Over the past year or so, the world of instrumental grime has slowly infiltrated dance music communities in the United States, riding on latent dubstep excitement and the tireless works of producers like Rabit and Sharp Veins. Still though, grime nights are rare at American clubs and, at best, the music is viewed as an abstract form of music from across the pond, often declared undanceable. Even more irking is the fact that the constant dialogue between American hip hop, footwork, Jersey/Bmore club and grime is often ignored, or worse, lumped together into some glossed over bass music dialectic. This edition of Astral Plane Radio is intended to function as a gateway of sorts to the world of grime for those Americans who are both unfamiliar, yet intrigued by the oft-dense, terrain of 8 bart/eskibeat/sublo. Rap refixes, hip hop blends and an arsenal of contemporary R&G hits make up the brunt of the mix, an attempt to reach both the discerning house and techno heads and maybe even a few lumpen frat bros. It’s a light hearted selection and, unlike some of the more abstract grime the aforementioned American producers push, is firmly aimed at the dancefloor. DJ Milktray, Finn, Visionist, Gundam and Mssingno all prominently feature, and Drake, Destiny’s Child, Brandy and Ginuwine are interminably woven into the fabric of the mix. Even more apparent is the impact of The Neptunes, Heatmakerz and Timabaland, three production outfits that should be comfortably accessible for those of us who aren’t fine tuned to the wonders of the Triton keyboard or the intricacies of a square wave. Anyways, it’s our hope that Astral Plane Radio 005 can function as a bridge across the Atlantic and an entryway for our American audience into London-dominated world of grime.
Professional mix CDs are a dying breed in the era of the internet, but that’s not going to stop outlets like Fabric and Rinse from plying their trade at the, in relative terms, archaic format. The recent Pinch b2b Mumdance effort on Tectonic is a masterpiece and there certainly is still a semblance of hope in the pay-for-mix system. That being said, magazines (FACT, Resident Advisor, The Fader, Mixmag), radio stations (Rinse, NTS, Berlin Community Radio), blogs (Truants, Sonic Router, Hyponik, Liminal Sounds) and personal mix series (Slackk, Slackk, Slackk, Slackk) have dominated the mix market of late and operate at no cost. The advent of easy streaming and effortless file sharing has led to a glut of mix work and has arguably positioned the medium as the go-to path for debuting, testing and flexing new material. Playing out demos live will always have a place in the culture, but it’s undeniable that a choice placement in a mix can rocket a song to ravenous popularity months before its release. And then there’s Boiler Room, the ultimate “wot u call that one?” platform and a space that walks the line between recorded mix-land and live (at least temporally). Which gets me to my final point: what makes a listener gravitate towards a particular mix or mix series?
The idyllic answer would be content and content alone of course, but that’s not necessarily true and the most successful series shine quite a bit of light onto the common selection process. DIS Mag churns out my personal favorite series, a full-bodied audio/visual experience that balances exclusivity, narrative and on-the-ball design work with results that range from tantalizing coherent (Hysterics) to scene-defining (defying?) (J-Cush) to expectation shattering (Palmistry). The design website’s focus is clear with the series and despite the overtly-trendy intonations and lack of curatorial rationality, DIS’ series is consistently effectual. Here at The Astral Plane, we have a small, tightly-wound team and as a result, our curation could also likely be described as tightly wound. Our artwork is simple, consistent and generally understated and while that can’t be said about the often-bombastic sonic content of the series, we attempt to package the series in an unadorned fashion that allows the guesting artist to shine. Astral Plane Radio is a different, less coherent project that attempts to coalesce the “sound” we cover into a biweekly series. It might achieve that, but it will most likely offer a performative aspect to the website that will hopefully give a little glimpse into our world and our perspective. Thank you!
Over the past two and a half years, we here at The Astral Plane have worked tirelessly to provide a carefully curated, diamond-precise selection of original content. That content has taken the form of interviews, reviews and a mix series that has nearly reached its 40th edition as well as a bevy of daily posts highlighting the most talented fringes of the club and hip hop worlds. Since the site was established in January 2012, our writing team has shrunk and so has our vision culminating in our current focus on the most deranged, exciting corners of the experimental dance music world. Baltimore, Newark, Lisbon, Bristol and Berlin are our meccas as we attempt to bring a conceptual framework to music that refuses to be classified. Our latest venture, Astral Plane Radio, is not a radio show in the traditional sense, but considering our role as a curator of original content with the internet as our outlet, it will function in a similar manner to your FM dial. Every month, our in-house DJ team will bring you a condensed version of our coverage, replete with exclusive originals, edits and club devices from the artists we look to for inspiration. Because the music we regularly cover doesn’t fit within any specific tempo, genre, or structure-based hierarchy, expect eclectic selections that refuse to fit into existing geographic, sonic, or intellectual strictures. Stream/download Astral Plane Radio 001 below and hit the jump for the full track list.