byrell-the-great

Photo by Nick Blu

Last Friday, Qween Beat’s inaugural Qweendom compilation hit the streets; 11 tracks from a who’s who of contemporary ballroom greats. The release runs the gamut of ballroom style, a mixture of hard-as-nails production, fierce vocals and a reverent sense of history that manifests itself in both subtle and literal ways. In that sense, no artist epitomizes Qweendom more than Byrell the Great and on “Bubble Drop”, a collaboration with Kassandra Ebony, WARREN B. and Princess Precious, and “Legendary Children”, the New York-based DJ effortlessly matches a distinctly modern production approach with classic sounds. Which is pretty much what Byrell has been doing since emerging as a producer a few years back, working extensively with the likes of MikeQ, Cakes Da Killa and Venus X to establish a position as one of ballroom’s rising production stars and most sought after DJs.

Specifically, Byrell is one of the top DJs in the kiki scene, a counterpart to the main ballroom scene that is younger and more oriented to fun, free flowing balls. Without making too many assumptions, Byrell’s production work often mirrors those characteristics and features samples from predictable sources like Masters at Work, Tronco Traxx and Beyonce, but also brings in Chedda da Connect, Nicki Minaj and Kanye West for a decidedly more modern sound. Byrell’s Astral Plane mix is, in his words, a “spell casting” of recent favorites, a Qweendom-heavy tour through modern ballroom with room for a collaboration with UNIIQU3 and inclusion of tracks by up-and-comers Capital K’aos, Quest?onmarc and TRICK$. We had a brief chat with Byrell over email and talked about the next step for Qween Beat, testing out Qweendom and his position, both internal and external, as one of the most in-demand ballroom/kiki DJs around. Hit the jump for our talk with Byrell and check below that for a track list we’re sure you’ll be repeatedly checking back on as you run through these 35 hi energy minutes.

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resla

On Monday night, we took to the airwaves for our monthly slot on Radar Radio (fourth Monday of every month) and brought along a guest mix from Resla, one of our favorite new producers who has gotten a lot of play in previous Radar sessions and featured in our monthly column for FACT Magazine. The Chilean producer’s guest session plays out in the second hour and features almost 50 songs including new material from Astral Plane faves mobilegirl, Soda Plains, Spaceseeds, Santa Muerte and Dinamarca. It’s sent us scrambling since he first sent it over and if you can follow the rapid switch ups you might just get an early taste of a heap of forthcoming material. The Astral Plane DJ Team handles the first hour, which features some unreleased label material, forthcoming tracks from Imaabs, Kid Antoine & CYPHR and Letta, plus a quick run through of our favorite non-dance tracks of late. Hit the jump for a track list and enjoy. We’ll be back on September 26.

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nargiz

On September 2nd, we’re hosting a night with Dummy at the Ace Rooftop in downtown Los Angeles and couldn’t be more excited to add The Dance Pit and Nargiz to the lineup. In anticipation of the night, we’ve asked both artists to record a mix for us, providing joint entries for Astral Plane Mix 120. Find more info on Dummy Presents: The Astral Plane here and RSVP here.

Started in 2013, Nargiz’s every-once-in-a-while Heat Ritual parties have boasted some of the city’s most on-the-cusp lineups in recent years, drawing together artists from the NAAFI, Fade 2 Mind, KUNQ and Mixpak universes since well before media outlets like Resident Advisor and Mixmag codified them in any sort of “scene”. Previous to Heat Ritual, Nargiz was a resident at Tokyo’s Laguna Bass nights cutting her teeth in a city with a dearth of options for left field club fans. Having spent time in a number of cities including New York, Philadelphia and Tokyo, Nargiz is something of a club music nomad and her music is no less complex than her geography.

Originally from Azerbaijan, Nargiz was introduced to many via “O’youn Oyun”, a highlight from Tobago Tracks’ 8ULENTINA-curated DISMISS U compilation that was released in April and features likeminded artists like DJ Haram and foozool. “O’youn Oyun” features a drum loop from the meyxanas performance genre, a blend of repetitive drum loops and freestyle rhyming and chanting. It also features a sample from Clipse’s “Grindin” and like much of the material on DISMISS U the two elements neither clash nor mesh, instead providing an in-your-face sonic dialogue between Western pop signifiers and Azeri rhythms and vocals.

Inspired by “spending too much time in random cars on Periscope driving around Azerbaijan,”, Nargiz’s Astral Plane mix is short journey through trans-oceanic club spaces and central Asian musics, fitting 16 songs into 18 frantic minutes. Nargiz’s own edits of Young Thug are positioned against recent work by Rizzla, Florentino and Leonce, while the instrumental to Mims’ “This Is Why I’m Hot”, also a collage of sorts, fits uneasily between two atmosphere-heavy tracks by “unknown” artists. It’s a brief, but strong introduction to an artist with only a few solo productions to their name at this point and if vision and experience are anything to go by it’s easy to see Nargiz emerging as one of the most exciting new producers of 2016.

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the dance pit

“Club Etiquette Vol. 1 grew out of both micro and macro frustrations in the club” – Intro to Club Etiquette Vol. 1

On September 2nd, we’re hosting a night with Dummy at the Ace Rooftop in downtown Los Angeles and couldn’t be more excited to add The Dance Pit and Nargiz to the lineup. In anticipation of the night, we’ve asked both artists to record a mix for us, providing joint entries for Astral Plane Mix 120. Find more info on Dummy Presents: The Astral Plane here and RSVP here.

In dance music lore, the club is treated as hallowed space; an elevated plane that exists far from the biases, contradictions and power structures that pervade day-to-day life. Anyone who has attended a club/venue/bar/warehouse recently knows that the reality is much more complicated. Everyone has had a drink spilled on them or had a taller individual block their view and a nasty lack of respect between security, bar staff and club-goers often circulates. More importantly, predatory behavior is often allowed to run rampant, unchecked by both security and male patrons, making the club a fundamentally unsafe space for female, LBTQ and non-binary folk. These issues are systemic and won’t be fixed over night, but Anuradha Golder aka The Dance Pit is putting in overtime to address and discuss a battery of subjects ranging from personal space on the dance floor, safe (and fun) drug use, and a simple set of rules and expectations for both throwing and playing shows. At six editions, the beautifully drawn Club Etiquette zine is a necessary, and thoroughly enjoyable, read, providing an erudite critique of the myriad issues facing modern club land.

As if offering up others a guide for to engage with club spaces, throw shows and interact with other DJs wasn’t enough, Golder throws Club Etiquette parties and DJs as The Dance Pit, building a literal space to try and exemplify the ideals espoused in the zine and to promote likeminded producers and DJs. Astral Plane favorites The Large, MM, Abby, Lechuga Zafiro, Nargiz and more have all touched down at Club Etiquette parties since the first edition in August 2015 and a free/$5 donation to leave policy is integral to maintaining an open and inclusive spirit. As a DJ, Golder plays a range of bounce-y, floor ready material, drawing heavily from dancehall, reggaeton, soca and other Caribbean forms, all blended together in a loose style that tends to accentuate huge hooks and joyous blends.

Whether it’s because of scene politics or deep-seated misogyny, racism and transphobia, the dance music community often lacks the reflexive self-critical attitude necessary to approach patriarchy and endemic racial bias, but Golder has started and will continue to push a conversation that aims to make the club a safe, open, enjoyable space for all.

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rchants-press-shot

With a catalogue that spans four years and 70+ releases, Seattle’s Hush Hush Recordings has become a staple in the electronic underground, releasing everything from grime bootlegs to formative night bus releases and a host of dreamy pop manipulations. Admittedly, much of what the label has released over the past few years has been outside of our scope, but it’s always been a pleasure to delve back into the prolific outfit’s catalogue to see who else has been brought into the fold. One of those acts, Greek duo Ocean Hope, debuted on HH in November 2015 with Chamber Dreams EP, a collection of bucolic, reverb-drenched pop numbers. On August 19, HH will release Chamber Dreams: Remixes Vol. 1, comprised of 10 remixes by label artists and friends. Madison’s Chants, who has released on both HH and Astral Plane Recordings, is among the remixes and his take, recorded just before The Zookeeper sessions, blends the percussive, impact-heavy style he’s been known for with the airy vocals and emotive, tape hiss drenched instrumentation of the Grecians. Stream Kid Smpl, Keep Shelly In Athens and Kimekai’s takes on Ocean Hope here and pre-order Chamber Dreams: Remixes, Vol. 1 here. Another volume of Ocean Hope remixes from HH family and friends will follow in September.

dj-j-heat

Throughout the recent FADER cover story on Gucci Mane, themes of work and work ethic are persistent, providing a constant throughout the Atlanta rapper’s many ups and downs, prison sentences and creative high water marks. Regardless of how much Guwop’s life spiraled out of control in the period before his most recent prison sentence, he was still constantly in the studio churning out track after track. Young Thug credits Gucci for imparting his indefatigable work ethic on him and it’s hard not to imagine that his mixtape-a-month release schedule over the past decade or so has changed rap for the better. Born in Newark, but now residing in Los Angeles, DJ J Heat seems to approach Jersey Club in a similar manner, tirelessly working on his own bootlegs, collaborating with MikeQ, Brenmar, Gianna lee and K-Shiz and continually refining an approach that is simultaneously one of the hardest and most heterogeneous approaches to club music.

J Heat’s work ethic, and immeasurable talent for that matter, hasn’t gone unnoticed and in the coming months he’ll release his debut on London’s venerated Night Slugs roster, a rare US signing for the Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 headed crew that felt like a comfortable fit even before it became official. After all, some of J Heat’s most successful remixes are of Night Slugs hits, from a much rinsed take on Kingdom’s “Stalker Ha” at the end of 2014 to a brilliant refiguring of Bok Bok and Kelela’s “Melba’s Call”. And beyond the relatively standard remixes of major rap and R&B hits, J Heat has remixed M.E.S.H. (twice), Tokyo Hands and Art of Noise, showing a willingness to experiment with contemporary material and left field samples that calls to mind early Bmore and the bizarro footwork of DJ Nate.

Having produced his fair share of ballroom and footwork, as well as work with vocalists, it would be diminishing to refer to J Heat as strictly a Jersey Club artist, but there’s no doubt that it’s what he excels at and puts the most time towards. 2012’s “NJ Transit Rhythm”, one of J Heat’s few original compositions to date, is a case in point, a sparse construction based around a distant train whistle that bangs as hard as anything to come out of Newark in years and maintains an eery presence throughout. With artists like DJ Sliink, DJ Rell and Nadus making waves across the US and internationally, the idea of a Jersey Club producer breaking out is far from unheard of, but despite his incessant work rate, J Heat has taken a more patient path, eschewing questionable labels like Dim Mak and Mad Decent in search of a more idyllic fit. In Night Slugs, he’s seemed to find that and while his debut for the label will likely bring a new fan base and critical acclaim it’s clear that it won’t be the beginning or end for J Heat.

spaceseeds

Originally coming to our attention through the 2014 Extasis Summer Compilation (which also featured Smurphy, Blaze Kidd, Wasted Fates and a host of others), Spaceseeds has remained an intriguing producer over the past few years, popping up here and there to release a pack of bootlegs or an original track. One of an increasing number of artists in the NAAFI orbit (Extasis is Lao’s label), Spaceseeds hails from Tepic and engages in exactly the sort of freewheeling approach that the Mexico City-based label adores, an anti-traditionalist style that takes pop, Caribbean musics and Central and South American rhythms and flips them into a prickly, but outrageously fun jigsaw puzzle of influence and innovation. It’s the sound found throughout each of NAAFI’s Pirata compilations and Spaceseeds placed three of his own efforts on the 2015 edition, mashing up Rabit, Que, DJ Marfox, Banda 52 and more on three gut punch bootlegs that are easily among the mixtape’s best.

Without only one official solo release to his name so far, also on Extasis, Spaceseeds’ catalogue is relatively small at this point, but if his mix work and occasional Soundcloud uploads are any indication the Mexican artist has a wealth of material in the bank. And with tracks like “Ela Parou”, “Lizard”, “Renuncia” and the host of unnamed material in his Astral Plane mix popping up more and more often it’s clear that original work is not just in the works, but very much on the horizon. Those tracks are deliciously broken, filtering baile funk, ballroom and noisy abstraction into singular works of dancefloor efficacy that seem to easily reference everything from Total Freedom-style CDJ manipulation to cerebral trance. In his Astral Plane mix, that approach takes on the characteristics of maximalism as colors, rhythms and textures seem to fly in and out of the mix with reckless abandon, not necessarily all at once, but in such an easy flowing fashion that it’s difficult to track of where one 90s R&B classic ends and the gqom rhythm you’re hearing began. The track list (after the jump) will be a helpful guide, but Spaceseeds is entirely on his own spatial plane when it comes to this mix and his original work in general.

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With an in-house/DIY focused model, Milwaukee’s Close Up of the Serene outfit have jetted out of the gates in 2016 with key releases from Athletic Supply, Liquid City Motors, Pharo and Mercury Drums. Unlike more traditional electronic labels with clear divisions of labor, Close Up is more of a collaborative effort and virtually every release has featured work from each member of the crew, whether it comes in the form of mixing and mastering work, cover photography or, in the case of Athletic Supply, full on instrumentation and live assistance. Considering our past adoration for Liquid City Motors’ output and assistance with our own label operations (he has mastered each of our releases to date) and the quality found in each Close Up release so far, it was an easy choice to bring them on for this month’s Radar Radio show, which aired last night. The first hour of the show, helmed by the Astarl Plane DJ Team, segues from dancehall, reggaeton and rap into noisy manipulations from Rabit, Ceramic TL, M.E.S.H. LXV and more before heading into the Close Up guest mix, recorded by label head Max Holiday, which effortlessly weaves techno, acid and post punk, largely from the label itself, into a doggedly gorgeous hour of direct rhythms, anguished choruses and squelching basslines. All three tracks from Liquid City Motors’ excellent Untitled 2 EP, out now on Close Up, appear in the mix as well, sounding impressively in line with the rest of the label’s output and productions from legends like Joey Beltram, Robert Hood and Plastikman. Hit the jump for a track list for the full show, download the show here and look out for our next Radar show on August 22.

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ziúr 2

Industrial templates have come in and out of favor in club music for decades now, influencing the more hardcore elements of techno, finding a comfortable home with a certain dubstep contingent and providing a well of material for your neighborhood crate digger. More recently, acts like Coil, Nitzer Ebb and Suicide, who’s frontman Alan Vega sadly passed away over the weekend, have seen a resurgence in popularity among a certain internet-dwelling crowd, influenced by labels like Tri Angle, Mute and RVNG and bored by the paint-by-numbers house and techno that has come to dominate Room Ones the world over. With a background in punk and a defiantly unconventional approach to club forms, Berlin’s Ziúr is one of several artists leading the charge into a darker, rougher abyss, pushing an industrial-informed sound that fights back against the music’s (and Germany’s) fascist undertones while tearing down the notion that it’s a form for and by white cis men.

Released on July 1, Ziúr’s official debut came in the form of Taiga, four blazing tracks for Infinite Machine accompanied by remixes from likeminded producers Born In Flamez and Air Max ’97. Full of twisted melodies, distended vocal fragments and a barrage of samples and foley effects, Taiga is an immersive and at times battering release, stretching club sensibilities and challenging dancers to meet its fluctuating attitude head on. Previous remixes for Evool and Peaches showed the Berlin resident’s willingness to fuck up shadowy pop forms as the avalanche of metallic percussion and high-strung atmosphere feels right at home with each vocal. And considering that she often tests out her tracks while sound checking at a venue job, it’s no surprise that her production style feels just at home with Peaches as it does mixed with Kablam, Brood Ma and Kamixlo. As seen on Taiga, Ziúr’s music effuses a punk attitude and while an ever-larger group of producers look to the industrial end of the spectrum it’s easier than ever to pick out the real ones.

Tomorrow night (August 22), Ziúr will be performing alongside Kablam, Air Max ’97, Uli K, NI-KÜ and resident Iydes and Seb at London’s Tropical Waste night at The Waiting Room. Tickets are available here.

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exit-sense

Miami’s Exit Sense has recorded some of the best mixtapes/collages of the past few years and we couldn’t have chosen a more optimal artist to jumpstart our mixfile series. Amor 107.5 sits at a jarring meeting point between major pop moments and classical motifs, gabber kicks, video game samples and hyper-stimulating hardcore moments. It’s available now as a continuous mixfile or as individual tracks for free download. Starting off with Rihanna and finishing with Future, Amor 107.5 is a fitting follow-up to Nunu’s Mind Body Dialogue and the next step in the APR universe.

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