Introducing… Astral Black1st July, 2014

Astral Black launches at their new Glasgow home this Friday, since their inception last year they’ve built a solid reputation with a series of releases and parties that have resolutely hit the mark. Starting out with limited cassette runs from the likes of Edinburgh beat-maker Jaisu and Glasgow’s grime aficionado Inkke, the label keeps the home fires burning this year with a new DJ MIlktray 12″, while forging ties with Southern counterparts Budgie and Darq E Freaker. The Art School spoke with label head Jon Phonics and DJ Milktray about what’s coming up for Astral Black.

For those who aren’t familiar, what should we know about Astral Black?
Jon: Astral Black is a record label and club night that was started in early 2013. So far we’ve released music from myself, Jaisu, Inkke and Opal Block with records on the way from Budgie and DJ Milktray. We’ve had a club residency at The Alibi in Dalston which is a residents focused night but occasionally we bring in the odd special guest or two, previously we’ve had Slugabed, Alexander Nut and S-Type come through for us and we’ll be bringing Darq E Freaker for our first party at The Art School.

What can you tell me about this mix? Is it a collaboration?
Jon: This mix is kind of an influences mix for our Milkmakerz project, so classic Dipset, Kanye productions, Timbaland productions and newer stuff that we’re into, like young thug and robb bank$ an’ that. We just made a folder of songs and then put them together in the popular DJ style.

Milktray: Yeah, we thought it would be a good idea to compile a mix of rad tunes old and new. It’s also good to get people in the mood for the vibe we bring to the parties so you can put it on Friday whilst you getting ready before you hit the clurb.

What else is coming up for Astral Black?
Jon: Release wise we’ve got the Budgie 12″ up next followed by a Jaisu record and hopefully a Milktray 12″. Putting on parties, we’re back in London for our residency at The Alibi the night after The Art School, followed by an Edinburgh party at Sneaky Pete’s on July 9th and our boat party with Hyponik at this years Soundwave festival in Croatia, which should be rad! Some new t-shirt designs are on the way and just generally trying to always do dope shit and making sure there’s always dope shit to be done.

What have you got coming up as DJ Milktray? It’s been a pretty big year for you in many ways and has no sign of holding up, what’ve been some of your highlights?
Milktray: I’ve just been trying to DJ in clubs a much as possible as that’s really fun, and making a bunch of music at the same time. Coming up I have a few original things and remixes coming out on some rad labels aswell as some stuff from this Milkmakerz project. The main highlight really is just people fucking with my music and getting to meet a bunch of sound people.

Jon P, what have you got coming up this summer? What’s this boat party all about?
Jon: Ive got my new EP White Neckle dropping on July 7th via First Word records. That’s out on digital and 7″ vinyl and followed closely by another release which is a 3 track 12″ for Alex Nut’s Hotep label. I also have a collaboration project with my good friend and talented rapper Jam Baxter dropping mid-July on High Focus, that’s called Fresh Flesh, with the exception of one track we’ve made it all in the last month so it’s nice to have something so new released so quickly. As for the boat party, I was booked to play at Soundwave festival and they asked if we wanted to host an Astral Black boat party, so we teamed up with Hyponik to make it happen. Myself, Opal Block & The Purist are reppin’ Astral Black and Om-Unit B2B Reso are reppin’ for Hyponik. 4 hours on a boat in the sea sounds ideal, so it’s a great pleasure to have been asked. Last time I was on a boat party out there i saw a dolphin so y’know, might see another dolphin or something…

What are your favourite things to do in the summer? If you came to a BBQ, what would you bring?
Jon: Two halloumis. One for me, one for sharing.

Milktray: In the summer I like to eat ice lollies most, but for a BBQ I’d probably not bring that, probably bring some meats and if I felt fancy maybe a potato salad.

Why did you pick Darq E Freaker for your Art School debut?
Jon: Ohh, a serious note to end on eh? Well, we’d like to think the sound we’re cultivating with Astral Black exists at the fork in the road where grime and hip-hop meet. Darq E naturally has the grime influence in his sound from coming up in Nu Brand Flexxx and was the first kid from that scene to really bridge it with hip-hop on his collab with Danny Brown. Them lot come through most of our London parties and are always in the house at Budgie’s Livin Proof night so we’ve been meaning to bring Darq E in for a minute and felt it was fitting for our first Glasgow party considering his relationship with Numbers.

Introducing… ZONE17th June, 2014

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Launching this Friday at The Art School is the new label and club night Zone. I chatted with Toby Ridler about what to expect from the opening night and the collective’s fledgling label.

What’s Zone?
Zone is a collective putting on nights and releasing experimental electronic music , joining the dots between techno, noise and sound design. The concept of Zone came about in London when I was living in Cable Street, then I moved to Glasgow and got chatting to Vickie, we had similar ideas of wanting to release music, and wanting to put on similar music so it just kinda organically grew out of that.

What do you think Zone offers that doesn’t already exist in Glasgow or beyond?
There are lots of great nights happening in Glasgow, we want to offer a context to put musicians and producers that might not normally be associated together but have similar threads running through their music on the same bill. I think audiences have become a lot more open minded about what they want from a night out, and what they will dance or move to. People don’t want the same prescribed club environments anymore, and there are loads of clubs in Glasgow and promoters that are putting on bills that challenge the audience and expand on what a club night or a gig can be, and we feel like we have something to add to that.

What are your aims with the club night and label?
I think the aim with putting on gigs is simply to put on a decent gig y’know? We are just trying to put on shows that we like, and think need to be put on. The label is more an exploration into extreme electronic styles, the main focus always comes from rhythm and noise, loops and texture, it is much more an exploration into sound and people manipulating sound and sonically exploring in similar ways, following threads through genres, rather than an exercise in specific genres.

We have the Mourn EP out very soon, then there will be one from Circulation of Oil and after that I have been working on a release as Toby Ridler. Vickie has also been working on some solo stuff.

What can you tell me about Mourn?
That’s a project that just started recently. I met Vickie (ex-Divorce guitarist) outside SWG3 , and basically just hounded her to come and jam with me , I knew her band had just broken up so there was no escape really.

What’s your process for creating music?
It always differs, with Mourn it’s very much that we’ll get together with some samples each, and then jam it out and edit it afterwards. We use a combination of analogue synths and computer programs, and some pedals.

For the stuff I’m doing on my own it’s way more computer based, I’ve been using this program called Metasynth which is like a visual based sound design engine where the process is more to do with imagery, shapes and rhythms to affect the sound, I’ve also been starting to use the freeware Supercollider.

Are the sets planned, or is there room for improvisation and deviation?
The sets have rough timelines and sequences, but essentially it’s 50/50, with noise and techno it’s always good to have a starting point, but it’s really a case of feeling your way through the set with the crowd and with the environment you’re in. Vickie’s been working on some visuals to accompany it, which we will be debuting on the 20th as well.

Why have you picked Andy Stott to play the launch?
I think Andy Stott kind of encapsulates a very wide spectrum of different sounds that we’re into and pulls them together to make something that is very organic and droney, but also has ridiculously sophisticated techno rhythms and digital shapes too, so it kinda ticks all the boxes. Also he was one of the first people to play with dance music’s template in that way, to completely slow it down, mutate and disfigure it, whilst still retaining its groove so to speak. And as well, we have both listened to Andy Stott and been big fans of him for ages and just really wanted to see him play!

Why have you picked Mother to DJ? What is it about his selection and style that you’re into.
We’ve both known Mark for a while, and he’s a sick DJ and always has a great tune selection, I think the extent to which he stretches his sets musical perimeters makes him a really exciting DJ as well. I’ve seen so many DJ’s that just play such boring predictable sets, and then i’ve seen Mark singing through the mixer whilst mixing techno into noise, so basically… why wouldn’t you wanna book that?

We also just booked this dude called Video Slush who will be doing live visuals for the night.

Tickets
Facebook Event

The Art School United28th May, 2014

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Friday 30th May – The Art School Reopens
Friday 6th June – The Art School United (Fundraiser)

Despite the tragedy of the fire in the Mackintosh building, the heroic efforts of The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and staff at the Glasgow School of Art continue to provide comfort and hope to all those affected by the fire. Their swift and courageous efforts ensured that no lives were lost during the fire, their continued efforts dealing with this difficult situation has been astounding. As more information is gathered by the recovery team working in the historic building, every effort is now being made to deal with the needs of the students affected. The Glasgow School of Art have created a blog with regular updates about the situation, a vital source of information for those concerned about the situation.

As overwhelming support from across the country continues to flood in, The Art School has remained closed as the Vice President of the GSA Students’ Association explains

“Given the frenetic first few days of the dramatic events last Friday both me and Sam De Santis [President] have been involved in the emergency response along with our GSofA colleagues. We took the decision along with the rest of the GSofA to close the Students’ Association along with the rest of the campus while the highly sensitive recovery operation took place opposite.”

Now the social centre of the School is preparing to reopen. On Friday 30th May, after the series of informative departmental talks in the afternoon, Student Engagement Officer Kirsty Hendry and Administration Officer Rebecca Edgar will be available for informal question and support sessions in Project Space 3. Offering a more individual and private opportunity for the students affected to discuss their situation and concerns.

Alex Misick and Sam De Santis, the Vice President and President, will be present to advise on any student based concerns. All feedback will be sent back to the school. The GSA Students’ Association urges all students to take this opportunity to make your voice heard.

Free drinks and buffet will be available for all Fourth Year Fine Art students in the Assembly Hall between 5-7PM.

On Friday 6th June, The Art School will be hosting the first in a series of fundraising events, all funds raised will be directly given to the students affected. As Alex Misick, the Vice President explains

“As things re-open on Friday I am focusing my efforts on a series of fundraising events that should help out the affected students on a more immediate basis. Please contact me via email (a.misick@gsa.ac.uk) with any ideas or ways you would like to be involved with the Students’ Association’s efforts.”

Jess Higgins & Nicholas Lynch21st May, 2014

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Grown in Spurts exhibited new work from Nick Lynch and Jess Higgins. Efforts include the exploration of repetitive methods of working, the venture of movement, the presence of time, and the practise of growing. Jess Higgins expanded on the exhibition, her practise and work.

What themes were you working on?
For the work in this show, I was, and have been for a while thinking about the experience of time, both spatially and conceptually, through language and action. Things like, the marathon, the sprint, stretching, conducting, circular forms and how those pushes and pulls affect the everyday experience.

What can you tell me about your art practise?
I take a multi-disciplinary, research based approach to my practise, embracing naivety in relation to methods of making, and also knowledge. I tend to draw on cultural themes / referencing to build new meanings or translations based on (as previously pointed to) perception and language, sometimes through a collaborative or open ended process wherein participation is utilised to create ungoverned outcomes. When working in a more solitary, studio based way, I’m interested in the notion of collage both in a literal sense (actually making real collages) or in a spatial way in terms of picking ‘things’ apart (concepts, theories, events and actions) and putting them back together again. Uncertainty is very important to me!

What medium or form does your work incorporate?
I guess physically it incorporates a lot of writing, some video, naive/simple drawing, collage and photography. Grown In Spurts saw the first performance I ever did, but actually I would say that I was more concerned with the texts/sounds and formula of direction/systems – but again that brings us back to the thematics as opposed to the physical. I work a lot with books and am interested in narratives and the vessel of the book to explore ideas, which I guess in some ways incorporates design as well, and I make about one sculpture a year too.

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Pleasure Garden: DJ Hush’s Bollywood Selection7th May, 2014

Ahead of Pleasure Garden‘s Bollywood spectacular on Thursday, we asked Glasgow’s leading exotic record collector DJ Hush a few questions about his hot passionate obsession with insane disco and thundering percussion from the depths of the Indian film industry.

When did you start your collection? What was the first one?
The first Bollywood track I really wanted was on a Smylonylon Tape* which I bought in New York in 1996. The track was Jimmy Ajaa Ajaa Ajaa from the Bollywood film Disco Dancer. I didn’t’ see the film until 2007 when I found it on DVD and projected at my Thursday night club RPZ.

In 1998 I meet a guy called Kasel in Birmingham, he worked at BBC Asian Network radio, it was him that told me what film Jimmy Ajaa was from and made me a Bollywood cassette, which started me on a totally dangerous path, a pretty difficult path actually (laughs).

*Smylonylon was a crazy, dead stock second hand clothes shop on Lafayaette Street, which also sold its own mixtapes which were compiled by the owner Chris Brick and Alex Glorr (one half an Inflagranti).

What happened after that tape?
I started to try and find Bollywood records, but it was a very tortuous task. My first few Bollywood albums came from Kasel, he gave me his double copies of a few, including Disco Dancer, Shaan Don, Dance Dance and some British Bollywood stuff written by Biddu.

There was no discogs, nothing on Ebay, no one knew about those records that wasn’t Indian. I couldn’t Google “Top 10 Bollywood Tracks” on Youtube. When you did find a record they were usually so gubbed they were unplayable, one that I did get on Ebay, I opened and it was actually covered in mud.

Gradually stuff started to filter onto the internet, Youtube became a great resource. The records were still hard to find, but rather than just looking for a sleeve with a girl in a sparkly catsuit and a man in an eighties batwing top, you could at least you could research things! Now there are UK dealers who sell some pretty good collections and trustworthy sites in India as well. The various comps have created far more visibility with Bollywood music in the past 10 years as well.

What particular sounds or types of Bollywood music are you most fond of?
I really like wacky insane disco! In Bollywood, disco happened in the 80s not the 70s, right into the early 90s they were making Disco Bollywood films. What’s really nice is that in most of the films in the 80s and 90s, there’s a specific format of scenes that unfold to tell the familiar tropes in Indian storytelling. A lot of the great disco tracks are the “item girl scenes”, a scene where a woman sings a song to tempt the male hero, she usually doesn’t appear anywhere else in the film. There’s always a scene outdoors where the hero and heroine dance together, a romantic scene that’s usually up-tempo. Although, some of them have a sad song, or a sad version of the main title.

What is it about the music that you find interesting?
What’s really interesting is the insane level to which they cross pollinate Western music with their own culture. Disco, Rock, House, R&B interpreted with traditional Indian instruments and structures in this mind boggling fushion. All the tracks are overlayed with mad synth noises and explosions and swooshes, it’s a sensibility that seems incredibly post-modern and dynamic. At the time the music must have seemed incredibly anachronistic and twee, but i think its incredibly forward looking in its lack of any Western ideals of coolness and restraint. Also because the music is totally for film, it has to be stretched and adapted towards the actions, so away from the action the sounds seem deranged, but the sounds (when seen with the film) are made to punctuate the dancers and the gestures, so they do make sense in a really beautiful way. There are masses of close-up facial reactions shots, the sounds that follow could be anything.

They really plunder Western Pop music in a shocking, very impressive way. There are unless rip-offs… Michael Jackson, Kraftwerk, Madonna, Yazoo, Laura Branigan… they just just take chunks of the main melody and just slot them in to the middle of their own songs.

What can you tell me about some of the main Bollywood composers?
I have heard that Bappi Lahiri he was sort of a dysfunctional superstar who had his own armed entourage that followed him around. RD Burman, who composed a lot of the more funkier soundtracks of the 70s has been sampled by a bunch of hip hop artists for its breaks and guitar sounds. There’s Kalyanji Anandji as well, who was edited by DJ Shadow and Dan The Automator on their record Bombay the Hard Way: Guns, Cars & Sitars. That record was one of the first things to come out that was well produced, and it was music that people had just never heard before.