A key part of the genre blurring wave of artists that emerged in the early 2010s, Moscow-based Pixelord has never sat comfortable in one scene or sound, partially due to his constantly wandering interests and partially due to his position as a fervent proponent of sounds outside of his city’s hegemonic house and techno culture. Cursed by the faulty nomenclature of post-dubstep and bass music, the hybrid-focused sound of the early aughts has been derided by many as soft and directionless, but many of today’s most influential artists and labels arose out of that supposed morass, capitalizing on the lack of a dominant sound to expand their and their listeners’ sonic horizons. Six or so years down the road and Pixelord, the head of the Hyperboloid and Terminal Dream labels, is a prime example of that fertile era, coming to age on labels like Car Crash Set, Error Broadcast and Leisure System and going on to release two albums through his own channels, the latest of which was released in September.
Utilizing elements of electro, garage, trap, footwork and more, Pixelord’s approach to Human.exe, his second full length for Hyperboloid, is clear from the get go, a deeply technological approach to club music that coalesces around a singular sound palette even as tempos and structures fluctuate. Tracks like “Telepathic” and “Axis” are both digital and metallic without falling into the trap of sounding cheap, fully formed club tracks with a somber edge that tends to enunciate the cyborg themes that dominate the record. Pixelord’s music has always had a vivid quality to it, a natural focus on the widescreen realized in his rich synthesizer tones and patient approach to song progression. Predictably, Pixelord’s entry into our mix series is chameleonic from the get go, 45 minutes of bent-but-not-broken rhythms that both recall and build on the themes brought up throughout Human.exe. Like the album, Astral Plane Mix 126 starts fast and percussive before settling into a more easygoing groove, bridging album tracks with likeminded material with a deft touch that more-often-than-not flatters both. Much has been made over the state of “underground” electronic music in the aughts and while many observers have retreated to the safe confines of accepted four-on-the-floor forms, artists like Pixelord continue to expand and experiment, testing out new collisions with the enthusiasm of a true believer.
To many, Lanark Artefax aka Calum MacRae was introduced in July of this year, the month that saw the release of the Glaswegian artist’s Glasz EP, a dense five track effort released through Lee Gamble’s UIQ label. Garnering support from a host of influential DJs, ranging from Mumdance and Mary Anne Hobbs to Beatrice Dillon, Gamble and Mosca, Glasz has proven to be one of the breakout releases of 2016, drawing fans from across the electronic music spectrum to his brittle sonics and uncanny rhythmic structures. Preceding Glasz, Artefax released the Windox Rush EP, a similarly woozy, albeit less fully formed extended player released through Cong Burn Waves. For one reason or another, Windox Rush is no longer available online, making Glasz the Glaswegian’s functional debut, a fitting circumstance for a release that truly sounds like nothing else released in 2016 (or before it for that matter.)
In interviews, MacRae points to monumental IDM figures like Autechre, The Black Dog and Mike Paradinas as all having had an influence on his sound, a path through recent history and sound that seems to point more towards their approach to structure and experimentation than it does to exact sonics. In charts and other interviews, MacRae points to the expansive musique concréte of Valerio Tricoli, SKY H1’s “bleak but really lovely” sounds and UIQ label head Lee Gamble, all artists in the PAN universe, as contemporary reference points, a map of artists utilizing drastically different toolsets to approach what might be called with avant-garde music with heart. Which is exactly where Lanark Artefax and Glasz sit, a fundamentally left field leaning project that nonetheless functions on a corporal and emotional level rarely found in experimental musics. His Astral Plane mix is a case in point, a rich collage of voice, texture and rhythm that begins with work from Emra Grid, Broshuda and D/P/I and climaxes in efforts from Félicia Atkinson & Jeffre Cantu-Ledesma and Renick Bell. Of course, Mazzy Star’s “Into Mist” ends the mix, a romantic gesture that is hardly out of place in the context of MacRae’s music. Get Glasz here and catch us eagerly looking out for whatever is next for Artefax and UIQ.
With our Dummy Presents: The Astral Plane night coming up this Friday, our own Astral Plane DJ Team have contributed a mix to Dummy Mag’s inimitable series, chopping up label material from SHALT, Nunu, LOFT, Chants and more with a host of exclusives by Eaves, Imaabs, Jikuroux and more. The mix starts out with a stab at a Rian Treanor x 21 Savage blend and only gets more deranged from there, smashing in industrial dubstep with Lil Uzi Vert and PnB Rock. The following quote accompanied the mix:
Made up of tracks tested out in our living room and at nights in LA over the past few weeks, this recording touches on a lot of the more industrial-influenced music we’ve released without delving into full blown hysteric dystopia. It’s important to always leave room for light and whether that comes from sneaky ghost melodies in a SHALT tune or a moment affirming Lil Uzi Vert chorus we’ve tried to include plenty in our Dummy mix.
Violence, Maieli, Bianca Oblivion, The Dance Pit, Nargiz and the Astral Plane DJ Team are playing Dummy Presents: The Astral Plane which goes down Friday night from 9 PM to 2 AM at the Ace Hotel Rooftop in Downtown LA. RSVP here.
On Monday night, we took to the airwaves for our monthly slot on Radar Radio (fourth Monday of every month) and brought along a guest mix from Resla, one of our favorite new producers who has gotten a lot of play in previous Radar sessions and featured in our monthly column for FACT Magazine. The Chilean producer’s guest session plays out in the second hour and features almost 50 songs including new material from Astral Plane faves mobilegirl, Soda Plains, Spaceseeds, Santa Muerte and Dinamarca. It’s sent us scrambling since he first sent it over and if you can follow the rapid switch ups you might just get an early taste of a heap of forthcoming material. The Astral Plane DJ Team handles the first hour, which features some unreleased label material, forthcoming tracks from Imaabs, Kid Antoine & CYPHR and Letta, plus a quick run through of our favorite non-dance tracks of late. Hit the jump for a track list and enjoy. We’ll be back on September 26.
On September 2nd, we’re hosting a night with Dummy at the Ace Rooftop in downtown Los Angeles and couldn’t be more excited to add The Dance Pit and Nargiz to the lineup. In anticipation of the night, we’ve asked both artists to record a mix for us, providing joint entries for Astral Plane Mix 120. Find more info on Dummy Presents: The Astral Plane here and RSVP here.
Started in 2013, Nargiz’s every-once-in-a-while Heat Ritual parties have boasted some of the city’s most on-the-cusp lineups in recent years, drawing together artists from the NAAFI, Fade 2 Mind, KUNQ and Mixpak universes since well before media outlets like Resident Advisor and Mixmag codified them in any sort of “scene”. Previous to Heat Ritual, Nargiz was a resident at Tokyo’s Laguna Bass nights cutting her teeth in a city with a dearth of options for left field club fans. Having spent time in a number of cities including New York, Philadelphia and Tokyo, Nargiz is something of a club music nomad and her music is no less complex than her geography.
Originally from Azerbaijan, Nargiz was introduced to many via “O’youn Oyun”, a highlight from Tobago Tracks’ 8ULENTINA-curated DISMISS U compilation that was released in April and features likeminded artists like DJ Haram and foozool. “O’youn Oyun” features a drum loop from the meyxanas performance genre, a blend of repetitive drum loops and freestyle rhyming and chanting. It also features a sample from Clipse’s “Grindin” and like much of the material on DISMISS U the two elements neither clash nor mesh, instead providing an in-your-face sonic dialogue between Western pop signifiers and Azeri rhythms and vocals.
Inspired by “spending too much time in random cars on Periscope driving around Azerbaijan,”, Nargiz’s Astral Plane mix is short journey through trans-oceanic club spaces and central Asian musics, fitting 16 songs into 18 frantic minutes. Nargiz’s own edits of Young Thug are positioned against recent work by Rizzla, Florentino and Leonce, while the instrumental to Mims’ “This Is Why I’m Hot”, also a collage of sorts, fits uneasily between two atmosphere-heavy tracks by “unknown” artists. It’s a brief, but strong introduction to an artist with only a few solo productions to their name at this point and if vision and experience are anything to go by it’s easy to see Nargiz emerging as one of the most exciting new producers of 2016.
Leicester’s shapeshifting Grade 10 collective only launched last May, but have already inserted themselves into a number of conversations, insisting on a quality-over-everything model that prides a somewhat understated collective voice over individual bombastics. Through their generally excellent Radar Radio show and a slick, but hard to pin down collection of releases, G10 is certainly on an upward trajectory and on July 15, Coyote Records affiliate Forever will release his debut Coarse single on the label, a vinyl-only two tracker with a remix from house legend Mr. G. Like a more subdued take on the Keysound 130 rollage sound, “Coarse” engages amicably with jungle, garage, dubstep and grime, utilizing all manner of floating synths and a focus on groove more reminiscent of house than any ‘nuum styles. With only a few remixes and mixes to draw from previous to Coarse, this release isn’t the ostentatious original debut we’ve come to expect from many young artists, but Forever and G10 are all the better for that approach and if this Midlands-based producer can continue to churn out work as innately gorgeous as “Coarse” then he’s primed for plenty of future success. Check out Mr. G’s remix of “Coarse” here and more from Grade 10 here.
Hailing from Strasboug, a city placed near the France-Germany border, Nunu is part of a rising collection of young European producers quickly reimagining how club music can and will exist on the Continent and its relationship to the regional forms it has so often been informed by in the past. The days of daft Bmore and footwork attempts, while not a thing of the past, have certainly been surpassed by a new approach, one that prides decentralization, equal amounts of an almost naive experimentalism and pop adoration, and a flair for performance rarely found in DJ communities. On July 1, Nunu will release the Mind Body Dialogue EP on our own Astral Plane Recordings outfit, his official debut and the most coherent and complete example of his artistic vision to date, drawing on a rich and often confused lineage of AI and cyborg representation in popular culture to imagine intimacy, love and sex within, outside of and between humans and machines. Its six songs are at times brutal, but also with a carefully constructed internal beauty, bore out in between frenzied percussion and an almost minimalist approach to composition. It’s visceral music intended for the club with an intensive narrative background that can be felt in the harsh, alien worlds of tracks like “Punani” and “Hateful” but hardly infringes on its immediate, tactile effect in physical space.
A recent mix for Endgame’s Precious Metals NTS show put the French artist’s work in line with artists like Lotic, Why Be and Exit Sense and showed off his willingness to embrace hysteria, its near-30 minute run time comprised of chasmic sub bass, whirlwind percussion and, if anything, an abiding sense of chaos. His Astral Plane mix functions on a different level, exposing the sneaky beauty mentioned above and the delicate nature of tracks like “Mind Body Dialogue” and “Cog” (which closes out the mix). This time, its v1984, Mechatok and Miley Serious that provide the context, producers that pride melodics more than the aforementioned group, but approach their pop-leaning work from anything but a traditional angle, whether it’s in the grotesque Arca-esque realm or more in the twisted Metro Boomin school of thought. The sound is at times angelic, especially when Sega Bodega’s “Sun Loop (Angel Mix)” peaks halfway through the mix, but there’s always an edge there, always something sinister and discomfiting about the overt display of affection. Check out “Punani” from Mind Body Dialogue over at THUMP and look out for the full release on July 1.
Photo by Lerz Moore
Considering how quickly the electronic music world’s gaze tends to enhance and fade certain artists, scenes and genres, Jack Stevens aka Sully’s career feels like something of an anomaly, an artist who has remained productive and at or near the top of his sphere for the past decade without relying on a volatile breakthrough moment or the hype train of a “new genre.” In short, Stevens has been making some of the best dubstep, garage, grime and jungle that the UK has to offer, first as part of the Innasekt duo and, since 2007’s Destroyah EP (on Creative Space Records), as Sully. Personally, it was Sully’s jungle tunes, efforts like his remix of Ballistiq Beats and Riko Dan’s “Rise The Machine (Yardman Riddim)” and “Flock”, that made me a believer, an admitted latecomer who only has come around to necessary early cuts like “Give Me Up” (as Sully Shanks) and “Jackman’s Rec” in a roundabout fashion in the years since. More recently, Sully’s work on the Body Count show on Radar Radio, which also features Sim Hutchins and Klaar, has been an obsession, seeing his variegated approach to ‘nuum sounds matched up with an array of American club sounds and abstracted soundtrack music, drone, ambient and industrial. A few times a show, a renegade breakbeat with cut through the haze and Sully’s presence will become known, often providing the forward momentum for a show with no clear stylistic parameters.
Which is actually a pretty accurate way to look at Sully’s career. A clear devotee of soundsystem culture, Sully’s work over the past decade has come often and it has come correctly, functioning in both 12″ and album form and retaining a sound that is almost immediately recognizable as Stevens’ own. 2016 has seen the release on the Vamp EP on Black Acre, a slight step away from Stevens’ more peak time forms that nonetheless has that slightly foreboding edge, tumbling percussion and attention to textural detail that has made his work an automatic buy for so many listeners and DJs for years. Listeners of Body Count will find certain songs in Sully’s Astral Plane mix familiar with artists like Sami Baha and The Haxan Cloak popping up in the track list, mixed in with curve balls like Philip Glass’ hypnotic “Koyaanisqatsi” from the film/soundtrack of the same name and two R&B cuts released a decade apart from Ashanti and Tinashe. Far from a club mix in the traditional sense, Sully’s work places the angular sounds of artists like Lokane, WWWINGS and Forever in conjunction with recent jungle revivalism from Special Request and classics by Portishead and Squarepusher, breaking down ostensible genre and temporal boundaries with remarkable ease. Which is a talent that Sully manages to retain in all of his work, the ability to wear his influences on his sleeve without succumbing to nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake; the ability to produce music that is uniquely his own that has and will continue to be integral to the canon.
First appearing on Wallwork’s Astral Plane mix in October of last year, Lloyd SB and Wallwork‘s “The Portal” has been one of the most desired dubs around for our team so were overjoyed when the Nervous Horizon folks sent over the promo for Lloyd’s forthcoming Boida Flare EP and it included the track. With a track on the most recent Boxed compilation and support from a huge range of radio shows and DJs, the release of Boida Flare feels perfectly timed and it’s hard not to imagine the EP taking over the clubs and airwaves further over the coming weeks and months. With our longtime obsession in mind, we’ve got “The Portal” on premiere today and if this hyper speed trapped out monstrosity didn’t catch your attention back in October it certainly will now. Based on a single, insatiable lead groove, the track is both a full frontal assault and an exercise in restraint, utilizing as few elements as possible for maximum jump up energy, seeming to exist more in the jungle/drum and bass sphere despite its familiar sound palette. Boida Flare is out June 3 and can pre-ordered here.
The 10th release on Parisian label [Re]Sources, Chaams’ Untro EP is the French producers first official release to date and a fitting introduction to boot, spanning three beautiful club works aided by remixes from New York’s Celestial Trax and Atlanta’s Distal. Combining forceful drum beats and searching, minor key synth arrangements, Untro‘s three tracks show off a producer with an ear for outsized club play, bringing a slightly restrained approach to the brass and bass structures of producers like Dullah Beatz, JT The Goon and Preditah. Untro is out January 29 and can be pre-ordered here.