A Year In Review: An Outsider Perspective On Club In 2014

year end thing

Over the past 12 months, this site has matured into a stronger entity as a whole and has coalesced around several key themes. As the increasingly world of instrumental grime has expanded beyond the genre’s original contours and expectations, as kuduro has expanded beyond the lusophone diaspora, and as the monolithic kicks of jersey club have become ubiquitous in club music the world over, our focus has shrunk and, we hope, has begun to not just mirror the various genres and scenes we cover, but influence, instigate and reflect the general sense of propulsion inherent in the avant-garde fringe. In the next year, we’ll be releasing even more original music under the umbrella of our blog/label and will continue to pump out mixes from the artists we hold close and dear.

We’ll be launching several new features and a new locality-specific mix series over the coming month or two as well as several volumes of Heterotopia remixes that we can’t wait to get in your paws. A TON of exciting producers, both long-held favorites and producers relatively new to the spectrum, contributed remixes and the project will be released in three distinct volumes, each with brand new art work, over the first and second quarter of 2015. Expect news regarding the first volume and a first taste of the project in around two weeks.

Interestingly enough, as our role in covering music has expanded, the scope of our pen has shrunk. It would be nearly impossible to define the range of music we cover, but club is a term that seems to come up again and again and seems to epitomize our attitude if not the actual sound(s) found in our pages. Whether a club is the physical manifestation of the dance music locale or a virtual environment fabricated out of sound and CGI comes down to the creator-listener continuum.

Our seventh and final edition of Astral Plane Radio, a collection of recent club compositions has been included below. Hit the jump to continue reading our 2014 club round up…

Scrolling through the 39 guest mixes we featured this past year, punctuated by the odd pairing of Keyboard Kid and JLSXND7RS, several coherent threads begin to appear. The first is grime, both in the classical and more newfangled sense, a genre/sound that we would return to ad nauseam and an attitude that inflected nearly everything we wrote on/about this year. To map out the various sub-genres, influences and sonic similarities, or more importantly, dissimilarities, of the grime world in 2014 would be nearly impossible, but you could probably assign a mix from our series to every key junction if a map did exist.

Jersey and Bmore club, as well as ballroom, comes next, both in its organic, insular incarnation and in the international sense as labels like Fade to Mind, Her Records, Lit City Trax and NAAFI push and mutate the sound into ever unfamiliar territory. The dialogue is ongoing between the largely European appropriators and the locals of Newark and Baltimore, but with strong leaders like Uniique and Nadus pushing the literal scene and more ambiguous concept of club music forward, it’s far easier to ignore the unfortunate reality of the zoologically inclined masses.

Slowly, and sometimes painfully, folded in with the aforementioned club styles is dembow, kuduro, batida, bachato, baile funk, tarrachinha and other styles that seem to rebound across the Atlantic with reckless abandon, hybridizing and reestablishing themselves in ever-reinforced manifestations. It’s this constant dialogue, played out on Soundcloud, VK, Kasimp3, Datafilehost and innumerable forums, that has blurred the lines between the formerly distinct genres we cover. It’s why certain British agents have objected to the grime label, pointing to the reductive nature of a single, umbrella term for a wide, ever-growing array of music.

Coming from Los Angeles (and formerly Seattle), we reside largely outside of the main foci of the club music world. Of course, labels like Body High, Private Selection and Hesperian Sound Division are pushing club-oriented sounds, but the city’s enthusiasm for the aforementioned club styles is paltry compared to New York and lacks the history and organic verve of cities like Chicago and Baltimore. And as far as garage, grime and its various offshoots, it goes without saying that the United States as a whole plays something of an awkward cousin roll.

So it goes without saying approach a good deal of the music we cover as outsiders, constantly inundating ourselves in the culture and lexicon in order to properly cover and give fare due to the individual representatives of each respective sonic foci. Which is where labels like grime, club and kuduro come in, not intended as a function of verbal reduction, but as organizational techniques to order a large and unruly world for our own mediated consumption. Without the ability to attend Boxed, Thread, Principe Discos parties, etc. on a regular basis, we often rely on second hand information and the word of friends to decipher a wholly indecipherable series of cultural touchstones.

Furthermore, we write for an international audience, many of whom are way more far flung than Los Angeles. Recently, a number of prominent DJs, label people and general club music personalities, have ridiculed the younger crust of club music producers, essentially isolating themselves from the transcontinental dialogue that occurs on the internet everyday. Beyond general questions of snobbishness and elitism, these attitudes create a fundamental block in the ever-open world of club music, closing open doors and blocking passage to aspirational producers from the world over.

It’s our goal to function as a door opener and a platform for counter-hegemonic club music producers, labels, proponents and spaces. We’ve realized that its far easier to act in a negative fashion, even on the part of figureheads, but the huge array of talented musicians out there make promoting the club-verse at large a positive pursuit.

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