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Lycox

Lycox at Unsound Festival in Krakow

After an almost five month hiatus, the Astral Plane Mix Series is back up and running and we’ve recruited one of our favorite artists from Lisbon’s Principe crew. DJ Lycox has been  a longtime favorite, appearing constantly in our For Club Use Only feature for FACT and becoming a quick staple in Astral Plane DJ Team sets. Born in Portugal and based in the Paris suburbs, Lycox is a prolific producer, initially emerging as part of the Tia Maria Produções trio before setting out on his own. Working mainly within a kuduro framework, Lycox’s productions are intensely melodic, introducing an element of euphoria and pop song writing to the genre’s intricate percussion arrangements and forceful energy. On November 17, Lycox’s debut solo album will be released by Principe, a coming out party of sorts for an artist who has become an underground favorite and a release that will surely establish the Portuguese producer as one of the most respected kuduro artists alongside the likes of Marfox, Nidia, Nigga Fox and Firmeza.

Lycox’s Astral Plane mix exemplifies what Lycox is all about, a 30 minute ride that blows by before you know it and functions as the perfect soundtrack to the melancholic last tendrils of Summer. Heavy on original productions, Lycox links irresistible hook after irresistible hook, bridged by the loping gait of his expertly arranged kuduro rhythms. It’s a breezy selection that performs an idyllic counterpoint to much of kuduro’s sweaty pomp, leaving trace elements of each respective hook as it drives onwards. Pre-order the Sonhos & Pesadelos LP here and dive into Lycox’s Soundcoud for a heap of divine original productions. No track list for this one so you’ll have to look out for the album.

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We hit the NTS studio for the second time in September last Friday and brought along Julien, a DJ and producer spending the summer in Los Angeles. With releases out/forthcoming on Tobago Tracks and Apothecary Compositions, the Denver resident brought a deluge of hardcore techno to the table for his 45 minute session, ratcheting up the tempo and bringing out a brutalist energy. His mix begins at the 45 minute mark and runs until 1:30. Our session features new Bell Curve, VIOLENCE, Torus, Dane Law, Fatima Al Qadiri, Alex Compton and more. Download available here and track list after the jump.

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No guests and no worries on this month’s edition of our NTS Los Angeles show. This was recorded after driving out of (near) a forest fire so the mood is slightly uneasy/ominous for the first 45 minutes. Excuse the abruptness of the start. It was hot in the studio. We also played out the entirety of SHALT’s new ʃælt single, out now on Astral Plane Recordings. You can get that one here. We’ll be back on NTS on September 30. Full track list after the jump.

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If you’ve tuned into our previous NTS shows you’ve almost certainly got bits and pieces from Dane Law’s various projects, whether it be a hectic trance experiment or glitched out hardcore released through the Quantum Natives platform. We were lucky to grab a guest session from the British producer for our latest show and his ‘Digital Paganism’ mix has not disappointed, joining elegiac ambient forms with Wicker Man samples and a perfect blend of mania and serenity. The guest mix starts around 35 minutes in and runs for 35 minutes. As usual, the Astral Plane DJ Team handles the rest of the show, which features a few tracks from SHALT’s upcoming return to APR and LOFT’s debut 12″, also out via our in house label.

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The ability to traverse multiple genres, tempos and sound palettes is becoming the norm in bleeding edge electronic communities. What likely started as a rejection of staid DJ practices has expanded into artist’s production approach and it’s hardly uncommon to find 3-4 different tenuously conjoined sounds on someone’s Soundcloud feed these days. The principles behind this approach are an unassailable desire to move forward at all costs, as well as more cynical strategies to attain bookings and recognition, but it leads to homogeny nearly as often as it does innovation. The truth is that few artists have the talent and/or put the time into cultivating not just one, but an entire range of aesthetics. This (often faux) polymath approach has delivered some of the most dynamic club and experimental music to come out in recent years and Cairo-born, Berlin-based producer and visual artist Kareem Lotfy is a prime example, working from minimalist ambient on one end of the spectrum to buoyant, full frontal bubbling on the other.

Many fans of Lotfy’s work will have likely come around to it via PAN’s Mono No Aware compilation, a release focusing on divergent strains of ambient that was led off by Lotfy’s “Fr3sh”. The track’s wistful, finite qualities have engendered it to fans across the electronic music spectrum, becoming a staple for ambient fans and even drawing praise from the legendary Ryuichi Sakamoto. Further efforts have arrived via his own Soundcloud page and a side project, the latter home to his most time stretched, blissful efforts. “Power Bass Bubbling”, since removed from Soundcloud but available in various mixes and blends, was our introduction to Lotfy and hits a far different note than his ambient excursions. Embracing the Dutch bubbling sound, “Power Bass Bubbling” gets straight to the point, all high key energy, rhythmic thrust and deft sample looping. It’s an efficient track and like Lotfy’s abstracted beats it utilizes a relatively small amount of sonic elements to great effect.

Lotfy’s Astral Plane mix falls firmly in the general ambient sphere, eschewing his more rhythmic impulses for spaced out synths, vocal murmurings and pleasant drones. Gorgeous efforts by legendary Egyptian American composer Halim El-Dabh highlight the mix which also incorporates spacious tracks from Yves Tumor, Monolake and Takahiro Kido. Bits of harp can be found around 2/3 of the way through and Lotfy fins time for tracks that scrape and bump along as much as they glide. It’s an engrossing 30 minutes that highlights the breadth of his approach without tail spinning into genre mish mash. Download the mix here and check out a track list after the jump.

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Last Friday, the Astral Plane DJ Team hopped on NTS for a two hour solo show before running over to the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive to play a pre-recorded piece called ‘Canopy’. We also intended to play the piece in the last bit of this session, but forgot to load it up on the USB. Instead we ran through a load of new LOFT dubs + forthcoming E.M.M.A. (very soon), Chants (very soon) and SHALT (soon). Hit the jump for a full track list and download the show here.

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2015’s Empty Airport LP, Christina Nemec’s second album under the Chra moniker, arrived like an anvil upon release, a dense slab of intricate individual motions and slithering organic and digital noise. A longtime participant and devotee to the European avant-garde, Nemec has participated in punk, industrial and experimental music scenes for over two decades, having run the Comfortzone label and participated in groups as divergent as Bray, Shampoo Boy and Pasajera Oscura. Progressing through grizzly ambient noise, pulsating kicks and field recordings, many recorded at an abandoned house in the Carinthian countryside, Empty Airport explores the contradictions in which we consume media and particularly the horrific violence that exists only a few hundred miles away, but that could be taking place in a completely different world than the urban artistic enclaves many of us live in. As Chra, Nemec approach is all-consuming, bringing a human edge to topics that can hardly be reckoned with. The densely layered, constantly in motion tracks on Empty Airport nail down an alienation that few artists have been able to comfortably address.

Also in 2015, Chra delivered a mix to the Secret Thirteen platform, self-described as a feminist history of avant-garde. The mix is representative of much of Nemec’s project, especially her work behind Comfortzone which has consistently pushed female and queer voices to the fore. Her Astral Plane mix, titled “New Europeans” isn’t as explicit in its direction, but takes a similar tone to the Secret Thirteen mix, drawing from her own work as well as contemporaries like Klara Lewis, Thomas Brinkmann and Yves de Mey, as well as a brief, exuberant break for Depeche Mode. Her own work with Irradiation, as Pasajera Oscura, plays a key roll in the mix’s progression with tends to gurgle along non-linearly, drawing on drone eccentricities and the sorts of interweaving textures that the best beatless music tends to imbue. Chra is an alumni of the SHAPE platform and has spent recent months touring on her own and as Pasajera Oscura. She also released a four tracker called Wounded Deer on JMSE earlier this year, a tape that hints at the increasingly oblique direction her work might take in coming years. Hit the jump for a full track list and download Chra’s Astral Plane mix here.

 

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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…

 8th June – CTFO, Monarch Berlin ( DJ set )
10th June – Berlin Torstrassenfest
16th June – Antwerp TRAP w/ DJ Burrnesha
23rd June – Bristol Fiddlers w/ DJ Burrnesha
24th June – London Cafe Oto w/ DJ Burrnesha
29th June – Edinburgh Paradise Palms w/ DJ Burrnesha
1st July – Glasgow Art School

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Due to some scheduling peculiarities, we’re in a slight lull in the Astral Plane Recordings release schedule, which makes our monthly NTS show the best outlet to hear new music from the label and label-related artists. We hopped on NTS on Good Friday (April 13) with a collection of devotional music (Alkaline, v1984, Arca, MC Pikachu, etc.), as well as a wonky, pitch/reality bending guest mix from Los Angeles’ AMAZONDOTCOM and Mexicali’s Siete Catorce. Also look out for a new LOFT edit, a Chants x Ophex collaboration, some unreleased SHALT and the usual assortment of barely together edits, bootlegs and blends. We also played a favorite from Mika Vainio. I only delved into Vainio/Pan Sonic later in the Finnish artist’s career, but have come to appreciate his work as one of the fundamental building blocks of what we do as a label and how I’d live to envision experimental music as an individual. Paul Smith and Andrew Ryce both wrote wonderful pieces in the aftermath of his passing and I highly recommend newer listeners to stop what they’re doing and to spend the day with Vainio’s myriad projects. He will be missed.

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x-o-daisy

Vancouver, B.C. isn’t exactly known as a powerhouse for cutting edge electronic music, but in recent years it has become exactly that; home to a small, but fertile scene of artists pushing a deviant take on ambient, industrial and pop forms. City, Sentinel, Baby Blue and x/o are all based in Vancouver and despite not sharing a set of readily definable characteristics there is a certain kinship built out of personal relationships, shared mix track list placements and a general spirit of experimentation. Odd beat trials, bedroom pop narratives, angelic ambient bits and tensile, algorithmic tracks all find a home in this loose consortium’s output, which has found its place on labels like Halcyon Veil, Quantum Natives and Apothecary Composition. x/o has particularly drawn us in, cultivating a sound that combines sonorous, disembodied vocals, insectile, creeping sound design and an uncanny, almost classical, sense of drama.

2015’s startling Angel In Ruins introduced us to x/o and in the year and a half since, she has turned in standout mixes for SISTER and Bala Club, as well as contributing one of our favorite tracks of 2016 to Quantum Natives’ The Danelaw compilation. Most recently, x/o featured on the remix package for Eaves’ Verloren, turning in a gilded choral take that absolutely commands attention. To date, the B.C.-based artist doesn’t have a lot of music out, but if you pay attention to mixes from like-minded artists you’ll likely begin to hear her unreleased tracks, equally likely to be fitted in between tracks by Toxe and Eaves as they are Aaliyah and Moby. Her Astral Plane mix should enlighten listeners further,  a metamorphic affair that begins with Kingdom Hearts and ends with one of the strangest FDM edits we’ve ever heard. Unreleased Toxe, Oli XL, Baby Blue, Balasa and Mobilegirl can be found across the mix’s 40 minute run, blurring the lines between club functionality and epic poem in almost reckless fashion. x/o’s own tracks in the mix exemplify the whole composition’s brilliance, achieving a duality of fragile sheen and commanding presence. New York fans will get a taste of the x/o experience on April 14 at a secret PTP show, of which more details should follow. Hit the jump or a guide/track list to the mix and download here.

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