Lycox at Unsound Festival in Krakow
After an almost five month hiatus, the Astral Plane Mix Series is back up and running and we’ve recruited one of our favorite artists from Lisbon’s Principe crew. DJ Lycox has been a longtime favorite, appearing constantly in our For Club Use Only feature for FACT and becoming a quick staple in Astral Plane DJ Team sets. Born in Portugal and based in the Paris suburbs, Lycox is a prolific producer, initially emerging as part of the Tia Maria Produções trio before setting out on his own. Working mainly within a kuduro framework, Lycox’s productions are intensely melodic, introducing an element of euphoria and pop song writing to the genre’s intricate percussion arrangements and forceful energy. On November 17, Lycox’s debut solo album will be released by Principe, a coming out party of sorts for an artist who has become an underground favorite and a release that will surely establish the Portuguese producer as one of the most respected kuduro artists alongside the likes of Marfox, Nidia, Nigga Fox and Firmeza.
Lycox’s Astral Plane mix exemplifies what Lycox is all about, a 30 minute ride that blows by before you know it and functions as the perfect soundtrack to the melancholic last tendrils of Summer. Heavy on original productions, Lycox links irresistible hook after irresistible hook, bridged by the loping gait of his expertly arranged kuduro rhythms. It’s a breezy selection that performs an idyllic counterpoint to much of kuduro’s sweaty pomp, leaving trace elements of each respective hook as it drives onwards. Pre-order the Sonhos & Pesadelos LP here and dive into Lycox’s Soundcoud for a heap of divine original productions. No track list for this one so you’ll have to look out for the album.
A lot of ink has been spilled on Lisbon, Portugal’s Principe imprint over the past several months, but few commentators have focused on the breadth and quality control that the label has achieved in just five original releases. DJ Marfox and DJ Nigga Fox have (somewhat fairly) garnered much of the plaudits from the press, largely because of their wildly creative synthesis of Lusophone-derived production methods, but each of Principe’s releases has shone a different light on Lisbon’s prismatic dance scene. As far as redefinition goes, Principe’s star act is Niagara, the trio made up of brothers António and Alberto Arruda, and Sara Eckerson. Working almost exclusively in the range of house and techno, the trio might lack the polyrhythmic capabilities of some of their label-mates, but they more than make up for it with melodic innovation and a keen sense of the grittier ends of texture. The most obvious contemporary comparison is Actress, but Niagara’s dubby, wind-drag take on house has a sunnier disposition than the London don’s brightest productions. 2013’s Ouro Oeste, the trio’s hardware-driven debut EP, is a six track rough hewn expose on chintzy snares, thick acid basslines and gritty, punchy kick drums. It’s easy to get lost in the fine-tuned analogue basis of the EP, but the sparkling, deceptively complex melodies are what really drive Ouro Oeste.
It’s not that Niagara are re-defining house music as a whole, but like their contemporaries MGUN and Actress, they strive to re-orient the form should be consumed. It can be both glamourous and uncompromising, dusty and sonorous. The following mix features 12 original Niagara compositions that make up 45 minutes of infectious, distractedly lo-fi fun. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t completely obsessed with it and Niagara’s focus on the minutiae of mixing cannot be ignored. I was also lucky enough to share a short email interaction with the group so stream/grab the mix below and hit the jump for the full interview and track list.
If you haven’t read Ryan Keeling’s long-form essay on Principe Records and the fascinating Lisbon scene it has helped foster, then you need to do yourself a solid and get up on it now. The names DJ Marfox, DJ Nigga Fox, Niagara and others have been circulating for a few years now, but it appears that the sound of Lisbon’s lusophone club scene is finally garnering the ears is deserves. Involving various aspects of kuduro, funaná, batida, tarraxinha and other genres, Lisbon-based Principe Records has gathered, pressed to vinyl and distributed the sounds of the city’s isolated outer-rim housing projects. Of course, the sounds of Lisbon have been percolating for years, but like many other minority, regional club scenes, the producers are often wary of outsiders. Regardless, the five releases Principe has pumped out to date have been wildly inventive, opening up a divide between the label and, well… just about anything else these days. For the uninitiated, Marfox recently made an appearance at the much talked about Just Jam party in London and you can check out 15 minutes of his set below.