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.
Threads of hardcore music abound in contemporary club forms, ranging from the disembodied hardstyle kicks found throughout the work of artists like Kablam and coucou chloe to more traditional (in a relative sense) stabs at hardcore genres like hardstyle and doomcore by Kilbourne and Nkisi respectively. It could be argued that all fast club musics fit under a hardcore rubric, but there’s no doubt that more common signifiers of hardcore — in both the term’s dance/electronic and rock/punk/noise contexts — abound. We initially caught onto Estoc’s work through a tip from Alex Compton and after diving into a few swirling blends (Arca, Brandy and Monica, Rabit and The Knife), we were floored by collaborations with Kilbourne and Swan Meat respectively. Residing in Olympia, Washington at the southern tip of Puget Sound, a town known for its leftist student body and ant-fascist activism, Estoc’s music takes in contemporary club music, hardcore forms and a range of vocal inspirations and spits out something powerful and angry, a scalding final product that is at once approachable and deeply desensitized. Gabber, the hyper-aggressive, Rotterdam-born genre, finds a particularly large space in Estoc’s aesthetic and the explanation of her name functions dually as a potential explanation for what has drawn so many to the genre in recent years: “This idea of creating a tool to defeat those with more power and protection than you is really appealing to me as it fits into the narrative of anti-fascist and anti-imperialist ideology, being able to look at what seem like insurmountable odds and coming out ahead with the right tools.”
That spirit abounds in Estoc’s original music, much of which can be found on her Soundcloud page. There are the aforementioned blends and collaborations, as well as a series of harrowing pieces under the d e s o l a t i o n moniker that are more space/texture-oriented than Estoc’s other work, but that she doesn’t necessarily see as being separate from the Estoc project. Her mixes often feature the work of artists like Pharmakon and The Body, acts that are seemingly finding more relevance in electronic music circles as scenes trend darker and denser, while contemporary hardcore producers like Sei2ure and Mad Dog often punctuate especially intense passages. In Estoc’s own words, her Astral Plane mix is a “best attempt at creating a narrative around what I experience in terms of mental illness,” describing the gabber passages as emulating “moments of sheer panic.” But there are also glimpses of richly hued brilliance, fascinating leaps from four-on-the-floor insanity to almost-soothing breakbeats and more than enough blends and edits of contemporary favorites to draw in even the most timid listener. The mix’s conceptual value is imbued from its opening passage, but its individual components, many created specifically for the occasion, are all worth revisiting and meditating on. Estoc’s music is rife with major themes — subversion of power structures and personal mental health in particular — but it’s worth noting that it also exists on a purely visceral/corporeal plane. And whichever way you choose to approach her Astral Plane mix, that visceral spirit will undoubtedly hit you. Click below for our full chat with Estoc and a must-read track list.
E.M.M.A.’s Astral Plane Recordings debut is out now. Get it here.
London’s E.M.M.A. is one of the most celebrated producers to rise out of the British capitol in recent years, conjuring vibrant sonic landscapes and breathtaking dancefloor-driven formations in equal measure. Glacé marks her arrival to Astral Plane Recordings, offering a glimpse into a wealth of new material recorded in recent years. Never one to accept the status quo of her surroundings, E.M.M.A. has also delved full on into radio and hosting production workshops for young women as co-host of the Angel Food show on NTS and founder of the Producer Girls workshops respectively. It’s a cliche, but half a decade after emerging from the London underground, E.M.M.A. has turned her focus to the community around her as she continues to push bleeding edge sounds on her own terms.
Glacé came about in the midst of those efforts, born out of the on-the-ground energy of both projects and informed by a desire to make something one step removed from daily routine and reality. Richly layered synths are the name of the game on “Glacé”, a colorful melange of percolating highs and mids that pulse and quiver as the track progresses. The percussion is influenced by classic new wave sounds, providing a flexible structure for the dense textures to unravel around and for the listener to grab onto. A beatless version and a spacious, tactile remix from Gobstopper artist Iglew round out the package, which is out in full now.
E.M.M.A. – Glacé
APR109 | Out Now
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.