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We’re a bit behind on blog/radio/social updates having just returned from our run of dates in the UK so this is a bit of a two-for-one. Above we have the self-directed music video for Alis’ “Papercuts” from the EP (out now) of the same name. The visual epitomizes the subtle in motion qualities of Papercuts and features a number of Alis’ supremely talented friends showing off their skills. Second is our most recent monthly NTS show, which also features Alis on the guest mix. We put together our first Buy Music Club list for this one and a full track list can be found after the jump.

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Artists making and playing out regional Club music constantly come up against a dance music hegemony that only rarely accepts it into the halls of booking agencies, festivals and legacy labels. Language of openness, experimentation and freedom is unavoidable in this sphere, but stray outside of the tasteful confines and you’re likely to be shunned and looked down upon. This has led to bizarre phenomenons like the EDM world’s fleeting embrace of Jersey Club or Footwork artists often getting more play at beat scene functions than actual clubs. Crews like Juke Bounce Werk, Principe and Nyege Nyege have worked tirelessly to create their own autonomous platforms, but most artists don’t have access to those resources. This is the context in which a techno artist playing jungle or a former indie darling playing kuduro is viewed as a radical act, while those cultures themselves, mostly occupied by working class participants, are almost exclusively ignored.

Los Angeles’ So Drove, formerly known as Schwarz (born Adam Schwarz), has spent their life pushing up against and outright rejecting the dance music world’s notion of taste. While living in Baltimore, the producer, vocalist and DJ championed the city’s more eccentric Club proclivities, working with artists like Abdu Ali, Blaqstarr and TT the Artist, while releasing a near-constant stream of genre fudging bootlegs, blends and covers. 2017’s Everyday Is A Winding Road, released through their own Nina Pop label, is a great place to dive into the Schwarz discography, but it’s hard to go wrong with a deep dive into the Soundcloud annals. A whirlwind of sounds including pop punk, industrial, bounce, ballroom, snap rap and more can be found in Schwarz’s work, all imbued with an emotional clarity and a deep felt devotion to the source material.

Since relocating to Los Angeles and starting the So Drove project, songwriting, rap production and a new series of collaborations have become Schwarz’s main focus. Effortlessly buoyant productions for the likes of Cupcakke, Kreayshawn and Nezzy have brought them to a wider audience, but the project also hit a recent high point with Solano Canyon OST , their longest and most personally expressive work to date. Named after the serpentine East LA neighborhood they lived in for a year, the album features as many big hooks, provided by Schwarz, Nezzy and Saturn Rising, as well as a standout performance from Memphis legend La Chat, as it does insular moments. Extrapolating on themes introduced on early Schwarz bootlegs, the album is 100% honest and 100% emotionally vulnerable, charting a personal, everyday path over a series of joyfully idiosyncratic productions.

So Drove’s Astral Plane Mix charts a similarly distinctive path, taking a more high strung path than Solano Canyon OST‘s low slung arrangements and maintaining a high wire act of cross-genre transitions and brash curatorial choices. Longtime fans of their mix work won’t be surprised by the fusion, but new listeners may be a bit startled by transitions from new era Club artists like DJ Diamond Kuts and Calvo to Butthole Surfers, the Grateful Dead and Sleigh Bells. Bootlegs of Lil Uzi Vert, Princess Nokia and Rico Nasty tie the affair together, while a Korn vs. Dem Franchise Boyz blend provides a high energy mark midway through the session. Throughout, Schwarz exploits, twists and builds out from familiar pop formats, making quick cuts into and out of raw dancefloor tracks while maintaining a focus on the odd ball vocalists strewn throughout the selection. Eclecticism is an overwrought trope in dance music and is more often manufactured than evolved naturally, but So Drove is a genuine one-of-a-kind and boldly stands out against gatekeeper-led monotony. Download Astral Plane Mix 185 here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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We’ve maintained a fairly insular approach to label curation over the past few years, releasing music from a core group of artists and slowly bringing new individuals and approaches into the fold. It’s a deliberate way of working in an extremely cluttered/top down music media environment and it clearly hasn’t limited the scope of the sonic ecology we push.

That said, going into our fourth year in existence, we’ve decided to open up the gates a bit and let some new voices ring out. Over the coming months, we’ll be introducing four new artists into the APR family, bringing everything from algorithmically designed string music to fuzzed out Iranian pop.

The first of those artists is CÉCI, a Danish, London-based vocalist and sound artist who we’ve partnered with across a number of projects already. If you’re in London, you may have caught one of her Celestite nights at Rye Wax, featuring a combination of performance and DJ sets from some of our favorite artists in the city.

Vortex is CÉCI’s debut on APR and a jarring introduction to an artist we’ve tipped for some time. The sound is as enticing as the production is angular and across six short songs, CÉCI snakes her way through major hooks, resolute sound design and a range of inward facing affectations.

Today, we’re unveiling “Heartbeat”, the first single from Vortex and our initial introduction to CÉCI’s work. The single is accompanied by a striking music video directed by Emilie Alstrup and is a fitting introduction to CÉCI’s artistic voice and tactile approach to production. Relevant links below and much more to come.

CÉCI – Vortex
APR118 | Out February 15
Stream “Heartbeat”
Watch “Heartbeat”
Pre-order EP

1.) Force
2.) Foreveralone
3.) Taste
4.) Wait
5.) Want
6.) Heartbeat

“The Danish-born, London-based artist swathes her voice in intricate, prickly electronics on her new EP for Astral Plane, which sounds both massive and intimate.” – Resident Advisor

“Her music—a stripped-back, skeletal type of pop—is built from mind-bending sound design, haunting vocals, and ethereal energy that draws you in on first listen.” – XLR8R

“The London-based artist, who has a background in sound design and dance, employs motifs from a variety of contemporary club styles and a broad vocal approach.” – FACT

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Photo by Senay Kenfe

In a landscape where artists often garner acclaim online well before they actually get behind a set of CDJs, dedicated, preternaturally talented DJs are a welcome reprieve from the trainwrecking masses. Born in Philadelphia and raised between Los Angeles and Philly, SWISHA fits that bill to a T, a tireless producer and DJ who has become a go to for a range of American club styles. Now based in the Bronx, we became acquainted with SWISHA (fka Swisha Sweet) at nights in LA where he would invariably blow away every other DJ on the bill, sometimes without even wearing headphones. A member of the Juke Bounce Werk crew and a resident at CAMEO, SWISHA would regularly take over Rocksteady’s Tuesday night haunt and impress across LA’s range of warehouse bacchanals. Nowadays, we can regularly catch him on New York’s Half Moon Radio with Kush Jones and its easy to imagine him tearing it up in New York.

To summarize SWISHA’s sound would be to reduce it to something less than the whole, but in short, everything from Bmore, Jersey and Philly Club, Footwork, Juke, House and Techno are involved. His Digital Space EP, released in May of this year, is the most effective demonstration of the sound that comes across in a SWISHA DJ set, fluctuating between a dedication to American regional club sounds and an awareness of gritty rave dynamics. The EP is an extension of past work exploring similar themes, but coalesces around a singular approach more effectively than any previous SWISHA release.

That’s not to say that SWISHA isn’t offering up some of the most incisive club tracks around on other releases though and in September, he released the third edition of Assorted Flavors, a mixtape series featuring collaborations with the likes of AceMo, BASSBEAR!!, DJ J Heat and DJ Manny. The tracks are accompanied by bright, candy-themed artwork and often recklessly dive into outsized peak time sounds (see “Dat 1 Song Wit Tha Hornz”). Outside of his own platforms, SWISHA tracks and collaborations can consistently be found on JBW releases, as well as Trax Couture and DOMEOFDOOM, where he released his debut full length on cassette in 2016. He’s also recently started collaborating with the Bronx’s Papi Squad, a crew helmed by AMEN, Bassbear!!, Bojaq, El Blanco Nino, and Rainey, experimenting with a range of New York-specific mutations on club music. On the whole, he’s part of a range of contemporary movements offering up a fun loving, distinctly dancefloor-focused approach to regional club sounds that respects the source material, but also effortlessly drives forward.

SWISHA’s production catalog speaks for itself, but you kind of have to see him DJ live to get a sense of the skill and precision involved. His Astral Plane Mix, a breakneck run through the SWISHA sound that comes in at a tight 40 minutes, is a great representation of what he has to offer and will have to do for now though. Legends like DJ Deeon, DJ Slugo and DJ Stringray pepper the track and feel right at home with artists like ABE, K-Shiz and LSDXOXO, while SWISHA originals (and a few unreleased remixes of tracks from Digital Space), provide energy peaks. Blends tend to enter the frame quickly, but stick around as SWISHA bobbles between tracks and draws lines between material that might seem disparate without proper contextualization. More than anything else though, it’s fun as hell and offers insight into an artist who hasn’t let dance music’s drudgeries and hyper self-seriousness get in the way of making bops. Download the mix here and hit the jump for a track list.

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Precision 12 Inch Jacket TemplateIf you caught SHALT’s FACT Mix in May or any number of our recent NTS shows, you’ve likely caught glimpses of the Seraphim LP. SHALT’s debut album has been bubbling up for over a year now and we’re extremely proud and relieved to announce it to the world. Available on September 14 on LP and digital, the former featuring full color jacket work by the amazing Isaac Chabon, Seraphim is our most involved release date, a mini-epic with a dense conceptual core and a brilliantly abstract narrative. The album is accompanied by a series of brilliant video works by Nick Zhu and Tea Stražičić, a dream collaboration that can first be seen via the video for “Fleeting”. We’ll be unveiling more details on Seraphim over the coming weeks, but you can have a go at “Fleeting” here and pre-order your copy of the limited 200 run below. Bandcamp will likely be the most affordable option for those of you in the US, while the other Euro/UK-based retailers are likely cheaper for the rest of you. Give us a shout if prices seem unreasonable and we’ll see if there’s a local shop that better fits your needs. Thanks as always for the love and suport.

SHALT – Seraphim [LP/Digital]
APR115 | Out September 14
“Fleeting” video
Pre-order LP/12″: Bandcamp | Boomkat | Juno | Red Eye

1.) Conceived on Ash
2.) Preserved in Amber
3.) Seraph
4.) Fleeting
5.) Ardour
6.) Charred, Cleansed

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We’ve been fairly quiet in the aftermath of our inaugural EU/UK tour, but this Friday that all changes. ʃælt ii is the first of an almost monthly run of releases that will see a SHALT album, debut releases from Alis and M.D. James and the long-awaited return of Nunu. First though, Resident Advisor has the goodies on the second entry into SHALT‘s functional, non-narratively inclined ʃælt series. A few of these tracks were previewed in SHALT’s FACT Mix, a must listen if you haven’t checked it yet. You can find pre-order links below and be on the lookout for a very special, tremor-inducing Nunu remix.

SHALT – ʃælt ii 
APR114 | Out August 3
Stream “Nid De Guêpes”
Pre-Order EP

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In the age of Soulseek and Traktor, the concept of hybrid DJing isn’t exactly new, but few DJs embody the schismatic spirit and energy that the Internet and contemporary mixing technology enables. Just because someone has access to the right material and software/equipment doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to use it properly, both in terms of laying out a narrative and technical ability, and more often than not the result will be clunky and unappealing from the get go. New York’s (by way of Austin, Texas) Brandy-Alexander aka Miss Kenzo, a relatively new name with an immediately recognizable voice, does not fit within that trend of. Offering a fresh take on what is a distinctly New York sound, Miss Kenzo’s sound is built on Ballroom and Club music, the two forms forming dual backbones for her to insinuate threads of the hardcore dance spectrum. Fans of crews like KUNQ and Club Chai will find solace in the storytelling quality of Miss Kenzo’s past mixes and her entry for Mask Mag, titled “Belladonna of Madness”, is a great place to start.

Beyond DJing, Brandy-Alexander is a model who has entered the fashion world with the express goal of shedding light on issues affecting black, queer and trans people in her community. The connections between the fashion world and hybrid DJing styles are well established (see here, here and here) and the Miss Kenzo project feels like a natural extension of ground set out over the past decade, allowing her to explore the the tensions between euphoria and violence inherent in queer club scenes and music, often through brilliantly laid out non-linear narratives. On top of that, her mixes bang, supremely functional arrangements and surefire function starters. Her Astral Plane mix doesn’t pull any punches, leaping into breakneck hardcore before settling into a breakbeat and crash-laden groove, punctuated by trance loops and constant stylistic curveballs. It’s 45 minutes of pure energy that bares repeat listens, if for no other reason than to decipher MK’s intricate arrangements. Download the mix here and check out more Miss Kenzo here.

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LOFT arrived in 2016 like a shot out of a cannon, presenting a clearly defined aesthetic on the Turbulent Dynamics EP (APR105) that combined a level of dancefloor-focused cohesion and rippling abstraction that artists twice his age rarely meet. Named by Resident Advisor as the number eight song of 2016, “Heffalump” led the release and introduced many to LOFT’s distinct push-pull approach, throwing listeners into a world of disarmingly charming melodic elements and a rhythmic quotient that brilliantly unfolds over the track’s seven minute run time.

Released on July 28, “Heffalump” is on vinyl for the first time, playing the a-side role on Astral Plane Recordings’ first ever white label 12”. The hand stamped, hand numbered 12” is backed by the equally jarring “I Am Bouyant”, a hairbrained proto-jungle track that will be familiar to fans of LOFT’s all-originals mix work and his lauded live sets around the Manchester area. Turbulent Dynamics is a forcefully original release that treads well across the dancefloor into more adventurous spheres, but grabbing “Heffalump” and the brand new “I Am Bouyant” for APRWH001 feels right for the Los Angeles label’s debut on wax.

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Juno
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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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This Friday (5/19), the Astral Plane DJ Team is heading to Milwaukee to play Precognition, thrown by our good friends Close Up of the Serene. We’ve been looking to collaborate with Close Up on something concrete for a good while now and the opportunity to head out to their Midwest home base was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Thoom and Itsï, out of Chicago, round out the lineup and we’re beyond excited to hear what kind of demonic frequencies they have planned for Friday night. Check out their collaborative track “Abyzou” and Thoom’s recent “Asthmatic”, which was featured in our latest For Club Use Only feature in FACT. In anticipation of Friday, we grabbed a guest mix from Thoom for our NTS show, which went down at the usual Highland Park last Friday. The Astral Plane DJ Team’s section also includes brand new Chants, E.M.M.A., Acre and SHALT, all forthcoming on Astral Plane Recordings. Download the full session here and catch a full track list after the jump.

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