Professional mix CDs are a dying breed in the era of the internet, but that’s not going to stop outlets like Fabric and Rinse from plying their trade at the, in relative terms, archaic format. The recent Pinch b2b Mumdance effort on Tectonic is a masterpiece and there certainly is still a semblance of hope in the pay-for-mix system. That being said, magazines (FACT, Resident Advisor, The Fader, Mixmag), radio stations (Rinse, NTS, Berlin Community Radio), blogs (Truants, Sonic Router, Hyponik, Liminal Sounds) and personal mix series (Slackk, Slackk, Slackk, Slackk) have dominated the mix market of late and operate at no cost. The advent of easy streaming and effortless file sharing has led to a glut of mix work and has arguably positioned the medium as the go-to path for debuting, testing and flexing new material. Playing out demos live will always have a place in the culture, but it’s undeniable that a choice placement in a mix can rocket a song to ravenous popularity months before its release. And then there’s Boiler Room, the ultimate “wot u call that one?” platform and a space that walks the line between recorded mix-land and live (at least temporally). Which gets me to my final point: what makes a listener gravitate towards a particular mix or mix series?
The idyllic answer would be content and content alone of course, but that’s not necessarily true and the most successful series shine quite a bit of light onto the common selection process. DIS Mag churns out my personal favorite series, a full-bodied audio/visual experience that balances exclusivity, narrative and on-the-ball design work with results that range from tantalizing coherent (Hysterics) to scene-defining (defying?) (J-Cush) to expectation shattering (Palmistry). The design website’s focus is clear with the series and despite the overtly-trendy intonations and lack of curatorial rationality, DIS’ series is consistently effectual. Here at The Astral Plane, we have a small, tightly-wound team and as a result, our curation could also likely be described as tightly wound. Our artwork is simple, consistent and generally understated and while that can’t be said about the often-bombastic sonic content of the series, we attempt to package the series in an unadorned fashion that allows the guesting artist to shine. Astral Plane Radio is a different, less coherent project that attempts to coalesce the “sound” we cover into a biweekly series. It might achieve that, but it will most likely offer a performative aspect to the website that will hopefully give a little glimpse into our world and our perspective. Thank you!
Houston grime provocateur Rabit has a special way of tearing apart an original and rearranging and reorienting it in his own, oft vicious, more often beatific style. The man has seemingly had his hand in every new mutation that grime has endured in recent months and the latest recipient of the Rabit treatment is Coyote Records representative Chemist. Rabit’s gurning square waves take center stage while uncomfortably harsh snares play the propulsion role and bare 808 blips prove a necessary respite from the blaring sub bass. Grime can often function on a level of extreme poles with oft-sickly sweet melodic content on one end juxtaposed with unremitting inside-the-box masculinity and aggression on the other, but Rabit consistently manages to draw the two apart and smash them back together as one. Chemist’s Defiance EP is out via Coyote in digital form on July 29 and physical August 11.
The precepts of sonic progression rarely go hand in hand with commercial success in the contemporary music industry, but since its establishment in 2010, Tom Lea’s Local Action Records has transformed from a promising, yet scattered, subset of London’s Phonica Records to a monolith in the UK underground and a constant reminder of how to properly release music. One side of the Local Action coin shows well-oiled house, garage and bassline releases from T. Williams and DJ Q, the essential backbone of the label alongside Throwing Snow and Artifact. The other side of the coin, the side that’s been facedown in a Lewisham (or Cicero) gutter, is represented by Slackk and Lil Jabba, renegades of grime and footwork and the artists that give Local Action its untrammeled edge. Lea’s curation is largely grounded in the aforementioned ‘nuum stylings, but a lucid listener can also unearth coherent strands of Timbaland, The Neptunes and The Heatmakerz (the production duo beyond some of Dipset’s most memorable hits). R&B is an obvious touchstone for DJ Q’s Louise Williams-assisted crossovers, but the minimal roots of early Timbaland productions are readily apparent in Slackk’s makeup and the austere, hypnagogic narcissism of The Neptunes is a recurring theme in Lil Jabba’s work. As label head, Lea does little to enunciate Local Action’s intentions via social media or in interviews, but through means of keeping a tight circle and superior A&R work, the outlet has become synonymous with the built environment of tasteful dance music.
With such an impressive cadre of releases to its name, it would be a simple assumption that Local Action is Lea’s main project, but the London-resident spends his days editing FACT and providing what are some of the most illuminating interviews and thought-provoking reviews in the whole damn game. He has inculcated himself in the shapeshifting Boxed crew (although he is not a resident) and allied with a number of “new school” grime producers including Finn (who’s Keep Calling EP dropped on LA earlier this month) and Inkke (who’s Crystal Children EP is also out now in digital form). Alongside Slackk, who is also a journalist, Lea can be viewed as a central beam in the recent grime revival, a reputation easily fomented courtesy of impeccable interviews (Her Records most recently), Rinse FM guest slots and bolstered by the recent commercial success of DJ Q’s Ineffable LP. It would be a stretch to point to Local Action as the sole harbinger of what’s to come out of the grime world, but it’s undeniable that Lea’s ear is firmly where the action is.
On September 1, the label will release Slackk’s Palm Tree Fire LP, the producer’s debut full-length and an ambitious project in that instrumental grime albums represent near-untouched territory. Most labels coming off a successful crossover album would never touch a full-length project from a non-commercial entity like Slackk, but the release represents the stringent EP to album progression Lea prefers as well as his willingness to stick with his guns through thick and thin. And one only has to look to Lil Jabba’s brash Scales LP, the label’s first footwork release, for a precedent for success in un-tread territory. Lea’s Astral Plane mix can be viewed as both an encapsulation of the disparate sounds that make up Local Action’s foundation and a sort of tastemakers delight, blending classic Bmore and contemporary club weapons with forthcoming label material. It’s an eclectic, genre-hopping mix that contrasts UK and American sounds as much as it draws lines between the two and even finds room for synth-enthusiasts and sometime-krautrockers Tangerine Dream. As head of FACT, Lea has lead the magazine in an admirable direction and his journalistic acumen is readily apparent in his A&R work with Local Action. Nonetheless, it’s his willingness to buck industry convention that has transformed the label into the monolith it is today.
Coming off the jagged success of the Paroxysm EP on Rinse in April, New York by-way-of London resident Celestial Trax has let loose an unceasing stream of one-offs and edits that highlight a fascinating willingness to experiment as well as an adept hip hop sensibility that is all too rare among producers who deal mostly in ‘nuum genres. Most recently, he took on Makonnen’s millenially-reticent hit “I Don’t Sell Molly No More”, imparting melodrama on the rapper’s Strawberrita-drenched rhymes and yearning boasts. Makonnen’s decision to let loose the song’s acapella has proven a wonderful experiment and CT’s remix is only one of dozens of intriguing re-interpretations to hit the Soundcloud/Bandcamp-verse in recent weeks.
Around eight years ago, a young man from the informal Cairo neighborhood known as Salam City began experimenting in the Fruity Loops DAW and jumpstarted a movement that now electrifies the streets of Egypt’s capitol. Ahmed Farid, widely known as DJ Figo, is widely viewed as an innovator of the electro chaabi sound, a loose development of the chaabi (populist folk) that reached peak popularity in the post-war environment of the 1970s. Electro chaabi, also known as mahraganat (which translates to festival) to the younger generation, includes elements of dancehall, hip hop, grime and other wide-ranging cultural motifs. Mahraganat artists, almost all in their 20s or younger, utilize rapid fire bars in Arabic over unconventional time signatures, involving air horns, occasional 8 bar structure, and a boundless package of effects and sounds drawn from cracked copies of Fruity Loops and Sony Acid. Auto-tune is wildly popular, giving many mahraganat songs a sheen that isn’t entirely different in its poppy diffidence from Chicago’s bop sound. Mahraganat finds a physical home at street festivals, weddings and other public gatherings, but has also reached a level of popularity where it can be heard coming out of radios and makeshift speaker systems on virtually any corner in Cairo. Earlier this year, the British Council joined with Rinse.FM and the Cairo-based 100 Copies record label to bring together Brits like Mumdance, Pinch and Kode9 with the aforementioned Figo, as well as Sadat, Diesel and Knaka. So far, a wildly inventive Boiler Room session and Mumdance’s “Cairo Calling” mixtape are the two main outcomes of the project, but the meetings have supposedly betrothed a wealth of fascinating material.
Across the Mediterranean, Dutch trio Cairo Liberation Front have publicized the electro chaabi/mahraganat sound en masse and have infused an American hip hop mentality to the whole affair. Inspired by spastic keyboardist Islam Chipsy and educated via blogs like Matb3aa and Showqna, CLF began playing house parties across the Netherlands, bringing the festival atmosphere to their performances and lacing Dutch crowds with the sounds of Cairo. In tandem with The Quietus’ excellent John Doran, CLF’s Joost Heijthuijsen traveled to Cairo to study the sound and involve themselves in the grassroots movement that now involves dance and fashion. Heijthuijsen and CLF don’t profess to be experts in the history or development of mahraganat, but they have been struck by the effect that is had on the marginalized youth of Cairo and have strove effortlessly to spread the gospel of electro chaabi. Nowadays, CLF play shows all over Europe and interface with Egyptian artists regularly. They also bring a rather unique contemporary hip hop spirit to the affair, bringing left-field major label icons Future, Riff Raff and others into the mix. DJ Figo, Sadat and the hilariously named Allaa 50 Cent will never be as popular outside of Cairo as they are within the Egyptian capitol, but with an increasing number of ambassadors including Doran and CLF, the movement is rapidly expanding into new rings of global society. The internet has made mahraganat available to anyone with a computer and the scene’s defining youth has made the web a source of material, inspiration and collaboration. Stream/download below and hit the jump for the track list.
poolboy92 (formerly Mohegan Son) hails from the Atlantic Coast, a region integral to the American club music lineage, but more often than not, you can find him on the informal nexus of internet based and bred producers, DJs and visual artists who prefer to obfuscate their personas in a neon-drenched morass of fragmented pop culture imagery, Windows aesthetics and spinning corporate regalia. It’s a facile world, but talent shines where it can and Ben Aqua‘s Austin-based #FEELINGS crew/label is an especially bright patch in the web-based landscape. poolboy92 is a card carrying #FEELINGS member and released his debut Lips EP through the outlet earlier this month, blending the off-kilter rhythms of funky and kuduro with a heavy helping of ballroom flourishes. Taking a kitchen sink approach, poolboy92 leaves little to the imagination, bringing lullaby-esque melodies and metal cutter rhythmic elements into the same steaming pot. The result is disorienting at times, but more often than not succeeds on a highly functional level, imparting a stupor-like effect on the listener.
This Friday in Brooklyn, he will celebrate the EP release alongside Sugar Shane, Leo Justi and more at Club Republic. While we’re unfortunately located 3,000 miles away from the festivities, we’ve been festooned with a short promo mix by the polychromatic producer. Seven minutes of hyper-speed rambling, twinkling synth work and bubbling energy should shine a little insight into what to expect come Friday. Download the mix below and hit the jump for the track list.
After an episode of self-described “major label bullshit” supposedly sidelined Shlohmo and Jeremih‘s highly touted collaborative project, it appears that the former’s Wedidit camp has taken to grassroots methods to disseminate the No More EP. The six track effort features “Bo Peep”, “No More”, an extended, Jeremih-assisted version of Shlohmo’s “Fuck You All The Time” remix that jumpstarted the whole project, and two brand new originals. The original project was slated for a Def Jam/Wedidit release, but while nothing final has been announced all logic points to a formal end to that relationship. While the circumstances surrounding No More are more than a little acerbic, the EP offers an intoxicating blend of Jeremih’s knack for wispy melodic work and songsmanship combined with Shlohmo’s elegiac approach to 808 percussion and ululating textural accompaniments. Chance The Rapper guests on the sharp-witted “The End”, a venomous Chicago collaboration that falls somewhere among the hills of the drill realm. Head to the No More website to grab your copy of the EP in exchange for an email.
Aïsha Devi is a new name in these parts, but the Swiss-born producer who used to go by Kate Wax has immediately captured our collective imagination through her vivid re-interpretations of pop fare and and brutal retrograde persuasions. On first listen, it might difficult to draw a correlation between the pristine, clutter-free sound of “Jesus & The Math” and the near-beatless drone of her LX Sweat remix, but an attention to complex percussive textures, left-field vocal manipulation and a deep seated understanding of propulsion all find place in her myriad productions. Devi’s newest project comes in the form of her second EP for Danse Noire, a release centered around the Dutch gabber referencing “Hakken Dub”, a track that sees her driving a dark, jagged stake into her former Kate Wax persona. It’s not difficult to imagine the hakken dance as Devi’s reverb-drenched wrecking balls brutalize your cerebral cortex and your previous mental stasis is replaced by a taut rubber band of anxiety. The appeal and affect of gabber has been rightly lost to time, but its intense linearity and seeming technological infallibility make it an interesting topic of revitalization. For her part, Devi has drawn the most of gabber’s pneumatic explosivity. Hakken Dub/Throat Dub is set for a July 21 release date and will feature remixes from Hieroglyphic Being and IVVVO.
BeatKing begins “Throw Dat Ahh” with a short prayer: “Club God, thank you for blessing us with this beat, praise his name.”
The track appeared on Club God 2 last November and with help from DJ Chose making an appearance as Club Devil and quick remix featuring BeatKing’s stable of cohorts (Kstylis, Lil Ronny, Fat Pimp, Chalie Boy, and T-Wayne) it became the next in the Club God’s continually growing list of Houston strip club bangers.
Yesterday, Houston’s grime ambassador Rabit dropped all sense of delightful debauchery that the original flaunted, and reinvented BeatKing’s bendova’ orders into threats. Over the growling subline Dj Chose becomes second-in-command to the don and what was an underlying chant is left to be recognized as the tortured cry of those who looked the wrong way at the Club God. While it doesn’t take much for me to love any sort of combination of heavyweights Rabit and BeatKing this track is wild.
“Rabit, thank you for blessing us with this beat, praise his name.”
After the earth shattering success of his debut Telo/Shiftin single in March, Gage has laid relatively low, contributing a volume to Truants’ “Functions of the Now” mix series and allowing “Telo” to percolate into ever-larger circles of influence. As far as the grime continuum goes, Gage fits somewhere between the sino abstractions of the Boxed collective and the minimal, driving techno of Mumdance and Pinch’s b2b effort for Tectonic. Gage’s productions are abrasive and dressed up in grime nomenclature, but also supremely worthy for the club in their composition and general affect. Gage’s latest effort, a remix contribution to Inkke‘s upcoming Local Action EP, balances both, applying sparse rhythm technology and bright, minor key melodic work in the same passage. Inkke’s Crystal Children EP is set for a July 21 release date and will also feature remix work from JT The Goon.