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Photo by Manuel Uthoff

Mexico City has functioned as an incubator for some of the most exciting threads in contemporary dance music, home to a number of labels and crews pushing against Western/Anglo hegemony and looking to create a stable, self-contained musical ecology. There are a few obvious touchstones in the DF’s sonic culture, but there are also artists who flit between scenes and avoid categorization, welding on new components until a brilliant new whole emerges. OLY has stood out as one of the city’s most talented producers and DJs for several years now, releasing a sparse stream of perplexingly vital singles and becoming an absolutely stand out peak time DJ in the meantime.

OLY productions tend towards minimalism and a slinky sense of fun, wringing kinetic energy out of rhythms laid bare. 2015’s Náyade EP was our first taste, two rich, low end heavy efforts as situated in the beat scene as they are in DJ-driven dance music, but possessing an inescapable groove nonetheless. Singles and compilation tracks for <//-(HYPERSONICS)-//>, Cintas Coagula, Classical Trax, COCOBASS and NAAFI have followed, exploring everything from acid-tinged industrial to placid ambient and on to a full bodied funk carioca take. A distinct rave aesthetic is present on most OLY club tracks, although they rarely reach the full rev of a straightforward peak time banger, instead teasing out their intent (or not) over the entire run time.

OLY’s mix work is where the embrace of club music at its most full throttle enters, showing off her keen sense of which rhythmic concoctions will most efficiently set the floor off. Various strains of hardcore, both classic and modern, juke, bubbling, soca and more tend to pop up in OLY mixes, all mixed with a deft touch to avoid the obnoxiously jarring hybridities that many DJs fall for. Her Astral Plane Mix takes a particularly rave-y track, matching a range of left field techno and trance with a smattering of juke killers and some choice bootlegs. In typical fashion, the reference points are kaleidoscopic, but they’re all there, subsumed in OLY’s own production work and despite the lack of original tracks in the mix, it’s still a work distinctly her own. Download Astral Plane Mix 183 here and hit the jump for the full track list.

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It’s easy to get bogged down in the constant balkanization of contemporary dance music. Keeping up with the lexicon alone is a formidable task and while classification is important, jargon is almost always utilized as a means of keeping the uninitiated out. Understanding dance music as a continuum of mechanized global rhythms, grafted, hybridized and superimposed into new forms, offers a key to the madness though, offering a path that sees not homogeneity, but the similarities in the constituent elements of seemingly disparate material. It’s a skill that Sydney’s SCAM has brought to his work as a writer, DJ and producer, building out from the clunky “global ghettotech” terminology of the late 2000s to make innate connections between seemingly dissimilar rhythmic logics.

2018 saw the release of his debut Vibrio EP on DECISIONS, a body of work matching “OTT emotionality and TMI sentimentality” with a focus on slime and the chemical interactions that lead to effects like bioluminescence and petrichor. Seayams provides vocals for two tracks, grounding the work’s frisky bio-chemical motions with a distinct humanity and allowing its two instrumental tracks the space necessary to flourish. American R&B and rap are obvious reference points, but EP closer “QQ” is also based on a Coil sample and the skittish drum programming throughout recalls the angular constructions of a range of regional club music.

The bonds created throughout Vibrio continue to be explored in SCAM’s edits, works that offer subtle mutations on post-punk, rap, dancehall and techno. It’s these edits that allow ESG to sit comfortably with Stefflon Don in a SCAM mix, making rhythmic links between ostensibly dissimilar tracks and offering a correction to the temporal and spacial record in the meantime. His Astral Plane Mix does exactly that, making simple connections across recent time (Araabmuzik into Dinamarca couldn’t be wrong) and drawing in contemporaries like Air Max ’97, Emily Glass and Fridge into an assemblage of familiar vocals twisted into new shapes. The mix offers a curatorial approach devoid of the pretenses of the critic, allowing new forms to develop at an instinctual pace and hybridities to develop naturally. Grab a copy of Vibrio here and download AP Mix 182 here. Track list after the jump.

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Euphoria is a tool that can be utilized by many, but is only truly mastered by few. Electronic music history is rife with gauche, over the top attempts at sending dancers into a blissful state and for every unique, boundary pushing soundtrack, there’s a dozen producers badly aping Vangelis. Trance, in its various forms, has mutated and taken on emotive and structural qualities in recent years, ranging from Lorenzo Senni’s maximalist escapades into peak time hedonism to Copenhagen’s Kulør crew mining techno for a mechanized, edgy euphoria and on to the micro-textures of artists like Dane Law, Sky H1, Ssaliva and x/o. France’s Chams is another artist funneling new modes of euphoria, helming the Abîme label and forging delicate, piano and synth-heavy tracks in his solo work.

By avoiding familiar rhythmic tropes, Chams’ music largely exists in a fantastical middle zone, nodding at propulsion without giving up the light, loping of melody-driven progression. Previous work, under Chaams, explored more rhythmic dimensions for labels like Car Crash Set and [Re]sources, but since the extra A was removed, drums have taken a back seat to extravagant synth arrangements and saccharine piano melodies. Abîme has also tended towards euphoria-inducing arrangements, most notably 2018’s Dangereux EP from Ytem, four tracks of lofty, driving tracks that nod at hardcore with a rare grace.

Chams’ mix work tends to explore Abîme and his own reference points, playing the role of cipher for a range of contemporary material from global artists, both independent and of larger stature. His Astral Plane Mix touches on J.G. Biberkopf, Keiska, Sharp Veins and v1984 and finds room for recent Abîme output, as well as classic material from Croatian Amor, Oneohtrix Point Never and Quirke. Pink Floyd’s wildly over the top “Coming Back To Life” stands out on the track list, but slots comfortably into the mix’s fabric, grasping for and simultaneously fraying heart strings as the cavalcade of melancholy and melodic heights continues on and on. Hit the jump for a full track list and download Astral Plane Mix 181 here.

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In our year end round-up for FACT Magazine, we noted the tumultuous nature of the past half-decade in club music. Hyper-localized scenes have been opened up to the global internet with their original intent and cultural context often lost in the process. The positive side of that coin is that dozens of scenes have popped up in locales that previously had no space for the sort of aggressively non-conformist composition, inventive mixing, and freewheeling booking policies that club music brings.

That many of those scenes have gone on to develop their own distinct sound, beyond or outside of the zeitgeist, only lends credence to the music’s emancipatory potential. Warsaw’s Intruder Alert, a crew/label/night founded in 2015 and run by B.yhzz, GRAŃ, I M M U N E and KRY, has been a shining light during that period, growing from the city’s first outpost for left field sounds from abroad into a label with its own sound, visual language and ethos.

B.yhzz has been IA’s foremost ambassador over the past few years, releasing two standout EPs for Infinite Machine, 2016’s Contra and 2017’s Via, and developing a sound wrought out of organic production methods and keen ear for emotive micro-movements. At the time, IA was booking artists like Chino Amobi, Coucou Chloe, Kamixlo and Swan Meat and Contra and Via reflect that interfacing, embracing cacophony while riffing on familiar rhythmic patterns.

2016’s BURST;BATTLE, a collaboration with Lyon’s My Sword and the first official release on IA, also featured an acceptance of hybridity, pushing a non-linear, saccharine take on hardcore at its noisiest. It was Rejection, Blessing LP, released in June of this year on IA, where B.yhzz’s sound reached an idiosyncratic bliss though, diverging entirely from the dancefloor and towards a grandiose, multi-dimensional take on noise.

Rejection, Blessing followed a series of self-releases exploring similar themes and extrapolated on the sonics built out on Contra and Via, but the album emerged as a startlingly realized vision, only tangentially connected to the functional dance music envisioned in previous work. Songs like “Sealed Head” and “Two Rooms” are sprawling efforts with a distinctly cyborgian ethos, the sound of human flesh struggling for recognition in its machinic environment.

The turn towards abstraction and storytelling is reflected in IA’s output as well with recent releases from Bgknb, Ditchdog and Lily Kane all exploring divergent internal worlds that tend to seep into the inner lining of your consciousness with each re-listen. B.yhzz’s Astral Plane Mix takes a similar tact, drawing on the sort of organic and electro-acoustic noise patterns found throughout IA’s recent material to create a disconcerting, all-enveloping collage.

Musique concrète, sound art and whale songs are situated next to recent IA material in an increasingly dense tar pit that culminates in a passage of forceful techno overlaid with a gorgeous, minimalist piece by Charlemange Palestine. B.yhzz and IA have only been a part of the global conversation for a few years now, but the crew’s inward turn of late has been fruitful and it will exciting to watch them build out on the themes introduced in 2018. Download Astral Plane Mix 180 here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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Photo Credit: Nadja Angermann

The most successful attempts at sonic collage exist as living documents that are near-indecipherable to anyone but their creator. Comprised of constantly shifting planes and ignoring the usual temporal constraints of recorded music, collage allows for a freedom of movement and shape and for its creator to take on the role of auteur or architect as much as composer, DJ or producer. Avbvrn, a Frankfurt-based, California-born artist, has based his practice in exploring the expansive potential of edited material, both his own and from myriad other sources. Currently studying composition in Frankfurt, Avbvrn’s musical universe is both constantly expanding and concerned with the hyper-specific, grafting tangential threads between Pat Benetar and Grischa Lichtenberger, while crafting an increasingly idiosyncratic aesthetic based on sheets of intricately-textured noise, sharp angles and empty space.

Releases to date on DECISIONS and JEROME, as well as a recent album-length self-release, sketch out the rules of engagement for Avbvrn’s often dysphoric original material. Tracks like “Flood” and “Containment”, both released in 2017, are claustrophobic to the extreme, comprised of ratcheting percussion, overlapping drones and a conscious withholding of groove. Avbvrn always leaves an open door for the listener to jump through though and both eventually mutate into surprisingly effective club tracks, reconstructing themselves subtly as if behind a curtain to be exposed at a later juncture. The obfuscation of intention is not carried out to confuse or condescend to the listener, but like a complicated dish, the final result is often concealed until near the end of the process. Further singles and compilation tracks for ANBA, Bio Future Laboratory, Cartridge Material, Country Music, Intruder Alert and Slagwerk continue to flesh out this approach, often aiming at a more concrete functionality, but always maintaining a coy, transformational attitude.

Which brings us to Avbvrn Snacks, a series of sprawling edit compilations featuring re-works of tracks from contemporaries, edits of edits, and some of the most beguiling blends you’re likely to come across anywhere. Functioning as an unconstrained, ever-expanding ecosystem, the packs often use familiar lenses/methods (epic collage, musique concrete, screw mixes), but rarely come off as trite or uninspired, instead maintaining a level of uncanny ingenuity. That quality extends to his mix work as well and his entry for Astral Plane Mix 179 effortlessly melds the meticulous compositional energy of his original work with the mad hat exuberance of Avbvrn Snacks. Components of the mix are familiar, but the track list only lends a sort of key to guide your way through the 57 minute run time. As a contextual project, the mix hits on a ton of recent, standout material from the global experimental music community, but more often than not, those threads are spun out into Avbvrn’s distinct web of comprehension, not so much re-contextualized as refashioned into a new whole. Hit the jump for a full track list and download Astral Plane Mix 179 here.

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The world of American experimental music is often disconsolately sprawling. Parsing a path through its endless offshoots and diversions is an exhausting pursuit in the present and diving through history posthaste is a sisyphean task resigned to those with boundless time and resources. For younger audiences, this predicament has made a label like Alex Cobb’s Students of Decay an essential roadmap, sprawling in its scope and definition, but contained, directed and beautifully arranged.

Started in 2005, SoD has released essential works from artists like Anne Guthrie, Jeff Witscher (as Marble Sky), Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Sarah Davachi, laying out an expansive musical language that rarely shies away from intellectual pretensions, but always approaches matters of the heart with equal gusto. SoD released excellent new albums from Blue Chemise, Caroline No and Guthrie in 2018, the latter of whom’s Brass Orchids is a brilliant horror show of dripping water and retro-futuristic cranking metal, but our focus today is on a new project from Cobb.

Soda Gong is a brand new entity “posit[ing] a sovereignty predicated upon egression, naivety, and fluid understandings of the sacred and the sublime.” The project follows the birth of Cobb’s son and a process of both quitting alcohol and diving into recovery literature and was inaugurated in early November with a new Cobb solo project titled Hui Terra and under the Etelin pseudonym. In an extensive interview with JASONC at Tiny Mix Tapes, Cobb described a frustration with “po-faced quasi-academic drone music” and a desire to embrace a freewheeling curatorial ethos outside of the confines of Student of Decay’s almost 15 year release catalog.

Starting the label with the tactile warmth of Hui Terra was both a brave and natural decision, an attempt at stripping away the artifice and self-awareness of so much experimental music, not to mention arthouse film, literature and institutional art as Cobb notes.The album was recorded in what Cobb refers to as “newborn haze”, a period marked by lack of sleep and a fracturing of connection to the outside world. It’s in this interstitial state that songs like “Hour Here Hour There” and “Little Rig”, the latter largely sampled from Cobb’s infant son’s voice, thrive in, flowing between liquid and solid state and effortlessly seeping into the listener’s subconscious.

Functionally, the record relies on digital synthesizers and a sampler, a step away from previous work based on guitar manipulations and a stab at the flexibility offered by new tools. As an extension of both his own work and the SoD catalog, Hui Terra doesn’t come off as a radical shift per se, but Cobb’s altered approach shines through and continues to shine through on his Astral Plane Mix, comprised of an hour of “forthcoming, unreleased, sympathetic, and influential music.” Extrapolating the earnest breadth of Hui Terra, the mix touches on ambient, drone, musique concete and techno, devoid of traditional narrative arc, yet full of pronounced individual movements and points of divergence. The mix is a tantalizing look into a fledgling label’s forthcoming work and a composition that easily stands on its own, marking a new chapter for Cobb. Download Soda Gong’s Astral Plane Mix here and grab a copy of Hui Terra here.

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Around this time last year, we featured a blistering guest mix from New York’s Miss Kenzo and we figured it was time to have her back in AP world again this past Friday on the November edition of our NTS show. The AP DJ Team handles the first hour and thirty five and runs through a few special forthcoming Alis tunes, as well as new IceBoy Violet, Vessel, Kelly Moran, Ausschuss, Deena Abdelwahed, Lyra Valenzi and more. Snippets of Donna Haraway and Ursula K. Le Guin audio also slipped into the mix. Hit the jump for a full track list and download here.

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Club music’s influence often greatly exceeds the attention actually paid to artists from Baltimore, New Jersey and Philadelphia and despite the occasional retrospective or corporate-seeded event, producers pushing the sound forward are regularly overlooked for the watered down facsimile artists in Europe and elsewhere in the States offer. As always, both the OGs and the younger upstarts continue to impress with a near-constant steam of stylistic innovations, formal transformations and near-constant enthusiasm. Baltimore’s CalvoMusic has been making Club music since 2011 and is at the fore of a new crop of artists slowly mutating Bmore into their own image.

Influenced by the likes of BugzTheProducer, Matic808, Nadus, R3LL and Ripknoxx, Calvo is a former member and co-founder of the The Hypies and has dubbed his own sound “New Club Waves”. Sampling is often recklessly freewheeling in Club music, but Calvo takes that to a new level, often taking a medley approach by including references to multiple recognizable tracks in the same 2 minute segment. Video game music is also a source of inspiration and has resulted in some of Calvo’s best work, most of which avoids kitsch retro revivalism for a more accelerated, all consuming approach to collage. Tracks like “Atlantis Level” and “Game of Cubes”, clear in the material they’re riffing on, offer some of the most flexible and well-balanced takes on Club music in recent memory, constantly evolving across their short run times, yet aimed directly at the dancefloor.

It’s no surprise that grime motifs pop up in Calvo’s tunes as there’s an 8 bar quality to his production, manifested in the relentless switch ups and cut throat rhythmic patterns found throughout. A triton sample here and there and gun finger drum chops are the most obvious examples of the interpolation, but the influence goes beyond sampling into the basic construction of a Calvo tune. Those influences, as well as a rundown of recent pop memory, can be found in his Astral Plane Mix, an all-original rundown of the “New Club Waves” sound featuring solo edits and collaborations with DeeTheProducer, DjDizzy and more. Tracks from Calvo’s excellent recent October EP can be found throughout as can slightly older edits like his rowdy take on Sean Paul’s “Get Busy”. At times, Calvo’s edits seem to be referencing 90s Strictly Rhythm, but then a new sample cuts in and your dragged back to the present without losing a beat. Download Calvo’s Astral Plane Mix here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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Contemporary discourse around on-the-fringe club musics is often lacking in the framework it utilizes, prone to either view them as being totally non-functional or, on the other hand, beyond the functional. Older, jaded writers often view collage or non-linear styles as being outside of the bounds of the dancefloor while newer critics will hone in on perceived avant-garde elements, both ignoring the music’s potential to create new dance forms. The goal of so much of new club music after all, whether it be ballroom, flex dance music, footwork or so-called deconstructed arrangements, is to create ulterior approaches to movement, often driven by a fundamental lack or exclusion from traditional scenes. Berlin’s GIL has a keen understanding of this dynamic, an artist trained in modern dance who has imbued a tactile quality in all of his output, most of which defies categorization.

We initially heard GIL’s work via STAYCORE’s 2015 bootleg compilation and a series of edits and originals exploring divergent veins of club music followed. A trance-y version of Umm Kulthum’s “Inta Omri” (sadly no longer online) stood out in particular, while a Rihanna flip explored cerebral dembow production and others smashed ballroom, baile funk and hardstyle into single compositions. 2016’s Hibernation Fruits introduced a more focused GIL sound, impactful and narrative-oriented, but also distinctly in the zeitgeist. It was Orchids & Wasps, released later that year on Danse Noire, where the GIL sound truly flourished, escaping the bounds of previous reference points entirely.

Conceived after the Danse Noire crew saw a GIL perform at Lausanne’s Les Urbaines festival, Orchids & Wasps is almost overflowing with ideas, ideas that are often introduced in a compartmentalized section of one track only to be come up in a completely different context later in the track order. Screams, a choir and a range of atmospheric sounds back relentless, often overlapping percussion, giving the impression that each individual section could be perceived as film score or club tool depending on the listener’s vantage. Remixes for Eaves and Meuko! Meuko!, as well as a contribution to Country Music’s 8 minute, 200 BPM release catalogue, have clearly furthered GIL’s desire to work on non-linear timelines that are still clearly rested in soundsystem culture, retaining their tactile and sensual qualities no matter how far they diverge from traditional layouts.

GIL’s mix work functions as an extension of the extrapolating compositions talked about above, often creating matrices of touch that draw lines between everything from the resonant bass hits in a Kranium track to the electro-acoustic noise in Mica Levi’s Jackie OST or Ipek Gorun’s Ecce Homo. Artists exploring adjacent tactile realms like Kelly Moran, Lanark Artefax and Tzusing pop up, as do more distant reference points like dBridge, Dead Can Dance and Taeko Ohnuki. GIL’s productions and edits appear throughout, providing narrative sign posts for the listener to follow and offering a hint of what’s to come in the GIL universe. Hit the jump for a full track list and download a copy of GIL’s Astral Plane Mix here.

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Famous Eno‘s career arc doesn’t match the usual boom-bust curve that defines so many young artist’s tenure in the electronic music space. Exploring the various tendrils of Afro-Caribbean derived UK dance music and US regional club music, Eno has been a staple on the Mixpak and Swing Ting rosters since the release of his All Good FM single in 2012, constantly expanding his purview without ever losing site of the dancefloor. The Eno sound draws on afro beat, dancehall, grime and UK funky and, depending on who he’s collaborating with, traverses those with almost unmatched dexterity. Frequent collaborators like Murlo, Swing Ting and the Fractal Fantasy crew often interject their own styles, but Eno’s forceful, rhythmic backbone is always there, collecting the pieces into a whole optimized for the dance.

Most recognizably, Eno’s work has been marked by the voices of a huge range of MCs. Released in October, Music For Clubs is his longest release in years and functions as a vibrant encapsulation of the many sounds he’s experimented in. Jamaica’s Bay-C, Ghana’s Bryte and Gafacci, London’s Killa P and Trigganom, and New Jersey’s UNIIQU3 contribute their distinctive approaches, all tied together by Eno’s restrained yet anthemic production. In lesser hands, the release would come off as a hodgepodge of disparate styles, but under Eno’s tutelage it comes together nicely, pinging from one idea to the next and giving plenty of time and space for each MC to shine. It’s a sound introduced on singles like “Gangsters” and Samrai’s 2014 remix of Eno and Rubi Dan’s “Terminator”, but it truly flourishes on Music For Clubs.

It was Eno’s bootleg and remix work that initially drew us to the producer half a decade ago though and takes on Paleman’s “Beelzedub” and Sia’s “Little Man”, not to mention the unbridled mania of his and Murlo’s remix of Akito’s “Metamessage”, are still classics in our book. They’re also a good indicator of his full throttle approach to DJing, clearly rested in soundsystem culture, but not giving over too much to tradition. His Astral Plane Mix functions as both a compendium of recent work and a roadmap for those uninitiated to his approach. It begins with Music For Clubs staple “Life” and ends with a brand new remix of King Louie and Mikey Dollaz’s Zora Jones and Drippin produced “WW4” and touches on bmore, ghetto house, gqom and more in the middle. It’s a big, party-oriented sound that will be familiar to listeners of his work on Fractal Fantasy Mixpak, and Swing Ting, exploding into new territory with every transition. Download a copy of Astral Plane Mix 175 here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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