dj-noir

We decided to put a spotlight on our favorite artists from our home city of Los Angeles this Summer. Over the coming 10 weeks, we’ll feature a cross section of what the city has to offer. Far from a selection of the biggest touring entities, we hope to shine light on the individuals who brighten the airwaves and nights out on a regular basis.

The weekly club night is a near impossible undertaking in this day and age. Beyond the obvious time and energy depletion, maintaining fresh line ups week in and week out take real imagination. Los Angeles has been home to a number of successful weeklies, from long-running drum & bass haven Respect to the iconic and sadly recently terminated Mustache Mondays. For the past several years though, the finest weekly has been Juke Bounce Werk‘s Rocksteady night, taking place every Tuesday night, first at Little Tokyo’s Tokyo Beat and now at Chinatown’s Grand Star Jazz Club. DJ Noir, Jae Drago and Sonic D have built a temple for footwork and juke, built on the symbiotic relationship between dancer and DJ and featuring a remarkably broad selection of what the genre has to offer.

The gospel of Rocksteady is spreading and while most know that footwork and juke are native to Chicago, fewer know how well it has thrived in Los Angeles. Rocksteady has hosted a who’s who of legends and contemporary heroes (DJ Earl, DJ Spinn, Gant-Man, Jana Rush, JLin, RP Boo, Traxman), but doesn’t shy away from extending into other genres, bringing on a range of contemporary club music’s finest (Anna Morgan, Ase Manual, DJ J Heat, Massacooraman, RudeBoyz). Regulars will know that it’s the residents and artists from the Juke Bounce Werk universe (Kush Jones, Neuropunk, SWISHA and DJ Noir, Jae Drago and Sonic D themselves) that often shine the brightest at Rocksteady though and that fact carries over to the JBW as a label.

The JBW catalog exists as a testament to the breadth of footwork, featuring everything from overt jungle hybridizations to sub bass-heavy abstractions and everything in between. More traditional manifestations of the Chicago sound can be found throughout four years of releases as well, but it doesn’t feel out of place with the newer derivations. More than anything else though, the JBW catalog demands to be played out and when it is people notice. It’s no surprise that the whole operation grew out of a meeting at Respect because JBW is rooted in Los Angeles’ rave lineage and that understanding is part of what keeps people coming back week after week.

Few DJs represent that approach better than DJ Noir, matching a deep appreciation for jungle and drum and bass with a passion for footwork and juke. There’s no room for filler in DJ Noir’s tightly coiled mixes, which slickly join cerebral soul sampling material, battle tracks and hardcore continuum-inspired numbers into the same passages. You’ll be hard pressed to find a DJ who utilizes the cross fader to such devastating effect and that shows in her Astral Plane Mix which runs through 45 minutes of exclusively Juke Bounce Werk material with fiery energy. No track list at this point, but download available here and the essential Juke Bounce Werk catalog here.

 

mgrad42017

The conversation between dance music’s totemic house/techno scenes and its on-the-cusp and more internet-focused “club” scenes hasn’t always been consistent or fertile. Or genial for that matter. More often than not, artists are seen to age out of the latter to move into the comfortable confines and consistent booking schedules of the latter. Chicago’s Ariel Zetina has flipped that model on its head, thriving in the hallowed halls of four-on-the-floor while simultaneously pushing boundaries via her own productions and nights.

Zetina is a resident at Chicago’s smartbar where she throws the Diamond Formation night, hosting artists like DJ Lag, Mobilegirl, Nkisi and Ziúr at the venerable club. She also throws Rosebud at Berlin, Ariel’s Party at the Hideout and is a resident at the traveling Rumors night. Ariel is busy, and across all of that, brings a verve for matching the best and most energetic components of the house/techno canon with ballroom, Bmore/Jersey/Philly Club and the latest hybridized creations.

Her own productions are the lynchpin to the whole act, starting with the anthemic, London Jade-featuring “Addy” (released on Boukan Records) and on to “Binary Twink”, a pounding collaborative effort with Imp Queen from a performance of the same name. Ariel’s tracks have also appeared on compilations from Club Chai, Gays Hate Techno, SHXME, Sweat Equity and TRASH CVLT, forming a suitably broad constellation of her work. Her next release will be out on Houston’s Majía, an adventurous move for both artist and label.

Not surprisingly, Ariel’s Astral Plane Mix is a full frontal affair, jumping out of the gate with Karen Finley’s iconic “Enter Entrepreneur” performance piece before leaping through Alden Tyrell, Green Velvet and Marlon D on one end of the spectrum and Precolombian, Kid Cala and LSDXOXO on the other. With the exception of a disarming pause in the form of Korma’s “Skin Horse”, the mix is lithe and energetic, full of long blends and bizarro juxtapositions. Zetina covers a ton of ground, but everything included has an inherent bounce to it, unbridled kinetic energy that forms a bond between disparate forms. Don’t miss the recent volume of “Addy” remixes from the likes of False Witness, FOOZOOL and Max Holiday and be on the lookout for major moves from Ariel over the coming weeks and months. Track list after the jump. Download here.

Read More

35849203_10156188129136265_3175244673115488256_n

DJ Pitch has made an indelible mark on London’s club and experimental landscapes over the past several years, but more often than not, the Watford-born DJ, producer, label head and promoter has operated behind the scenes. Pitch has quietly amassed an impressive catalogue of original productions, blends and mix work though, much of it settling in at the unpopular 120 BPM range and almost all of it showing a nous for rhythm and pleasing vocal manipulation. Of course, most will be familiar with his work with Tobago Tracks (TT), the label he co-runs with Gribs, and the context that we first came across his early work as Pitcheno, including an intoxicating collaboration with Organ Tapes that we still rinse to this day. It’s been a while since we’ve heard Pitch’s singular voice, but that may be changing soon.

TT has been popping up on the timeline quite a bit recently and rightfully so, having curated a jealousy-inducing series of events at Peckham’s Rye Wax venue (think Ziúr, Stud1nt, M.E.S.H. and more) and trailblazing a cross-UK promoter collaboration between Liverpool’s Cartier 4 Everyone, Manchester’s Mutualism and Leeds’ Come Thru. The label’s recent releases have also been particularly striking, covering everything from DIY afrobeat (Don Sinini‘s Grove Centraal) to grand, synthetic ambient landscapes (Lucaufer‘s EP1). That sort of idiosyncratic approach to A&R work has always been at the core of the Tobago Tracks with releases from the aforementioned Organ Tapes, a collaborative mixtape with Oakland’s 8ULENTINA and forceful, Cardi B-tinged techno machinations from Object Blue in their release catalogue. It’s an approach that is also born out in the TT mix series which has been a staple for outré club manipulations and is one of the few must checks in the cluttered Soundcloud sphere.

It’s no surprise that Pitch’s Astral Plane mix also covers quite a bit of ground. Mixed on Technics 1210s and a 2 channel mixer (no FX), the selection is split into two sections, the first featuring slower, lighter sounds from Pitch’s childhood, as well as more recent contemporary British sounds, and the latter featuring an array of artists attacking the dancefloor from different angles. The previously mentioned Lucaufer’s “Pupa”, featuring Yma, starts off the selection in sublime fashion and Pitch covers a startling amount of ground in under 40 minutes. Check out more of DJ Pitch’s solo material here and if you’re in London, don’t miss the next edition of the TT x Rye Wax residency featuring M.E.S.H., Object Blue, LOFT, Malin, Iceboy Violet, MtMt and Helge. Tickets available here.

BSNYEA

New York and its surrounding areas have been a source of innovative club music since the advent of electronic music, but it has been particularly fertile in the 2010s, spawning refreshingly new sounds with regularity. In January, we featured a driving mix from Brooklyn’s Epic B, one of the foremost proponents of flex dance music (FDM), and our love for the city’s ballroom sound and neighboring Newark’s Jersey Club scene is well established. Today, we turn our attention to Litefeet and BSNYEA, the former being the notorious musical companion to New York’s subway dancers and the latter a producer pushing the sound into exciting new directions. Like FDM, Litefeet is intrinsically coupled with its dance form, developing in response to dancer’s needs and eventually mutating into a genuinely symbiotic relationship.

BSNYEA’s music seems to always fall distinctly on the front foot, usually falling in a comfortable 105-110 BPM range and drawing on classic hip hop references as much as contemporary production techniques. It’s hip hop with a flashy, dancefloor-turned verve, akin to New Orleans Bass and Miami Bass in its raw, stripped back efficiency. Edits of Drake, Nicki Minaj and Trippie Redd are uploaded at a rapid pace and juxtaposed with  flashy originals with titles like “Break It Fix It”, “Tap Step” and “Bartender Please”. BSNYEA’s sound fits in Litefeet’s current trajectory (the Swizz Beatz influence is palpable), but also takes on a new dimension, infusing a start-stop sensibility and enough space to bring out the weirder dancers. His Astral Plane Mix is an exhibition in solo excellence, featuring an unrelenting stream of edits and originals featuring his signature take on the Litefeet sound. It’s pure body music so throw this one on and get ready to move. Download is available here. No track list.

KNOW V.A DEF.jpg

The intersection of rap and hardcore dance music has been fertile for years now with artists like Dark0, DJ NJ Drone and Drippin all putting a spin on everything from drill to gabber. As time has passed, some artists have expanded beyond the club track format to explore the outer reaches of the sound, digging into the interstices between era and genre with the goal of crafting narrative-rich long form pieces. Amsterdam’s Know V.A. in particular have impressed with their desire to draw substance from extended original pieces, releasing two separate editions on Signal Life (“RIP”) and DISPLAY (“Reification”) respectively. Those compositions utilize familiar forms (grime synths, 808s, trance riffs, dembow arrangements), but push towards abstraction, allowing reproducible tropes to extrapolate over a wider space. At times, the releases come across as a standard mixtape as tempos and energy is revved up, but the peaks and valleys of both tapes are unpredictable enough to allow the listener to consider their more nuanced qualities.

For their Astral Plane Mix, the Amsterdam duo has crafted an entirely new original piece, titled “Purity” and this time extended to 54 minutes. Fueled by the gabber and trance they listened to as youngsters, the piece takes on an epic quality, simultaneously exhausting and invigorating as it crescendoes over and over again. In a text sent over by the artists, the piece explores “losing the spontaneity of life and the randomness of nature” that follows a “drive towards perfection in the manufacturability of the outer world and the inner self.” That hyperreal emptiness is felt throughout “Purity” as layers of sheen crumble into grotesque noise and club constructions emerge, fizzle and burn. Unlike other sci fi-minded music though, Know V.A. smartly stray away from cliched vocals and narration, keeping the composition entirely instrumental and maintaining its all important sense of enigma. No track list but you can find more Know V.A. here.

N1L

Martins Rokis has been involved in a range of projects over the past few years, spanning sound design, soundtrack work and straight up club music. Rokis’ most public project at the moment is N1L where he has found a home at labels like UIQ, Where To Now and W-I. Rokis, originally from Latvia, now resides in Berlin and works in a practice that encompasses the “exploring multimodality of human perception via installations, performances and compositions for multichannel sound systems.” His previous work, often under his own name, explored abstracted, tactile arrangements of electronic noise and his work as N1L takes a similarly left field approach, offering a torrent of loops and almost-familiar tropes that come to resemble an uncanny valley take on club music. Most recently, Rokis has contributed a soundtrack for contemporary dance piece “Neverendings” by Sergiu Matis, performed at Berlin Atonal, and contributed a remix to Philadelphia’s Mhysa’s “Strobe”. Per Rokis’ request, we’ve left this write-up fairly cut-and-dry and we’ll do the same for the mix. Download is available here and track list below the jump.

Read More

IMG_2410.JPG

Dance music has always been a culture of extremes as technology, the human body and the imagery surrounding it are pushed to their furthest logical limits. Often, those extremes are manifested very literally as music gets faster, harder and more abrasive. In recent years, a number of crews around the world have embraced the cross-contamination of hardcore forms and crafted something new entirely, playing on classic rave tropes as much as discombobulating them entirely. Milan’s VISIO, the brand new project from Nicola Tirabasso (ArteTetra / Entertainment Systems), provides an exciting node in that global nexus, a multi-disciplinary artist riffing on “ecstatic virtualities” and exploring the ground between the placidity or ambient and the raw energy of hardcore. Tirabasso is one of the driving forces behind Milan’s Macao, an activist-driven venue housed in a former slaughterhouse, a space that has hosted artists such as Kablam, HVAD and Kilbourne. Tirabasso’s Astral Plane Mix, his second entry as VISIO, is a full on exploration of extremes, gathering material from a group of artists pushing their respective forms to the breaking point. There’s blown out breakcore, hypnotically repetitive ballroom and whatever it is that Balasa has cooked up on “BRISHITI”. Tirabasso has left the mix nicely unadorned, allowing each track to take on a totemic quality, existing on its own until it runs out of time. Not one for the feint of heart, but this burgeoning project offers a deeper dive that appreciates upon further listens.

Read More

dhd_00_ssvar_khadeeja-69

If you’ve only recently started following Philadelphia’s DJ Delish, you’d likely come to the conclusion that the producer, vocalist, DJ and host only recently started making music. That’s because Delish consistently takes down older releases and uploads from her various online platforms, resigning them to loose hard drives, her own DJ sets and time immemorial. It’s a somewhat common practice in the age of screenshots and Soundcloud, but Delish’s dedication to the practice is strong and belies how deep her catalog really is. It also belies how influential Delish is in both Philadelphia and on an international stage as she plays the roll of local DJ/host, as well as purveyor of some of the most rinsed ballroom productions of the last half decade.

We first got to know Delish in 2015 via “Piano Rage” (featured in our first For Club Use Only column), a stab heavy track that melds the gritty, corporeal energy of ballroom with an eye towards large rooms and an innate clarity. Obsession followed as did deep dives into Delish’s various platforms, of which her Youtube channel is one of the only places where you can hear original productions dating back to 2012. Those uploads, as well as a host of kinetic balls in Philadelphia, show a producer slowly developing a style that now traverses and incorporates everything from hands-in-the-air disco to the sharp thwack of kuduro and baile funk.

The fact that Delish deletes much of the older material as time passes does not mean that she has a dearth of material up at any given time though. August 2017’s HAZEL is a prime example of her recent work rate, comprised of four sparse, low end heavy efforts aimed squarely at the dancefloor. The release, put out through PUMPDABEAT, is a no frills affair, but its rhythmic twists (the switch ups in the 2nd half of “Reclaiming”) are captivating enough. Many of Delish’s recent releases and one-offs are included in her Astral Plane mix,  a session that has been a long time coming and could not possibly disappoint. By extrapolating on the subtle inflections of her own productions, Delish effortlessly brings in tracks by contemporaries (Ase Manual, Habibiboi, AceMo, Sartana)  and legends (El-B, Karizma, Kerry Chandler) alike, eliminating generational schisms via an assertive mixing style. We didn’t expect anything else, but this one has had, and will continue to have, us moving for months to come. Check out more DJ Delish at her Bandcamp and download Astral Plane Mix 155 here.

Read More

epic b

Every so often, a new sound emerges that galvanizes dancers and DJs and introduces original ideas into the conversation. More often than not, new sounds have been percolating up out of a localized scene for years before they gain ubiquity, a process that will be familiar to fans of ballroom, Jersey club, and, most recently, flex dance music (FDM). The latter has followed a familiar path, charting from its origins as a wildly dexterous dance style called flex in the early 1990s to a distinct genre over the past few decades. Gone are the days of public access television and shared bashment cassettes, but FDM has a new identity and new style, defined by a young, savvy group of producers and dancers who have brought the Brooklyn-born genre to global Rihanna tours and revered underground dancefloors the world over.

Brooklyn’s Epic B is one of the stars of the FDM world, emerging alongside Uninamise as Immortal Instruments in 2015, he has perfected a lean, powerful sound that merges a gruff ragga aesthetic with dramatic sample choices, often from fantasy movies and TV shows. 2016’s Riddims From the Gods Vol. 1 epitomized the Epic B sound with songs named after Greek Gods and an overwhelming sense of grandiosity. The songs are ambitious and over-the-top, but the sparse drum programming and ad lib-esque sample arrangements are so expertly concocted that it flows effortlessly. It was 2017’s Late Night FlexN that brought Epic B to listeners outside of the FDM and online club music community. Released by Manchester’s Swing Ting, who have been championing FDM in the UK for years, the EP is the most expansive FDM release to date, not only showcasing the aforementioned style but introducing Epic B as a vocalist and formalizing the link between dembow and the New York-born genre. The EP has since become a staple for DJs playing dancehall, reggaeton, rap and everything in between, providing a genuine pop moment in “One Time” and some of FDM’s most undeniable bangers in one fell swoop.

Beyond his production work, Epic B has also excelled as a DJ on The Lot Radio, co-hosting the Immortal Instruments show with Uninamise, which has become a go to for fans of the genre. And while he plays a range of new material from across the FDM spectrum on radio, we grabbed him for an almost all-original Astral Plane mix, featuring originals from Late Night and FlexN, Riddims From the Gods Vol. 1, as well as a host of exclusive material (“Mask Off Riddim” anyone?). It’s tightly organized and a sure bet to incite movement with its well timed pops, breaks and silences that work symbiotically with flex dancers. Download the mix here and hit the jump for a full track list. Follow Epic B on Soundcloud here.

Read More