bftt

Our affinity for the booming Manchester scene is no secret, but the sense of kinship goes far beyond Manc to the many divergent movements coming out of the UK’s northern extremities. The sonic acceleration of the Sheffield and Glasgow scenes has been noted at length, but Leeds and Liverpool have become hotbeds of experimentation in their own right while sounds like bassline, donk and happy hardcore are still prevalent and thriving in clubs throughout the North. Leeds’ BFTT, seemingly one of the busiest people in dance music, has become a key node in the Northern archipelago, linking with Manchester’s Mutualism label and boygirl collective, while running the Leftovers platform out of Leeds.

Leftovers is a good place to start laying out BFTT’s approach, melding sentimental and campy streaks with an unadorned approach to sonic expansion. May saw the release of An Untitled Longing, a compilation featuring artists “operating in or connected to the North” including IceBoy Violet, LOFT and Marlo Egglplant. The compilation was Leftovers first official release and explored ambient forms in the broadest sense, touching on prickly metallic sounds (Sam Ridout’s “Untitled”), extended voice/noise (Marlo Eggplant’s “September 2017”) and elaborate melodic exercises (Clemency’s “SSRI Season / Sleep-In Sickness”). BFTT’s own “75623372 2” is one of the tape’s standouts, highlighting a granular approach that can also be found on 2018’s “iOSMIDI Tracks” for Tobago Tracks.

BFTT’s more club-focused records can be spotted on labels like All Centre, Cong Burn, Whities and now Gobstopper, the host of his forthcoming Versioning EP. Techno is an obvious template, but the BFTT sound circumvents linearity, matching an innate sense of groove with constantly fragmenting structures. That challenging sensibility is met wit a sprightly dose of fun, found in particular on his bootleg work of Britney Spears and Charli XCX for boygirl, but also in the light touch on tracks like “Enin” and his remix of Dervisis’ “Yelde”. from earlier this year.

The mischievous streak in the midst of formal experimentation found throughout BFTT’s production work is expanded infinitely in his take on DJing, which sees an omnivorous rhythmic diet matched with a nous for idiosyncratic progressions. Wonky low end sounds are matched effortlessly with horizontally arranged bliss and tempos are bound to reach 160+. His long awaited Astral Plane Mix exemplifies that approach while also functioning as an affectionate run through of music from friends and family. AP crew Amzondotcom, Chants and LOFT are all included, as are likeminded exemplars of cross-genre excellence like Ariel Zetina, Mr. Mitch and Oli XL. Recent outings for Rinse and NTS show that the BFTT gospel is expanding beyond the usual circles and the Versioning EP for Gobstopper, due August 7, should introduce the Leeds artist to an even larger circle of fans. Hit the jump for a full track list and download Astral Plane Mix 191 here.

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osheyack

A few weeks back, we featured a mix from Osaka’s Le Makeup, highlighting the Eternal Dragonz crew’s mission to forge a broad, cross-disciplinary identity contextualizing the work of Asian diasporic artists. Today, our focus turns to Shanghai’s SVBKVLT, another emerging outlet that embraces a far more specific, not to mention intense, approach to curation. Largely drawing from Chinese and China-based artists, SVBKVLT has made links between several traditions, namely noise, hardcore and rap, skewing towards a latex-clad, confrontational attitude and an innate performative spirit.

Alongside artists like Hyph11e, Swimful and Yen Tech, Shanghai-based, American interdisciplinary artist Osheyack has become one of the label’s stars over the past few years, conjoining an explicit hardcore ethos with the theatrical potency of proto-noise acts like Cabaret Voltaire and Coil. Early work, like 2015’s Fake/Fiction/Fraud, also set out an affection for various regional club musics with ballroom finding a particularly prominent space, while the five part “Clown” mix series showed off Osheyack’s voracious consumption of everything noisy and full frontal.

2018 was the year that Osheyack’s sound truly crystalized though, first on Empty Hell for SVBKVLT and later on his debut Sadomodernism LP for Bedouin Records. Initially premised on a 2015 remix for Pan Daijing and 2017’s “Pyre”, with frequent collaborators Milky He and Jordan Tierney, ripping rhythms, guttural moans and terrifying screams quickly became signature sounds across the two releases with tracks like “Parataxon” and “With Us”  functioning simultaneously as rave anthems and body horror exhortations. The latter, a nod to New York’s ballroom culture as noted in an interview with The Ransom Note, also featured Nahash, a fellow Shanghai-based artist and affiliate of noise outlet Huashan Records. Featuring on three consecutive Sadomodernism tracks, the duo connect on a deeply intrinsic level, crafting a sound that comes off as both comprised of age old organic materials and hyper-modern methods.

For Astral Plane Mix 190, the duo have continued their prowess by linking elastic, backlit pop with a range of front foot hardcore contortions. At 26 songs in just 30 minutes, the blends come fast and potent here, always on the verge of careening out of control, but never quite leaving the roadway. Artists like Uganda’s Slikback, who recently spent time in Shanghai, Italy’s Nahshi, and Oakland’s Russell E.L. Butler make key appearances in the intricately layered patchwork, which seems to extends forward at an almost exponential rate. Hit the jump for a full track list and download Astral Plane Mix 190 here.

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le-makeup

Transnational crews, labels and collectives have become one of the major forces in dance music over the past decade, often connecting underrepresented groups unable to build enough infrastructure in their home cities. As often as they succeed though, these entities can water down the output of their individual members, mostly by enforcing rigid sonic limitations, but sometimes through promotion of the whole over its constituent parts. Eternal Dragonz, a cross-disciplinary force anchored in the Asian diaspora, has managed to avoid both pitfalls, bringing together a widely varied roster for releases, radio shows and club nights without ever becoming an overbearing force on its own.

Osaka’s Le Makeup (Keisuke Iiri) had released on several labels, namely Ashida Park, JEROME and his own PURE VOYAGE outlet, prior to 2018’s Matra EP, but the release provided a larger platform and contextualized the singer, guitarist and producer’s work within a similar framework of pop-minded artists. Having previously dabbled in extended ambient pieces, hip hop production and throwback funk and synth pop, dancehall patterns are brought to the fore on Matra, bringing a perpetual bounce that sits surprisingly comfortably with its yearning vocals and washed out guitar arrangements. Avoiding the icy nihilism of so much club adjacent pop, tracks like “Matra” and “White Curtain” are unrepentantly earnest, putting Iiri front-and-center as narrative lead.

Released in January of this year, Iiri’s End Roll takes on an even more romantic tone, largely dropping the pretense of dance music structure and textural guitar work for an intensely melodic, upbeat sound, based around huge rif-y choruses and underscored by trap drums and a comforting bed of sub bass. It’s a long way from 2016’s production-led Esthe EP and the emotional development from release to release is tangible with Matra and End Roll shedding the uncanny sheen of the early work while embracing uninhibited song writing.

Le Makeup’s style of mixing also takes on an earnest, uninhibited bent, full of haphazard transitions (both technical and stylistic) and an all at once attitude that tends to overwhelm. Breaks, avant pop and hi tek hip hop sit comfortable in his Astral Plane Mix, which juts from mood to mood and avoids any sense of tangible momentum. Structured more like a mixtape than anything, Iiri tapes 80s Japanese classics, video game music and breaks at key moments, loosely working together a patchwork of reference points that are as spasmodic as his original work is clean and focused. Download Astral Plane Mix 189 here and hit the jump for a track list.

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nahshi

Hardcore tropes have become prevalent in niche dance music circles in recent years, both as overt sonic references and more subtle aesthetic predilections. DJs, both in the trad techno sphere and more collage-focused online space, are more willing to play speed-y, intense tacks and a general willingness to embrace the frenetic pace of everything from jungle to hardstyle seems to be taking over. Milan’s Nahshi is one particular voice filtering a particular node of hardcore, Italy’s Lento Violento, into his work, matching contemporary reference points with slowstyle structures. Pioneered by Gigi D’Agostino, Lento Violento reached its heyday in the late 2000s and isn’t exactly an active scene anymore, but artists like Nahshi, DJ Caesar and Vipra have begun reinvigorating the sound and creating bridges with other full-frontal sounds in the 100 BPM range.

Prior to fully embracing Lento Violento in his own production work, Nahshi experimented across a number of rhythmic structures, infusing baile funk, dembow and kizomba with hyper-polished synth work. Recent tracks for Ashida Park and Country Music respectively, as well as a series of self-released edits and originals, have seen the Italian artist wholeheartedly embrace slowstyle as his main focus, showing off a keen ability to twist the processional march of the sound into bizarre new forms. “LL/VV” and “Decelera” in particular infuse a piston-driven potency to the form, moving from D’Agostino’s carnivalesque predilections towards something far more bleak and destructive.

Heavily featuring his own solo productions, Nahshi’s entry for Astral Plane Mix 187 is a concise run through recent Lento Violento sounds with several throwbacks included for good measure. Contemporaries DJ Caeser and DJ Miranthony contribute key tracks to the selection, which proceeds at a remarkably consistent pace, a constant battering of dragged out kicks and high tension stabs. With so many artists aiming for hybrid sounds, the focused quality of Nahshi’s recent work comes as a breath of fresh air. Hit the jump for a full track list and download AP Mix 187 here.

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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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Alis_1_by_Rebecca-Eskilsson

Alis has spent over a decade exploring the intricacies of performance-oriented club music, releasing on labels like Don’t Be Afraid and Planet Mu, and becoming a staple in the Berlin and London scenes. Out now, Papercuts is her Astral Plane Recordings debut, comprised of five lush, intimate tracks that are both entirely removed from a dancefloor-context, yet deeply preoccupied with groove and movement.

Honed at her Sunday System nights at London’s Rye Wax, Alis’ interdisciplinary practice comes to the fore on Papercuts with vocals extending far beyond their linguistical potential into a broader, more textural realm. Songs like “Status” and “BCC: me” walk the line of sonority and dissonance, nearing the precipice of abstraction without falling into the abyss. “Papercuts” and “Water” on the other hand offer a more concise narrative vision, proffering a version of hookwriting that fluctuates between meditative and commanding.

Recorded across several continents, it’s no surprise that Papercuts tends to enliven interstitial spaces and Alis’ unique disposition makes the cerebral accessible. Papercuts is out now on APR and will be available as digital EP and full color cover 12”.

Alis – Papercuts
APR115 | Out Now
Digital | 12″
Bandcamp
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Boomkat
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In the unconventional and eccentric ends of the electronic music world, artistic voice can often be drowned out in a drive towards peak aesthetics and production-oriented acceleration. This has lead to a number of important sonic divergences, but oftentimes songwriting is put on the back burner at the loss of the listener, DJ and dancer. Portuguese artist Odete has only recently entered the conversation, but has already emerged as one of the most distinct and confrontational voices around, drawing on ballroom linguistics, personal narrative and a novel approach to rhythm. Utilizing various regional club musics in her compositions and mix work, Odete’s approach feels genuinely theatrical, comprised of individual dramatic movements based on the trans femme experience. Even while listening from afar, the urge towards stage performance is clear in her work, which will be displayed in live sets later this year following the release of her debut album.

It was December’s Matrafona EP (out now on naivety) that initially drew us to Odete though, full of short, kinetic ideas, and the sort of jarring voice/spoken experiments that only work when coming from an assured voice. Classical and avant garde ideas meet pop samples through the work, which harkens back to a more protean era of collage. The EP followed Not Worried With The Production of Evidence, a more scattered, but similarly striking self-release out earlier in 2018. Mixes for Discwoman, Jerome and Rinse FM, as well as a number of deeply personal and instinctive self-release mixes, have followed, with technical nous slowly catching up to the expansive, often abrasive freeform tracks on Not Worried With The Production of Evidence. Throughout the two EPs and mix work, Odete has shown a unique surrealistic ability to examine internal pain and externalize it in all of its brutality. The grotesque is certainly not shied away from on tracks like “There’s Pain Under My Wig” and the “Folklore Collage”, but a concrete dancefloor streak remains throughout.

Odete’s Astral Plane Mix comes as natural extension of Matrafona, drawing on a range of polyrhythmic and hardcore dance forms in its structure, while finding time for intimate moments, drawing from more acoustic traditions. The mix also functions as personal exegesis, opening with spoken word examining the trans body under capitalism and patriarchy before launching into a series of vocals from Bjork, Frank Ocean and more. Throughout, Odete refuses to shy away from a through line of emotional rawness, brought out in both moments of tenderness and intensity. Download the mix here and hit the jump for Odete tour dates in March and April.

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céci

We celebrated the release of CÉCI’s Vortex EP last week with a very special, contextualizing guest session on our monthly NTS slot last week. Slow jams, fine textures and a range of circuitous melodic structures abound in her 30 minute mix which runs from the hour mark. AP DJ Team handled the first hour and last thirty minutes and slotted in plenty of slow-fast and fast-slow tunes including new Slikback, blastah, Lee Gamble, Simo Cell, HNRO and more. The last thirty also includes forthcoming Chants, that stunning LOFT Charli edit and a few new ones from DJ Plead’s upcoming Nervous Horizon tape. Download it here and hit the jump for a full track list.

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so-drove

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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