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L.A. dances to its own rhythms at Culprit Sessions

Andrei Osyka organizes a showcase of DJs and producers who respect dancing as its own reward but find adventurous ways to get there.

May 13, 2011|By August Brown, Los Angeles Times
  • DJ's Andrei Osyka, left, Brett Griffin and Justin Sloe have formed a collective named Culprit.
DJ's Andrei Osyka, left, Brett Griffin and Justin Sloe have formed… (Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles…)

On a recent evening at the downtown Standard Hotel, the monthly dance party called Culprit Sessions had lissome bodies moving to experimental disco when a shadowy figure appeared amid the poolside revelry.

"This kid came to the party in full zoot suit, like a gangster straight out of the '40s," said Andrei Osyka, the producer and label owner behind Culprit Sessions. "It was so out of place, but I was fascinated, so I found him later on Facebook and he said he'd grown up in San Diego and was never accepted for dressing like that. Disco and house is all about being comfortable with yourself, and we want to celebrate the freaks and the straight and narrow."

The giddy, fleshy decadence of A Club Called Rhonda and the sprawling mega-raves like Electric Daisy Carnival have dominated (and, in the case of the latter, unsettled) the L.A. dance music scene of late. Culprit Sessions — a spring-and-summer-long showcase of DJs and producers affiliated or simply friendly with Osyka's label Culprit — splits the difference, appealing to head and hips alike, in a setting busy enough to feel new but intimate enough to feel personal.

That's often a dangerous proposition in disco — who wants dance music you can't dance to? But instead of often-inscrutable IDM, or so-called "intelligent dance music," the fare at Culprit is dance music done intelligently.

"Well-thought-out dance music has a place in this town," Osyka said. "Our motif is that we don't pander, but we want to please."

Now in its fourth season atop the Standard's mod-bucolic rooftop pool, Culprit has hosted recent sets by the wonky and lascivious in-house trio Droog (composed of Osyka with Brett Griffin and Justin Sloe), the indie-friendly DFA and Ghostly International-affiliated Benoit & Sergio, the funk-inflected German minimalist Steve Bug and, this Sunday, the much-anticipated showdown between the house duos Soul Clap and Wolf & Lamb. The common thread is dance music that respects dancing as its own reward, but which finds adventurous ways to get there.

Osyka, a native of Ukraine, moved to America in 1993 and settled in L.A. in 2000 with both a dream and a problem. He loved the idea of Los Angeles — sylvan landscapes coupled with urban dystopia and the noirish belly of Hollywood. But it was also a kind of a final frontier of the international dance music scene, a major city that hosted international stars but had struggled to grow its own.

"Everyone in Europe and the rest of the world secretly wants to love L.A.," he said. "It's so iconic, but as far as dance music goes, it had this perception that it wasn't pulling its weight."

With Culprit, he's had a string of knockout singles and recently moved into a sizable warehouse production space just south of the 10 Freeway in downtown L.A., helping to make downtown a destination for fans devoted to fun and formal experiments in disco.

But just as crucially, Culprit is beginning to take its ambitiously sexy sound and style abroad, with Droog spinning career-marking sets at London's famed Fabric and Paris' Rex. There Osyka saw the kind of attention to detail and competitiveness that makes a scene stick. But he wanted to ensure it was balanced with the real reason for all the caretaking — the sense of abandon and possibility that comes from a great night out (or a great day by the pool). Especially if you're a sweet kid in a fedora and pinstripe suit.

"We can definitely play slower, sexier and girl-friendly," Osyka said. "There's a certain assumption of hardness to venues of thousands. We're a reaction to dance music going darker and harder."

Culprit Sessions

Where: Rooftop Bar at the Standard, 550 S. Flower St., L.A.

When: 1 p.m.-8 p.m. Sun. Price: $10 before 3 p.m., $20 after

Info: RSVP to

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