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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since we started sending out promo copies of Chants’ Amethyst Dust, we’ve consistently receive feedback relating the intensity and general loudness (in all respects) of the Madison-based artist’s sophomore release for Astral Plane Recordings. Comprised of four tightly coiled, drum-forward efforts, Amethyst Dust is arguably the most peak time-ready thing we’ve released to date, full of huge, chorus-like riffs and a sneaky sense of funk buried somewhere underneath its layers of pummeling percussion. Some of our favorite DJs including Blackwax and Amy Becker have managed to contextualize it particularly well and today Amethyst Dust is out in full worldwide. You’ve likely come to expect a certain intensity from our output your honest engagement with the music and ideas involved is always welcomed.
Astral Plane DJ Team took over our February NTS show last Friday in the midst of a massive storm. The stream cut out halfway through and Highland Park’s power grid had failed by the end of the show, but we made it through. Left a live mic and a some effects on as well. Forthcoming material from Chants, Nunu, LOFT and E.M.M.A. inside, as well as favorites from LXV & Karmelloz, Celyn June, Egyptrixx, Nargiz, Sami Baha, Capital Kaos, 2lanes, Why Be, Citizen Boy, Errorsmith & Mark Fell, coucou chloe, Xuxu Santamaria and more. Chants’ Amethyst Dust, the Madison-based producer’s second EP for APR, is our March 3.
Nine months after the release of his label debut The Zookeeper EP, (APR102) Chants is on the verge of return. With a renewed focus on realizing impact through a series of technological self-limitations, the Wisconins-based artist will open up the year for Astral Plane Recordings next month with an enigmatic, oversized sophomore EP. Before we get to that though, we have The Zookeeper: Remixed, a project we’ve been stewing on for quite some time and finally feels ready to drop. Featuring remixes from SHALT, Liquid City Motors and Sim Hutchins, as well as a hypnotic VIP of “Crushed Lollipop”, the project puts original Chants tracks in a new context, ranging from hazy, euphoric blasts of noise to a riptide breaks workout and on to a chopped up, eski-styled piano ballad. Check out SHALT’s take on “Crushed Lollipop” below and look out for a free download of the full project on our Bandcamp this Friday. Hit the jump to check out our latest NTS show, which features a guest session from Chants and healing music from the Astral Plane DJ Team.
Yesterday, we ran through a year of mixes, videos and one-off audio artifacts from our stable of artists and today we’ve got a summation of all that we’ve released through official channels over the past 12 months. Starting with SHALT’s Acheron and ending with the British producer’s Inertia, these are the releases we poured our heart and soul into and that have garnered some nice placements on year end lists over the past week and a half or so. Yesterday, Resident Advisor named LOFT’s “Heffalump” into the top ten of their annual best tracks feature and the previous week the online magazine featured APR among their top 20 labels of the year. Mixmag was also kind enough to slot us in among their top ten favorite labels of 2016, referring to our well executed “plan of attack.”
That comment felt especially on point considering the timing of the label and the feeling we had going into the year. In short, we’ve wanted to start a record label for around five years now, but never felt that we had a coherent enough vision. The timing never quite felt right until we had Acheron in hand really and fortunately everything just sort of unfolded from there. We’ve always had a bit of antipathy towards labels that function as pit stops for artists so the opportunity to build relationships with SHALT, Chants, Nunu, Exit Sense and LOFT was an absolute joy this year. We’ll be back with three projects in the first few months of the year, one bootleg package, one official remix project and one follow-up to one of 2016’s artist debuts. As always, keep an eye on this space, as well our label website and our Bandcamp. Hit the jump for details, buy/streaming links and press bits for all seven of our 2016 releases.