mike-paradinas

Depending on how old you are, when you were introduced to electronic music and the specific record you first came across, Planet Mu’s narrative arc will likely be perceived in a manner unique to you and you only. Names like Boxcutter, Luke Vibert, Venetian Snares, Vex’d and Jlin pepper the label’s discography, which began in 1998 and runs as strong as ever in 2017. Behind it all is Mike Paradinas, aka µ-Ziq, a legendary artist is his own right and the driving force behind all things Mu. Paradinas’ solo releases in recent years has been low key (see here and here), but last year saw the re-issue of Expert Knob Twiddlers, Mike’s collaborative project with Aphex Twin as Mike & Rich. On the label front, 2016 saw the introduction of a number of new faces to the Mu universe with releases from Yearning Kru, Sami Baha, Antwood, Silk Road Assassins and WWWINGS, all artists from the periphery of the vague experimental/club axis. The fact that 2016 was the first year of Mu’s third decade and its first after a retrospective 20 year anniversary project bolstered the appearance of new beginnings.

Of course, Mu has always been devoted to breaking artists and sounds, an almost reckless drive that has seen the label contribute seminal, but always fundamentally outlying, albums in IDM, breakcore, dubstep and footwork, a convoluted bridge of extreme sounds that likely only makes complete sense to Paradinas himself. Despite that interminable drive forward though, the past is preserved remarkably well in both the label’s history and Paradinas’ solo work. This manifests in re-issues like Expert Knob Twiddlers, as well as nostalgic projects like Konx-om-Pax’s Caramel and the various releases of Heterotic, a joint project of Paradinas and his partner Lara Rix-Martin (who runs the Objects Limited label). The latter is influenced (per Mu’s website) “by (among other things) Fleetwood Mac and old Nu Groove records,” a position that initially feels incongruent with Jlin’s transgressive Dark Energy LP, but is somehow all reigned in under the same banner.

We had a quick email interview with Paradinas in advance of this mix and the Mu boss explained the relationship between the label and Kuedo’s Knives imprint, Mike’s relationship with Jlin, Principe and Lil Yachty. His Astral Plane mix plays like a 52 minute snapshot of the label in 2017 with unreleased material from Jlin, Sami Baha, Silk Road Assassins, v1984 and Huerco S. Lorenzo Senni and Imaginary Forces and Hieroglyphic Being, all artists who would fit comfortable on the label’s recent roster, appear as well with recent and unreleased material. The mix flows naturally from artist to artist and sound to sound, despite jumping across a range of tempos and genres, sliding comfortably from rap/grime adjacent to a pair of trance mutations and on to the in turn soulful and paranoiac footwork stylings that have almost become the label’s calling card (if that’s even possible) in recent years. The next few months will see releases from Jlin, Herva and Teengirl Fantasy while the mix hints at further work from Baha, SRA, WWWINGS and RP Boo. Read on below for the full interview and find a track list after the jump.

Hey Mike, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?

Hey, I’m fine. I’m in my little office at home in the city of Brighton and Hove on the South Coast of England.

Whereas other labels with similar longevity have expanded into other fields like publishing, film and technology, Planet Mu’s approach has always felt pure and unadorned to the point that it almost feels anachronistic in this day and age. Has that been a conscious move on your part?

In some ways it has been conscious, for instance I’m no film buff, I just have no knowledge of that side of things. We did start a publishing company by the way, back in 2009. We publish a few of our artists and some others. I guess the decision is made for us in that we would need quite a lot of investment to fund staff and to expand in those ways, and none has been forthcoming (we did ask around a bit a couple of years ago). There’s also a lot to be said for doing one one thing well.

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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.

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Having flit around the periphery of a number of sounds in recent years, January 27 will see the release of Canadian producer Spurz’s debut album on Apothecary Compositions, a self-described exercise in opposites and juxtapositions. Now residing in London, Spurz’s sound can generally be considered within a UK sphere of influence (grime, jungle, dubstep, etc.), but the Loud Futures LP is anything but a strictly hardcore continuum-derived record and generally thrives in abstraction, tying in dancefloor relevance to the sorts of bizarro synth escapades and punchy drum programming that is best described as state-less. “Damu Recall” is a case in point, a minimalist track that starts with organic bits of percussion and hoover bass before transitioning into a high energy stomper that ends just as abruptly as it begins. Like much of the recent material on Apothecary Compositions, the song and album fall into an intriguing middle ground between home-and-club, UK and US, relevancy and abstraction, etc., which are exactly the sort of complicated juxtapositions we tend to enjoy delving into. Loud Futures is out January 27 and can be pre-ordered here.

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Photo by Jesse Ray Guillory

New Orleans’ Balasa, the joint project of Zayn Shaikh and Ashe Kilbourne, has been fomenting since July 2015, but it wasn’t until September 2016’s Teri Duniya single that we became fully aware of its power and potential. “Difference is intrinsic to the project,” says Shaikh, pointing to one of the project’s overarching concerns and an element that’s both apparent from the point of introduction and vital upon closer examination. Musically, Balasa works with extremity and contrast — Teri Duniya is a collision of Sufi music and bubblin’, the Dutch style comprised of sped-up dancehall constructions and edits — and in a short email conversation, Zayn and Ashe discussed the complex arrangement of a white and brown artist working in tandem, filial reconciliation and making music in and in response to a post-9/11 America. Collisions of noise and culture make up the backbone of each of Balasa’s three tracks to date and the internal struggle between the artists is apparent throughout as Kilbourne’s hardcore impulses (a jumpstyle version oif “Teri Duniya” almost came into being) either manifest or are rejected by Shaikh.

Fans of the KUNQ collective will likely be familiar with Kilbourne’s work and on New Years, the duo debuted at the New York crew’s party. 2016 also saw the release of Kilbourne’s Sourland, a brilliant take on hardstyle that brought a genuine enthusiasm to the form and showed off an aesthetic built on raw noise and dramatic flair. Shaikh’s solo efforts come under the Besharam, where they have delved into the “intersections of islamophobia in mainstream LGBTQ movements” and collided a range of contemporary club music in several clutter-heavy mixes. Both projects tend to deal with themes of dislocation at length, but Shaikh points to reconciliation as a major component of Balasa, pointing out that every Balasa track “has a strong connection to my childhood or my relationship to my parents.” It’s these sorts of conflicts and contradictions that Shaikh and Kilbourne seem to be dealing with both discursively and musically and it’s an attitude found throughout their Astral Plane mix, which was given the title ‘Glacial Reign’. We had a quick email chat about the origins of the project, bubblin’ and the idea of difference. Hit the jump for the full conversation and a track list that jumps from Calvin Harris to The Body and Sheila Chandra.

Hi Ashe and Zayn, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?

Z: Hi! We’re answering from our living room in NOLA, everything is kind of strewn about and it feels like an accurate representation of my brain at the moment. 

A: I’m aderall’d out, but sleepy.

Introduce yourselves and the Balasa project. We’ve been pretty obsessed with both mixes of “Teri Duniya” obviously, but I’m not sure all of our readers will know the background of the project and your respective solo projects.

Z: I’m Zayn, my solo project is called Besharam (it means “shameless” in Hindi, but it’s also an insult used in Bengali households by angry mums). Both of these projects are about reconciliation for me, with my family and my seemingly #opposing identities. Every Balasa song has a strong connection to my childhood or my relationship to my parents (i.e. trying to make them proud while pursuing a path that many people in their community consider to be against the grain)/filial responsibility. Balasa began in July 2015, right after I moved here. I was sharing some Ghazals and Sufi music with Ashe and we came across the Nooran Sisters and were immediately drawn to a song called “Ae Khuda Teri Duniya De”. We’d been toying with the idea of creating music together, but until then we didn’t really have a starting point. There were many, many drafts—including a really terrible jumpstyle version.

A: Which was my fault. I’m Ashe, my solo project is called Kilbourne, and hardcore is my life. Zayn and I share music with each other and talk about it so much it just makes sense to work together. That said, it takes a lot of communication for Balasa to function. Collaborating as a white person with Zayn who is brown is super loaded, especially when Balasa operates in a scene that I’ve been participating in for longer (even though we were both making punk/noise stuff before any of this). As a white person there is so much social capital to gain through being associated with artists of color, and rarely in music do white artists and audiences allow for an equal exchange of power.

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The trend towards dark, noisy and industrial club sounds over the past few years has been well documented to the point that an ostensible split between “constructed” and “deconstructed” has supposedly arisen. This narrative ignores larger aesthetic cycles — hardcore manifesting as jungle for example — in the history of dance music, but does hold some credence in the current moment. A question that always comes to our mind though is which artists and DJs will be viewed as the true devotees and ambassadors of this relatively new turn towards abstraction and experimentation? The forebears are easy to point out — Eugene Carolus’ excellent article on the legacy of Total Freedom outlines the globetrotting hellraiser’s influence while the now defunct Vex’d duo (Kuedo and Roly Porter) have their fingerprints all over innumerable contemporary acts and Elysia Crampton’s work is less imitated than it is revered — but the task of mapping out a younger generation is a far more difficult task.

Dis Fig is a Berlin resident and co-founder of the Call Dibs show on Berlin Community Radio. She’s also a member of the PTP crew and laid down a stand out set at their Boiler Room event in June 2016. Cuing into a sound that is at once cerebral and emotionally sincere, the American DJ has touched a nerve in the past year or so, displaying a weathered aesthetic that draws together sounds from across temporal and sonic boundaries into holy union. Blends of SHALT and the Supremes, Emptyset and Danny Brown, and Air Max ’97 and Oklou have provided momentous touchstones while every new Call Dibs, the BCR show she hosts with hunnidJAWS, features an exciting slew of hard-edged new material and guests like Chino Amobi, Soda Plains and Madam X.

Floating on the periphery of dancefloor relevance, Dis Fig mixes are dense, textural affairs, full of voices calling out of the abyss and instilled with a deep sense of pathos. A conjoined intensity is drawn from amorphous club experiments as much as soundsystem tools, as well as the occasional sultry R&B and testosterone-driven rap — an intensity that is unwavering in its connection to the core idea at play in each respective composition. As noted above a lot has been made of the darker turn in club music, but that’s a simplified take and it’s hard to think of many DJs who consistently bring together the inconsistencies in darkness and light, comfort and anxiety and abstraction and uniformity. Her Astral Plane mix is no different, beginning with reverberating entries from v1984, Club Cacao and City before exploding with violent energy and hitting a stride with outsized tracks from DJ Sinclair, Celyn June and Goth-Trad. It’s a gut punching selection and a mix that feels very much of our time, full of the sort of contradictions and delirium that have come to define public life. Dis Fig is playing Norient Musikfilm Festival in Bern, Lausanne and St. Gallen, Switzerland this weekend.

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“S/O Ali Berger for mastering and being a good pupper.”

Arriving at the tail end of 2016, 2Lanes‘ Diamonds in the Rough EP, released via Escape From Nature, is a perplexing release, a marriage of natural tones and sharp angles intended to represent and reflect the environment of his hometown of Detroit. Devils Dub II — the second live set in a series that will culminate with a performance at Bossa Nova Civic Club in New York this Wednesday — is the latest project from 2Lanes and his most definitive statement to date, 65 minutes of meditative techno inspired by drum machine/space echo videos on Youtube and intense sensory experiences. It’s an incredibly deep, physical set that trends far more towards a head nod crowd than the rave, but there’s a heft to the project reminiscent of the digi dub experiments of the late 80s and 90s. Like “Jet Slit” off of Diamonds in the Rough, the set maintains an uneasy quality throughout, embodied in the fluttering bird calls that are more Hitchcock than “Pacific State” and the gut wrenching sub bas that intermittently rises from the deep. RSVP for the Boss Nova gig, which will also feature sets from AceMo and Olga, here.

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After compiling our favorite club tracks of the year in list form for FACT Magazine, it felt only right to translate the material into its proper context by playing as many of those gems as we could on radio. Our second session for NTS LA slotted in just before the holiday season so we took the opportunity and played out a mixture of favorites from that list, tracks that barely missed the cut and a collection of Astral Plane Recordings specials from the last six months or so. It’s an intense two hours with some genuinely questionable transition decisions, but the pay off is real in a sprint/exhaustion sense. The track list definitely backs that up and traverses from the relative calm of ADR’s “Every Node” on through the melancholic bliss of Soda Plains’ “Rodeo” with favorites from Florentino, Jikuroux, Sylvere and Lanark Artefax that unfortunately didn’t make the final FACT list. Hit the jump for a full track list and download here.

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We’ve always been a huge fan of the informal tangle of edits, blends and bootlegs that fly around both public and private channels. The constant deluge of Rihanna takes might annoy some, but there’s nothing better than hearing “Sex With Me” flexed in and out in every way possible. One of our favorite developments of the past 12 months was seeing our own releases informally bootlegged and blended in some genuinely odd directions. We heard Mechatok and Cupcakke, Nunu and Illapu, and SHALT and The Supremes — takes that would have been inconceivable until they came to fruition. To celebrate the new year and all of the wonderful support we’ve received, we gathered a few of our favorites from family friends for a free giveaway project titled NEW YR NEW US. We’ll be back on the official release train soon enough, but in the meantime we grabbed Why Be, Nunu, SHALT, Kablam and LOFT for this short entry. You’ve likely caught a few of these in our radio sets, as well as sets from the artists involved and they have just as much raw energy removed from that context. Hit the download link below and share around if you’re so inclined.

APR pres. NEW YR NEW US
1.) SKY H1 x NUNU – I THINK LOUD (WHY BE BLEND)
2.) NUNU – CORE x COG
3.) JAM CITY x M.E.S.H. – CITY HUMMINGBIRD (SHALT EDIT)
4.) BEY x NUNU – WE RUN THIS MAMAMAMAMA (KABLAM MESSUP)
5.) LOFT – A SALAAM MALE GENIE

–Download–

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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.

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It was around this time last year that we were putting into motion SHALT’s Acheron EP, the debut release on Astral Plane Recordings and a stunning record that set the tone for the rest of the year. Physical music that doesn’t fit into existing structures has become our calling card and we’re extremely proud of each of the six releases we’ve worked on this year. It’s been a pleasure to work with SHALT, Chants, Nunu, Exit Sense and LOFT and each respective project corresponds to emotions felt throughout what was an intense year for many. It’s become second nature to follow the happenings, minor and major, of the music world, but we fully understand that the process is time consuming and arcane to many so we decided to gather up details on all of our activity this year and collate them in one place.

The following mixes, videos and other audio-visual detritus from the past 12 months follows something of a linear timeline. They paint an overview of what we and our artists have been up to and it turns out we were busy for pretty much the entire year. It’s not easy to run a small, independent label, but it’s made far easier when the people around you are constantly hustling their asses off both in public and behind the scenes. Nunu has been particularly busy this year – both in an active and removed sense – with his Mind Body Dialogue twisted up by the likes of Why Be, Elysia Crampton, Kablam and more. Meanwhile, LOFT came through with a self-directed, reality-distorting for “Zissou”, a highlight from the British artist’s Turbulent Dynamics EP. SHALT remained busy on the remix/edit front as well with takes on Rizzla and Kid Smpl that have become favorites on our various mix and radio appearances.

APR artists also stayed busy on the mix front, although you’ll have noticed that none take part in any traditional scene per se and none of them are what could be called a straightforward DJ. SHALT started off the year with a huge entry for Solid Steel and was serendipitously matched up with Autechre. Chants turned in a release-themed mix for NTS in April while our resident DJ team put forth their first studio mix for the Symbols label. Throughout the year, Nunu turned in angelic volumes for Endgame’s Precious Metals show, Disc Magazine, Jerome and our own series while LOFT stayed quiet with the exception of a manic, no fucks given session for our debut NTS Radio LA show (all Astral Plane radio can be found here). We’ll be following up tomorrow with round-ups of our official releases and we hope this little review proves helpful in sussing out what exactly we’ve been up to this year. Thanks for tuning in.

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