Transnational crews, labels and collectives have become one of the major forces in dance music over the past decade, often connecting underrepresented groups unable to build enough infrastructure in their home cities. As often as they succeed though, these entities can water down the output of their individual members, mostly by enforcing rigid sonic limitations, but sometimes through promotion of the whole over its constituent parts. Eternal Dragonz, a cross-disciplinary force anchored in the Asian diaspora, has managed to avoid both pitfalls, bringing together a widely varied roster for releases, radio shows and club nights without ever becoming an overbearing force on its own.
Osaka’s Le Makeup (Keisuke Iiri) had released on several labels, namely Ashida Park, JEROME and his own PURE VOYAGE outlet, prior to 2018’s Matra EP, but the release provided a larger platform and contextualized the singer, guitarist and producer’s work within a similar framework of pop-minded artists. Having previously dabbled in extended ambient pieces, hip hop production and throwback funk and synth pop, dancehall patterns are brought to the fore on Matra, bringing a perpetual bounce that sits surprisingly comfortably with its yearning vocals and washed out guitar arrangements. Avoiding the icy nihilism of so much club adjacent pop, tracks like “Matra” and “White Curtain” are unrepentantly earnest, putting Iiri front-and-center as narrative lead.
Released in January of this year, Iiri’s End Roll takes on an even more romantic tone, largely dropping the pretense of dance music structure and textural guitar work for an intensely melodic, upbeat sound, based around huge rif-y choruses and underscored by trap drums and a comforting bed of sub bass. It’s a long way from 2016’s production-led Esthe EP and the emotional development from release to release is tangible with Matra and End Roll shedding the uncanny sheen of the early work while embracing uninhibited song writing.
Le Makeup’s style of mixing also takes on an earnest, uninhibited bent, full of haphazard transitions (both technical and stylistic) and an all at once attitude that tends to overwhelm. Breaks, avant pop and hi tek hip hop sit comfortable in his Astral Plane Mix, which juts from mood to mood and avoids any sense of tangible momentum. Structured more like a mixtape than anything, Iiri tapes 80s Japanese classics, video game music and breaks at key moments, loosely working together a patchwork of reference points that are as spasmodic as his original work is clean and focused. Download Astral Plane Mix 189 here and hit the jump for a track list.