Two 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.