le-makeup

Transnational crews, labels and collectives have become one of the major forces in dance music over the past decade, often connecting underrepresented groups unable to build enough infrastructure in their home cities. As often as they succeed though, these entities can water down the output of their individual members, mostly by enforcing rigid sonic limitations, but sometimes through promotion of the whole over its constituent parts. Eternal Dragonz, a cross-disciplinary force anchored in the Asian diaspora, has managed to avoid both pitfalls, bringing together a widely varied roster for releases, radio shows and club nights without ever becoming an overbearing force on its own.

Osaka’s Le Makeup (Keisuke Iiri) had released on several labels, namely Ashida Park, JEROME and his own PURE VOYAGE outlet, prior to 2018’s Matra EP, but the release provided a larger platform and contextualized the singer, guitarist and producer’s work within a similar framework of pop-minded artists. Having previously dabbled in extended ambient pieces, hip hop production and throwback funk and synth pop, dancehall patterns are brought to the fore on Matra, bringing a perpetual bounce that sits surprisingly comfortably with its yearning vocals and washed out guitar arrangements. Avoiding the icy nihilism of so much club adjacent pop, tracks like “Matra” and “White Curtain” are unrepentantly earnest, putting Iiri front-and-center as narrative lead.

Released in January of this year, Iiri’s End Roll takes on an even more romantic tone, largely dropping the pretense of dance music structure and textural guitar work for an intensely melodic, upbeat sound, based around huge rif-y choruses and underscored by trap drums and a comforting bed of sub bass. It’s a long way from 2016’s production-led Esthe EP and the emotional development from release to release is tangible with Matra and End Roll shedding the uncanny sheen of the early work while embracing uninhibited song writing.

Le Makeup’s style of mixing also takes on an earnest, uninhibited bent, full of haphazard transitions (both technical and stylistic) and an all at once attitude that tends to overwhelm. Breaks, avant pop and hi tek hip hop sit comfortable in his Astral Plane Mix, which juts from mood to mood and avoids any sense of tangible momentum. Structured more like a mixtape than anything, Iiri tapes 80s Japanese classics, video game music and breaks at key moments, loosely working together a patchwork of reference points that are as spasmodic as his original work is clean and focused. Download Astral Plane Mix 189 here and hit the jump for a track list.

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nahshi

Hardcore tropes have become prevalent in niche dance music circles in recent years, both as overt sonic references and more subtle aesthetic predilections. DJs, both in the trad techno sphere and more collage-focused online space, are more willing to play speed-y, intense tacks and a general willingness to embrace the frenetic pace of everything from jungle to hardstyle seems to be taking over. Milan’s Nahshi is one particular voice filtering a particular node of hardcore, Italy’s Lento Violento, into his work, matching contemporary reference points with slowstyle structures. Pioneered by Gigi D’Agostino, Lento Violento reached its heyday in the late 2000s and isn’t exactly an active scene anymore, but artists like Nahshi, DJ Caesar and Vipra have begun reinvigorating the sound and creating bridges with other full-frontal sounds in the 100 BPM range.

Prior to fully embracing Lento Violento in his own production work, Nahshi experimented across a number of rhythmic structures, infusing baile funk, dembow and kizomba with hyper-polished synth work. Recent tracks for Ashida Park and Country Music respectively, as well as a series of self-released edits and originals, have seen the Italian artist wholeheartedly embrace slowstyle as his main focus, showing off a keen ability to twist the processional march of the sound into bizarre new forms. “LL/VV” and “Decelera” in particular infuse a piston-driven potency to the form, moving from D’Agostino’s carnivalesque predilections towards something far more bleak and destructive.

Heavily featuring his own solo productions, Nahshi’s entry for Astral Plane Mix 187 is a concise run through recent Lento Violento sounds with several throwbacks included for good measure. Contemporaries DJ Caeser and DJ Miranthony contribute key tracks to the selection, which proceeds at a remarkably consistent pace, a constant battering of dragged out kicks and high tension stabs. With so many artists aiming for hybrid sounds, the focused quality of Nahshi’s recent work comes as a breath of fresh air. Hit the jump for a full track list and download AP Mix 187 here.

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We’re a bit behind on blog/radio/social updates having just returned from our run of dates in the UK so this is a bit of a two-for-one. Above we have the self-directed music video for Alis’ “Papercuts” from the EP (out now) of the same name. The visual epitomizes the subtle in motion qualities of Papercuts and features a number of Alis’ supremely talented friends showing off their skills. Second is our most recent monthly NTS show, which also features Alis on the guest mix. We put together our first Buy Music Club list for this one and a full track list can be found after the jump.

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Alis has spent over a decade exploring the intricacies of performance-oriented club music, releasing on labels like Don’t Be Afraid and Planet Mu, and becoming a staple in the Berlin and London scenes. Out now, Papercuts is her Astral Plane Recordings debut, comprised of five lush, intimate tracks that are both entirely removed from a dancefloor-context, yet deeply preoccupied with groove and movement.

Honed at her Sunday System nights at London’s Rye Wax, Alis’ interdisciplinary practice comes to the fore on Papercuts with vocals extending far beyond their linguistical potential into a broader, more textural realm. Songs like “Status” and “BCC: me” walk the line of sonority and dissonance, nearing the precipice of abstraction without falling into the abyss. “Papercuts” and “Water” on the other hand offer a more concise narrative vision, proffering a version of hookwriting that fluctuates between meditative and commanding.

Recorded across several continents, it’s no surprise that Papercuts tends to enliven interstitial spaces and Alis’ unique disposition makes the cerebral accessible. Papercuts is out now on APR and will be available as digital EP and full color cover 12”.

Alis – Papercuts
APR115 | Out Now
Digital | 12″
Bandcamp
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Boomkat
iTunes
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In the unconventional and eccentric ends of the electronic music world, artistic voice can often be drowned out in a drive towards peak aesthetics and production-oriented acceleration. This has lead to a number of important sonic divergences, but oftentimes songwriting is put on the back burner at the loss of the listener, DJ and dancer. Portuguese artist Odete has only recently entered the conversation, but has already emerged as one of the most distinct and confrontational voices around, drawing on ballroom linguistics, personal narrative and a novel approach to rhythm. Utilizing various regional club musics in her compositions and mix work, Odete’s approach feels genuinely theatrical, comprised of individual dramatic movements based on the trans femme experience. Even while listening from afar, the urge towards stage performance is clear in her work, which will be displayed in live sets later this year following the release of her debut album.

It was December’s Matrafona EP (out now on naivety) that initially drew us to Odete though, full of short, kinetic ideas, and the sort of jarring voice/spoken experiments that only work when coming from an assured voice. Classical and avant garde ideas meet pop samples through the work, which harkens back to a more protean era of collage. The EP followed Not Worried With The Production of Evidence, a more scattered, but similarly striking self-release out earlier in 2018. Mixes for Discwoman, Jerome and Rinse FM, as well as a number of deeply personal and instinctive self-release mixes, have followed, with technical nous slowly catching up to the expansive, often abrasive freeform tracks on Not Worried With The Production of Evidence. Throughout the two EPs and mix work, Odete has shown a unique surrealistic ability to examine internal pain and externalize it in all of its brutality. The grotesque is certainly not shied away from on tracks like “There’s Pain Under My Wig” and the “Folklore Collage”, but a concrete dancefloor streak remains throughout.

Odete’s Astral Plane Mix comes as natural extension of Matrafona, drawing on a range of polyrhythmic and hardcore dance forms in its structure, while finding time for intimate moments, drawing from more acoustic traditions. The mix also functions as personal exegesis, opening with spoken word examining the trans body under capitalism and patriarchy before launching into a series of vocals from Bjork, Frank Ocean and more. Throughout, Odete refuses to shy away from a through line of emotional rawness, brought out in both moments of tenderness and intensity. Download the mix here and hit the jump for Odete tour dates in March and April.

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céci

We celebrated the release of CÉCI’s Vortex EP last week with a very special, contextualizing guest session on our monthly NTS slot last week. Slow jams, fine textures and a range of circuitous melodic structures abound in her 30 minute mix which runs from the hour mark. AP DJ Team handled the first hour and last thirty minutes and slotted in plenty of slow-fast and fast-slow tunes including new Slikback, blastah, Lee Gamble, Simo Cell, HNRO and more. The last thirty also includes forthcoming Chants, that stunning LOFT Charli edit and a few new ones from DJ Plead’s upcoming Nervous Horizon tape. Download it here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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so-drove

Artists making and playing out regional Club music constantly come up against a dance music hegemony that only rarely accepts it into the halls of booking agencies, festivals and legacy labels. Language of openness, experimentation and freedom is unavoidable in this sphere, but stray outside of the tasteful confines and you’re likely to be shunned and looked down upon. This has led to bizarre phenomenons like the EDM world’s fleeting embrace of Jersey Club or Footwork artists often getting more play at beat scene functions than actual clubs. Crews like Juke Bounce Werk, Principe and Nyege Nyege have worked tirelessly to create their own autonomous platforms, but most artists don’t have access to those resources. This is the context in which a techno artist playing jungle or a former indie darling playing kuduro is viewed as a radical act, while those cultures themselves, mostly occupied by working class participants, are almost exclusively ignored.

Los Angeles’ So Drove, formerly known as Schwarz (born Adam Schwarz), has spent their life pushing up against and outright rejecting the dance music world’s notion of taste. While living in Baltimore, the producer, vocalist and DJ championed the city’s more eccentric Club proclivities, working with artists like Abdu Ali, Blaqstarr and TT the Artist, while releasing a near-constant stream of genre fudging bootlegs, blends and covers. 2017’s Everyday Is A Winding Road, released through their own Nina Pop label, is a great place to dive into the Schwarz discography, but it’s hard to go wrong with a deep dive into the Soundcloud annals. A whirlwind of sounds including pop punk, industrial, bounce, ballroom, snap rap and more can be found in Schwarz’s work, all imbued with an emotional clarity and a deep felt devotion to the source material.

Since relocating to Los Angeles and starting the So Drove project, songwriting, rap production and a new series of collaborations have become Schwarz’s main focus. Effortlessly buoyant productions for the likes of Cupcakke, Kreayshawn and Nezzy have brought them to a wider audience, but the project also hit a recent high point with Solano Canyon OST , their longest and most personally expressive work to date. Named after the serpentine East LA neighborhood they lived in for a year, the album features as many big hooks, provided by Schwarz, Nezzy and Saturn Rising, as well as a standout performance from Memphis legend La Chat, as it does insular moments. Extrapolating on themes introduced on early Schwarz bootlegs, the album is 100% honest and 100% emotionally vulnerable, charting a personal, everyday path over a series of joyfully idiosyncratic productions.

So Drove’s Astral Plane Mix charts a similarly distinctive path, taking a more high strung path than Solano Canyon OST‘s low slung arrangements and maintaining a high wire act of cross-genre transitions and brash curatorial choices. Longtime fans of their mix work won’t be surprised by the fusion, but new listeners may be a bit startled by transitions from new era Club artists like DJ Diamond Kuts and Calvo to Butthole Surfers, the Grateful Dead and Sleigh Bells. Bootlegs of Lil Uzi Vert, Princess Nokia and Rico Nasty tie the affair together, while a Korn vs. Dem Franchise Boyz blend provides a high energy mark midway through the session. Throughout, Schwarz exploits, twists and builds out from familiar pop formats, making quick cuts into and out of raw dancefloor tracks while maintaining a focus on the odd ball vocalists strewn throughout the selection. Eclecticism is an overwrought trope in dance music and is more often manufactured than evolved naturally, but So Drove is a genuine one-of-a-kind and boldly stands out against gatekeeper-led monotony. Download Astral Plane Mix 185 here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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The conversation around safe club spaces, particularly for womxn, non-binary and queer people, has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past few years, but many large cities, not to mention smaller hubs, still don’t consistently offer comfortable, accessible venues and nights for those communities. The consolidation of venues under corporate umbrellas, gentrification and unhelpful local municipalities has led to a severe lack of smaller, community-oriented spaces and raised tensions between venue owners and promoters. Whereas similar issues have led to widespread anhedonia in adjacent cultural spheres though, a range of nights, spaces and artists have worked tirelessly to build club culture in their image.

London’s New Scenery has been a key player in that fight since launching in 2018, pairing international talent (think coucou chloe, MikeQ, Toxe, Ziúr) with an array of UK offerings while drawing on the experimental fringe without losing sight of what moves the floor. DJ, producer and video artist Jasper Jarvis is one of New Scenery’s organizers and residents and the first artist to debut on the platform’s label arm. Released last week, Finty is an amalgam of hardcore motifs, soundtrack-ready arrangements and re-contextualized pop moments, functioning as a stark debut for an artist finding their production legs. Tracks like “~” and “Trauma” in particular build out a madcap energy, showing that Jarvis is more than willing to push the intensity to uncomfortable levels and test dancers’ resolve.

Jarvis’ mix work, previously heard in New Scenery’s native series and the excellent SISTER series, is similarly wide ranging and holistic, matching their own edits with hits from the club sphere, tracks from contemporaries and soundtrack excerpts. The result is hectic and functions on a mood level more than a rhythmic one, grafting affective bonds through a maze of drum patterns. Their Astral Plane Mix covers a lot of ground, even by the standards established by the type of artists New Scenery books, touching on Jersey Club classics from DJ Sliink and DJ Tiga, Hans Zimmer, Slipknot and a slick Merzbow edit from Emma Lee. Excerpts from Finty put a personal touch on the processions, providing emotional high points to the up and down selections. Hit the jump for a full track list and grab a download of Astral Plane Mix 184 here.

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céci

With CÉCI‘s Vortex EP out this Friday, we figured it’s a good opportunity to drop the second single and release opener from the project. “Force” epitomizes the prickly energy that the Danish artist brings throughout Vortex and will be followed by an equally special music video. If you haven’t caught the Emilie Alstrup-directed video for “Heartbeat”, then head here to have your senses torn apart and reconstructed.

CÉCI – Vortex
APR118 | Out February 15
Listen to “Force”
Pre-order EP

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