“S/O Ali Berger for mastering and being a good pupper.”

Arriving at the tail end of 2016, 2Lanes‘ Diamonds in the Rough EP, released via Escape From Nature, is a perplexing release, a marriage of natural tones and sharp angles intended to represent and reflect the environment of his hometown of Detroit. Devils Dub II — the second live set in a series that will culminate with a performance at Bossa Nova Civic Club in New York this Wednesday — is the latest project from 2Lanes and his most definitive statement to date, 65 minutes of meditative techno inspired by drum machine/space echo videos on Youtube and intense sensory experiences. It’s an incredibly deep, physical set that trends far more towards a head nod crowd than the rave, but there’s a heft to the project reminiscent of the digi dub experiments of the late 80s and 90s. Like “Jet Slit” off of Diamonds in the Rough, the set maintains an uneasy quality throughout, embodied in the fluttering bird calls that are more Hitchcock than “Pacific State” and the gut wrenching sub bas that intermittently rises from the deep. RSVP for the Boss Nova gig, which will also feature sets from AceMo and Olga, here.


After several years of attending Decibel Festival,its position as one of the most well run, tasteful electronic music-focused events in the United States is pretty much set it stone. From the top on down, the festival is run by professional employees and volunteers who go above and beyond to make the most out of the experience. After a few blow out years that included larger lineups and more adventurous venue choices, Decibel narrowed their purview slightly for the 12th edition of the Festival, focusing more on the clubs around Bell Town, Downtown, SoDo and Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to catch the entire range of the festival, arriving late Thursday night, which meant missing acts like Jlin, The Black Madonna and Kid Smpl.

Despite a general adherence to what are, by-and-large, considered underground sounds, the remainder of the festival did come off as fairly monochromatic, featuring beats-oriented trap (or trap-oriented beats if you will) at the Beat Alchemy, Sublime, TeamSupreme and, we assume, Soulection nights on one hand and fairly banal tech house on the other. Of course, seeing acts like Function, Vril and Recondite broke the monotony somewhat, but compared to past years when the lineup seemed to reflect what sounds would arise over the next several years, Decibel 2015 only seemed to encapsulate the white bread sounds of the past half-decade. Granted, living in Los Angeles, where trappy beats and techy house rule all, certainly has a good deal to do with our distaste for a good portion of this year’s lineup, but we would argue that it’s more to do with the extremely high expectations that the Decibel team has built up in the past.


That all sounds quite negative of course, but we do have to say that the festival itself was a blast, from the first opportunity on Friday night to reacquaint ourselves with Seattle’s dancefloors and dancers to the weekend stealing performances from Dasha Rush and Tim Hecker at The Triple Door. Having come down with a cold the day before the festival, the meditative, futurist sounds of Rush’s performance at the Dark Overtones showcase early Saturday night proved especially impressive, the Russian impresarios brief vocals and bleak, swarming drones having an indelible effect on our memories of DB 2015. The fact that her performance sticks in the mind more than Hecker’s isn’t a slight to the Canadian artist either as his live set, heavy on materials from Virgins, was absolutely breathtaking, bringing a physicality to the album that couldn’t exist in a home listening environment.

As for the rest of the weekend, Function and Recondite brought special performances to their respective showcases, proving that fairly straightforward techno and house can still be loads of fun and, at The Showbox on Friday night, Laurel Halo ran through a remarkably confident set, bridging the gap between squeaky noise experiments and full bodied, four-on-the-floor numbers. On the downside, our brief appearance at Bonobo made us realize why we don’t attend most American festivals anymore, the neon-clad crowd fighting hand-over-fist to be on the floor for an upbeat set that hardly fit snuggly on the British artist. The unveiling of each Decibel Festival is always a special process and, despite not being able to participate in full this year and not feeling totally engaged by the lineup, we eagerly anticipate the 2016 edition, sure to involve plenty of curve balls and fascinating left-field programming. We’ll see y’all in the six next year.


The trip back to my hometown of Seattle for Decibel Festival almost seems like routine at this point, an annual late-September jaunt back to the Northwest to see what the festival has to offer and how it has adapted to the city’s rapidly changing landscape. While past festival’s have proven to be fertile party zones, highlights coming from after hours events and day time boat parties, Decibel 2015 looks to have a healthy dose of the more cerebral side of the electronic music spectrum, acts like Laurel Halo, Tim Hecker and Kid Smpl standing out more than the deluge of house, techno and beats acts that make up the rest of the bill. Of course, Marcel Dettman, The Black Madonna and the indomitable Jlin have us all a flutter, but there’s something about sitting in the Triple Door at 6 PM or catching the early sets at Neumos or The Crocodile that seems especially cathartic this time time around. Maybe it’s the time of year or maybe I’m getting older, but there’s only so much tech house one individual can take. Without further ado, our three most anticipated acts at this year’s Decibel Festival. See you out there.

1.) Jlin – Discwoman – Thursday, September 24 – Re-Bar

As Chicago’s footwork movement has gone worldwide, more and more artists from the city itself and the surroundings have begun to attract critical attention. Jlin, a Gary, Indiana based steel worker, released her debut album, Dark Energy, on Planet Mu in March and the album still stands up as one of the genre’s most nerve-bending experiments and a record that can hardly be called footwork. Angular, paranoid and full of pent up, raw movement, Dark Energy fits almost seemingly in the void between “body” music and “mind” music, binding a vicious approach to mind numbingly complex drum programming and an almost unrivaled spacial awareness. Jlin wil be performing at the Discwoman showcase, alongside Natasha Kmeto, Young Ejecta, Raica and Experimental Housewife, on Thursday night on Re-Bar.

2.) The Black Madonna – Bottom Forty – Thursday, September 24 – The Crocodile

Resident at Chicago’s legendary Smart Bar and now international auteur of all things good and holy in the world of house, techno and disco, The Black Madonna is someone we can all look up to, for her skills on deck, her multifaceted production work and her constant struggle for gender equality in the dance music sphere. One of the most exciting American deejays, the woman born Marea Stamper is something of a jack of all trades, playing party starting sets without coming across ostentatious, work that can be heard in her recent Bunker and Boiler Room podcasts. The Black Madonna plays at the Bottom Forty showcases, alongside Daniel Avery and Nark, on Thursday night at The Crocodile.

3.) Tim Hecker – Optical: Dark Overtone – Saturday, September 26 – The Triple Door

Everything I could say about Tim Hecker has probably already been said, but the chance to see his full ensemble (I just missed his performance with Tyondai Braxton in Los Angeles) is one of the main reasons for attending this year’s festival. Slated to play in Seattle jazz club The Triple Door, Hecker’s synesthetic, fever dream-esques compositions are truly one of a kind, bringing ambient into the noise world and vice versa. At once deafening, soothing and hallucinogenic, the Montreal artist’s past few albums, especially Virgins and Ravedeath, 1972 have been immensely important to me personally and have served as an entry point to the more abstract, sit down part of the electronic music world. Hecker will be performing at the Dark Overtone showcase, alongside Dasha Rush and Alexander Lewis, on Saturday night at The Triple Door.


Photo by Dan Medhurst

A few years back, while on time off from a study abroad period in Morocco, I was able to attend MS Dockville, a smallish festival in Hamburg featuring the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, Holy Other and Michachu and the Shapes. Having only attended American festivals to that point, my opinion of music festivals was bleak to say the least, literal fights for space and air in what could easily be described as gigantic cesspools of humanity. MS Dockville was a welcome reprieve from the glut and general decrepitude of the American festival, both in terms of programming and general respect on the part of attendees. There was no more space at the festival grounds in Hamburg than a midsize US soiree, but the way attendees interacted with the music and each other gave the whole event a neat, cozy overtone.

Since that weekend, I’ve been aching to return to a European festival and when a friend proffered the idea of making the trip to Pula, Croatia for Outlook Festival, the soundsystem culture-focused event happening across five days in an Austro-Hungarian fort on the Adriatic Sea, the opportunity was almost too good to pass up. The legend of Outlook and Fort Punta Christo runs deep and feasting on the lineup, especially names like Boy Better Know and Kromestar that us Americans can only dream of seeing on normal terms, became a regular activity in the months and weeks before the festival, the anticipation becoming almost overwhelming as we began our 30 hour jaunt across ocean and land to reach the small coastal city.

Looking back now, a week after Outlook’s world class soundsystems finally shut down, it’s hard to imagine we were on a beach watching Hatcha and DJ EZ play out classic-laden sets or at the festival’s unmatched Moat stage brucking out as Acre and Mumdance shook down the entire Fort at the Tectonic 10 party. And more than any individual set, the opportunity to attend a festival with near-total support for its modus operandi. In short, most of the people at this year’s festival were there because of their dedication to soundsystem culture and/or its various modern forms. With a few exceptions at the top of the bill, Outlook’s lineup was composed of labels, parties and artists outside of the general public eye, meaning the likes of Amy Becker, Parris and DJ Milktray having the opportunity to lay down high energy sets in front of huge, adoring crowds.

Hit the jump for a full run down of The Astral Plane team’s experience at Outlook Festival in Pula, Croatia…

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For years, Martin Clark aka Blackdown Soundboy’s blogspot address has functioned as both a central point for some of the most current, self-defining journalism in dance music and a treasure trove of garage, grime, dubstep (and beyond) history, including mixes, interviews and retrospectives on the scene’s seminal nights, conflicts and successes. For me, the site has offered a pin prick camera view into the demise of late 1990s garage, the rise of dubstep and the proliferation of grime. It offered a gateway into the spread, mutation and peculiarities of the music I now hold close to my heart and which, at the time, I was unable to connect with due to age, geography and a shit modem connection. Recurring characters like Skream, Kode9 and DJ Target have become familiar, despite the fact that the majority of the articles were written five-plus years ago. Today marks the 10th anniversary of the site, which will hopefully continue to function as an unofficial register of 2000s ‘nuum culture for years to come, and Clark has uploaded an absolute classic of a mix from FWD>> (@ Plastic People) featuring Mala b2b Loefah and the inimitable SFT Pokes on mic duties.

Having never been to Plastic People, attended a FWD>> night, or step foot in East London, it’s difficult to gage exactly what Clark means when he refers to this set as the “best live dubstep set I’ve ever heard recorded,” but despite the inherent cognitive dissonance of listening to a set so firmly set in a specific temporal realm, its eminence is as easily recognizable as any other “scene defining” mix, song, album or live performance. Clark included his own version of live blogging to round out the 10th anniversary celebration, offering up memories, commentary and context to Mala & Loefah’s selections. If you’re not familiar with Clark, Blackdown Soundboy or the label, Keysound Recordings, he runs in tandem with Dusk, cut a few hours from your day and browse back through the annals of the Blackdown Soundboy blogspot.

Download: Mala b2b Loefah ft SGT Pokes live at FWD>> 01.06.06


poolboy92 (formerly Mohegan Son) hails from the Atlantic Coast, a region integral to the American club music lineage, but more often than not, you can find him on the informal nexus of internet based and bred producers, DJs and visual artists who prefer to obfuscate their personas in a neon-drenched morass of fragmented pop culture imagery, Windows aesthetics and spinning corporate regalia. It’s a facile world, but talent shines where it can and Ben Aqua‘s Austin-based #FEELINGS crew/label is an especially bright patch in the web-based landscape. poolboy92 is a card carrying #FEELINGS member and released his debut Lips EP through the outlet earlier this month, blending the off-kilter rhythms of funky and kuduro with a heavy helping of ballroom flourishes. Taking a kitchen sink approach, poolboy92 leaves little to the imagination, bringing lullaby-esque melodies and metal cutter rhythmic elements into the same steaming pot. The result is disorienting at times, but more often than not succeeds on a highly functional level, imparting a stupor-like effect on the listener.

This Friday in Brooklyn, he will celebrate the EP release alongside Sugar Shane, Leo Justi and more at Club Republic. While we’re unfortunately located 3,000 miles away from the festivities, we’ve been festooned with a short promo mix by the polychromatic producer. Seven minutes of hyper-speed rambling, twinkling synth work and bubbling energy should shine a little insight into what to expect come Friday. Download the mix below and hit the jump for the track list.

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If you’ve ever attended a concert at Orange County’s The Observatory, you know that the suburban venue is not the ideal place to witness dance music. The three tiered floor, segmented by walls and steps leads to inconsistent crowd movement, awful vantage points and a disconnect between performer and crowd. I knew all of this as I entered the Santa Ana venue on Monday night (November 18), but pushed it to the back of my mind as I primed myself for a night that would feature buzzing rapper Chance (The Rapper) and footwork pioneers DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn. Dubbed the “Social Experiment” tour, the three performers (plus Chance’s three man band) had been on the road since October 25 and had played 17 shows in only 24 days. With all of the performers hailing from Chicago, the night promised an air of cohesion that few touring acts can fulfill.

At first glance, the selection of DJs Rashad and Spinn as openers might be confusing, but the decision makes all too much sense when you consider that Chance has evoked his reverence for Chicago’s juke/footwork scene on multiple occasions in the past. Rashad and Spinn’s lightning fast, syncopated rhythms might come off as at odds with Chance’s gospel-infused hip hop, but one only has to examine the Windy City’s long history of dance music with hip hop leanings and vice versa. The crowd at The Observatory might not have been ready for the 160 beats per minute flurry that Rashad and Spinn would throw at them, but Chance knew what he was getting into when he brought the two artists along with him.

After wading our way through The Observatory’s outsized parking lot, we made our way into the venue and took our place among the hordes of Chance fans chomping at the bit to shower their hero with love and reverence. Overwhelmingly Caucasian and college aged, the crowd was, by and large, dressed in the Southern California norm of street wear brands, 5 panel hats and lots and lots of camouflage. Chance came on promptly after we arrived, joined on stage by a drummer, keyboardist and trumpet player. Over the next hour, Chance would lead the crowd through most of his recent Acid Rap tape in an expansive performance that straddled the line between hip hop show and performance art.

Hit the jump to read the full recap…

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Earlier this year, Yours Truly got Shlohmo and Jeremih in the studio together as part of their “Songs From Scratch” series. Then “Bo Peep (Do U Right)” came out. Then the two performed on stage together. And then they performed together in the Boiler Room. After Shlohmo laid down a solid 20 minutes of choice Houston cuts, some Andre Nickatina and his signature “Hail Mary” screw at the Wedidit x Boiler Room function a few weeks ago, Jeremih joined yung Henry on stage for a rendition of “Bo Peep” and a medley version of “F U All The Time” the two performed together earlier this calendar year. Jeremih’s performance was choppy at times, but the resonance of the event can still be felt. It’s a testament to institutions like Boiler Room and RBMA that us fans are able to consistently indulge in collaborations like this. Hopefully, Jeremih’s long delayed Thumpy Johnson LP is on the way soon, maybe even featuring some more Shlohmo production.

asap yams

It’s impossible to understate the impact that ASAP Yams’ Tumblr has had on the ASAP sound and hip hop as a whole. If you’ve listened to pre-LiveLoveA$AP Rocky material, then that is very clear. Before meeting and being inundated with Yams’ knowledge and cultural breadth, Rocky was another run-of-the-mill New York MC almost entirely bereft of the fashion image he has now come to embody. There would be no purple in Rocky’s sound, no coke and white bitches if it wasn’t for Yams. Recently, Ryan Hemsworth and the “ASAP DJs” went b2b at a special Boiler Room NYC event (similar to the one they pulled off in London last year) and I can’t figure a more perfect manifestation of Yams’ influence. Hemsworth, in many ways, follows in the steps of Yams as cultural kaleidoscope, bringing a deep knowledge of 90s hip hop and popular culture to an increasingly young fan base. The mixing across the hour and ten minutes Hemsworth and the ASAP crew were on the decks is spotty at best (some have blamed a faulty needle), but that’s not really the point. Rocky actually spends the most time behind the decks, but again that’s not really the point. Yams’ influence is palpable as Rocky and Hemsworth bounce between club edits and late-90s Houston, Atlanta and Memphis with a choice Young Scooter number thrown in for good measure. Like Yams’ Tumblr, the mix is an amalgamation of the origins of contemporary hip hop sounds thrown into a blender with the best of 2013.

killer mike

Over the coming months, we’ll be highlighting a series of artists performing at Sasquatch Music Festival 2013 between May 24-27 at The Gorge Amphitheater in Quincy, Washington. Instead of a typical overview/introduction to each act, we’ll attempt to highlight what and how they’ll enhance the always wonderful Sasquatch experience. If you missed the initial lineup announcement, you can catch it here!

The Gorge has never been an especially great place to see hip hop, in part because of the Pacific Northwest’s general antipathy towards non-caucasian forms of the genre. That’s not to say that the residents of the Northwest’s urban locales don’t listen to non-white rappers, it’s just that, for the most part, they’d prefer someone, let’s say, a little less challenging. Coming straight out of Atlanta, GA, Killer Mike is the definition of challenging. A long time Dungeon Family (Outkast, Goodie Mobb, Organized Noize, etc. for the uninitiated) affiliate, the man born Michael Render has been challenging what it means to be both a Southern rapper and a “conscious” rapper for the better part of the past decade-plus. A critical darling in some circles, it wasn’t until this past year’s R.A.P. Music LP, entirely produced by El-P, that he became a wide-spread critical darling.

Stream: Killer Mike – “Reagan”

Last week, I was lucky enough to catch Mike at Paid Dues Festival and his performance stood out in stacked day that included performances from Black Hipppy, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib and Mobb Deep. Whether showing off his powerful, stark flow or going on an anti-Reagan screed, Mike owned the stage and managed to flip some controversial/heavy subject matter into an engrossing stage performance. If you’ve witnessed “political” hip hop on stage, you know that an overly passionate (*cough* Immortal Technique *cough*) performer can make the audience rather uncomfortable. Killer Mike manages to put forth thought provoking, anti-establishment ideals without making the audience uncomfortable, which is far easier said than done. I doubt that Mike will have a prime time slot on the lineup, but I promise you that his show will be one of the most powerful, long lasting performances of Memorial Day weekend.

Stream: Killer Mike – “Swimming” (Prod. Flying Lotus)