Illuminauts, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Beats


I’m just gonna go ahead and start this post with a bit of an indictment— if you haven’t seen Illuminauts live yet, you’ve been sleepin’ a little bit. I know, San Diego is a place where it’s easy for us all to get caught up in our own little niches. And I’d guess that even for all the hip-hop and electronic music I rep these days, many of my beloved readers are unaware or perhaps even disinterested in the burgeoning San Diego beat scene. Maybe that’s on me. I feel like I was a bit late to the party too, even with all the good works and promotions by a multitude of talented artists, Kill QuantiLiquid Geometry, The Kava LoungeTin Can AlehousePeña Film, Soulection, CityBeat, and the scene-championing Chad Deal over at The Reader. Regardless, here we are. It’s time to pay attention— trust.

Illuminauts — aka Sonny Romeri, Nicky Castañeda, and (sometimes) David Peña — have been working at building up such a scene here for a few years now and, in my mind, are very much at the creative nucleus of San Diego’s vibrant and growing community of experimental hip-hop and electronic music. Known for their impressive live presence, their beat work is grounded in improvisation and rich, hypnotic layers of synth and drum loops. They don’t have a ton of studio material available quite yet, but one of their best tracks can be found on the Future Sounds of San Diego compilation that was put out by Big Up Magazine late last year. If you’ve heard my last couple of DJ sets, you’re likely already familiar with it.

Stream and download that below or follow the link to get the whole comp, which features contributions from eLan, DJ Pound, Mike Gao, Sleeve, HM.T DM.T (RIP), and more talented San Diego beat fiends. And don’t forget to keep your eye on Illuminauts’ label work and live bookings over at Kill Quanti. On deck, respectively: a split cassette from Mystery Cave and Killer Swan, and MONO/POLY, Mike Gao, Mystery Cave, Killer Swan, and Mr. Whipple at The Kava Lounge on Thursday, March 8th. Holla at ’em!

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Download: Illuminauts – Animo!
Buy: You can download the Future Sounds of San Diego comp (for free!) over at Big Up Magazine. You can also snag Illuminauts’ debut 7-inch, “Acid Hands / Swine Flu”, from Access Hip-Hop.