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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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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“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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The idea of punk has been pummeled into irrelevancy over the previous four decades — victim of its own indefinable boundaries, but mostly its co-option by consumer culture and the capital-driven record industry. The ethos of punk is still alive and well though, removed from its anglo context and conveyed in an array of recent artistic, musical and fashion-born movements. Detroit’s Abby — a member of the PTP and Mind Club crews — comes to mind immediately when thinking of the no holds barred and no rules attitude of punk, a DJ who has become a cult favorite via a collection of feverous, off-the-wall edits and DJ sets. A residency at Berlin Community Radio over this past Fall paired Abby’s work with the likes of Jackkie, DJ NJ Drone and Ziúr, while previous mixes for Discwoman, Boiler Room and Sister have solidified her demonic stylings and abbreviated blend style. The result of decades of house and techno dominance has led to the idea of the DJ’s DJ being an exceptionally boring, technical individual, but Abby’s unreserved enthusiasm and embrace of frenzied atmospheres make her the DJ’s DJ that we all deserve.

150+ BPM jersey club, footwork, hardcore techno and contortionist, bass-heavy club experiments all find a home in Abby’s Astral Plane mix with sections of hectic rhythm layered over equal parts dazzling and terrifying synth work and snippets of speech driving the out-of-body experience forward. Tarquin, Jlin, Pearson Sound and Lil Jabba all make appearances, fitted around Youtube excerpts and a clip from the Ellen show, all finished off by Abby’s own searingly emotional Supremes x Shyqa edit. Like being thrown into a cyclone, Abby’s arrangements have the ability to throw the listener off their feet and rip their breath away. If that isn’t punk I don’t know what is.

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Berlin Community Radio has arisen as a key outpost for experimental music and a hub for open-minded dialogue in the increasingly busy sonic space that is Berlin. With a focus on “underrepresentedd and marginalised voices,” BCR’s Incubator program is the apotheosis of that approach, offering studio access and professional help to a selection of Berlin-based artists chosen by a panel that includes NTS’ Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura (check out her Astral Plane mix from last October), Truants’ Soraya Brouwer, Discwoman’s Frankie Hutchinson and rising producer/DJ rRoxymore. To date, four artists have been involved in the program (the call for involvement was sent out in early 2016), which provides participants with everything from studio time and a four week radio residency to access to photographers and PR assistance. Rui Ho, a Chinese artist living in Berlin, was one of those participants, laying down four sessions at BCR last year and eventually releasing their debut Ru Meng Ling single through the Genome 6.66 Mbp label.

Part of a growing network of artists pushing pack against techno’s hold on Berlin — a group well canonized in December’s Co-Op compilation — Rui’s music is angular, bright and noisy, difficult to imagine in any sort of traditional dance space while seemingly imagining new ones on the fly. Speaking to us over email, Rui intimated the lack of club culture in China and how that has led to her “musical education” occurring entirely online. This sentiment is hardly new in the loose sector of electronic music we cover, but whereas many artists’ sonic output sounds distinctly place-less, Rui’s releases to date have a distinct psycho-geographic locale, both real or imaginary. A self-described “darkness” intones much of Rui’s work to date, heard in the aforementioned four show run on BCR, the Ru Meng Ling single, which features a suitably schizophrenic remix from Why Be, and in their Astral Plane mix, a contrast-heavy blend of contemporary global sounds that seems to move with a mind of its own.

Relations between the body and self, mind and technology and self and internet all come to the fore in Rui’s mix work, which is manic in subject matter, but usually flows relatively smoothly. Artists like Shanti, Detente, Elysia Crampton and Nunu show up in their Astral Plane Mix, which tends to emit (and emnote) rapidly. Hit the jump for our full interview with Rui and a track list and be sure to grab the Ru Meng Ling single here.

Hi Rui, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?

Hey! I’m good, just woke up to the sunshine in my room in Berlin actually, which is very rare for the winter here but kind of essential to keep one from drowning in the dark energy here.

Introduce yourself to our readers. Where are you from? What is your musical background?

I’m from China where everything seems to be quite different from the rest of the world, so I moved out of China and lived in Paris for 3 and a half years before I finally relocated in Berlin where I feel a lot more relax and I have a lot more space for me to be myself and work on music. I was never officially educated in music but I was always interested and involved in music: school choir, pop punk band and A Capella group, etc, I guess I just knew that my favourite is music and it’s what I would like to get into.

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Artists working on the fringes of ambient, noise and experimental music can often be confined to reductive descriptors by journalists, labels and events, grouping artists together in a manner that is neither beneficial to those individuals or the listener. It’s the sort of mindset that puts Alessandro Cortini on the same plane as Psychic TV because of some vague industrial connection, or, more recently, Elysia Crampton in the same conversation as Croatian Amor because of some algorithmic shortcomings. Philadelphia’s David Sutton, previously known as Current Amnesia and now going under the LXV pseudonym, has largely been able to avoid that contextual pitfall, releasing a series of albums, cassettes and mixes through labels like Umor Rex, Sacred Phrases and Anòmia that fit into a deep tradition of consciousness exploring electronic music that matches sonorous elements and abrasion with a deft, assured touch.

Having come to “young adulthood in the height of the american noise scene,” Sutton has also worked with the groups Ladderwoe and Car Commercials making “demented, improvised freakdom and occasional glimpses of fake rock,” but it’s his recent work as LXV that has piqued our interest and made him something of a cult favorite. Many will have been introduced to Sutton through Sirens, a collaborative album with Montreal’s Kara-lis Coverdale, and will have continued on to a mix for Creamcake and a series of one-off, almost hymnal tracks, leading up to 2016’s Clear, his most recent full-length project. Speaking to us over email, Sutton says that he’s been reading a number of philosophical texts, as well as some contemporary fiction, poetry, sci-fi and “too much news,” and it’s clear that Sutton has a flair for marrying classical and post-modern elements, a union personified in the text he writes and “reads” through a computer generated voice program in his mix work.

In our email exchange with David, we delved further into that marriage, inquiring about his use of acoustic and electronic sounds in quick succession, as well as how he’s managed to mine creativity amid the current political climate and how consciousness is realized in a physical studio studio setting. Sutton also mentioned that a follow-up to 2015’s Sirens is on the way and why he enjoys the process of making mixes so much. His Astral Plane mix begins with a digitized voice intoning stream-of-consciousness statements about American wildlife, sovereignty and displacement and more before leaping into a series of compositions by everyone from Mark Fell and Rene Hell to Vangelis and Alvin Lucier. It’s a deeply unsettling collection, reverberating with a nervous energy that is briefly placated by Groove Armada’s “At The River”, a track that arrives halfway through the mix and takes on a carnivalesque air in the midst of the clicks, drones and disorienting vocals that make up the rest of the selection. The mix is titled “Loss Function”, a fittingly analytic title to a composition that intentional skirt’s any sort of traditional groove or progression. Hit the jump for the full interview and a track list and download the “Loss Function” here.

Hi David, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?

Hello, I am doing well. answering from my bedroom in Philadelphia.

For new listeners, can you outline the progression of your various projects? You’ve worked under your own name, as well as Current Amnesia, LXV, Ladderwoe and Car Commercials.

I came to young adulthood in the height of the american noise scene, got to see a ton of amazing, weirdo sets in decrepit basements. Current Amnesia was my solo output for a while. Ladderwoe and Car Commercials were some duos working in demented, improvised freakdom and occasional glimpses of fake rock.

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For the past year, the East Bay has been blessed with a series of events focusing on non-binary, non-Western music and performance. foozool and 8ULENTINA’s Club Chai recently became an internationally recognized name after the release of their eponymous debut compilation, featuring artists like Lechuga Zafiro, Organ Tapes and Stud1nt, but it’s the local groundwork that has made the operation so immediately relevant and transgressive. In June of last year, we featured an Astral Plane mix from 8ULENTINA, a fitting introduction to the Club Chai ethos that has since been extrapolated on at length on Club Chai Vol. 1. Lara Sarkissian makes music under both her birth name and the foozool moniker, pushing “more abstract original productions & sound collage” through the former and dance-focused edits/remixes from the latter. Tracks like “Geghard” and “APRE ԱՊՐԷ” are dense, rhythmic tracks that match haunting melodies with solipsistic drum work and fits of noise, samples and field recordings. With a live show set to debut next month, it’s easy to see how these tracks will thrive when broken down, meshed and developed further in physical space.

The connection between many “experimental” artist’s original output and mix work is often tenuous, but Sarkissian’s DJ and radio sets are often where her own productions thrive, intertwining with Armenian dance tracks she’s sourced from her mother and Arabic club tracks she collected while living in Armenia’s Nagorno-Karabakh region. They’re often equal parts melancholy and festive, drawing in everything from Flex Dance Music and reggaeton to tracks from Bay Area like Turbo Sonidero and Ambr33zy BA!. Her Astral Plane mix is no different, linking compilation tracks with a series of foozool edits, transitioning from an emotive, low key opening section into club forward four-on-the-floor with Ara Gevorkyan’s “Musa Ler” playing the bridge roll. It’s clear that Sarkissian has a rigorous approach to sound design and sample arrangement and the mix has a distinct narrative arc to it even though its constituent elements are disjointed to say the least. We chatted over email and talked Club Chai’s Bay Area community, the compilation, sourcing samples from Vine and Ara Gevorgyan’s music. Hit the jump for the full interview and track list and be sure to grab Club Chai Vol. 1 here.

Hi Lara, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?

My home dining room aka my “stu” in San Francisco.

You release as foozool as well as under your own name. What is the distinction between the two projects? Do you have a good idea of which pseudonym a track will fall into from the beginning of the production process?

The material I release under my name is more abstract original productions & sound collage I see tying into visual projects in the future (a couple that have been for film already), and eventually having screenings during performances of these sounds. I’ve always been super interested in the tactile relationship between sound and image and it’s something I haven’t done in a while, i’m back at working on something from footage recorded recently.

I’m going to be playing my first live show next month, so am excited to see what form the sound will take making things live/improvised, and being more comfortable using samples of a wider range of instruments. I’m continuing edits/remixes of other artists under foozool, and incorporate them into my dance DJ sets where I mainly mix with other’s work.

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