Claude VonStroke's 'Who's Afraid of Detroit?' was one of the biggest tracks of 2006 and the label it came out on is Dirtybird Records, the Bay Area brainchild of VonStroke and DJ/producer Justin Martin
. VonStroke and Martin have been injecting avarian squelch, funk and swagger into the tech house template for just over a year now, but while VonStroke was 2006's unofficial best newcomer, don't be surprised if Martin doesn't fly the coop soon too.
It might be a fresh sound, but Martin is not exactly a spring chicken. He's actually been releasing records since 2003 – his first single was 'The Sad Piano' issued on Ben Watt's London label Buzzin' Fly. Its simplicity and groove made it a favourite of DJs along the lines of Derrick Carter, Pete Tong and Mark Farina, while Charles Webster’s classic remix of the cut even found favour with the Germans, popping up on Steve Bug's 'Bugnology'. Since then Martin has racked up two more twelves on Buzzin' Fly and a couple of jacking house tracks and remixes on labels such as Classic and Freerange. He also promises an artist album in 2007.
While San Francisco might not thought be thought of as a dance hotbed, there's always been enough going on to turn the most curious heads onto the culture. The early drum n bass scene turned Martin away from jazz and hip hop and onto the rave culture of the nineties, a short sharp shock which inspired him to take up DJing and producing. But the truth is Martin had always been musical – as a child he studied the saxophone and classical piano, a musicality which shows in both his productions and DJ sets. "Justin started playing the pots and pans at the age of 2," his MySpace puts it. "Now he is a DJ."
Martin's rise has been prominent enough to even make an older tradition of West Coast house take notice. He's also a new face on Om Records, home to big West Coast househeads such as Miguel Migs, Andy Caldwell and Fred Everything. Martin’s remix of Iz & Diz's 'Magnificent' is pretty slamming, and the label has also chosen him to mix a volume in their latest compilation series 'Om: Winter Sessions', on which he spins tracks and remixes from Switch, Jesse Rose, and Phonique. Not exactly a typical Om sound, but it’s nice to see San Francisco moving forward.