In the early hours of Saturday morning, on a ranch that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere in Simi Valley, a collection of DJs, artists, performers, and masseurs (yep, that’s right) gathered for what was advertised as Expansion 7, the latest in “a monthly excursion exploring the advancement of music and art.” The description does not really do justice to the sights and sounds of this extraordinary event in the most unlikely of settings.

All photos by: Laura Chirinos

Ostensibly, this was an album launch party for MU.ZZ.LE., the new mini album from Gonjasufi, one of SoCal’s most enigmatic performers. In reality, it was more like a festival in the truest sense of the word. Artists worked in tandem on paintings in one corner while thumping techno was spinning in another small room. Spaces were regularly cleared on the dance floor for short performances from scantily clad acrobats and fire breathers. This was a night in which you could grab food, help yourself to a drink, and get your face painted in the space of a quarter hour if you were so inclined. It was a true celebration of artistic expression, a creative utopia which doubled up as a terrific night out. It was, for a recent addition to the city, the kind of night that makes you glad you moved to Los Angeles.

Hummingbird Nest Ranch, in the hills off the 118 freeway, makes for a surreal but strangely fitting setting for Expansion. They’re not kidding when they say that it’s a night under the stars. It’s just far enough outside LA proper to feel like another world entirely, but the music was that of a throbbing city center, alive to possibilities and representative of the best electronica has to offer.

In the middle of it all was Gonjasufi himself. The man is as compelling live as he is on record, but the energy is entirely different. His physical presence and intensity is more like that of a metal vocalist than a rapper/singer/whatever he is. The sound levels for his set were a little off, which proved to be the night’s only real disappointment, but there was enough evidence (along with the excellent new mini album) to suggest that this is a thrillingly left field artist worth watching.

The night really got going with a hugely inventive set from Eskmo, who took to the stage at about 1 a.m. to the approval of a lot of late starters. It was still going strong when I had to make my departure before my car turned back into a pumpkin. As an artistic love-in of the most sincere kind, Expansion comes with my highest recommendation. Sign me up for the next one immediately please.

For more information on Gonjasufi’s excellent new mini album, visit his website.

For more information on Expansion, visit the official site.