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.