It's called the beat scene, and it's huge right now. Laptop music composed with software with names such as Logic, Reason and Ableton. It's not really EDM–it's too weird and undanceable. Think of it as rapless hip-hop, but more jazz in composition, more punk in ethos. It is the underground art-and-music movement that will define this generation. Up in LA, it's happening under the name Low End Theory, a weekly event that traces its roots back 10 years to a producer named Daddy Kev who has bred such artists as Nosaj Thing, Gaslamp Killer, Glitch Mob and Flying Lotus.
Here in Orange County, we have GRN+GLD Collective, a younger crop of beat producers making a similar push. Nine or 10 guys from all over OC–Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Diamond Bar–collaborating on tracks, mixing and mastering one another's EPs, pushing the envelope that's been licked, stamped and sealed by their LA counterparts, and adding some OC flavor by making it a little grimier, cruder, more garage-y.
See also: Examining Kalva Won's Bedroom Beats
It's not just a music movement. Taking notes from punk rockers past and present, GRN+GLD root themselves squarely in zine culture as well. Some shows take a gallery event feel, particularly the ones hosted at the Wizard's Den warehouse space in Costa Mesa, where the beats might take a back seat to the artwork.
The artists met one another going to shows at the Avalon Bar, the former epicenter of the OC beats movement. "It all happened kind of at random," says de facto leader Dirty Merlin, a producer who, at age 25, is the OG of the bunch as far as creating and performing music is concerned. "So far, it's been more than any of us could have hoped for. We're used to making music by ourselves; it's so nice to have a collective. It's better than a band because you don't have to deal with people if you don't want to, but if you want help on anything, you can just ask them, and they're all there."
"We're making the Internet come to life," says GRN+GLD's other elder statesman, Kalva Won, a noted beatmaker and a graphic artist. "We're actually getting out of our bedrooms and having human interactions and playing some music."
Dirty Merlin and Kalva Won pride themselves on pushing the younger artists of the collective, including the 22-year-old Chip Monk, a producer/graphic artist who's part of the We Are Rodents visual-arts collective, and the 21-year-old beatmaking phenom Repeated Measures, whose latest EP due out later this summer is produced by Daddy Kev.
Some in the collective contribute strictly music, such as Cicero, who has his hand in just about every release the collective puts out; others have a strictly visual-arts role, such as Crux, who organizes all the art for the zines and albums. Then there's G. Wrecks, who deejays, but, more important, takes on a managerial role.
Perhaps the most crucial element at this point for GRN+GLD is finding a permanent home for their events. During the course of a year, they lost not only their breeding ground, the Avalon, but also their main backup, the Crosby.
"We've been moving around, not finding anything as good as the Avalon," says Dirty Merlin. "We loved that place."
GRN+GLD Collective, featuring Dirty Merlin, Chip Monk, Repeated Measures and Dripping Gems, perform at Que Sera, 1923 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 599-6170; www.thequesera.com. Wed., 9 p.m. Call for cover. 21+.