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The First Lady Of Bass Highlights L.A.'s 'Beat Scene'

The irritable Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull caused a worldwide ruckus when its ashy belches grounded planes and altered travel plans around the globe. With its geological middle finger raised to the world, the volcano did not win any friends. That is, except for British DJ and radio host Mary Anne Hobbs.

The renowned champion of razor-sharp electronic music and host of BBC1's Experimental Show traveled to California for the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, but got stranded in Los Angeles after clouds of ash disrupted air travel. Without a return ticket back to England, Hobbs cooked up an impromptu tour and broadcast her show, temporarily renamed the "Volcano Refugee Party," from Los Angeles.

Hobbs considers Los Angeles her second home, and she spends much of her airtime curating the bellowing bass and vinyl-scratching beats that thrive in this sprawling city's musical underground. Insiders call the scene "beat music," a diverse smattering of music unified only by the computers, samplers and the pulsing rhythms blasting from the speakers. From across the Atlantic, Hobbs has scrutinized the "beat music" emanating from a club called Low End Theory, a weekly producers' showcase in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles.

The First Lady Of Bass

As the "first lady of bass," as electronic music magazine XLR8R calls her, Hobbs' mission is to hear things that have never been heard before. She connects listeners and musicians together. Hobbs even helped the fast-breaking Flying Lotus -- a.k.a. Steve Ellison, the great nephew of jazz couple John and Alice Coltrane -- connect with Radiohead's Thom Yorke, who contributed to Ellison's new album of broken beats, jazz skronking and 8-bit bleeps, Cosmogramma.

"They kind of are my children in a way," she says about Low End Theory's regulars, many of whom she has helped to break out in the U.K.

Hobbs adds that great music is never defined by genre.

"[Great music] is something that will touch the core of your soul," she says. "You can find that in any of the residents at Low End Theory."

Hear five songs from L.A.'s "beat music" scene, selected by the "First Lady of Bass" herself, DJ Mary Anne Hobbs.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Drew Tewksbury
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