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Author Archives: Gabe Meier

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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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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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We’ve maintained a fairly insular approach to label curation over the past few years, releasing music from a core group of artists and slowly bringing new individuals and approaches into the fold. It’s a deliberate way of working in an extremely cluttered/top down music media environment and it clearly hasn’t limited the scope of the sonic ecology we push.

That said, going into our fourth year in existence, we’ve decided to open up the gates a bit and let some new voices ring out. Over the coming months, we’ll be introducing four new artists into the APR family, bringing everything from algorithmically designed string music to fuzzed out Iranian pop.

The first of those artists is CÉCI, a Danish, London-based vocalist and sound artist who we’ve partnered with across a number of projects already. If you’re in London, you may have caught one of her Celestite nights at Rye Wax, featuring a combination of performance and DJ sets from some of our favorite artists in the city.

Vortex is CÉCI’s debut on APR and a jarring introduction to an artist we’ve tipped for some time. The sound is as enticing as the production is angular and across six short songs, CÉCI snakes her way through major hooks, resolute sound design and a range of inward facing affectations.

Today, we’re unveiling “Heartbeat”, the first single from Vortex and our initial introduction to CÉCI’s work. The single is accompanied by a striking music video directed by Emilie Alstrup and is a fitting introduction to CÉCI’s artistic voice and tactile approach to production. Relevant links below and much more to come.

CÉCI – Vortex
APR118 | Out February 15
Stream “Heartbeat”
Watch “Heartbeat”
Pre-order EP

1.) Force
2.) Foreveralone
3.) Taste
4.) Wait
5.) Want
6.) Heartbeat

“The Danish-born, London-based artist swathes her voice in intricate, prickly electronics on her new EP for Astral Plane, which sounds both massive and intimate.” – Resident Advisor

“Her music—a stripped-back, skeletal type of pop—is built from mind-bending sound design, haunting vocals, and ethereal energy that draws you in on first listen.” – XLR8R

“The London-based artist, who has a background in sound design and dance, employs motifs from a variety of contemporary club styles and a broad vocal approach.” – FACT

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Pittsburgh’s Boo Lean has been a fixture in the Midwest club music fabric for years and recently, her expertise and passion for putting on aspiration, experimental-minded music festivals has expanded to Vancouver’s New Forms. Born Lauren Goshinski, she’s also a force behind the decks, claiming a residency at Pittsburgh’s legendary Hot Mass and showing off a talent for a tightly wound, percussive mixing style. It was serendipitous that Lauren reached out to us with a guest mix the week of our most recent NTS show and we can’t think of a better way to jump off 2019 than with her “Winter Eclipse” selections. The first hour of the show is handled by the AP DJ Team and features forthcoming material and holiday smashers from CÉCI, LOFT, Chants and SHALT, as well as recent faves from BFTT, bod [包家巷], crystallmess, Don Sinini, Emily Glass, jjjacob, Nkisi, SCAM and Ytem. Boo Lean will also be playing at CTM Festival next month, as well as in Galway, Ireland with Gash Collective. Find details on both dates below. Download the show here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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Photo by Manuel Uthoff

Mexico City has functioned as an incubator for some of the most exciting threads in contemporary dance music, home to a number of labels and crews pushing against Western/Anglo hegemony and looking to create a stable, self-contained musical ecology. There are a few obvious touchstones in the DF’s sonic culture, but there are also artists who flit between scenes and avoid categorization, welding on new components until a brilliant new whole emerges. OLY has stood out as one of the city’s most talented producers and DJs for several years now, releasing a sparse stream of perplexingly vital singles and becoming an absolutely stand out peak time DJ in the meantime.

OLY productions tend towards minimalism and a slinky sense of fun, wringing kinetic energy out of rhythms laid bare. 2015’s Náyade EP was our first taste, two rich, low end heavy efforts as situated in the beat scene as they are in DJ-driven dance music, but possessing an inescapable groove nonetheless. Singles and compilation tracks for <//-(HYPERSONICS)-//>, Cintas Coagula, Classical Trax, COCOBASS and NAAFI have followed, exploring everything from acid-tinged industrial to placid ambient and on to a full bodied funk carioca take. A distinct rave aesthetic is present on most OLY club tracks, although they rarely reach the full rev of a straightforward peak time banger, instead teasing out their intent (or not) over the entire run time.

OLY’s mix work is where the embrace of club music at its most full throttle enters, showing off her keen sense of which rhythmic concoctions will most efficiently set the floor off. Various strains of hardcore, both classic and modern, juke, bubbling, soca and more tend to pop up in OLY mixes, all mixed with a deft touch to avoid the obnoxiously jarring hybridities that many DJs fall for. Her Astral Plane Mix takes a particularly rave-y track, matching a range of left field techno and trance with a smattering of juke killers and some choice bootlegs. In typical fashion, the reference points are kaleidoscopic, but they’re all there, subsumed in OLY’s own production work and despite the lack of original tracks in the mix, it’s still a work distinctly her own. Download Astral Plane Mix 183 here and hit the jump for the full track list.

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It’s easy to get bogged down in the constant balkanization of contemporary dance music. Keeping up with the lexicon alone is a formidable task and while classification is important, jargon is almost always utilized as a means of keeping the uninitiated out. Understanding dance music as a continuum of mechanized global rhythms, grafted, hybridized and superimposed into new forms, offers a key to the madness though, offering a path that sees not homogeneity, but the similarities in the constituent elements of seemingly disparate material. It’s a skill that Sydney’s SCAM has brought to his work as a writer, DJ and producer, building out from the clunky “global ghettotech” terminology of the late 2000s to make innate connections between seemingly dissimilar rhythmic logics.

2018 saw the release of his debut Vibrio EP on DECISIONS, a body of work matching “OTT emotionality and TMI sentimentality” with a focus on slime and the chemical interactions that lead to effects like bioluminescence and petrichor. Seayams provides vocals for two tracks, grounding the work’s frisky bio-chemical motions with a distinct humanity and allowing its two instrumental tracks the space necessary to flourish. American R&B and rap are obvious reference points, but EP closer “QQ” is also based on a Coil sample and the skittish drum programming throughout recalls the angular constructions of a range of regional club music.

The bonds created throughout Vibrio continue to be explored in SCAM’s edits, works that offer subtle mutations on post-punk, rap, dancehall and techno. It’s these edits that allow ESG to sit comfortably with Stefflon Don in a SCAM mix, making rhythmic links between ostensibly dissimilar tracks and offering a correction to the temporal and spacial record in the meantime. His Astral Plane Mix does exactly that, making simple connections across recent time (Araabmuzik into Dinamarca couldn’t be wrong) and drawing in contemporaries like Air Max ’97, Emily Glass and Fridge into an assemblage of familiar vocals twisted into new shapes. The mix offers a curatorial approach devoid of the pretenses of the critic, allowing new forms to develop at an instinctual pace and hybridities to develop naturally. Grab a copy of Vibrio here and download AP Mix 182 here. Track list after the jump.

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Euphoria is a tool that can be utilized by many, but is only truly mastered by few. Electronic music history is rife with gauche, over the top attempts at sending dancers into a blissful state and for every unique, boundary pushing soundtrack, there’s a dozen producers badly aping Vangelis. Trance, in its various forms, has mutated and taken on emotive and structural qualities in recent years, ranging from Lorenzo Senni’s maximalist escapades into peak time hedonism to Copenhagen’s Kulør crew mining techno for a mechanized, edgy euphoria and on to the micro-textures of artists like Dane Law, Sky H1, Ssaliva and x/o. France’s Chams is another artist funneling new modes of euphoria, helming the Abîme label and forging delicate, piano and synth-heavy tracks in his solo work.

By avoiding familiar rhythmic tropes, Chams’ music largely exists in a fantastical middle zone, nodding at propulsion without giving up the light, loping of melody-driven progression. Previous work, under Chaams, explored more rhythmic dimensions for labels like Car Crash Set and [Re]sources, but since the extra A was removed, drums have taken a back seat to extravagant synth arrangements and saccharine piano melodies. Abîme has also tended towards euphoria-inducing arrangements, most notably 2018’s Dangereux EP from Ytem, four tracks of lofty, driving tracks that nod at hardcore with a rare grace.

Chams’ mix work tends to explore Abîme and his own reference points, playing the role of cipher for a range of contemporary material from global artists, both independent and of larger stature. His Astral Plane Mix touches on J.G. Biberkopf, Keiska, Sharp Veins and v1984 and finds room for recent Abîme output, as well as classic material from Croatian Amor, Oneohtrix Point Never and Quirke. Pink Floyd’s wildly over the top “Coming Back To Life” stands out on the track list, but slots comfortably into the mix’s fabric, grasping for and simultaneously fraying heart strings as the cavalcade of melancholy and melodic heights continues on and on. Hit the jump for a full track list and download Astral Plane Mix 181 here.

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In our year end round-up for FACT Magazine, we noted the tumultuous nature of the past half-decade in club music. Hyper-localized scenes have been opened up to the global internet with their original intent and cultural context often lost in the process. The positive side of that coin is that dozens of scenes have popped up in locales that previously had no space for the sort of aggressively non-conformist composition, inventive mixing, and freewheeling booking policies that club music brings.

That many of those scenes have gone on to develop their own distinct sound, beyond or outside of the zeitgeist, only lends credence to the music’s emancipatory potential. Warsaw’s Intruder Alert, a crew/label/night founded in 2015 and run by B.yhzz, GRAŃ, I M M U N E and KRY, has been a shining light during that period, growing from the city’s first outpost for left field sounds from abroad into a label with its own sound, visual language and ethos.

B.yhzz has been IA’s foremost ambassador over the past few years, releasing two standout EPs for Infinite Machine, 2016’s Contra and 2017’s Via, and developing a sound wrought out of organic production methods and keen ear for emotive micro-movements. At the time, IA was booking artists like Chino Amobi, Coucou Chloe, Kamixlo and Swan Meat and Contra and Via reflect that interfacing, embracing cacophony while riffing on familiar rhythmic patterns.

2016’s BURST;BATTLE, a collaboration with Lyon’s My Sword and the first official release on IA, also featured an acceptance of hybridity, pushing a non-linear, saccharine take on hardcore at its noisiest. It was Rejection, Blessing LP, released in June of this year on IA, where B.yhzz’s sound reached an idiosyncratic bliss though, diverging entirely from the dancefloor and towards a grandiose, multi-dimensional take on noise.

Rejection, Blessing followed a series of self-releases exploring similar themes and extrapolated on the sonics built out on Contra and Via, but the album emerged as a startlingly realized vision, only tangentially connected to the functional dance music envisioned in previous work. Songs like “Sealed Head” and “Two Rooms” are sprawling efforts with a distinctly cyborgian ethos, the sound of human flesh struggling for recognition in its machinic environment.

The turn towards abstraction and storytelling is reflected in IA’s output as well with recent releases from Bgknb, Ditchdog and Lily Kane all exploring divergent internal worlds that tend to seep into the inner lining of your consciousness with each re-listen. B.yhzz’s Astral Plane Mix takes a similar tact, drawing on the sort of organic and electro-acoustic noise patterns found throughout IA’s recent material to create a disconcerting, all-enveloping collage.

Musique concrète, sound art and whale songs are situated next to recent IA material in an increasingly dense tar pit that culminates in a passage of forceful techno overlaid with a gorgeous, minimalist piece by Charlemange Palestine. B.yhzz and IA have only been a part of the global conversation for a few years now, but the crew’s inward turn of late has been fruitful and it will exciting to watch them build out on the themes introduced in 2018. Download Astral Plane Mix 180 here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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DSCF6038, by Nadja Angermann

Photo Credit: Nadja Angermann

The most successful attempts at sonic collage exist as living documents that are near-indecipherable to anyone but their creator. Comprised of constantly shifting planes and ignoring the usual temporal constraints of recorded music, collage allows for a freedom of movement and shape and for its creator to take on the role of auteur or architect as much as composer, DJ or producer. Avbvrn, a Frankfurt-based, California-born artist, has based his practice in exploring the expansive potential of edited material, both his own and from myriad other sources. Currently studying composition in Frankfurt, Avbvrn’s musical universe is both constantly expanding and concerned with the hyper-specific, grafting tangential threads between Pat Benetar and Grischa Lichtenberger, while crafting an increasingly idiosyncratic aesthetic based on sheets of intricately-textured noise, sharp angles and empty space.

Releases to date on DECISIONS and JEROME, as well as a recent album-length self-release, sketch out the rules of engagement for Avbvrn’s often dysphoric original material. Tracks like “Flood” and “Containment”, both released in 2017, are claustrophobic to the extreme, comprised of ratcheting percussion, overlapping drones and a conscious withholding of groove. Avbvrn always leaves an open door for the listener to jump through though and both eventually mutate into surprisingly effective club tracks, reconstructing themselves subtly as if behind a curtain to be exposed at a later juncture. The obfuscation of intention is not carried out to confuse or condescend to the listener, but like a complicated dish, the final result is often concealed until near the end of the process. Further singles and compilation tracks for ANBA, Bio Future Laboratory, Cartridge Material, Country Music, Intruder Alert and Slagwerk continue to flesh out this approach, often aiming at a more concrete functionality, but always maintaining a coy, transformational attitude.

Which brings us to Avbvrn Snacks, a series of sprawling edit compilations featuring re-works of tracks from contemporaries, edits of edits, and some of the most beguiling blends you’re likely to come across anywhere. Functioning as an unconstrained, ever-expanding ecosystem, the packs often use familiar lenses/methods (epic collage, musique concrete, screw mixes), but rarely come off as trite or uninspired, instead maintaining a level of uncanny ingenuity. That quality extends to his mix work as well and his entry for Astral Plane Mix 179 effortlessly melds the meticulous compositional energy of his original work with the mad hat exuberance of Avbvrn Snacks. Components of the mix are familiar, but the track list only lends a sort of key to guide your way through the 57 minute run time. As a contextual project, the mix hits on a ton of recent, standout material from the global experimental music community, but more often than not, those threads are spun out into Avbvrn’s distinct web of comprehension, not so much re-contextualized as refashioned into a new whole. Hit the jump for a full track list and download Astral Plane Mix 179 here.

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The world of American experimental music is often disconsolately sprawling. Parsing a path through its endless offshoots and diversions is an exhausting pursuit in the present and diving through history posthaste is a sisyphean task resigned to those with boundless time and resources. For younger audiences, this predicament has made a label like Alex Cobb’s Students of Decay an essential roadmap, sprawling in its scope and definition, but contained, directed and beautifully arranged.

Started in 2005, SoD has released essential works from artists like Anne Guthrie, Jeff Witscher (as Marble Sky), Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Sarah Davachi, laying out an expansive musical language that rarely shies away from intellectual pretensions, but always approaches matters of the heart with equal gusto. SoD released excellent new albums from Blue Chemise, Caroline No and Guthrie in 2018, the latter of whom’s Brass Orchids is a brilliant horror show of dripping water and retro-futuristic cranking metal, but our focus today is on a new project from Cobb.

Soda Gong is a brand new entity “posit[ing] a sovereignty predicated upon egression, naivety, and fluid understandings of the sacred and the sublime.” The project follows the birth of Cobb’s son and a process of both quitting alcohol and diving into recovery literature and was inaugurated in early November with a new Cobb solo project titled Hui Terra and under the Etelin pseudonym. In an extensive interview with JASONC at Tiny Mix Tapes, Cobb described a frustration with “po-faced quasi-academic drone music” and a desire to embrace a freewheeling curatorial ethos outside of the confines of Student of Decay’s almost 15 year release catalog.

Starting the label with the tactile warmth of Hui Terra was both a brave and natural decision, an attempt at stripping away the artifice and self-awareness of so much experimental music, not to mention arthouse film, literature and institutional art as Cobb notes.The album was recorded in what Cobb refers to as “newborn haze”, a period marked by lack of sleep and a fracturing of connection to the outside world. It’s in this interstitial state that songs like “Hour Here Hour There” and “Little Rig”, the latter largely sampled from Cobb’s infant son’s voice, thrive in, flowing between liquid and solid state and effortlessly seeping into the listener’s subconscious.

Functionally, the record relies on digital synthesizers and a sampler, a step away from previous work based on guitar manipulations and a stab at the flexibility offered by new tools. As an extension of both his own work and the SoD catalog, Hui Terra doesn’t come off as a radical shift per se, but Cobb’s altered approach shines through and continues to shine through on his Astral Plane Mix, comprised of an hour of “forthcoming, unreleased, sympathetic, and influential music.” Extrapolating the earnest breadth of Hui Terra, the mix touches on ambient, drone, musique concete and techno, devoid of traditional narrative arc, yet full of pronounced individual movements and points of divergence. The mix is a tantalizing look into a fledgling label’s forthcoming work and a composition that easily stands on its own, marking a new chapter for Cobb. Download Soda Gong’s Astral Plane Mix here and grab a copy of Hui Terra here.