There are many entry points to the multidisciplinary practice of British-born, Berlin-based artist Steven Warwick. Dance music fans will have surely come about Warwick’s work through the Heatsick moniker, home to the majority of Warwick’s solo recordings and easily his most functional and dancefloor-focused project to date. Birds of Delay, a collaborative project with Luke Younger aka Helm, explored the outer ranges of noise and other harsh electronics, pushing texturally dense, alienating experiments on a series of releases for labels like Alcoholic Narcolepsy, American Tapes and Tronics. Fomented in 2012, a partnership with Bill Kouligas’ PAN label has seen the release of several Heatsick releases, and most recently, Warwick’s most personal work to date and the first under his own name. Xeroxed art books, a Snapchat-recalling video shot in a mall and a book, written with Nora Khan, utilizing the X-Files as a prime source for examining the rise of fear during the 1990s and subsequent right wing conspiracy theory movements.
Nadir, described as a mixtape by both label and artist, arrived at the tail end of 2016 and couldn’t have been timed better. Eschewing the hardware specific formation and coyly gleeful sonics of the Heatsick moniker, Warwick is at his most open on Nadir, utilizing oblique electronics and his own voice to weave depressive poetics over creeping, disjointed rhythms. The album is a dense, often difficult listen, but its core themes are readily accessible throughout and Warwick not only offers observations on life under late capitalism, but a clear eyed vision of emotional disaffection and degradation that follows the pressures of wage labor, an inescapably fearful media climate, millennial placelessness and urban isolation. As mentioned before, these themes can be found in all of Warwick’s various projects previous to Nadir, but there’s a particular clarity to the grimness evoked throughout the mixtape that has had us returning over and over again in moments of acute dislocation.
Warwick’s Astral Plane mix is a curious affair, a series of live recordings that lead into club-friendly selections that range from Geko’s buzzy, Summer-ready “Right Here” to classic Steve Gurley and Tommy Genesis’ sad girl anthem “Empty”. The original works range from heavy, piston-like techno to soporific arrangements that recall Heatsick at its most muted. The composition is distinctly club-focused, but comes from a left field perspective that combines the jittery disposition and spoken bits from Nadir with crunchy, all out drum machine rhythms and a decisive forward momentum. Eclectic contemporary selections like Cruel Boyz, Celestial Trax, Orlando Volcano and Niagara also show off a willingness to mine the frontier of experimental club forms, particularly ones outside the worlds of house and techno. Unlike Nadir, exultant moments abound in the mix, but a sense of unease, found across Warwick’s various projects, exists at a constant simmer just below the surface making it a fitting progression for an artist who has managed to mirror the dysphoria of life in 2017 across so many mediums. Catch Warwick at the following dates and hit the jump for a full track list…
Tornado Wallace – kakadu