Photo by Laurance Von Thomas
It’s easy to forget that Endgame’s self-titled breakout EP was released halfway through 2015 — just under 19 months ago. It’s easy to forget because the London-based artist is on a hot streak that few can match and is a veritable star in late 2016. Endgame arrived in May ’15 with both immediacy and a fully formed vision, full of tightly coiled dembow structures and vocal assists from friends and collaborators Blaze Kidd and Uli K. It was around that time that a loose network of artists began to come into focus, based around parties and labels like Principé Discos, Swing Ting, Staycore and Endgame’s own Bala Club, and pushing a distinct combination of South and Central American and Afro-Caribbean sounds. It’s a network that can be understood more for its influence than for any concrete geography or genre connections, influence felt in the saturation of everything from dancehall and reggaeton to baile funk and candombe.
At its roots, Endgame’s sonic approach is firmly rooted in hybridity and his slick tracks rarely fit into the constraints of the Caribbean rhythmic patterns he draws from or the London reference points found on tracks like “Tears on Road” and “Sittin’ Here Redux”. That hybridity is born out in emotional content, a balance between aggression and delicacy that mines states of confusion and contradiction as much as it does love and warmth. Fans of the Precious Metals show on NTS, helmed by Endgame in tandem with a new, on-the-cusp guest every show, will recognize that hybridity, fully realized in a roughneck blend of reggaeton, road rap and the latest industrial-tinged sounds from a global cadre of producers and vocalists. Guests like Washington D.C.’s Rules, Berlin’s Nightcoregirl and New York’s Geng form another network comprised of artists pushing the very limits of club music functionality and one that can increasingly be found at club nights the world over.
Releases for PTP and Hyperdub, as well as several key contributions to the inaugural Bala Club compilation, formed the backbone of Endgame’s 2016, cementing an unmistakable sound and catapulting out of the relative anonymity of the underground club world. Long touted by insiders as one of the best DJs London has to offer, 2016 was also the year that that reputation became international, largely due to a standout contribution for FACT and the continued excellence of Precious Metals. Many try, but few attain the level of elasticity and flexibility embodied in an Endgame mix, not so much journeys through his mutating aesthetic as fuil on inundations. Astral Plane Mix 133 is no different, over an hour of balls-to-the-wall energy, a sprint through unheard original material and work from likeminded producers including Astral Plane Recordings artists Exit Sense and Nunu. Savage and Flesh will go down as two of 2016’s most important releases, establishing Endgame as one of the most admired and imitated producers anywhere and offering as clear of a distillation of club performativity as you’re likely to find. Stream Endgame’s Astral Plane mix below, download here and hit the jump for a full track list.
Decibel Festival, like many other contemporary festivals that straddle the dwindling line between underground and overground forms of dance music, was heavy (to say the least) on four-on-the-floor house and techno. In fact, the festival’s adherence to technical linearity was so strong that one could posit that the steady pulse of a kick drum defined Decibel 2014. From the late night Ostgut Ton showcase at Q Nightclub to Phuture’s TB-303 jams, house and techno from the world over could be found at Decibel, but the respective genres’ British and German constructions took center stage. This created something of a dilemma for a team looking for more rhythmic variance and, shall we say, a global purview than your standard techno bro fest. Fortunately, the Decibel lineup provided pockets of brilliance in the form of jungle, footwork, grime and kuduro, allowing us to indulge in gaudy, kick drum-heavy performances from T. Williams, Wolf+Lamb, Nadastrom and more.
On Wednesday night, Arca and Total Freedom, with music video art auteur Jesse Kanda providing visual accompaniment on a huge LED screen, took to EMP’s Sky Church with a vengeance, weaving syncopated kuduro and dembow rhythmic patterns into a number of contemporary pop hits. The Sky Church, a massive room in a corporate music mausoleum, is an odd venue to hold a genre and gender bending performance from three prodigiously talented artists, but a small, dedicated crowd, equal measures repulsed by and smitten with Kanda’s Vine compilation-meets-high concept body art, was up for the challenge proffered by the CDJ wielding deejays. A percentage of the crowd was even made up of holdovers from Max Cooper’s technically proficient, but disappointingly linear performance (the following night’s dancer-assisted showcase featuring Cooper was supposedly far superior) that preceded Arca’s takeover, a less surprising development than one might expect considering the breadth of interests and knowledge among the Decibel crowd.
Hit the jump for the totality of our Decibel coverage…
Only three days after debuting the a-side of his first official single in two years, Kode9 has uploaded the b-side for public consumption. Opening with Nintendo charms, “Kan” quickly devolves into a barebones audial assault that will test even the largest sound systems. Most Kode9 tracks aren’t “bangers” in the traditional (knock you off your feet) sense, because there’s something almost uncanny about the way he mangles dubstep, garage, grime, etc. into his ultra-specific blueprint. “Xingfu Lu”/”Kan” is out next Monday (4/29) on Hyperdub.
Hyperdub don Kode9’s first official track in over two years comes in the form of “Xingfu Lu”, named after the street it was conceived on in Shanghai. “Xingfu” translates to “happy” in Chinese, but this track is anything but joyful. It’s a paranoiac journey through Kode9’s past, drawing on his brutalist take on garage as well as his more extreme percussion workouts. At times it sounds like a demented Joker while at others, it falls into the realm of a soul-less Pearson Sound. The single will be released on April 29 via Hyperdub and will hopefully be followed by something more substantial.
Leon “Scratcha DVA” Smart has never been one to genuflect to dance music standards, making a career producing off-kilter, often indigestible tune under the UK Funky banner. March’s Pretty Ugly LP was a challenging listen to say the least, and while DVA’s refusal to acquiesce to convention is admirable, the album is ugly and twisted at times. Next month (November 20), DVA returns for his second release of the year on Kode9’s legendary Hyperdub and based on the previews, he has ironed out many of the wrinkles imposed on Pretty Ugly. The Fly Juice EP consists of four stuttering, soul-inflected house tracks that borrow from all corners of the bass music sphere, from funky and garage to grime and techno. DVA calls it “power house” and it’s hard to disagree considering the heart pumping nature of the EP. Astral Plane fave French Fries will contribute a remix (!), as will Hype Williams member Inga Copeland. Stream the previews below and be sure to grab one of the year’s most exuberant dance releases on November 20.