaar.
At 13 longish tracks, Ctrl Alt Delete is almost too exhaustingly exciting to sit through or move to in one go. But what a rarity it is to have that as the biggest fault with an album.
Free the Robots and Deru perform with the Glitch Mob on Sat June 5, Showbox at the Market, 8 pm, $21 adv/$26 DOS, all ages.