The trend towards dark, noisy and industrial club sounds over the past few years has been well documented to the point that an ostensible split between “constructed” and “deconstructed” has supposedly arisen. This narrative ignores larger aesthetic cycles — hardcore manifesting as jungle for example — in the history of dance music, but does hold some credence in the current moment. A question that always comes to our mind though is which artists and DJs will be viewed as the true devotees and ambassadors of this relatively new turn towards abstraction and experimentation? The forebears are easy to point out — Eugene Carolus’ excellent article on the legacy of Total Freedom outlines the globetrotting hellraiser’s influence while the now defunct Vex’d duo (Kuedo and Roly Porter) have their fingerprints all over innumerable contemporary acts and Elysia Crampton’s work is less imitated than it is revered — but the task of mapping out a younger generation is a far more difficult task.
Dis Fig is a Berlin resident and co-founder of the Call Dibs show on Berlin Community Radio. She’s also a member of the PTP crew and laid down a stand out set at their Boiler Room event in June 2016. Cuing into a sound that is at once cerebral and emotionally sincere, the American DJ has touched a nerve in the past year or so, displaying a weathered aesthetic that draws together sounds from across temporal and sonic boundaries into holy union. Blends of SHALT and the Supremes, Emptyset and Danny Brown, and Air Max ’97 and Oklou have provided momentous touchstones while every new Call Dibs, the BCR show she hosts with hunnidJAWS, features an exciting slew of hard-edged new material and guests like Chino Amobi, Soda Plains and Madam X.
Floating on the periphery of dancefloor relevance, Dis Fig mixes are dense, textural affairs, full of voices calling out of the abyss and instilled with a deep sense of pathos. A conjoined intensity is drawn from amorphous club experiments as much as soundsystem tools, as well as the occasional sultry R&B and testosterone-driven rap — an intensity that is unwavering in its connection to the core idea at play in each respective composition. As noted above a lot has been made of the darker turn in club music, but that’s a simplified take and it’s hard to think of many DJs who consistently bring together the inconsistencies in darkness and light, comfort and anxiety and abstraction and uniformity. Her Astral Plane mix is no different, beginning with reverberating entries from v1984, Club Cacao and City before exploding with violent energy and hitting a stride with outsized tracks from DJ Sinclair, Celyn June and Goth-Trad. It’s a gut punching selection and a mix that feels very much of our time, full of the sort of contradictions and delirium that have come to define public life. Dis Fig is playing Norient Musikfilm Festival in Bern, Lausanne and St. Gallen, Switzerland this weekend.
“S/O Ali Berger for mastering and being a good pupper.”
Arriving at the tail end of 2016, 2Lanes‘ Diamonds in the Rough EP, released via Escape From Nature, is a perplexing release, a marriage of natural tones and sharp angles intended to represent and reflect the environment of his hometown of Detroit. Devils Dub II — the second live set in a series that will culminate with a performance at Bossa Nova Civic Club in New York this Wednesday — is the latest project from 2Lanes and his most definitive statement to date, 65 minutes of meditative techno inspired by drum machine/space echo videos on Youtube and intense sensory experiences. It’s an incredibly deep, physical set that trends far more towards a head nod crowd than the rave, but there’s a heft to the project reminiscent of the digi dub experiments of the late 80s and 90s. Like “Jet Slit” off of Diamonds in the Rough, the set maintains an uneasy quality throughout, embodied in the fluttering bird calls that are more Hitchcock than “Pacific State” and the gut wrenching sub bas that intermittently rises from the deep. RSVP for the Boss Nova gig, which will also feature sets from AceMo and Olga, here.
After compiling our favorite club tracks of the year in list form for FACT Magazine, it felt only right to translate the material into its proper context by playing as many of those gems as we could on radio. Our second session for NTS LA slotted in just before the holiday season so we took the opportunity and played out a mixture of favorites from that list, tracks that barely missed the cut and a collection of Astral Plane Recordings specials from the last six months or so. It’s an intense two hours with some genuinely questionable transition decisions, but the pay off is real in a sprint/exhaustion sense. The track list definitely backs that up and traverses from the relative calm of ADR’s “Every Node” on through the melancholic bliss of Soda Plains’ “Rodeo” with favorites from Florentino, Jikuroux, Sylvere and Lanark Artefax that unfortunately didn’t make the final FACT list. Hit the jump for a full track list and download here.
We’ve always been a huge fan of the informal tangle of edits, blends and bootlegs that fly around both public and private channels. The constant deluge of Rihanna takes might annoy some, but there’s nothing better than hearing “Sex With Me” flexed in and out in every way possible. One of our favorite developments of the past 12 months was seeing our own releases informally bootlegged and blended in some genuinely odd directions. We heard Mechatok and Cupcakke, Nunu and Illapu, and SHALT and The Supremes — takes that would have been inconceivable until they came to fruition. To celebrate the new year and all of the wonderful support we’ve received, we gathered a few of our favorites from family friends for a free giveaway project titled NEW YR NEW US. We’ll be back on the official release train soon enough, but in the meantime we grabbed Why Be, Nunu, SHALT, Kablam and LOFT for this short entry. You’ve likely caught a few of these in our radio sets, as well as sets from the artists involved and they have just as much raw energy removed from that context. Hit the download link below and share around if you’re so inclined.
APR pres. NEW YR NEW US
1.) SKY H1 x NUNU – I THINK LOUD (WHY BE BLEND)
2.) NUNU – CORE x COG
3.) JAM CITY x M.E.S.H. – CITY HUMMINGBIRD (SHALT EDIT)
4.) BEY x NUNU – WE RUN THIS MAMAMAMAMA (KABLAM MESSUP)
5.) LOFT – A SALAAM MALE GENIE
Yesterday, we ran through a year of mixes, videos and one-off audio artifacts from our stable of artists and today we’ve got a summation of all that we’ve released through official channels over the past 12 months. Starting with SHALT’s Acheron and ending with the British producer’s Inertia, these are the releases we poured our heart and soul into and that have garnered some nice placements on year end lists over the past week and a half or so. Yesterday, Resident Advisor named LOFT’s “Heffalump” into the top ten of their annual best tracks feature and the previous week the online magazine featured APR among their top 20 labels of the year. Mixmag was also kind enough to slot us in among their top ten favorite labels of 2016, referring to our well executed “plan of attack.”
That comment felt especially on point considering the timing of the label and the feeling we had going into the year. In short, we’ve wanted to start a record label for around five years now, but never felt that we had a coherent enough vision. The timing never quite felt right until we had Acheron in hand really and fortunately everything just sort of unfolded from there. We’ve always had a bit of antipathy towards labels that function as pit stops for artists so the opportunity to build relationships with SHALT, Chants, Nunu, Exit Sense and LOFT was an absolute joy this year. We’ll be back with three projects in the first few months of the year, one bootleg package, one official remix project and one follow-up to one of 2016’s artist debuts. As always, keep an eye on this space, as well our label website and our Bandcamp. Hit the jump for details, buy/streaming links and press bits for all seven of our 2016 releases.
It was around this time last year that we were putting into motion SHALT’s Acheron EP, the debut release on Astral Plane Recordings and a stunning record that set the tone for the rest of the year. Physical music that doesn’t fit into existing structures has become our calling card and we’re extremely proud of each of the six releases we’ve worked on this year. It’s been a pleasure to work with SHALT, Chants, Nunu, Exit Sense and LOFT and each respective project corresponds to emotions felt throughout what was an intense year for many. It’s become second nature to follow the happenings, minor and major, of the music world, but we fully understand that the process is time consuming and arcane to many so we decided to gather up details on all of our activity this year and collate them in one place.
The following mixes, videos and other audio-visual detritus from the past 12 months follows something of a linear timeline. They paint an overview of what we and our artists have been up to and it turns out we were busy for pretty much the entire year. It’s not easy to run a small, independent label, but it’s made far easier when the people around you are constantly hustling their asses off both in public and behind the scenes. Nunu has been particularly busy this year – both in an active and removed sense – with his Mind Body Dialogue twisted up by the likes of Why Be, Elysia Crampton, Kablam and more. Meanwhile, LOFT came through with a self-directed, reality-distorting for “Zissou”, a highlight from the British artist’s Turbulent Dynamics EP. SHALT remained busy on the remix/edit front as well with takes on Rizzla and Kid Smpl that have become favorites on our various mix and radio appearances.
APR artists also stayed busy on the mix front, although you’ll have noticed that none take part in any traditional scene per se and none of them are what could be called a straightforward DJ. SHALT started off the year with a huge entry for Solid Steel and was serendipitously matched up with Autechre. Chants turned in a release-themed mix for NTS in April while our resident DJ team put forth their first studio mix for the Symbols label. Throughout the year, Nunu turned in angelic volumes for Endgame’s Precious Metals show, Disc Magazine, Jerome and our own series while LOFT stayed quiet with the exception of a manic, no fucks given session for our debut NTS Radio LA show (all Astral Plane radio can be found here). We’ll be following up tomorrow with round-ups of our official releases and we hope this little review proves helpful in sussing out what exactly we’ve been up to this year. Thanks for tuning in.
Photo by Michael Cox
Part of MikeQ’s scene leading Qween Beat collective, New York’s Quest?onmarc has emerged over the past year as one of the ballroom world’s most enigmatic voices, emerging occasionally for haunted club transmissions and high energy, classic-meets-contemporary DJ sets. Punchy kick patterns and snappy snare arrangements meet cerebral synth work on efforts like “Starshower Ha” and “Penance”, tracks that balance off-kilter menace with linear club functionality to great effect. It’s a sound foregrounded in runway functionality, involving the full range of ballroom samples, but with an ear to sounds outside of the direct ballroom lineage, whether they be Jersey and Bmore Club or the feedback loop sounds of European crews like Gang Fatale, Night Slugs or Nervous Horizon. That approach is most apparent in Quest?onmarc mixes and DJ sets, a rampant inclusivity that effortlessly matches the greats ballroom producers of our time with a huge collection of up-and-coming artists from the tri-state area and beyond. Unreleased Byrell The Great tunes bump up against new material from DJ Haram, Lao, Schwarz and Toxe in an intoxticating deluge of rhythm, collage-style production techniques and unrelenting forward momentum.
Astral Plane Mix 134 — our final entry of the year — is no different, an insatiably fun 75 minute blast with the potential to move the most jaded listeners. Unreleased material from Rizzla, Byrell The Great, Ash B., JX Cannon and MikeQ & DJ Fade collides with anthemic efforts from Helix, TD_Nasty, Kush Jones, Angel X and DJ J Heat, the result a brilliant confluence of ballroom, club and footwork’s most vital ideas. Raw, punchy drums form the backbone of Quest?onmarc’s work, but the mix is polished and tracks are blended together in a seamless manner more likely to be found in a techno set. Of course, there’s still plenty of bombast, but Quest?onmarc’s approach to DJing tends to put the whole of the session above individual tracks. Without an official release out yet, Quest?onmarc is still a relatively unknown entity and 2017 is going to be an intriguing year for this multifaceted artist. Hit the jump for the full track list and be sure to check out fellow Qween Beat member Byrell The Great’s Astral Plane Mix from August.
Photo by Laurance Von Thomas
It’s easy to forget that Endgame’s self-titled breakout EP was released halfway through 2015 — just under 19 months ago. It’s easy to forget because the London-based artist is on a hot streak that few can match and is a veritable star in late 2016. Endgame arrived in May ’15 with both immediacy and a fully formed vision, full of tightly coiled dembow structures and vocal assists from friends and collaborators Blaze Kidd and Uli K. It was around that time that a loose network of artists began to come into focus, based around parties and labels like Principé Discos, Swing Ting, Staycore and Endgame’s own Bala Club, and pushing a distinct combination of South and Central American and Afro-Caribbean sounds. It’s a network that can be understood more for its influence than for any concrete geography or genre connections, influence felt in the saturation of everything from dancehall and reggaeton to baile funk and candombe.
At its roots, Endgame’s sonic approach is firmly rooted in hybridity and his slick tracks rarely fit into the constraints of the Caribbean rhythmic patterns he draws from or the London reference points found on tracks like “Tears on Road” and “Sittin’ Here Redux”. That hybridity is born out in emotional content, a balance between aggression and delicacy that mines states of confusion and contradiction as much as it does love and warmth. Fans of the Precious Metals show on NTS, helmed by Endgame in tandem with a new, on-the-cusp guest every show, will recognize that hybridity, fully realized in a roughneck blend of reggaeton, road rap and the latest industrial-tinged sounds from a global cadre of producers and vocalists. Guests like Washington D.C.’s Rules, Berlin’s Nightcoregirl and New York’s Geng form another network comprised of artists pushing the very limits of club music functionality and one that can increasingly be found at club nights the world over.
Releases for PTP and Hyperdub, as well as several key contributions to the inaugural Bala Club compilation, formed the backbone of Endgame’s 2016, cementing an unmistakable sound and catapulting out of the relative anonymity of the underground club world. Long touted by insiders as one of the best DJs London has to offer, 2016 was also the year that that reputation became international, largely due to a standout contribution for FACT and the continued excellence of Precious Metals. Many try, but few attain the level of elasticity and flexibility embodied in an Endgame mix, not so much journeys through his mutating aesthetic as fuil on inundations. Astral Plane Mix 133 is no different, over an hour of balls-to-the-wall energy, a sprint through unheard original material and work from likeminded producers including Astral Plane Recordings artists Exit Sense and Nunu. Savage and Flesh will go down as two of 2016’s most important releases, establishing Endgame as one of the most admired and imitated producers anywhere and offering as clear of a distillation of club performativity as you’re likely to find. Stream Endgame’s Astral Plane mix below, download here and hit the jump for a full track list.
In recent years, Paris has become home to some of the best parties in the general club music sphere, becoming an outpost for artists big and small to play out. The result is an ever-growing circle of producers and labels developing their own sound in the French capital, a sound that might be 100% unique to France yet, but that is certainly on its way to idiosyncrasy. Tommy Kid’s [Re]Sources label is a prime example of those developments, an operation that grew out of the party series of the same name and has featured artists like Chaams, Nunu, Dehousy and She’s Drunk on its compilations and solo releases. Lil Crack is the latest artist to join the [Re]Sources ranks, coming through the dancefloor-focused Inner Flight EP, four sleek, cutting original efforts joined by remixes from Endgame, Spooky and Pixelord (catch the first two at [Re]Sources tonight in Paris). “Tactical Violence” is the most stripped back, minimal of the release, three and a half minutes of ratcheting percussion and trap shouts that seem to reach into the deepest recesses of the body. Most dance music is programmed to elicit a certain emotional/corporeal response from the listener and Lil Crack’s arrangements on “Tactical Violence” are a perfect example, matching raw energy with a call to arms felt in both sonics and naming language. Pre-order Inner Flight here, out December 9 on [Re]Sources.
Since emerging as a solo artist at the tail end of the 2000s, Sabina Plamenova has released a wealth of material, albeit under two separate aliases. The Italian-born, Berlin-based producer has releases on Planet Mu, Don’t Be Afraid and Astro:Dynamics, a curious collection of labels, but ones befitting of each of Plamenova’s respective efforts. Since laying to rest the Subeena project, Plamenova has directed her attention almost exclusively to Alis, most recently releasing the Corporeal LP through Athens, Georgia-based Plus100. Bleary eyed ambient, stunted vocal experiments and earthy synth pop are the sounds du jour on Corporeal, which is both Plamenova’s most emotionally coherent record to date and the clearest synthesis of the different aesthetics she’s worked with in the past. That means more of Plamenova’s own voice on Alis tracks, more audio-visual projects and more mixes featuring bizarre collissions of genres and georgraphies.
The Alis project debuted on Plamenova’s own Opit label in 2012 and has touched on Detroit-flavored techno, drone and what could be described as a contemporary update on post-punk in the years since, ideas she’s stuck with and added to in the years since. More recently, a keen taste for the abstract, noisey end of contemporary club music has become Plamenova’s go to mix fodder, pairing Kamixlo, Arca and Angel-Ho with her own hyper-emotional originals and floor filling classics by the likes of Manix, DJ Sneak and Aphex Twin. Hardly a gimmick, the screams and clangs of the former artists tend to mesh flawlessly with Alis’ own productions and form a tenuous, but functional balance with the latter, more linear tracks. And despite the clatter of influences, peers and eras involved, Alis’s original material, tracks like “We are back” and “Excuse Me” (as Subeena), tend to shine through the mix. Plamenova has described the Alis project as her most personal yet and it’s hard to disagree when listening the gorgeous expanses of Corporeal and Things Next Door. Narrowing down on one particular sound has clearly never been of interest to Plamenova and the direction she might take the Alis project next is an exciting premise.