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le-makeup

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.

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Hardcore tropes have become prevalent in niche dance music circles in recent years, both as overt sonic references and more subtle aesthetic predilections. DJs, both in the trad techno sphere and more collage-focused online space, are more willing to play speed-y, intense tacks and a general willingness to embrace the frenetic pace of everything from jungle to hardstyle seems to be taking over. Milan’s Nahshi is one particular voice filtering a particular node of hardcore, Italy’s Lento Violento, into his work, matching contemporary reference points with slowstyle structures. Pioneered by Gigi D’Agostino, Lento Violento reached its heyday in the late 2000s and isn’t exactly an active scene anymore, but artists like Nahshi, DJ Caesar and Vipra have begun reinvigorating the sound and creating bridges with other full-frontal sounds in the 100 BPM range.

Prior to fully embracing Lento Violento in his own production work, Nahshi experimented across a number of rhythmic structures, infusing baile funk, dembow and kizomba with hyper-polished synth work. Recent tracks for Ashida Park and Country Music respectively, as well as a series of self-released edits and originals, have seen the Italian artist wholeheartedly embrace slowstyle as his main focus, showing off a keen ability to twist the processional march of the sound into bizarre new forms. “LL/VV” and “Decelera” in particular infuse a piston-driven potency to the form, moving from D’Agostino’s carnivalesque predilections towards something far more bleak and destructive.

Heavily featuring his own solo productions, Nahshi’s entry for Astral Plane Mix 187 is a concise run through recent Lento Violento sounds with several throwbacks included for good measure. Contemporaries DJ Caeser and DJ Miranthony contribute key tracks to the selection, which proceeds at a remarkably consistent pace, a constant battering of dragged out kicks and high tension stabs. With so many artists aiming for hybrid sounds, the focused quality of Nahshi’s recent work comes as a breath of fresh air. Hit the jump for a full track list and download AP Mix 187 here.

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In the unconventional and eccentric ends of the electronic music world, artistic voice can often be drowned out in a drive towards peak aesthetics and production-oriented acceleration. This has lead to a number of important sonic divergences, but oftentimes songwriting is put on the back burner at the loss of the listener, DJ and dancer. Portuguese artist Odete has only recently entered the conversation, but has already emerged as one of the most distinct and confrontational voices around, drawing on ballroom linguistics, personal narrative and a novel approach to rhythm. Utilizing various regional club musics in her compositions and mix work, Odete’s approach feels genuinely theatrical, comprised of individual dramatic movements based on the trans femme experience. Even while listening from afar, the urge towards stage performance is clear in her work, which will be displayed in live sets later this year following the release of her debut album.

It was December’s Matrafona EP (out now on naivety) that initially drew us to Odete though, full of short, kinetic ideas, and the sort of jarring voice/spoken experiments that only work when coming from an assured voice. Classical and avant garde ideas meet pop samples through the work, which harkens back to a more protean era of collage. The EP followed Not Worried With The Production of Evidence, a more scattered, but similarly striking self-release out earlier in 2018. Mixes for Discwoman, Jerome and Rinse FM, as well as a number of deeply personal and instinctive self-release mixes, have followed, with technical nous slowly catching up to the expansive, often abrasive freeform tracks on Not Worried With The Production of Evidence. Throughout the two EPs and mix work, Odete has shown a unique surrealistic ability to examine internal pain and externalize it in all of its brutality. The grotesque is certainly not shied away from on tracks like “There’s Pain Under My Wig” and the “Folklore Collage”, but a concrete dancefloor streak remains throughout.

Odete’s Astral Plane Mix comes as natural extension of Matrafona, drawing on a range of polyrhythmic and hardcore dance forms in its structure, while finding time for intimate moments, drawing from more acoustic traditions. The mix also functions as personal exegesis, opening with spoken word examining the trans body under capitalism and patriarchy before launching into a series of vocals from Bjork, Frank Ocean and more. Throughout, Odete refuses to shy away from a through line of emotional rawness, brought out in both moments of tenderness and intensity. Download the mix here and hit the jump for Odete tour dates in March and April.

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céci

We celebrated the release of CÉCI’s Vortex EP last week with a very special, contextualizing guest session on our monthly NTS slot last week. Slow jams, fine textures and a range of circuitous melodic structures abound in her 30 minute mix which runs from the hour mark. AP DJ Team handled the first hour and last thirty minutes and slotted in plenty of slow-fast and fast-slow tunes including new Slikback, blastah, Lee Gamble, Simo Cell, HNRO and more. The last thirty also includes forthcoming Chants, that stunning LOFT Charli edit and a few new ones from DJ Plead’s upcoming Nervous Horizon tape. Download it here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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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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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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