Our infatuation with Divoli S’vere is well documented and it goes without saying that MikeQ‘s touch is golden and while their respective solo work is also special, their collaborations always seem to take it a little higher. Their latest comes via a remix of Ezekiel‘s “Gurrr Swag” on Parisian imprint Moveltraxx‘s Street Bangers Factory #01, out now digitally and next week on vinyl. Alongside contributions from footwork up-and-comers EQ Why and DJ Earl, MikeQ and Divoli’s contribution is the best of the bunch, a rabid ballroom tune that, like the duo’s best work, is both a hugely functional runway hit and an elastic dance floor bomb, suitable for any number of ramp-up-the-energy situations. As the only ballroom track on Street Bangers Factory, this remix of “Gurrr Swag” sounds even more monolithic and energizing, placing alongside “She Wants” as one of the duo’s most effective joints. Buy Street Bangers Factory #01 in digital form here and stream the whole tape courtesy of FACT Mag here.
Release day is always a bit bittersweet, because, despite all the dithering and busy work that goes into releasing music, it means that the process is almost over. That being said, Heterotopia has been a passion project of ours for quite some time now and it’s with great, treacly pleasure that we finally get to unleash it on all of you. Heterotopia is inspired by Michel Foucault’s essay of the same, but not to the extent that the compilation is imprisoned within the French philosopher’s admittedly problematic framework. The tape is positioned to guide the listener into an alternate reality, not in the science fiction sense, but in the liminal, distinctly body-oriented manner of the club-verse. It was our intention to gather a group of transcendent, progressive musicians and the artists who participated in the project took the conceptual framework to heart and drafted 12 polyglot heat rocks that have continued to defy our expectations on nearly every listen. This sort of language is hyperbolic, but for those of us who take pleasure in the expectation, aftermath and release of the club context, this topic truly is important. Heterotopia is a free release, but if you do happen to have a few spare dollars to spend on otherworldly club constructions in your monthly budget, it would always be appreciated. And while this is release day, Heterotopia will continue as a project of ours in the coming weeks and months. Expect more soon on that front and enjoy.
There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places–places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society–which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.
– Michel Foucault
You’ve already heard two songs from Heterotopia and with the tape set to hit the web tomorrow, it’s time to give a little love to the full experience. Watch this space and this space tomorrow and enjoy. Huge shout to Arkitect, Kid Antoine, Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf, Air Max ’97, Victoria Kim, Imaabs, Rushmore, Divoli S’vere, Mike G, Celestial Trax, Riley Lake and Iglooghost for turning in exceptionally creative tracks. And Jesse Treece for fashioning the poignant visual side of Heterotopia. Made this process far easier than it should have been.
There was a time when forums were the key cog of internet discussion, lo-tek hubs where specialists traded acerbic banter on any number of niche topics. These days, that banter has found a new home in social media, Facebook and Twitter eagerly taking on the brunt of the internet’s collective outrage. And while the large majority of outlandish sub-tweets and ill-intentioned facebook comments about ebola are the virtual equivalent of water trash, a good deal of meaningful, moderated discourse does occur in various corners of the social media landscape. Classical Trax is a facebook group for club music obsessives, who, despite (or maybe because) vast geographical distances, come together to share whatever sonic pleasure they see best fits the proverbial club environment. With a few hitches here and there, the group has managed to bring together a number of fans, writers, DJs and producers who would otherwise never share music, or theorize on the past, present and future of the club space.
Recently, the group held an internal contest to remix a set of Divoli S’vere acapellas and the group admin was kind enough to enlist myself as one of the judges. Predictably, the quality gap of the results is vast, but a selection of edits/reworks have managed to mesmerize the “judges”, none more than Ursula‘s “Sabhyata Divoli Like This”, an non-concrete deconstruction of the Qween Beat representative’s recapitulative flow. Ursula latches onto the versatility of Divoli’s verbal alacrity, pairing it with a cornucopia of playful melodic twists, wobbling low end, barbed ballroom crashes and resonant choral vocals.
The result is a disorienting landscape of fable and folly, a roundabout loop through abstracted vogue culture touchstones, grime signifiers, all tied together by a keen sense of spatial awareness rarely found outside of collage experts like E+E, Lotic and Why Be. Ursula’s take is reverent of Divoli’s envy-inducing flow, but falls far from the legion of bland ballroom approximations that appear daily on soundcloud. There were other edits submitted to the CT contest that reworked Divoli in an interesting fashion, but none grappled with the inherent anger, performative culture, or, slim as it may be, hopeful spirit of vogue culture more than Ursula’s take.
Over the past six months-plus, Atlanta producer Cirqa has filled out Soundcloud with utilitarian drum tracks utilizing the barebones structure of ballroom, Jersey club, techno and Miami bass to great effect. This week, he released his connection with fellow ATLien Divoli S’vere, collecting vocals from the latter for the steamy, heavily digitized “Feeling Like”, easily the most fully realized Cirqa effort to date. Dealing mainly in the hi-res, hi-end of the sonic spectrum, “Feeling Like” is full of naked 808 sounds, bright synth stabs and Divoli’s indisputable reign on the mic, drawing the carnal nature of Southern dance music into a ballroom aesthetic; a marriage that develops smoothly under Cirqa’s supervision.
In the words of Goddollars, co-founder of Los Angeles polysexual disco A Club Called Rhonda, “we’re currently experiencing a total mainstreaming of dance music in America.” Fewer and fewer LGBT and minority stakeholders control clubs and record labels, while the festival circuit has effectively sublimated dance music’s distinctly black, gay heritage into something more palatable for the $2000 Coachella ticket buying masses. Immerse yourself in Divoli S’vere‘s music for a few minutes though and you’d be hard-pressed to agree with the above statement. Raised in New York and presently residing in Atlanta, the dancer, producer, DJ, vocalist and graphic designer has become one of the mostly hotly tipped artists in the New York-centric ballroom/vogue realm, although he would attest that he’s “not in the scene.” And while Divoli did come up as a dancer, his production acumen has more in common with Brick Bandit originals Tim Dolla and DJ Tameil than the slower, more linear form of music oft-played at balls (for a quick rundown of contemporary ballroom lingo and history, see here).
Divoli grew up in the mixtape rap and dubstep era of American music after all and it’s readily apparent in his music and DJing, which is often comprised of manic quick chops and an un-compromising ferocity. “Ckuntinomksz”, now four volumes deep, is Divoli’s free mixtape series and sounds like the meeting of DJ Mustard, late-1990s Dance Mania and a mutant extrapolation of Masters at Work. The mixes have a strong pop sensibility and often include contemporary rap and R&B, but Divoli’s slinky, licentious vocal work generally dominates both his single and mixtape work. His laugh, often utilized as a producer tag, has become ubiquitous in Fade 2 Mind mixes over the past few years and Divoli has become one of the most sought after vocalists in the greater ballroom world. MikeQ, the F2M representative and ballroom ambassador, certainly noticed and snapped Divoli up for his Qween Beat imprint and the two collaborate often.
With the “mainstreaming” (read: whitening) of America’s dance culture in mind, Divoli S’vere and Qween Beat rise above the bullshit, not only because of their superior musical aesthetic, but because of the all-inclusive, collaborative, open-source and DIY ethos they bring into what they do. The production, vocals, visual design and dissemination are all doen in-house and all done right. You don’t need to be able to afford bottle service to enjoy, produce or play out ballroom, but you do need to understand its roots and respect its musical and dance form. Without further ado, Divoli ran through 26 manic tracks in just over half an hour in his Astral Plane mix. You’ll hear plenty of the holy trinity, Beyonce, Britney and Rihanna, as well as unreleased bits from various Qween Beats artists. After all, anyone can enjoy ballroom music, but don’t expect your duck walk to be described as ckunt unless you really bring it.
Side note: the art work was devised as a collaboration between our team and Divoli : )