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There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places–places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society–which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.

- Michel Foucault

You’ve already heard two songs from Heterotopia and with the tape set to hit the web tomorrow, it’s time to give a little love to the full experience. Watch this space and this space tomorrow and enjoy. Huge shout to Arkitect, Kid Antoine, Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf, Air Max ’97, Victoria Kim, Imaabs, Rushmore, Divoli S’vere, Mike G, Celestial Trax, Riley Lake and Iglooghost for turning in exceptionally creative tracks. And Jesse Treece for fashioning the poignant visual side of Heterotopia. Made this process far easier than it should have been.

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There was a time when forums were the key cog of internet discussion, lo-tek hubs where specialists traded acerbic banter on any number of niche topics. These days, that banter has found a new home in social media, Facebook and Twitter eagerly taking on the brunt of the internet’s collective outrage. And while the large majority of outlandish sub-tweets and ill-intentioned facebook comments about ebola are the virtual equivalent of water trash, a good deal of meaningful, moderated discourse does occur in various corners of the social media landscape. Classical Trax is a facebook group for club music obsessives, who, despite (or maybe because) vast geographical distances, come together to share whatever sonic pleasure they see best fits the proverbial club environment. With a few hitches here and there, the group has managed to bring together a number of fans, writers, DJs and producers who would otherwise never share music, or theorize on the past, present and future of the club space.

Recently, the group held an internal contest to remix a set of Divoli S’vere acapellas and the group admin was kind enough to enlist myself as one of the judges. Predictably, the quality gap of the results is vast, but a selection of edits/reworks have managed to mesmerize the “judges”, none more than Ursula‘s “Sabhyata Divoli Like This”, an non-concrete deconstruction of the Qween Beat representative’s recapitulative flow. Ursula latches onto the versatility of Divoli’s verbal alacrity, pairing it with a cornucopia of playful melodic twists, wobbling low end, barbed ballroom crashes and resonant choral vocals.

The result is a disorienting landscape of fable and folly, a roundabout loop through abstracted vogue culture touchstones, grime signifiers, all tied together by a keen sense of spatial awareness rarely found outside of collage experts like E+E, Lotic and Why Be. Ursula’s take is reverent of Divoli’s envy-inducing flow, but falls far from the legion of bland ballroom approximations that appear daily on soundcloud. There were other edits submitted to the CT contest that reworked Divoli in an interesting fashion, but none grappled with the inherent anger, performative culture, or, slim as it may be, hopeful spirit of vogue culture more than Ursula’s take.

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With only five (!) days remaining until the release of Heterotopia, our comrades over at Truants were kind enough to debut the second track from the compilation, Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf‘s dysphoric “Public Love”. Equal parts Jersey club heat rock and crumbling approximation of the dancefloor edifice, Biberkopf’s contribution to Heterotopia might be the most spatially aware take on the topic. In the words of Truants’ excellent Tobias Shine:

JGB seems to take the theme literally, establishing a widescreen architecture that hones in in the absurdity of Jersey club through dehydrated textures and his trademark use of voice. In a far away room, someone tinkers on a piano. As the arms of power continue to strangle public space, whether through surveillance or the monetization of Soundcloud, the Astral Plane remind us of the powerful political agency ‘real’ club space offers.

The Berlin-based producer approaches music with an understated gleam, but his club constructions are a world within themselves, a funhouse mirror shone brilliantly on the simulacrum of the contemporary “world” city. Heterotopia will be released through our web channels on Tuesday, October 21, but be on the look out for another premiere or two in the meantime!

celestial-trax Since its inception in August 2013, Druid Cloak‘s Apothecary Compositions imprint has become something a meeting point for artists from across genres, continents and sensibilities. The label has a credence for pushing out a physical product after all, cassette and vinyl mostly, and brings in a number of disparate remixers for virtually every release. The physical element, combined with Druid Cloak’s strong sentiments for jungle’s diffracted contemporary form, has led to the likes of Addison Groove, Om Unit, Visionist, Helix and others taking on remix duty, aiding and abetting relative newcomers like Imami, Galtier and, most recently, Wild Kid. The latter is a new kid on the block residing in New York and plying his trade in milky, Port Arthur-referencing beat work. The New Bethlehem EP is his first on Apothecary Compositions and while the entirety of the tape is easily digestible and a closing Slugabed rework adds some heft to the palate, Celestial Trax’s remix is the crown jewel of the package. A patois vocalist is sent into the mix to match up with Bun B’s invectives and CT flips the lead melody from couch slouching pleasantry to schizogenic, back alley menace. It’s quite a transformation, but considering CT’s recent output (and upcoming track on our own Heterotopia compilation), it comes easy for the New York transplant. Pre-order Wild Kid’s New Bethlehem EP here and peep Apothecary’s web store for a number of limited deals on past physical releases.

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Throughout a series of free releases and EPs for the likes of Unknown to the Unknown and his own Trax Couture imprint, Rushmore has gained a penchant for crafting the sort of free wheeling club tracks that defy both time and genre. The free “Air Trax” series is the perfect example of the London-resident’s stripped-back approach and resembles something in between the raw, feverous energy of ghetto house and the tightly-wound proficiency of UK techno. Unlike many of his contemporaries Rushmore doesn’t stab at concepts of futurism or technological progress, instead working towards the sort of machine-led dance floor proficiency that originally led to the rise of dance music in Chicago. Rushmore’s newest EP, his third on Trax Couture, is raucous at times, but also sees Rushmore adopt some of the paranoiac spirit that pervades much of the capital city’s output. Kicks, toms and stomp boxes are still in order for much of HOT004, but so are cut up violin bits (akin to Dark0’s recent work) and other video game soundtrack-derived melodic content. “Silent Melody” still embodies the gleeful linearity of Rushmore’s past productions, but trades in ghetto house for Jersey club’s rumbling kick pattern and grime’s melodrama. It’s metallic and slightly obsessive in its repetitious melody, source material drawn directly from post-Olympic East London, but also from the growing figurative diaspora of UK and American club sounds. HOT004 will be out on vinyl and digital on October 20, but can be pre-ordered through the Trax Couture website now.

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When Bok Bok spoke about the feel of the Night Slugs aesthetic and its relationship to architecture in an interview with FACT a few months ago, he seemed to pin point an attitude that has proliferated en masse in the club music community. Its an attitude and an aesthetic, a hyper-real structure that blends the natural with presupposed neoliberalism with breathtaking affect. It’s no surprise that graphic designer-producer hybrids have had some of the most resounding success in crafting the hyper-real. Welsh duo ISLAND have been making noise through their feverish Soundcloud oddities for several months now and have finally found a home for their incandescent productions on Bristol-based label/party Crazylegs. Like Crazylegs contemporary Gage and the Her Records fellows, ISLAND have taken the bare bones impact of classic grime and East Coast club music and melded it with their science fiction-derived grandiosity. On ISLAND Joints, a collection of originals, bootlegs, etc., the duo have grafted a polychromatic mixture of trance synths, plonking synth pop beats and ruthless club percussion into a dissociative, but highly enjoyable concoction. It’s hard to predict exactly which elements from ISLAND Joints will appear on the upcoming Crazylegs EP, or if the duo will even distill their sound at all, but their polyglot attitude is an exciting premise in the too-often-monochrome world of contemporary dance music.

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These days, producers often make the transition into the deejay game as their songs, bootlegs, etc. gain traction online and calls for their physical presence (read: tour money) reach a fever pitch. In the United States, this trend has become the norm as prodigious, young beatsmiths garner tens of thousands of online fans before they even touch a CDJ or Technics, but in Europe and the UK, the trend is, by-and-large, reversed. Consciousness altering, outer belt raves have become the stuff of obituaries as of late and DJs, especially in the realm of ‘ardkore, jungle and drum & bass, have been forced to seek out new contexts for their music, or worse, a day job. Hailing from Besançon, France, David Monnin is one of the many refugees of the rave scene, a ragga jungle and hardcore DJ in past life who now lives in Berlin and produces under the She’s Drunk moniker. Unlike most former rave denizens, Monnin has metamorphosed effortlessly into the world of cross-genre and cross-generational club music.

With everything from mid-120s electro-styled drum tracks to Special Request-esque jungliest riddims in his arsenal, Monnin has tailored the She’s Drunk moniker to his own omnivorous music tastes, gathering influences, both contemporary and not, from across the Continent and beyond. Like some sort of dysfunctional Rube Goldberg machine for the dancing masses, the She’s Drunk sound is teetering on the brink of collapse, pinging endlessly and almost always unhinged, relying more on recognizable sound signifiers than any existing rhythmic  structure. On releases for his own Through My Speakers label/party/collective and the always-excellent, London-based Liminal Sounds blog/label, Monnin has developed a sound that reflects his years on the jungle circuit in its frenetic nature, a raw energy that can’t be attained through sitting in a room working in Ableton.

And while the usual signifiers (Jersey club, ballroom, grime, etc.) criss-cross, She’s Drunk’s Astral Plane mix, the kinetic spirit is readily apparent, mirroring the polyglot madness of his recent Physical EP (out now via Liminal Sounds). Monnin might have entered the contemporary club-verse from another time, but his real life experience playing out and open-face attitude towards production is easily discernible in his output.

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For the past several months, The Astral Plane team has been working towards releasing original music and the day has finally come to announce our first compilation. Heterotopia is a collection of twelve songs from twelve of our favorite artists, but also an investigation into club space, both figurative and literal, and an attempt to give voice to so-called fringe voices of the dance music world. Artists from New York, London, Chile, Copenhagen, Sydney and beyond contributed and while the tape is firmly rooted in the club music continuum, our goal in coalescing a global group of artists is to stretch, perforate and dissolve the physical and rhetorical limits inherent in the contemporary dance music discussion. Tom Lea at FACT Mag was kind enough to announce Heterotopia and premiere Kid Antoine‘s “Nightvision” today, stating that “if you’re looking for future key players from the underground this is as good a place to start as any.” Jesse Treece contributed the incredible album art work and Riley Lake, who also contributed a song to the compilation, worked diligently on the mastering to bring the best in every track. Heterotopia will be released on October 21 and over the coming weeks we’ll release much more music and information regarding the tape. In the meantime, get down to the ruggedly beatific sounds of “Nightvision” and peep the full track list below.

Track list:
Arkitect – Foucault’s Dream
Kid Antoine – Nightvision
Jacque Gaspard Biberkopf – Public Love
Air Max ’97 – Chasm
Victoria Kim – Apgu Freeway
Imaabs – Cautiverio
Rushmore – Moment X
Divoli S’vere – Free Bitch
Mike G – Limestone
Celestial Trax – Illuminate
Riley Lake – Euclidean Riddim
Iglooghost – Wood Farm

jackie-daggerIt’s always a pleasure when stylistically coherent crews from across countries, oceans and language barriers collide. From the arrival of the first Kraftwerk records in Detroit (and vice versa, the first Isley Brothers records in Dusseldorf) to the widespread influence of Jamaican sound system culture in the UK ‘nuum, these clashing moments have become some of the most formative events in dance music history. The meeting of Belgrade’s Mystic Stylez with Los Angeles’ Private Selection might not carry the monumental connotations of the aforementioned gatherings, but it is remarkable for anyone who partakes in the percussive club trax, beat-less grime and analogue dreams the two respective labels/parties/crews peddle. Last October’s Advanced Rhythms Vol. 1, featuring crew leaders Dreams, Arkitect and Aerial as well as Jean Nipon, Vin Sol and other club mavens, is still a must have for any listener/producer/DJ interested in the various mutations of grime/Jersey cub/ballroom/kuduro/etc. Mystic Stylez started out as a humble Belgrade-based blog covering juke/footwork, but under the tutelage of Jackie Dagger and Feloneezy has grown up into the Balkans’ answer to Chicago, London, New York, et al. And now the two meet with expectedly ruthless efficiency with Mystic Stylez’s Dagger taking on RUEGD’s tuff-as-nails “Figy” (off of Advance Rhythms Vol. 1). Dagger’s “Kick Mix” is a simple addendum to RUEGD’s percussion-less original, both refreshing and adding some easily digestible propulsion to one of the most original tracks on the Private Selection compilation.

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Decibel Festival, like many other contemporary festivals that straddle the dwindling line between underground and overground forms of dance music, was heavy (to say the least) on four-on-the-floor house and techno. In fact, the festival’s adherence to technical linearity was so strong that one could posit that the steady pulse of a kick drum defined Decibel 2014. From the late night Ostgut Ton showcase at Q Nightclub to Phuture’s TB-303 jams, house and techno from the world over could be found at Decibel, but the respective genres’ British and German constructions took center stage. This created something of a dilemma for a team looking for more rhythmic variance and, shall we say, a global purview than your standard techno bro fest. Fortunately, the Decibel lineup provided pockets of brilliance in the form of jungle, footwork, grime and kuduro, allowing us to indulge in gaudy, kick drum-heavy performances from T. Williams, Wolf+Lamb, Nadastrom and more.

On Wednesday night, Arca and Total Freedom, with music video art auteur Jesse Kanda providing visual accompaniment on a huge LED screen, took to EMP’s Sky Church with a vengeance, weaving syncopated kuduro and dembow rhythmic patterns into a number of contemporary pop hits. The Sky Church, a massive room in a corporate music mausoleum, is an odd venue to hold a genre and gender bending performance from three prodigiously talented artists, but a small, dedicated crowd, equal measures repulsed by and smitten with Kanda’s Vine compilation-meets-high concept body art, was up for the challenge proffered by the CDJ wielding deejays. A percentage of the crowd was even made up of holdovers from Max Cooper’s technically proficient, but disappointingly linear performance (the following night’s dancer-assisted showcase featuring Cooper was supposedly far superior) that preceded Arca’s takeover, a less surprising development than one might expect considering the breadth of interests and knowledge among the Decibel crowd.

Hit the jump for the totality of our Decibel coverage…

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