Photo by Jeanne RiceThe rave movement's real nightmare isn't undercover cops breaking up a party but a legacy of dumps—landfills of junk accumulated from years of all-night partying. It's the embarrassment of making pacifiers a fashion accessory, that quintessential what-the-fuck? that appears like a cartoon bubble above a traffic jam amidst the otherwise pristine natural wonders where raves often take place, the reality that the scene's ubiquitous compilation albums (many on major labels) aspire to nothing more than reiterating the genre's worst clichs. And now they're worms' meat. If worms could eat plastic.
On very rare occasions, there's a compilation that actually bespeaks the movement's utopian aspirations, that taps into the ecstatic raver's soul, that produces aurally that feeling of numb comfort that . . . Well, every once in a while, there's a compilation . . .
The latest in this very select group of CDs is SCR.COMP.002, recently released by Santa Ana's Noah Apodaca. Apodaca didn't cram the CD with grand statements of the movement's gooier ideals. Rather, he produced it with the best intentions of rave—community, a sense of spontaneous fun, and a childlike wonderment in the face of all of the beauty and general weirdness the world has to offer.
Apodaca didn't conjure these things whilst dancing at rave's Walden Pond. He got a lot of it from SoCal-Raves (www.socal-raves.org), a website posting the most thorough calendar of raves in Southern California.
"It's an incredibly important website," said Ron D Core, DJ/owner of Costa Mesa's techno music store Dr. Freecloud's Mixxing Lab. "It's the resource we always refer people to."
Launched as a calendar in 1992, the site has become an Internet forum—"community" is not too grand a word—of more than 1,400 people from all over the Southland. They post messages on rave, life, politics and rave. It's the oldest, most honest organization serving the Southern California rave community.
Its success isn't financial. SoCal-Raves spares its readers banner ads, spam e-mails or self-promotion masked as editorial. "Making profit off the list isn't an option," SoCal-Rave's Mark Rudholm wrote in an e-mail. Its Web hosting is donated, and the site is run by volunteers.
UC Irvine students Dana Watanabe and Joachim Vance founded the site just as the Southern California rave movement was hitting its stride. The initial purpose was to build a rave forum outside the often shallow parties. But SoCal-Raves' greatest achievement was the occasional Open Deck Parties, in which new ravers were initiated into the highest mysteries of the movement. Those parties gave many their first chance at deejaying and often transformed mere ravers into producers of the scene's lifeblood—its music.
"It was a backyard barbecue, except people were listening to great music," said Justin Maxwell, whose band VOLSOC contributed to SCR.COMP.002.
When Apodaca joined the group in 1996, he found a pool of artists ready to produce a compilation CD for the Abduction Productions label he runs out of his bedroom. In June, he posted a call for submissions on the SoCal-Raves site. He received just 10, all of which are on the CD.
A couple of the artists on SCR.COMP.002 admit they're professionals, but the rest are clearly serious—and talented—hobbyists. Unlike the typical rave compilation CD, each track suggests a determination to produce something different. Ryan Pulley's track "Sunset" captures all of the bombast of a trance tent. By contrast, hedron's "Shell" is a quiet, downtempo contemplation. Apodaca's track "The Distance" is a cheeky techno cover of the Cake hit.
If a lot of plastic is dedicated to dance-oriented songs, there's also space for enigmas. Jeff Pitrman's "Pylon" is more than five minutes of spooky static, an invitation to flex the imagination.
Apodaca certainly has no plans to take over the world with this compilation. He spent $4,000 to produce 1,000 CDs he'll hawk to friends from the back of his car or in a few indie stores such as Dr. Freecloud's and Higher Source in Huntington Beach. With all that effort, he doesn't even expect good reviews.
"If my music is playing in the background when people are writing code for the next big computer program," Apodaca said, "that would be enough."
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