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oly - press photo x manuel uthoff

Photo by Manuel Uthoff

Mexico City has functioned as an incubator for some of the most exciting threads in contemporary dance music, home to a number of labels and crews pushing against Western/Anglo hegemony and looking to create a stable, self-contained musical ecology. There are a few obvious touchstones in the DF’s sonic culture, but there are also artists who flit between scenes and avoid categorization, welding on new components until a brilliant new whole emerges. OLY has stood out as one of the city’s most talented producers and DJs for several years now, releasing a sparse stream of perplexingly vital singles and becoming an absolutely stand out peak time DJ in the meantime.

OLY productions tend towards minimalism and a slinky sense of fun, wringing kinetic energy out of rhythms laid bare. 2015’s Náyade EP was our first taste, two rich, low end heavy efforts as situated in the beat scene as they are in DJ-driven dance music, but possessing an inescapable groove nonetheless. Singles and compilation tracks for <//-(HYPERSONICS)-//>, Cintas Coagula, Classical Trax, COCOBASS and NAAFI have followed, exploring everything from acid-tinged industrial to placid ambient and on to a full bodied funk carioca take. A distinct rave aesthetic is present on most OLY club tracks, although they rarely reach the full rev of a straightforward peak time banger, instead teasing out their intent (or not) over the entire run time.

OLY’s mix work is where the embrace of club music at its most full throttle enters, showing off her keen sense of which rhythmic concoctions will most efficiently set the floor off. Various strains of hardcore, both classic and modern, juke, bubbling, soca and more tend to pop up in OLY mixes, all mixed with a deft touch to avoid the obnoxiously jarring hybridities that many DJs fall for. Her Astral Plane Mix takes a particularly rave-y track, matching a range of left field techno and trance with a smattering of juke killers and some choice bootlegs. In typical fashion, the reference points are kaleidoscopic, but they’re all there, subsumed in OLY’s own production work and despite the lack of original tracks in the mix, it’s still a work distinctly her own. Download Astral Plane Mix 183 here and hit the jump for the full track list.

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omaar-car

Hailing from Coacalco, a city on the fringe of Mexico City’s sprawl, Omar Suarez aka OMAAR wouldn’t be thought of as an ideal candidate to star in the world of abstracted instrumental grime and jagged club music, but over the past 18 months or so that’s exactly what the young producer has done. Having already performed at Mexico’s iteration of the Mutek festival, released the jaw dropping NO! EP on D.F. staple NAAFI and graced NTS with both a production mix and a recent contribution to NAAFI’s ongoing takeover shows, fans of OMAAR know the quality of his catalogue and ingenuity of his spars aesthetic, but it takes a little more digging to delve into the heart of Suarez’s music. And like many of the relatively nascent artist we feature, digging into OMAAR’s music can largely be performed on Youtube and Soundcloud, the latter platform offering a treasure trove of genre experiments, club tools and works in progress.

Much of OMAAR’s aesthetic is born out of Wiley’s Eski formula, but few artists approach the frigid sound palette with the care for space, silence and cataclysm quite like Suarez. His approach elicits the atemporal approach of early dubstep, as well as the techno and afrofuturisms of Detroit’s greats, all run through a lo-fi filter. Last year’s NO! EP is easily OMAAR’s most club-ready record and while most of his material is readily play-out-able, Bmore-indebted tracks like “TTHHUUGG” and “Sportswear” offer a certain propulsion absent in many of his more abstract experiments. Having that breadth is exactly what makes OMAAR such an intriguing artist and what makes trawling through his past work such a fun prospect. Suarez’s Astral Plane mix is, as we like it, heavy on originals with a few nods to Logos, Mumdance and Strict Face, unsurprisingly all proponents of the weightless sound. It’s brash, sci-fi-themed and more than a little jarring at times. And like OMAAR’s other mixes, it only offers brief insight into his body of work, but that’s more than enough for us here. Turn off the lights, dust your sub of and engage with OMAAR.

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imaabs

Last week, The FADER premiered Imaabs“Voy”, the opening cut from Chilean producer Imaabs’ Distancia EP, out April 27 via NAAFI. Having played NAAFI’s inaugural New Years party/mini festival and been generally ingratiated into the Mexico City-based crew, Distancia comes as no surprise and comes off as a perfect fit for both parties. Today we’ve got “Densidad Cero”, another standout from Distancia that continues Imaabs’ reign as king of the paranoiac club. Unsettling in nature, Imaabs’ music is as mesmerizing as it is jarring and “Densidad Cero” epitomizes that approach flawlessly as a sleepy melody underscores driving, snare-filled percussion that really never ceases. It’s an aesthetic that we’ve come to recognize and love and while it has become more popular among the Soundcloud set, Imaabs’ work is unmatched in its singular vision, again making him a perfect fit for the trailblazing NAAFI squad. Distancia is out next Tuesday (4/27) and can pre-ordered here via iTunes.

naafiTwo and a half years into our Astral Plane mix series endeavor and we’ve reached number fifty. At first, the series was a struggle to organize and recruiting artists to contribute original work to our tiny outlet was nearly impossible, but with a little luck and endless hours scrawling through the annals of the Internet, the series took off and we’re lucky enough to receive mix submissions and to provide a brand new selection for you nearly every week. “Mixes For The Astral Plane” is really the crown jewel of our operation and while we’re slowly transitioning into label land, the mix series will continue to grow and expand as we do. Thank you all for the constant support, thanks to all the other magazines and blogs that have supported, and, most of all, thanks to the artists who make this series worth putting together.

As we’ve delved further into global club music, the feedback loop between the dozens of subcultures we study has become more and more apparent. The age old conversation about appropriation, sampling and original subject matter will never really come to an end, but as far as contemporary dance music goes, the seemingly finite borders between geographically, temporally and sonically divergent discourses have become, essentially, irrelevant. We often go on ad nauseam about the commonalities between, and within, grime, ballroom, Bmore and Jersey club, techno, hip hop, footwork, kuduro, dembow, dancehall, etc., but that’s just the result of near obsession our part. In short, the transglobal sounds being pushed by labels like Principe Discos, Her Records, Huntleys+Palmers, NAAFI and more are unlike anything we’ve come across in our, admittedly short, lives. The technological and/or digital globalization of music is a well trodden topic, but sonic experimentation can’t be reduced to greater accessibility and the polyglot inclinations of the aforementioned labels can’t be explained by Gmail or Facebook groups.

Instead, a large number of wildly talented producers, DJs, curators, writers have taken an interest in the avant-garde club, the club being a place to listen to club music, the physical manifestation of said music and a safe, heterotopic space to subvert the oft-hegemonic popular music landscape. And few outlets understand the club music dialectic better than Mexico City’s party, collective and label NAAFI, home of and for the DF’s oddballs, grime mavens and rhythmic omnivores. Co-founded by Tomás Davó, Mexican Jihad, Lao and Paul Marmota in 2010, NAAFI is something of a Mexico City institution, drawing a dedicated fan base out of the sprawling metropolis with an impossible to trace blend of dembow’s addictive syncopation, choral grime abstraction and a general willingness to shatter expectation, abrade the psyche and tear down aural preconceptions.

With an all star roster of guests, including a who’s who of Night Slugs and Fade To Mind representatives, flown out for their parties, NAAFI has turned a distinctly Mexico City phenomenon into a global happening, bringing events to their Central and South American neighbors to the south and to both of America’s coasts. On the label side of the operation, recent releases from OMAAR and Smurphy have highlighted jagged peripheral rhythms and elegiac pop respectively and the label will soon release an impressive triple disc compilation called TRIBAL featuring native Mexican music from artists like DJ Tetris, Javier Estrada and Alan Rosales. The compilation was developed in tandem with the Centro de Cultura Digital and proves that NAAFI is as adept at looking inward as they are out.

It would be near impossible to detail the many exploits of NAAFI since its inception in 2010 in a concise manner, which is why it’s time to focus on the label’s two most prominent producers, the two artists we have recruited to contribute Astral Plane Mix 050, Lao and Paul Marmota. Lao, born Lauro Robles, is almost constantly at work, whether that means churning out edits, bootlegs and blends with abandon or wracking up accolades for his dungeon dark solo productions that often draw comparison to Los Angeles’ own Nguzunguzu. The Mexico City native is perhaps the most forward member of the collective, having participated in Red Bull Music Academy’s Tokyo edition and founded another label, Extasis, but his April’s Catedral EP for NAAFI might be the label’s most complete effort and despite his grand aspirations, Lao reps for DF through and through. Marmota is actually a Mexico City transplant and a native Chilean, a connection that has seen Santiago’s Imaabs, Tomas Urquieta and others connect and perform with the crew. Marmota’s Nueva EP, released in October 2013, also has a strong claim to be the best NAAFI release, a spastic collection of shimmering beat work that traverses grime and dembow with reckless abandon.

Alongside the obvious rhythmic dexterity, both Lao and Marmota have a keen sense of melody that places them in an upper echelon of producers (Murlo, Dark0 and Strict Face come to mind) who tickle the senses and move feet with ease. It’s where classical training, DJ experience and a willingness to subvert tradition combine, a space that NAAFI as a whole succeeds in, but Lao and Marmota consistently exceed expectations. Lauro and Paul’s joint Astral Plane mix doesn’t disappoint, a kaleidoscope of contemporary sounds mixed with essential NAAFI numbers and a fair number of exclusives to boot. Boundary-less in its scope and containing a seemingly endless supply of enthusiasm, the hour of music these two laced together touches on nearly every sound, genre and subculture we cover here, but the fact that it succeeds in achieving aesthetic coherence makes it a perfect cap to our first fifty mixes.

As we as a blog/label/outlet move forward into 2015, it’s fair to say that we likely wouldn’t be around today if it weren’t for inspiration labels/figures like NAAFI, Lao and Marmota. Since the start, we set out to cover music that doesn’t fit into square holes no matter how many pills you neck or how many publicists are on the jock. This humble Mexico City crew defines that ethos and embody the spirit of what we strive to achieve.

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