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Astral Plane DJ Team took over our February NTS show last Friday in the midst of a massive storm. The stream cut out halfway through and Highland Park’s power grid had failed by the end of the show, but we made it through. Left a live mic and a some effects on as well. Forthcoming material from Chants, Nunu, LOFT and E.M.M.A. inside, as well as favorites from LXV & Karmelloz, Celyn June, Egyptrixx, Nargiz, Sami Baha, Capital Kaos, 2lanes, Why Be, Citizen Boy, Errorsmith & Mark Fell, coucou chloe, Xuxu Santamaria and more. Chants’ Amethyst Dust, the Madison-based producer’s second EP for APR, is our March 3.

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Berlin Community Radio has arisen as a key outpost for experimental music and a hub for open-minded dialogue in the increasingly busy sonic space that is Berlin. With a focus on “underrepresentedd and marginalised voices,” BCR’s Incubator program is the apotheosis of that approach, offering studio access and professional help to a selection of Berlin-based artists chosen by a panel that includes NTS’ Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura (check out her Astral Plane mix from last October), Truants’ Soraya Brouwer, Discwoman’s Frankie Hutchinson and rising producer/DJ rRoxymore. To date, four artists have been involved in the program (the call for involvement was sent out in early 2016), which provides participants with everything from studio time and a four week radio residency to access to photographers and PR assistance. Rui Ho, a Chinese artist living in Berlin, was one of those participants, laying down four sessions at BCR last year and eventually releasing their debut Ru Meng Ling single through the Genome 6.66 Mbp label.

Part of a growing network of artists pushing pack against techno’s hold on Berlin — a group well canonized in December’s Co-Op compilation — Rui’s music is angular, bright and noisy, difficult to imagine in any sort of traditional dance space while seemingly imagining new ones on the fly. Speaking to us over email, Rui intimated the lack of club culture in China and how that has led to her “musical education” occurring entirely online. This sentiment is hardly new in the loose sector of electronic music we cover, but whereas many artists’ sonic output sounds distinctly place-less, Rui’s releases to date have a distinct psycho-geographic locale, both real or imaginary. A self-described “darkness” intones much of Rui’s work to date, heard in the aforementioned four show run on BCR, the Ru Meng Ling single, which features a suitably schizophrenic remix from Why Be, and in their Astral Plane mix, a contrast-heavy blend of contemporary global sounds that seems to move with a mind of its own.

Relations between the body and self, mind and technology and self and internet all come to the fore in Rui’s mix work, which is manic in subject matter, but usually flows relatively smoothly. Artists like Shanti, Detente, Elysia Crampton and Nunu show up in their Astral Plane Mix, which tends to emit (and emnote) rapidly. Hit the jump for our full interview with Rui and a track list and be sure to grab the Ru Meng Ling single here.

Hi Rui, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?

Hey! I’m good, just woke up to the sunshine in my room in Berlin actually, which is very rare for the winter here but kind of essential to keep one from drowning in the dark energy here.

Introduce yourself to our readers. Where are you from? What is your musical background?

I’m from China where everything seems to be quite different from the rest of the world, so I moved out of China and lived in Paris for 3 and a half years before I finally relocated in Berlin where I feel a lot more relax and I have a lot more space for me to be myself and work on music. I was never officially educated in music but I was always interested and involved in music: school choir, pop punk band and A Capella group, etc, I guess I just knew that my favourite is music and it’s what I would like to get into.

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LXV

Artists working on the fringes of ambient, noise and experimental music can often be confined to reductive descriptors by journalists, labels and events, grouping artists together in a manner that is neither beneficial to those individuals or the listener. It’s the sort of mindset that puts Alessandro Cortini on the same plane as Psychic TV because of some vague industrial connection, or, more recently, Elysia Crampton in the same conversation as Croatian Amor because of some algorithmic shortcomings. Philadelphia’s David Sutton, previously known as Current Amnesia and now going under the LXV pseudonym, has largely been able to avoid that contextual pitfall, releasing a series of albums, cassettes and mixes through labels like Umor Rex, Sacred Phrases and Anòmia that fit into a deep tradition of consciousness exploring electronic music that matches sonorous elements and abrasion with a deft, assured touch.

Having come to “young adulthood in the height of the american noise scene,” Sutton has also worked with the groups Ladderwoe and Car Commercials making “demented, improvised freakdom and occasional glimpses of fake rock,” but it’s his recent work as LXV that has piqued our interest and made him something of a cult favorite. Many will have been introduced to Sutton through Sirens, a collaborative album with Montreal’s Kara-lis Coverdale, and will have continued on to a mix for Creamcake and a series of one-off, almost hymnal tracks, leading up to 2016’s Clear, his most recent full-length project. Speaking to us over email, Sutton says that he’s been reading a number of philosophical texts, as well as some contemporary fiction, poetry, sci-fi and “too much news,” and it’s clear that Sutton has a flair for marrying classical and post-modern elements, a union personified in the text he writes and “reads” through a computer generated voice program in his mix work.

In our email exchange with David, we delved further into that marriage, inquiring about his use of acoustic and electronic sounds in quick succession, as well as how he’s managed to mine creativity amid the current political climate and how consciousness is realized in a physical studio studio setting. Sutton also mentioned that a follow-up to 2015’s Sirens is on the way and why he enjoys the process of making mixes so much. His Astral Plane mix begins with a digitized voice intoning stream-of-consciousness statements about American wildlife, sovereignty and displacement and more before leaping into a series of compositions by everyone from Mark Fell and Rene Hell to Vangelis and Alvin Lucier. It’s a deeply unsettling collection, reverberating with a nervous energy that is briefly placated by Groove Armada’s “At The River”, a track that arrives halfway through the mix and takes on a carnivalesque air in the midst of the clicks, drones and disorienting vocals that make up the rest of the selection. The mix is titled “Loss Function”, a fittingly analytic title to a composition that intentional skirt’s any sort of traditional groove or progression. Hit the jump for the full interview and a track list and download the “Loss Function” here.

Hi David, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?

Hello, I am doing well. answering from my bedroom in Philadelphia.

For new listeners, can you outline the progression of your various projects? You’ve worked under your own name, as well as Current Amnesia, LXV, Ladderwoe and Car Commercials.

I came to young adulthood in the height of the american noise scene, got to see a ton of amazing, weirdo sets in decrepit basements. Current Amnesia was my solo output for a while. Ladderwoe and Car Commercials were some duos working in demented, improvised freakdom and occasional glimpses of fake rock.

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For the past year, the East Bay has been blessed with a series of events focusing on non-binary, non-Western music and performance. foozool and 8ULENTINA’s Club Chai recently became an internationally recognized name after the release of their eponymous debut compilation, featuring artists like Lechuga Zafiro, Organ Tapes and Stud1nt, but it’s the local groundwork that has made the operation so immediately relevant and transgressive. In June of last year, we featured an Astral Plane mix from 8ULENTINA, a fitting introduction to the Club Chai ethos that has since been extrapolated on at length on Club Chai Vol. 1. Lara Sarkissian makes music under both her birth name and the foozool moniker, pushing “more abstract original productions & sound collage” through the former and dance-focused edits/remixes from the latter. Tracks like “Geghard” and “APRE ԱՊՐԷ” are dense, rhythmic tracks that match haunting melodies with solipsistic drum work and fits of noise, samples and field recordings. With a live show set to debut next month, it’s easy to see how these tracks will thrive when broken down, meshed and developed further in physical space.

The connection between many “experimental” artist’s original output and mix work is often tenuous, but Sarkissian’s DJ and radio sets are often where her own productions thrive, intertwining with Armenian dance tracks she’s sourced from her mother and Arabic club tracks she collected while living in Armenia’s Nagorno-Karabakh region. They’re often equal parts melancholy and festive, drawing in everything from Flex Dance Music and reggaeton to tracks from Bay Area like Turbo Sonidero and Ambr33zy BA!. Her Astral Plane mix is no different, linking compilation tracks with a series of foozool edits, transitioning from an emotive, low key opening section into club forward four-on-the-floor with Ara Gevorkyan’s “Musa Ler” playing the bridge roll. It’s clear that Sarkissian has a rigorous approach to sound design and sample arrangement and the mix has a distinct narrative arc to it even though its constituent elements are disjointed to say the least. We chatted over email and talked Club Chai’s Bay Area community, the compilation, sourcing samples from Vine and Ara Gevorgyan’s music. Hit the jump for the full interview and track list and be sure to grab Club Chai Vol. 1 here.

Hi Lara, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?

My home dining room aka my “stu” in San Francisco.

You release as foozool as well as under your own name. What is the distinction between the two projects? Do you have a good idea of which pseudonym a track will fall into from the beginning of the production process?

The material I release under my name is more abstract original productions & sound collage I see tying into visual projects in the future (a couple that have been for film already), and eventually having screenings during performances of these sounds. I’ve always been super interested in the tactile relationship between sound and image and it’s something I haven’t done in a while, i’m back at working on something from footage recorded recently.

I’m going to be playing my first live show next month, so am excited to see what form the sound will take making things live/improvised, and being more comfortable using samples of a wider range of instruments. I’m continuing edits/remixes of other artists under foozool, and incorporate them into my dance DJ sets where I mainly mix with other’s work.

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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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spurz

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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dis-fig

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.