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Mixes

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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Tash 2 (Credit - DFR, Radar Radio)

Over the past decade or so, the concept of DJs playing more than one style in a night has evolved from novelty status to near ubiquity. UK critics might attribute this to the refracting of the hardcore continuum while Internet theorists undoubtedly point to the homogenizing effects of platforms like Soundcloud and, to a much lesser extent, Bandcamp, as well as the merging and sublimation of previously insular, localized sub-cultures into the larger contexts of amorphous, web-driven networks. London’s Tash LC seems to effortlessly straddle both worlds, a DJ equally at home playing a historically aware set of West African highlife music or sharing the decks with bleeding edge selectors like Nkisi, Amy Becker and Superficie. The two approaches are hardly at odds in Tash’s world though as kuduro, gqom, afro beat and a range of contemporary hybrid sounds collide in her mix work, which has been aired via residency on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM and an excellent, constantly evolving slot on Radar Radio. By all accounts though, it’s Tash’s live DJ work that separates her from the competition, heard at nights like Wild Combination and her own Kartel and Boko Boko functions.

Unfortunately, we haven’t been lucky enough to catch a Tash set in the flesh, but we have snagged her for an entry into our mix series and the resulting 45 minutes should shed light on what draws fans to her kinetic style. Acoustic and electronic rhythms blend as the mix leaps from style-to-style and genre-to-genre, rarely sitting in one state for more five minutes, while maintaining a consistent mood and narrative throughout. The occasional vocal tune adds a triumphant flair to the 45 minute mix, but Tash is largely beholden to the rhythm, throwing a range of addictive, syncopated tracks into the mix and keeping a steady, hip shaking tension throughout. Beyond her explicit mix work, Tash also writes excellent genre introductions/rundowns for Rhythm Passport and collects on Soundcloud in “Tash Selects” playlists. It’s this fully realized approach and dedication to history and development that lends a richness and contextual awareness to Tash’s mixes and allows her a certain comfort level when playing drastically different styles of club music. Hit the jump for a full track list and download Tash’s session here.

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After recording February’s show in a rain storm that knocked out the studio internet, it was a relief to jump on NTS last Friday on a beautiful day in Highland Park with our good friend Alis. In town from Berlin, we were lucky to get her in the studio before she left for the airport and the resulting 45 minutes is a whirlwind of rhythms, textures and her own distinct edits. The remainder of the show features recent and upcoming music from Suda, Kareem Lotfy, WA?STE, astvaldur, Englesia, 2K, x/o, SHALT, Endgame, Kala & RIOBAMBA, DJ Jayhood, DIVORCE and Liquid City Motors. We also played a load of our favorite Lechuga Zafiro tunes in anticipation of his set at Club Chai x Astral Plane this Saturday at the Starline Social Club in Oakland, CA. If you’re in the area and haven’t grabbed a cheap advance ticket yet you can do so here. Stream the full show below and grab a download here. We’ll be back on April 14.

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kai-whiston

“he’s this lil 16 yr ol lad called kai who comes from the same tiny shitty town as me & hangs out w my little brother. i don’t ever rlly do this w ppl’s music but i honestly believe in this dude.”

The above is a Facebook message we received in March 2016 from an artist we’ve worked with in the past. The Kai in question is Kai Whiston, a young British producer who has since debuted with the Houndstooth EP on Los Angeles’ TAR label and captivated critics and fans with a clattering, grime-adjacent production aesthetic. By the end of 2016, Whiston was marked as an up-and-comer in the world of Internet dance music, partially due to his age (he’s now 17), but mostly due to the genuinely striking nature of his debut and the radio appearances that followed, most recently his own Atrophy FM show on Radar Radio. Utilizing everything from familiar grime vocals to the sort of noisy sound design favored by labels like PAN, The Death of Rave and Editions Mego, Whiston essentially jumped out of the gate with a fully formed vision and the mix and radio appearances have only solidified those credentials, painting a map of influences and contemporaries that range from Sega Bodega and Food Man to John Cage, Nathan Fake and Death Grips. Whiston brings an eclecticism that not only comes across as genuine, but  is also distinctly strange, a cataclysmic mixture that defies expectation from moment to moment.

Its that quality that consistently draws responses like the one above and with a forthcoming release on a larger label on the way there’s a good chance Whiston’s music will incite similar responses in a much wider audience. In the meantime, there are two TAR releases to delve into and the aforementioned radio appearances, all must listens in our book. We grabbed Whiston for Astral Plane mix 143 and he delivered us a delirious, genre-averse blend of avant-garde classical experiments, mosh-y punk and gorgeous contemporary beat work. It’s mostly devoid of Whiston’s own work, but his eclectic production approach abounds and it’s not difficult to see the threads he might be grabbing at on future releases.

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As the pop world’s dominant trends have slowly been folded into the aesthetics of electronic music’s cutting edge, a number of artists have begun playing with its motifs in increasingly interesting ways. Lorenzo Senni is an obvious starting point, stripping trance down to its core instincts on the Superimpositions LP before fully embracing its fantastical build ups on last year’s Persona. Staycore’s Mechatok took snippets of an incredible amount of recent pop and club hits and laid them bare in rapid succession on his A True Story mix while Jesse Osborne-Lanthier twisted familiar EDM reference points into unimaginable shapes on Unalloyed, Unlicensed, All Night! for Raster-Noton. New York’s Dasychira doesn’t manipulate pop forms from such a literal perspective, but his music does have a familiar materiality to it and it’s not impossible to imagine tracks like “Caduceus” and “Amitie”, co-produced with Dviance, being inspired by some funhouse EDM environment.

Of course, the South African artist frames his debut Immolated release, out now on Blueberry Records, in an entirely different light: “There’s this ambiguous plane between spirituality and science in the study of insects I wanted to explore.” The cover art designed by Kyselina, sheds some light into Adrian Martens’ interests, but it was in a recent interview with aqnb where he laid bare his fascination with supernatural perceptions of insects and of the praying mantis’ “sense of spirituality.” The music itself is slippery, high gloss and full of fascinating little tics that recall human emotion, but remain opaque in the scope of the album. “Vipera”, featuring a stunning vocal contribution from Embaci, is the most easily graspable song but even it seems to slide away as the song crescendos.

“These creatures have been on earth longer than humans, yet we see them as almost extraterrestrial creatures. Insects have helped people understand their spirituality and thus their identity throughout history, yet science pulls us away from this connection to view them objectively.” There’s nothing didactic in the way that Martens talks about Immolated or the Bogosi Sekhukhuni-designed website that was built to accompany it, instead offering the listener and participant pure curiosity of image and sound that don’t so much unravel as they glint different depending on what sort of light you shine on them or context you place them in. Martens’ Astral Plane mix follows a similar path, straying away from traditional narratives to offer bits and pieces that might seem familiar at first but will likely look and feel entirely different when viewed from a different perspective. Immolated is available now via Blueberry. Track list after the jump.

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