The Los Angeles dance scene is at once effortlessly cosmopolitan, and confoundingly insular. Home to superstars like Daft Punk, certifiable legends like Todd Edwards, underground icons like Flying Lotus, and scores of anonymous ghost producers crafting EDM hits, Southern California hosts a rather diverse swath of the electronic landscape. Granted, this isn’t exactly surprising, as LA’s hills and quality of life (read: weather) regularly attract outsiders. LA’s enormous size, not to mention the fact that it’s literally home to the bulk of the entertainment industry, often means that local producers can garner international acclaim while remaining relatively unknown within city limits, and the abundance of cheap tacos, (effectively) legal weed, and pool and park parties provides ample respite from the hustle. On a more practical level, LA’s sprawling warehouse districts—which lie mostly south and east of downtown—are a draw to rave promoters of all stripes. These venues—of varying legal status—regularly feature quality DJs from around the globe, yet they open and shut their doors in alarmingly short increments. (Recent months have seen the LAPD shutting down a number of underground events, and some of the city’s more offbeat venues have also fallen victim to official rules and regulations.) With so many things happening and a status quo that’s constantly in flux, taking the pulse of LA’s dance scene can occasionally be as frustrating as driving from Santa Monica to downtown during rush hour.
That said, something exciting is in the air, and much of it centers around the city’s resurgent house and techno underground. Of course, these sounds aren’t exactly new to LA; veterans like Doc Martin and Marques Wyatt have been at it for years, and the city had a thriving rave scene in the ’90s. That said, over the past decade, talk of electronic music in LA centered almost entirely around the city’s so-called beat scene, in which artists such as the aforementioned Flying Lotus (with his Brainfeeder camp in tow), Nosaj Thing, and Daedelus have turned out experimental and leftfield takes on hip-hop rhythms, with the long-running Low End Theory party serving as their primary hub of innovation. And though this music certainly hasn’t gone away—FlyLo, Brainfeeder, and Low End Theory are arguably bigger than ever, while younger acts such as Shlohmo, along with his Wedidit collective, are on the verge of crossing over into the mainstream—the past few years have seen the city’s music scene increasingly moving back toward more house- and techno-oriented sounds.