Dexter’s Beat Laboratory Vol. 29

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dexter's beat lab

Dexter’s Beat Laboratory is a weekly collection of songs from DA music editor and staff writer Robyn Dexter. With a taste that can only be described as eclectic — to say nothing of a name that lends itself to punnery — DA is happy to present a selection of tracks personally curated by Dexter for your listening pleasure.


What’s more insane than a Black Tiger Sex Machine and Sullivan King collaboration? The answer: not much. The Canadian trio have teamed up with the LA metal powerhouse for the aptly named “Madness.” With King’s heavy vocals and top-notch production from both parties, “Madness” fulfills the needs of both bass and metalheads.


Castor Troy returns with a vivacious bass-packed single, “You Never Know.” Sinister vocals in the introduction allude to the dark vibe the producer casts over this production, as he leads up to a heavy, trap-influenced chorus of grinding synths and rigorous bass. In this song, Castor Troy has created a captivating hybrid of hip-hop, dubstep, and trap — showing just how far the bass will go.


Houston producer KLO has put a gorgeous spin on Astrid S’s “Atic.” She’s concocted an infectious rework of the pop track, luring the listener in with an enticing build and a chorus jam-packed with soaring synths. With a subtle trap beat, KLO’s take on “Atic” is a refreshing new interpretation of the track.


Killabyte has teamed up with powerhouse songstress Danyka Nadeau for a beautifully emotive original, “Wicked Ways.” Nadeau leads the listener into the song with a delicate, vocal-centered introduction as Killabyte slowly adds in the instrumentals. By the time they reach the chorus, the song has gathered momentum, letting a cheery, synth-filled melody take center stage. “Wicked Ways” is an elegant amalgamation of the skills of two visibly talented musicians.


For his remix of Rhodz’s “Rain Machine,” Becko has crafted an adventurous soundscape. He takes the listener on a journey through the song’s peaks and valleys, sprinkling in horns, piano breaks, chopped vocals and everything in between. Though it’s a step in a different direction from his rock/punk-inspired Reborn EP from September, this take on “Rain Machine” shows just how multi-faceted the Italian producer is.

Guy J on Tour: A retrospective of the progressive maestro ahead of his US jaunt [Exclusive Announcement]

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Guy J

Guy J is returning to the United States for a brief, yet expansive tour.

An embodiment of the term “stalwart,” Guy J has been considered a leader in all things progressive since first being picked up by John Digweed over a decade ago. He worked closely with Bedrock for years as one of its most promising talents, culminating his successes into his very own Lost&Found sublabel.

Now, he can be seen leading the charge on progressive’s resurgence across the globe — including the United States. He brings a new layer of excellence with each passing year of tours across the region, introducing crowds to the best of the genre and assisting in building its budding popularity nationwide. His upcoming tour will likely see the icon playing a selection of fresh IDs from his own label, as well as recent releases of his own.

“I’m always excited to play in America, the scene over there is booming and its becoming a major place in the worldwide scene for underground music. As a result, it’s becoming more and more challenging, and I love it.” – Guy J

Dancing Astronaut decided to pick our top releases by the man himself in honor of his pending journey around the East and West Coasts.

 


1. Save Me

It would be ludicrous to put together a list of top Guy J releases without the record that started it all. “Save Me,” a high-charged number with warm padding and mystical melodies, marked his debut release on Bedrock – and thus secured him as an underground talent to be reckoned with.


2. Lamur

“Lamur” defines the term “bittersweet,” employing a lush, yet dissonant hook that flows along a gradual progression. Despite being a decade old, the piece still listens like it’s brand new.


3. Meridian (with Henry Saiz)

When Guy J pairs with Henry Saiz, the result is magic — as evidenced by the ethereal beauty, “Meridian.” The track was such a hit globally that it even earned a remix from Eric Prydz, and has since gone down as one of the most iconic pieces of Guy’s vast discography.


4. Lost & Found

As implied by its title, “Lost & Found” was a milestone release for Guy J — one that kicked off his endeavors in label ownership. Its hypnotic underlay and intricate synth work is irrefutably Guy J, and served as an indicator of the powerhouse status the imprint would reach.


5. Dizzy Moments

“Dizzy Moment” is a dizzy array of sonic layering and gentle, yet carnal percussion — all wrapped up into a hauntingly poignant progressive package. A national treasure upon its release, “Dizzy Moments” is now appreciated as a rare gem by progressive lovers in a live setting.


6. Diagonal

Moving into more recent territory, “Diagonal” served as an intriguing Spring single for Guy J. It’s part of his “MDQ” EP, inspired by Argentina. The track is highly minimal, yet is still overwhelmingly an aural treat, with deep grooves and satisfying pings of percussion.


7. West On Mars

Guy J’s most recent output marks his fabled return to Bedrock primary. “West On Mars” is the A-side of his eponymous EP, and it highlights what keeps the icon at the top today. Its futuristic vibe is paired with a memorable, robotic hook, making it excellent for peaktime hours. It’s safe to say that Guy J’s still got it, and is looking toward an even brighter future.

 

Tour Dates:

Feb 23 Spin Nightclub, San Diego, CA
Feb 24 Audio, San Francisco, CA
Feb 25 Focus OC, The Circle, Huntington Beach, CA
Mar 01 Rumor, Philadelphia, PA
Mar 02 Trade, Miami Beach, FL
Mar 03 Lot 45, Brooklyn, NY

Find out about ticketing and more on Resident Advisor.

Beyond The Booth 011: Kicking it with UMEK

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UMEK

Beyond the Booth is a feature dedicated to the hidden side of artists that exists outside electronic music— a side rarely discussed with those outside their immediate circle. We venture “beyond the booth,” so to speak, and dive into their deepest passions that tie into their unique personalities. After some self-introspection, each participant then returns to the booth, providing an exclusive mix for the Dancing Astronaut audience.

UMEK epitomizes the words, “dance music trailblazer.”

The pioneer carved his niche in the Slovenian dance scene in the 1990s, and has since expanded his influence to a global level, touring extensively and teaming up with powerhouse record labels and artists to frontline his own master class.

His discography is as impressive as his resume. His roots are embedded in the house and techno realms, though UMEK has never been one to shy away from new territory. He boosted his acclaim even further with a stint in big room, in which he took what he learned during his time in the spotlight to further enhance his rejuvenated work in the underground. More recently, UMEK has been rebuilding his 1605 imprint while also playing other cameos in labels like POPOF’s FORM.

While he is most notably known for his powerfully ethereal beats and widely acclaimed success, music is ultimately just one aspect of his wide array of interests. His appreciation for visual art almost equates to his passion for music — particularly, in the form of a well-designed pair of sneakers.

Dancing Astronaut picked UMEK’s brain about his adoration for shoes, and what both shoes and music mean to him personally.

Pick up a copy of his sinister new EP on Tronic here, and also enjoy an exclusive mix from the man himself to tie together this edition of Beyond The Booth.


When and how did your sneaker obsession begin?
The beginnings of it could be traced back to 2006, when I bought my first pair of sneakers in consignment store, though it finally escalated in full boom sometime around 2013. I just couldn’t resist buying a pair of Nike’s Fire Red Air Jordan 5, as these was a pair of sneakers I was longing to have as a teenager but could not afford to buy them at the time. To be honest, watching TV shows, on-line channels and talking to other collectors, I became aware this is quite common trigger for collecting sneakers, especially Jordan’s: most of us didn’t have money to buy sneakers we wanted when we were young, and we are catering to that desire now that we can finally afford to buy them. It seems most of the sneaker-heads are destined to become one because of a trauma that is a result of sneaker deprivation in their childhood. ☺ Pay attention when you are watching celebrities buying sneakers on some reality show – they always say they are buying ridiculous amounts of very expensive footwear because their parents could not afford to buy it for them while growing up struggling for money. And when I look to that, I actually feel lucky as I was an athlete and into sneakers – not into cars for example. That would be one very expensive obsession to cater to.

Most prized sneakers you own today, and why?
I don’t want to discus prices, but I do own a pair of Nike Air Jordan 5 Transformers, which are a rare collectors item, designed and produced for a crew of Transformer movie franchise. I like those for couple of reasons: Jordan 5 was (and still is) my favorite design of sneaker since childhood and it was also the first purchase for my collection. On top of that it’s rare and I also like sci-fi, including Transformers movies, though I didn’t particularly like the last one. All in all, I like this pair as it connects to me on couple of levels and it’s also hard to get.

Name a type of sneaker that you’ve been dying to get but just can’t get your hands on?
There are some pairs I’ll probably never be able to buy, as they were released long time ago and are also very hard to get by. Thought it would be cool adding to my collection two pairs of Carmelo Anthony Air Jordan 5 Retro PE. Nike made those when he played for New York Knicks and they are available in orange and blue, home and away game variation. There’s couple of other pairs that are on my list as well, but if I’ve had a chance to have one or two pairs that are out of my reach, I’ll choose these. Eminem’s edition of Jordan 4 is also a very popular pair, very expensive and cool, but I still prefer Carmelo’s to those.

Best sneaker to DJ in? Best sneaker to actually exercise in?
I like to DJ in Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy Boost 350. This pair is fashionable, comfortable and just limited enough that not everybody can buy it. For gigs it’s important for me to feel cozy and be presentable at the same time, so I can’t wear just anything. On the other hand, I like Adidas NMD sneakers for doing all kind of sports, including running. This is a very light sneaker, with boost sole technology, very comfortable. I’d wear those even through the winter if I could. Sometimes they feel like wearing flip-flops for the beach, they’re so light, airy and comfy.

If you were to design sneakers for a particular brand, who would it be and why?
The first obvious choice would be Nike as this is my favorite brand since childhood, though I like a lot of things from Adidas as well, they have created some iconic models, so I’d be glad to do some designs for them as well. By the way this sneaker fever of mine didn’t stop just at buying and collecting sneakers – I also got into customizing my own pairs. At some point I’ve been so into it I’ve put together a decent workspace in the basement of my house where I became a really good friend with sandpaper, brushes and acetone, I learned a thing of two of color palette and even bought an airbrush. Once I came to the limit of my knowledge and skills doing this as a hobby, I decided to quit as after all I’m still a musician, not a shoemaker and have to focus on producing and mixing music. Thought I’ve had lots of fun pimping up shoes for myself and some of my close friends.

Why do you think that sneaker “collecting” has expanded so rapidly across cultures over the past years? What makes it so enticing to own a collection?
I’ve partially answered to this question already in the beginning. This also goes hand in hand with the influence of big rappers and basketball players in the fashion industry. Nowadays people do notice, and they are even impressed if you wear a pair of rare sneakers designed by a famous person, especially if the item is limited and not everybody can afford to buy it. Rare items are precious, some are willing to pay for that and some are even challenged to create collections of rare items, competing with like-minded people. There are not many sneaker-heads in Slovenia, so only couple of people may notice if I wear a rare pair of sneakers. Americans are much more into it, so total strangers frequently stop me on the street and compliment my footwear or staff ask me if they could photograph my sneakers when I’m in their store. They appreciate the effort you are investing in finding and collecting nice pairs of sneakers. Because, yes, once you get seriously into this, it takes lots of time, energy and also money, so it’s nice when people notice that. It’s not very different to collecting art, stamps, coins or likes on social networks – people like to see other people noticing and sharing their passions. By the way, I really don’t like putting photos of myself on Instagram, but I don’t have that much problem doing it with my sneakers – though I don’t show off with the most expensive models. I didn’t think much of this but that’s how it is, and it does make sense to me.

Do you bring your collection of sneakers on tour with you? Have you ever performed not wearing sneakers, and if so, what type of shoes did you wear?
Sure, I always take couple of pairs with me on tour though there’s not that much space for shoes in the language regarding that I’m quite a big man and one sweater takes quarter of a suitcase already. I never take as many as I’d like to, usually I pack three or four pairs: one comfortable for airplanes and exercising, one not too expensive for going around the city in any kind of weather and two to show off in the restaurants and at the gigs. That’s my tactic for touring USA and of course I always return back home with couple of new pairs I buy there. By the way, it’s not unusual I buy couple of the same design of sneakers I really like. I don’t actually know why, but I do that the same way as with vinyl I really like and I buy it in five or six copies. Just in case I guess. It’s kind of fetish, but I’ve become a bit more disciplined lately and got rid of most of the doubled items. For most of the gigs, almost all actually, I wear sneakers, but now or then I do perform in flip-flops if we are somewhere in the nature during summer or at the beach and it’s hot and I did a gig in my hometown Ljubljana recently wearing a nice pair of Pharell’s Timberland Boots. I guess now that I’ve developed an eye for nice footwear I can’t wear just anything.

Speaking of performing, what live shows are you excited about playing in 2018? Any festival appearances you are looking forward too?
To be honest, you’ve caught me at the well-deserved holiday with my girlfriend, so I really have no clue where I’m going next. But sure, there will be plenty of exciting gigs as always. I’m on never ending tour for the last 20 years and luckily it always takes me to some places I like to visit as well as new exciting ones. I know I’m going To India, Australia and to Miami Winter Music Conference, which I’ll combine with a Northern American tour and I’ll do plenty of club and festival gigs all around Europe and Ibiza as well.

Big plans for 2018? Any new EPs, singles or albums in the works?
There are bunch of Umek and Zeta Reticula releases already scheduled and there will be some more as I’m in the studio all the time creating great music, which you can also hear in my sets exclusively, but right now I’m really pumped for the upcoming EP “Certain Trace” on Tronic. We go way back with Christian Smith and his label. I’ve played a lot of Tronic releases already in the 90s, I liked the sound they’ve promoted after the Millennium and they’re still one of the best techno labels and as such they cater to my taste regularly. In the past I’ve licensed music from Tronic for our compilations, booked Christian for our festivals and we’ve became friends. When I was producing these tracks I’ve suddenly realized that the synth sounds I’ve used should fit perfectly in the sound of Tronic. We were taking with Christian for quite some time about maybe producing something new for his label, as it’s been ages since my last contribution. I’ve sent him couple of tracks for consideration, he liked couple of them, and we set the release.

On the topic of 2018, what do you think will be super trendy for the coming year? This can be fashion or dance music!
Let’s focus on fashion since we’ve discussed sneakers extensively in this interview: granny or grandpa looking sneakers from the 80s and 90s are doing a big come back this year. They seem really funny and retro looking, but they are hot stuff now.

 

Feature photo credit: Luka Kase

Virtual Self & the State of Electronic Music: Keeping art authentic in the face of a swallowed up culture

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porter robinson

Porter Robinson is either a tortured soul, or the “tortured artist” personae is one that works to his favor. His love of electronic music and simultaneous disdain for “EDM” culture is a complicated and genuine struggle, much like his highly self-critical relationship with his own music. But there’s something authentic and thoughtful in the way Robinson goes about creating art. Here is a guy who publicly lambasts his own style for becoming too stale or no longer honest. He has also been both artistically and commercially successful at once — something producers may work their whole careers to achieve, which Robinson had already accomplished at the ripe age of 21 when he debuted his electrifying Worlds project.

Porter Robinson incorporating live vocals on his Worlds Tour in 2014

Revered by his fans and respected by industry veterans alike, the now 25-year-old artist embodies a legacy much bigger than his music or visuals could convey. Over the years, he’s fostered a creative space for a global community to connect with spirituality and find purpose in his work. With an artistic inspiration entrenched in video gaming and Japanese anime, Robinson stays ahead of the game by not bothering to compete with anyone.

“I didn’t have this goal to be the next number one DJ in the world. I just kept taking the opportunities that we given to me and doing my best,” he once told BeatsRadio. Because of this, he’s developed a niche that allows him to be wholly genuine in his approach, consequently influencing fans and fellow artists to value substance over surface and to pursue their passions at all costs.

Just weeks after a surprise performance on Holy Ship! and one month prior to his debut festival appearance at Buku Music + Arts Project, a certain e-mail was leaked in which Robinson introduced his Virtual Self project and his rationale for making such a move. The letter itself was revealing and personal, but so is Robinson despite his aversion to the public spotlight. Robinson speaks to pop’s infiltration of electronic music and his concern over how artists are compromising authenticity for the safety net of a chart-topping hit. His ultimate goal with the project, per the email, was to reignite creative risk-taking.

 “[E]lectronic music is at its best and its healthiest when new, exciting, unexpected things are happening. This is a genre that thrives on novelty.”

Yet, while he certainly alludes to such, Robinson never explicitly discusses the state of art in the context of latent capitalism. And that is precisely what is missing in his lamentation over the loss of artistic originality.

This begs the question: Why are artists quick to discount, or often times uncomfortable even mentioning, art’s relationship with money and capital?


Art for art’s sake? Or art for money’s sake? 

“As electronic music essentially converged with pop in 2016…I think it’s pushed a lot of artists away from risk-taking and passion projects. In the last two years, for most artists, all they really had to do was compromise their style by like 30% and add a safe, inoffensive tropical vocal to have a chance at having a hit — and I think for many, that temptation was too much.” – Porter Robinson

In today’s hyper-commercialized culture, some musicians hold steadfast to the notion that art is art first and foremost. That is, money comes secondary to creating a genuine expression of one’s self. This creates a quandary for artists like Porter Robinson. First, because it’s a luxury only commercially successful artists can afford to make. Second, because it’s a claim that rests on an outdated, modernist mode of thinking.

The fact is, Robinson wouldn’t be in a position to take huge artistic risks had he not garnered the widespread support of prominent labels like OWSLAAnjunabeats, Universal’s Astralwerks and Ministry of Sound. How did he do this? By hopping on the “big room” train and playing packed-out stadiums on Tiësto‘s Club Life: College Invasion. Robinson was able to go onto pursuing future passion projects like Worlds, his “Shelter Tour” with Madeon, and now his Virtual Self alias — all the while enjoying monetary success — precisely because he had compromised artistic identity at the onset.

Porter Robinson plays Tiësto’s Club Life College Invasion tour stop in Los Angeles, California.

It’s no secret that Porter Robinson grew quickly tired of a commercial EDM scene centered around formulaic songs with their timed builds and beat drops — a scene which was also responsible for his success. The point of disconnect for himself, and other artists, lies between the passion for creating art and disdain for the ubiquitous money-making side of the music industry. Therein lies an inescapable truth: music is an industry, through and through, and the pervasiveness of capitalism plays a vital role in how one’s art reaches the masses.

Therefore, art doesn’t exist in subservience to money, or vice-versa. The postmodern collapses this distinction. In a postmodern world, money and art exist in a cyclical relationship — they are constantly coming back to one another, fighting with the other, and, yet, are codependent on each other.

This is the intersection at which Robinson’s outward struggle with art and authenticity lies. It’s a problem of postmodernism. Or perhaps it isn’t a problem at all.


Art is a copy of a copy. So what is authentic anymore? 

“I tried to authentically incorporate IDM-y, jungly drum breaks, era-accurate trancy super saw sections, early hardcore and j-core elements, but all morphed into something that sounds kind of ‘big’ and thoroughly produced.” – Porter Robinson

Porter Robinson poses for the American Dream Issue of CLASH Magazine.

Exposed, vindicated, and honest, Robinson is poised as a tastemaker to influence dance music trends. The producer has dabbled in big room, complextro, and now seeks to fuse trance and happy hardcore with his Virtual Self identity. Robinson states his new project’s objective is to morph 2001 tropes of dance music and update them for a 2017 production sensibility.

The stance reflects the very contradiction of postmodern art that we’ve been encountering since Andy Warhol’s famous depiction of his Campbells Soup Cans. Crucially, Warhol showed that art is a commodity and a commercial business, and that the commodity is a fetish in capitalist society. Like Warhol, Robinson finds himself knee deep in the thick of postmodernism — by imitating art. The act of imitation sanctifies art as a commercial activity, affirming and celebrating its commodity status.

Inevitably producers will soon piggyback on the style of Virtual Self just as others mimicked the style of Robinson’s Worlds, especially as they see his new formula successfully selling records. By this token, capitalism is the same metaphorical beast that The Beatles evoked in Yellow Submarine — a beast that swallows up everything in its path and, as it runs out of things to swallow, ends up swallowing itself.

This is the state of art in latent capitalism, as “new” art becomes a copy of its original, and then a copy of a copy, until consumers have forgotten where the art originated. Likewise, how many dance music enthusiasts can describe what classic genres influenced the birth of techno? Or what city house music was born in? How many can even name the multitude of genres that fall under the umbrella of EDM?

Electronic music is, by its very design, a postmodern process, as evidenced in how producers pastiche various styles and genres of music together to tell a different story.

 I want to convey a certain kind of ‘new nostalgia’ and resuscitate some things that have fallen out of fashion, especially from the early 2000s.” 

The postmodern collapses not only the distinction between the old and the new, but also the gap between “highbrow” and “lowbrow” art. By the same token, the work of Virtual Self isn’t something new or original; although it may be an exciting spectacle to behold.

The quandary for Porter lays in his pursuit of the authentic, resting on the modernist belief that what Virtual Self is doing is somehow “high brow,” or more authentic; while making the inference that those who pursue “safe, inoffensive” artistic choices, by not taking risks, are pursuing lower forms of art.


Revive, Reinvigorate, Renew: Making the old sound new 

“I really, really, truly, love electronic music, and I want it to be as good as it can be. I hope that by doing something unexpected, I can shake things up and hopefully inspire other artists to do something weird.” – Porter Robinson

So what do we do as creators and consumers of art to preserve its sanctity?

Ideologically, we might stand to collectively change the way we think about art and authenticity. Authenticity is not some modernist dirge, but a postmodern undertaking. What is authentic to one’s artistic process may not be to another. Authenticity then boils down to whatever is honest to one’s own human experience. Given how his Virtual Self identity is rooted in the fragmented nature of online identity, Robinson seems to understand what it means to live a postmodern life. Yet, Porter’s struggle over authenticity is evidence to the fact that we are still coping with the modernist sentiments of yesteryear in our postmodern time.

“And to be totally clear, I don’t think that Virtual Self, early 2000s trance, or digital abstract art are the solution or the future at all.”

Artistically, Porter is doing everything right! That is, he is evoking his Virtual Self identity to change the way music is experienced. At the same time, he is evoking his privilege as a commercially successful artist to package a different sound to the masses — a feat that would be much more difficult without the name recognition he earned from his earlier, safer pursuits.

If, as the postmodern turn suggests, the sanctity of art lays in its commodity status, then what is hallow about songs packaged onto iTunes for $1.99 a pop? Why the experience of course! The experience is the key to the spiritual domain, or the feeling of human connectedness. That is something capitalism can never imitate or reproduce. What Porter Robinson and artists like him understand so well is that the solution lays in experiencing music live.

Porter Robinson performs with Zedd on their 2013 Poseidon Tour. Photo cred: Rukes.

Thus, we return to the original point at hand: Robinson is neither the first nor last artist to straddle the contradictory space between art as a tool of honest self-expression and art as a commodity good. The aim of this observation is certainly not to condemn anyone who pursues art to make a living, but rather to unearth the many contradictions associated with living in capitalism.

Dexter’s Beat Laboratory Vol. 28

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dexter's beat lab

Dexter’s Beat Laboratory is a weekly collection of songs from DA music editor and staff writer Robyn Dexter. With a taste that can only be described as eclectic — to say nothing of a name that lends itself to punnery — DA is happy to present a selection of tracks personally curated by Dexter for your listening pleasure.


I’m a sucker for Owl City and a sucker for melodic dubstep. Culture Code, in his latest, has combined both of these into one blissful piece of music: a remix of the iconic singer’s “Lucid Dream.” His dramatic style works perfectly with Adam Young‘s vocals, giving the track a gorgeous, magical vibe that pulls the listener further into the dreamy atmosphere of the original track.


Over the past few months, STéLOUSE has been flexing his versatility with everything from a remix of Khalid‘s “Young Dumb & Broke” to this anthemic original, “Nobody Told Me.” He and collaborator David Davis have poured their hearts and souls into this song, and it shows. Davis’ stellar vocal performance, backed by bold production from STéLOUSE, make for an impeccable pairing.


Approaching Nirvana‘s latest, “Deep Dark Blue,” starts off simply enough. With emotive vocals and a simple guitar melody, his new original could go anywhere, but the chosen path (much to my delight) is drum & bass. Around the minute mark, the producer surprises the listener with an intense synth melody that quickly builds into a rushing rhythm.


I did a double take when I first heard Kalide and Bianca’s “Fall Away” because I thought the vocalist was Rihanna. Bianca has an absolutely beautiful voice, and paired with intricately crafted production from Kalide, “Fall Away” is pure beauty. Bianca takes the reins on the verses, and Kalide brings in a melodic synth-filled chorus throughout the track, making for a perfect balance.


Au5‘s “I Miss You” is such an addicting track, so its remixes are bound to follow suit. This one by PREFEKT does a complete 180 on the original, as the Swedish producer forgoes the heavy dubstep elements for a bouncing beat and a smattering of glitchy electro elements. Its funky atmosphere gives the song a completely new vibe, presenting Kenny Raye’s vocals in a whole new way.

Meet the underground talent of CRSSD Fest: Nicole Moudaber

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Nicole Moudaber

CRSSD‘s 7th edition is a special one —it marks the official third birthday of the festival. Hosted at its usual location at the picturesque Waterfront Park in San Diego, the semi-annual event certainly hasn’t faltered in its lineup curation, inviting the likes of Cirez DEmpire of the SunHenry Saiz, and Tchami onto its bill across March 3 & 4. Dancing Astronaut joins organizers in digging a little deeper into its roster to unearth its top underrated performers to find out their backstories thus far.

Nicole Moudaber‘s deeply-rooted adoration for rhythms and percussion is evident in the way she carries herself musically and in her sets. Such infectious passion rubs off on her followers, earning her the title “Queen of Techno” for good reason.

The stalwart boasts an impressive, and expansive resume, cutting her teeth on the Lebanese scene by bravely putting together underground parties amid a tumultuous period of war and oppression. Her ardency carried her forward, however, until she was picked up by Carl Cox years later and thus began her ascent into the iconhood that she’s reached today.

These days, Moudaber dips her hands in many arenas of the techno and house world. She runs her wildly successful In The MOOD radio show every week, and launched MOOD Records in 2013. Through it all, she still manages maintain a heavy tour and production, breaking barriers with bold collaborations like her projects with Skin, and bringing the darkness in singles like her recent Hector collaboration “Retrosaw”

We were able to catch Nicole ahead of her CRSSD performance, where she’ll be dominating the City Steps stage over the weekend of March 3 & 4. She divulges details on her comeup, inspirations, and more.

Purchase tickets to CRSSD here

Nicole Moudaber

 

What catalyzed your love for dance music?
I’m a music fanatic, always have been. I’ve been hooked on music since I was very young. Growing up in Nigeria, I was listing to afrobeat, funk and soul music. I still love that tribal sound and rhythm, and it’s a big influence on my music now – there is something almost spiritual about coming together to dance to a strong beat like that. As I get older, my passion for music only gets stronger.

What was your first label release? Would you still play it?
I released a track called Dilemma on Plastic City in 2008 but I don’t play it anymore. Both the scene and my own personal taste has evolved and I’m working in a different space musically.

Describe the moment or event that made you realize that you were meant to be a full-time DJ.
I’ve always traveled around the world to experience different types of parties… I considered myself a professional clubber. I had my epiphany moment watching Danny Tenaglia playing in New York – that night was so magical, it really pushed me to pursue my own career in music.

What’s your opinion of the dance scene in the US right now?
There’s some cool things happening for sure, more and more festivals are embracing the underground, and I think finally the whole EDM thing is imploding, thank God!

What are you looking forward to most about CRSSD Fest?
Sunshine, beautiful people and of course, techno baby!

Where are your favorite places to play in the world, and why?
It’s hard to pick just one, but some of the clubs where I’ve had amazing experiences are Stereo Montreal, Output New York, Space Ibiza (RIP), DC10 Ibiza, the list goes on.

What are the biggest things in your pipeline at the moment?

I just released the Retrosaw EP with my friend Hector on his new label VLack. It’s available on Vinyl now. Other than that, I’m really excited to be continuing to tour the states after CRSSD, and getting back in the studio to work on music.

If you could recommend three artists to catch from the lineup, who would you pick?
Sasha, Cristoph and Alan Fitzpatrick.

Dirty South’s third album ‘XV’ is an aural exploration [Album Review]

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Dirty South

Four-years after the release of Dirty South’s cinematic album, With You, Dirty South has re-entered the album release ring with XV.

The expression “the third time’s a charm” could be applied to XV, which is indeed the visionary’s third LP. Such an application, however, would err in its adjectival minimalism — for the art of XV’s craft warrants a stronger classification.

XV is a cerebral exhibition of Dirty South’s maturity as both artist and producer, and  is as fluid in its overall arrangement as it is complex in its construction. Put briefly, XV is the heart of Dirty South’s years of experience as an artist, and it beats duly with the wisdom and expertise that Dirty South’s activity in the electronic industry has conferred upon him.

Listeners familiar with Dirty South’s catalogue will know, and know well, that the producer’s previous albums, Speed of Life in 2013, Dirty South’s debut product, and With You in 2014, likewise were musical “charms” that effectively enraptured the electronic sphere. Speed of Life and With You evinced Dirty South’s possession of a golden touch in the studio, of not simply a talent for the conceptualization of euphoric progressive house productions, but an ingenious mastery thereof.

XV is no exception. The album effectively retains, exemplifies, and deepens hallmarks of Dirty South style: piercing, reverberating commercial house tones, rousing vocal work, inquisitively optimistic lyrical content, and complex chord progressions that enticingly drive the listener of XV from one track on the list to the next, until the album is finished. The work is furthermore miraculous in its sonic diversity, working with a variety of different sounds and associated moods over the course of its ten tracks to forge a release that remains impeccable and refined in its balance despite its roving.

Such fluidity between different tones can be witnessed in cuts like “Night Walks” and “Higher.” “Sonar” and “Love Story” surface as other sweet spots on XV’s track list. XV additionally invites the return of previous Dirty South collaborators, Rudy and ANIMA!, on “Higher” and “Love Story,” and “If It All Stops,” and “Next to You,” respectively.

XV is emblematic not solely of Dirty South’s command of the melodically entrancing, but of the Serbian-Australian producer’s longevity. Dirty South would release his first ‘official’ production under the “Dirty South” stage name in 2004—14 years later, Dirty South continues to enthrall listeners with ease, and last, but hardly least, with dexterity.

Launchpad: Decompress with this lush downtempo playlist

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Launchpad is a playlist series showcasing music we love, hand selected by our staff. The tracks come from both emerging and mainstream artists; it’s all about the quality and the unexpected. If you’d like your music featured in Launchpad, submit it for consideration here

DA Playlist Selects:

Occupanther feat. Plateau Green – “Akira”

Inspired by the organic tone language of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies, Julian Klaas — known musically as Plateau Green — is creating a cerebral niche of dreamy electronica by linking elements of alternative pop with experimental soundscapes and lush instrumentals. Klass had joined forces with the German Occupanter ahead of his debut EP, The Arch of Our Eye’s Orbit, and the release is all too stunning to pass up for the latest Launchpad playlist. If Klaas’ new EP is about the detachment from the human self and finding one’s original state of being, as he’s articulated in a press release, then “Akira” is the grey matter in between. It’s a dazzling venture that transforms nothingness into sheer beauty, channeling the likes of Moderat and solidifying Plateau Green’s rising status in the downtempo realm along the way.

Bearcubs – “Landslide”

London-based Bearcubs is preparing to release his debut album come March 2. Both Bearcub’s sultry vocals and a solid production style are a commanding force, aligning his work with several of contemporary music’s finest soulful crooners like James Blake and King Krule. Bearcubs combined future garage and lo-fi house music in his latest meticulously crafted production “Landslide.” Perhaps his most aptly named work to date, “Landslide” is both an account of his grasp on the nimble state of electronic music and his imminent growth in the musical sphere.

Tracklist:

Occupanther feat. Plateau Green – “Akira”
Masserne- “Ouaconisen”
Bearcubs- “Landslide”
Soul Catalyst – “Escape”

 

Ganja White Night explore the dynamic depths of low end bass in seventh LP, ‘The Origins’ [Interview + Album Review]

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Who exactly is Mr Wobble?

It’s question that has been on the minds of many since Ganja White Night released a series of music videos late last year. One that has answers partly in the release of their newest and most ambitious album to date, dubbed The Origins, out now on their own imprint SubCarbon Records

“We created SubCarbon when we started making music because it was the only way we could be released. Big labels weren’t interested in our sounds.” 

 February 2018 saw Benjamin Bayeul and Charlie Dodson’s seventh LP since they extensively explored their riddim-inspired sound almost 12 years ago. “We’ve tried to release an album every year since we started in 2010,” said the two Brussels-based producers. They wanted to do everything but rush The Origins album, which the pair had been working on since the fall of 2016, so as to avoid making the twelve track compilation more than just a shallow “collection of easy-to-mix tracks.” 

Photo courtesy of Ganja White Night

The Origins LP is anything but shallow. The album takes a deep dive in many ways.

First, it’s a dive into re-examining their own roots; a new exploration of the hypnotic, immersive sounds that incapsulated fans many years ago. Cinematic intros, playful experimentation, and otherworldly sounds mark the album’s landscape. In a lot of ways, The Origins is an intoxicating ethnic journey with a careful sense of adventure — a psychedelic trip into the worlds of dub, riddim, and low-end bass, more broadly.

Speaking to the evolution of their signature wobble sound, the duo elaborated on how it took them a good amount of time to manifest their ideas into reality: “You can really feel a difference when you listen to our old albums. Sound techniques evolve and the new material sounds more refined. We always had these ideas in our heads, but it’s crazy to see how ideas develop over time into actual sounds.”

 

Second, the album signals a nod to the roots of Mr Wobble, an animated vigilante superhero character designed by long-time collaborator and illustrator Ebo. Mr Wobble has played a role in their work since they released “Wobble Master” and “LFO Requiem.” At the outset of the new LP, he is joined by a whole new cast of characters whereby fans are given a glimpse into the very origins of how their super powers came to be.

“Mr Wobble isn’t the only guy who has the power. In different civilizations, the people receive this power, and what we see in the [Origins] video is how, in this period, of this era, at least, Mr Wobble is using it this way. We still don’t know where this power comes from, or how he’s be chosen, maybe it was an accident, we don’t know.”

 

Finally, the album pulls on the nostalgic allure of ancient ethnocentric sounds. Inspired by composers like Hans Zimmer, Ganja White Night has a way for constructing cinematic bass compositions that incorporate reggae, dubstep, hip-hop, and drum ‘n’ bass, with influences from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. “We have some inspirations that never change,” they say. “We’ve always been fans of ethnic sounds and ethnic voices, long intros, harmonies.”

GWN approaches collaborations in the same artistic spirit. Teaming up with Caspa, in particular, on the album’s second track, “Unique,” the three producers capture the very unique essence upon which their collective visions for bass music resonates — back before the days of violent, head banging “bro-step.” Cinematic, fun, mischievous, and stripped down to the bare bone essentials of bass, the track flips fluidly between it’s melodic breaks and stabbing synths for a hypnotic anthem that is sure to capture fans’ eardrums on the dance floor.

Ganja White Night on their “Mr Wobble Is Back” tour stop, 8/5/16. Photo cred: Brew City Bass

From cosmic introductions to intense party jams and downtempo grooves, the twelve tracks come together to tell a more complete story around Mr Wobble, the superhero who creates music from ancient mythology and uses it to awaken citizens dwelling in the modern world he inhabits. Regarding to expansion of Mr Wobble’s world, Bayeul and Dodson are still exploring the many avenues the vigilante hero may take:

“There is still a lot of mystery, and we don’t want to say too much because we have a lot of projects that we want to go deeper into, we want to do more music videos and comic books. There’s just so many ways to go deeper into the story, there’s a lot of doors open now. We just introduced a lot of characters, so there’s a lot of new avenues to explore.”

The Origins arrives just as Ganja White Night gets ready to embark on their album-accompanying “The Origins Tour.” The duo will travel to 20 US cities featuring strong support from CaspaOpiuoDownlink, along with label mates DirtMonkey and Subtronics. They plan to begin each concert stop with a special B2B DJ set from the SubCarbon roster, before transitioning into the tour openers, and ending with a GWN performance that will feature live instrumentation, editing, remixing, and improvisation much like a band playing all original material.

The resilience of Dirtybird: How the grassroots collective overcame their biggest hurdle yet

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Brittany NO FOMO_Saturday1

Words by Grace Fleisher and John Flynn

I did everything humanly possible,” Barclay Crenshaw, known by most as Claude VonStroke, says in an older Billboard interview — circa 2015 —  on the focus that led to the genesis of the Dirtybird record label. After having moved out west to San Francisco from Detroit, VonStroke makes mention of the immense amount of focus that was required to build tech house’s finest and funkiest incubator.

He’d made a DJ documentary at a film house recently after he set out across the Mason Dixon, during which he learned how to avoid many of the pitfalls in music by working directly with distributors and other services. “I even shipped bundles to something like 100 DJs with handwritten notes,” he told Billboard. Vonstroke’s personalized signatures are just one of the innumerable outward testaments to Dirtybird’s embedded authenticity: the very nest in which its zany ethos was built.

At the inaugural Dirtybird Campout East at the start of February, Crenshaw and co. did everything humanly possible once again in order to save the the brand from a potentially tarnished reputation in the live events sphere. They’d unintentionally made a crucial mistake in violating their sound permit on the night before their permit officially began, and the city pulled it right from under them. Even the most stringent event organizers face similar obstacles from time to time; but in the Fyre Festival era, the label simply couldn’t handle such a PR blow. So, they fought back.

“At the 11th hour,” says an official press release regarding the incident. “Dirtybird Campout East reached out to Leslie Jose Zigel [Pitbull’s attorney] who together with his partner Joe Geller of Greenspoon Marder persuaded County officials to agree to a compromise in reducing the hours and decibel level of the music to allow the festival to go on.” The festival reached out to virtually everyone they could, including Zigel and, oddly enough, Marco Rubio, among other key Florida figures.

News that the festival was back on didn’t break through social media, though. Rather, in true Dirtybird fashion, Crenshaw took it upon himself to parade through the festival and camping grounds in a golf cart announcing the label’s feat of victory via megaphone.

His omnipresence served to be a common theme throughout the weekend, too, as he would often pop up casually in the crowd during other DJs sets, and could reasonably be caught participating in camp games such as dodgeball, beatboxing or stand up comedy. Crenshaw’s brand of familial belonging is a stark divergence from the traditional, often contentious, DJ culture of major festival players.

The feat was a turning point for both Dirtybird and their DoLaB collaborators, whose reputation as event producers could have been sorely damaged in the process. More than that, though, the fiasco elucidated Dirtybird’s resilience.

As a label whose innate structure lies on its carefree idiosyncrasy, both in their live programming and label releases, the success of Dirtybird Campout East is the grandest testament to the funk, passion, and hard work that has driven the beloved collective deep into the hearts of its devoted fanbase.

In a landscape of simultaneous festival vapidity and superfluousness, resisting trends and adhering to one’s own mindset is the ultimate risk, though it’s proving to be absolutely necessary. Undoubtedly, Dirtybird has built itself from the ground up in a calculated remedy of risk and love for bringing others joy. Had the campout not been a success, the fans would still remain (literally and figuratively), and for good reason.

Though Dirtybird may be small, its resiliency is mighty — and if the campout has taught the music industry anything, it’s that a flock joint together by a shared love of getting down on the dance floor will do anything humanly possible for their kin.

Photo Credit: Brittany Hallberg