It's Not U It's Me

It's Not U It's Me at The Power Plant Summer Series
July 9 - Local Artist Spotlight
(view full site here)
by A.Bee

Stepping off the M train onto Jackson Avenue and seeing Queens' MoMA PS1 building looming like a fortress was a defining moment of my mid-twenties. The Warm Up parties came to define the best moments of summer - warm breezes carrying unreleased house anthems and eclectic bookings that melted uptight New Yorkers into a sea of dancing bodies. It's Not U It's Me @ The Power Plant feels like our city's answer to MoMA's PS1, an outdoor dance series and spiritual successor to those outdoor dance parties that brings a host of international talent to the edge of Lake Ontario. Included in the fray is the legendary DJ Stingray, whose 25 years in the game have seen him coupled with genre-defining legends such as Afrofuturist political techno militants Drexciya. The always expectation-shattering Volvox makes an appearance as well, whose early morning rave-tinged sets will surely be included in dance music archives of the future, alongside Claude Young, who crafted many of the rhythms that would come to make Detroit's Frictional and 7th City Records ring out across the globe. What may be overlooked is the huge batch of local talent, some of whom might be flying under the radar of the average partygoer. Here's a bit of insight into who's making and playing music in your city, and what they're about. __ Brigitte Bardon't Kristel Jax's first musical memory was "learning all the words to every song in Labyrinth and dancing around and singing while the credits rolled. My mom loved Bowie and I also remember dressing up and giving a "concert" singing Bowie songs into a maraca in my parents' living room." Jax has carried that impulse forward into bigger things, such as her monthly TRP show, Infinite Poolside, in which albums or mix tapes are re-recorded to be heard as if they were coming from the depths of a swimming pool. On it, Jax recently re-recorded a David Bowie Infinite Poolside mix that took place the month the artist died called "Stardust Motel" which touches on some of the artist's more apocalyptic / sociopolitical songs. "The Infinite Poolside technique is also super basic" Jax tells me. "It's recording a mixtape over and over with a new layer of reverb every time, until high pitched harmonics rise really clearly and the echo is similar to what you'd hear in or at a swimming pool. Some people think I slow my mix tapes down DJ Screw style but I don't — except the most recent one, the one where R.E.M.'s "Nighswimming" is stretched out at 1/8th speed, which I did as a joke on the people who think I slow things down." It's a process that leaves the source material washed out, murky, an opaque, near-unrecognizable descendant of the source material. The results are unpredictable, often emotive. "I'm attracted to the idea of doing something that's humorous but also sounds beautiful and challenges people, and ideally the end result is that the mixtapes stand on their own as beautiful drone tracks" Jax says. "I think they also give listeners a different perspective on the original material — Taylor Swift, misogynist bar rock, pre-teens covering pop songs, etc — because the layers of reverb add distance." Sadly, Jax's adorable pug Lana Del Satan will not be accompanying her for the performance, as Lana prefers easy listening music. __ Edna King Edna Snyder's music once soundtracked one of those Apple iPod commercials, back when they were a big deal. But as I speak to Snyder, she's come a long way from the carefree electro pop outfit that she used to jam in alongside her two brothers. "The music I'm making as Edna King bears very little resemblance to any project I've been a part of in the past" she tells me. "This project is much more intimate and personal in many ways than what I was writing for Kidstreet - these pieces are a reflection of own thoughts and experiences, no one else. " Everything about Snyder's project feels intensely personal - listening to "Dreams" from her new EP on Modern Math conjures up the same body horror that watching "The Nightmare" causes - sucking you into an intensely personal realm. "This new project is much much darker in mood and tone" Snyder admits. "After nine or so years of singing pretty upbeat, pop-y music, it was a relief to focus on the parts of myself that are maybe a little less palatable, but also perhaps a little more interesting." Production-wise, Snyder is in the most control she's been in throughout her career, responsible for all the composing, recording, editing, mixing, singing, and producing of the tracks. "My process is pretty hard to pin down - it's probably never exactly the same twice" Synder states. "Sometimes it begins with a vocal line or a found sound, sometimes it's just a keyboard line I wrote. I can say though, that if I don't have the base of an idea in the first 20-30 minutes (however it begins), I'll generally throw it out and start fresh. If I like what I'm hearing, it turns into a process of adding, layering, structuring and manipulating." Pulling inspiration from catching Dasha Rush's recent Mutek set, as well as from "the empathetic and receptive benefits" of consuming a ton of sci-fi and history books, Snyder feels primed for a transcendent moment, admitting "these last couple of months have been all about breaking out of my perceived creative limitations." __ CL 2016's only half over, and it already looks like it's Cindy Li's year. Between participating in the first round of Discwoman's Chicago-based Smartbar residency alongside Vancouver's Jayda G. and New York techno emissary UMFANG, opening for the likes of Lena Willikens and Aurora Halal, regularly hopping to Montreal's Datcha club for guest sets, and running the airwaves on TRP's women-in-techno focused Work In Progress show, she's been a flurry of motion and creativity. "As a relatively newer DJ with fairly diverse taste, finding a 'sound' I can stick with for longer than a few months at a time has been somewhat of a challenge" Li tells me. "I'd like to think that no matter what tracks I drop on the dancefloor, there is a continuous thread running through them all - whether it's a prioritizing of female producers, a dreamy mood, or an abundance of rimshot-heavy acid lines." Listing acid, chicago house, Detroit techno, breakbeat, and electro as the type of sounds she gravitates towards, Li states that there are no hard and fast rules in her selections, but you're likely to hear a lot of drum machines. Perhaps because she splits her time between promotion, radio and DJing, a lot of attention is given to the mood and pacing of her sets. "I get that vibe is paramount to keeping your audience's attention, especially if I'm opening" she explains. "A close friend once told me that every good party should tell a compelling story, and the same idea applies to DJ sets - rising and falling with a beginning, middle, and end." __ Adam Khan You can see Adam Khan on the label of the new Omar S record, a photo that must be close to a decade old. It's as sure a testament as anything to Assembly boss Khan's longevity in the scene, and as I ask him for musical memories, he sends off several paragraphs tracing from his first record purchase (Outkast's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik) to his early days in the heyday of Richmond Street's club district, to warming up for everyone from Destiny's Child & Busta Rhymes to Lil Louis and Kai Alce.

Can you talk a bit about how your DJing and promoting work has grown and evolved throughout the years? I've been involved in a multitude of genres since i started djing which has eventually led me to where im at today – booking and playing parties that range from Funk and Disco to House & Techno. My style has evolved to forward thinking, deep underground techno and house that Assembly and other like-minded promoters and djs have been steadily pushing. I've seen many styles and sub-genres come and go - but remain committed to the deep aesthetic of quality music period. That's all that matters. I've never really focused on one genre, I've always played whatever I liked and booked acts that I was feeling. My sets are a reflection of that... What's an important musical memory for you? Buying my first record (Outkast - Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik - I think it was circa 1994). Playing my first party, a basement jam with Alish (we were in high school and I remember having my brother design the flyer, it was a pretty dope flyer, he drew it by hand). Playing my first club, Fusion on Richmond. It was a Tuesday night with DJ Quincy from Ebony Soundcrew and DJ Hukher from WBLK - I remember that place was so hard to get into on the weekend - the bouncers (I won't name names would walk up and down the line telling guys to tuck in their shirts, making em' wait, only letting girls in, kinda fucked up, but I guess that was the "Club District" in its heyday. Playing on the radio for the first time (CHRY 105.5), playing out-of-town gigs, my first was in Buffalo. I remember trying to cross the border and not being let in with my records because I didn't have a permit. We booked a hotel room in Niagara, dropped off my records, and crossed the border. I ended up going to Cephale Owens house (WBLK - who also ran the record pool I was in) and borrowing records off him....his house was crazy, I've never seen so much vinyl! Playing parties with Destinys Child, Busta Rhymes, Zhane, and other artists through my regular gig at Industry (live to air on WBLK) to my own events (Void/Soulutions) with Lil Louis, Kai Alce, & Omar S ++. Seeing guys I've grown up with working hard, succeeding and reaching their goals (Stuart Li & Christian Newhook aka Dinamo Azari - you guys are the shit!) More recently playing Ouput in Brooklyn...that was a very cool experience! I feel my best memories are yet to be made - this year and going forward...hopefully you'll be hearing and seeing a lot more of me! What keeps you inspired to do what you do? Obviously the music, my friends and the new people you meet and work with! I'm getting older so I guess just appreciating shit a lot more. Is music political for you, or is dance music an escape from meaning? Politics affects you every day so whenever you can go out and forget about all the crappy things that are happening in the world grab a drink and whatever else you need, hit the floor and zone the fuck out! What's one style of music / certain record that's been stuck in your head lately? It's constantly changing....but at the moment that Moodymann DJ kicks mix seems to be always playing in the background Any feelings about what contributes to a good party / good energy? Music, space, sound, the dancers, good mix of people...

__ Gingy Brian Wong's work ethic is much like techno itself- a locked groove of productivity - unending, relentless, and possibly influenced by amphetamines. Wong's presence on the scene has given us many gifts over the past decade - from his latest record on Clone's Royal Oak imprint to mastering Bwana's tracks to heighten their early-morning rave potency, to some truly powerful DJ sets - this writer once watched him play a set where the power of a single track's drop caused everyone one the dancefloor to stop their conversation, and devote their unyielding attention to the moment at hand. This time around at the Power Plant, he'll be debuting an all live improvised set on a Eurorack modular synthesizer, plummeting the dancefloor to the dark, unstable core of a synth techno wormhole. __ Hudson Alexander Toronto's Bedroomer collective has been expanding their influence further and further in 2016, from Eytan Tobin's footwork-inspired EPs to Jennifer Illet and Liam Sanagan's on-point design aesthetic that guides the label's identity. Hudson Alexander is another name to watch for in the collective, who describes his sound as a merger of places he's lived - Winnipeg and Toronto. "Winnipeg is empty and boring and the sky goes on forever" he tells me, admitting that despite not being terribly exciting, it sparked a love of ambient music. Since Alexander's been in Toronto, he's noticed more dance and hip hop influences integrating themselves into his tracks. "You've Been Quiet" on his new Bedroomer EP puts all these pieces together, employing stuttering syllabic repetitions as a pitched down vocalist sings a heartbroken ballad. "I like to combine lots of lo-fi field recording and old drum samples with more mechanical drum machine sounds, but I tend to stay away from synths that are too harsh or obvious, and I use lots of keyboards and really warped guitars" Alexander tells me. "That hasn't changed much from when I started, but I have been starting to play with more dance-floor oriented arrangements as opposed to the ambient black hole soundscapes with some drums that I used to make." Citing an ever-shifting body of influences, Alexander's recent mix for Phase One Radio shows that he can also master harsher electronic sounds with confidence. "When I'm djing I really just get excited to share the stuff I'm currently into - My influences are always changing because I'm listening to new music every day" he states."I love connecting all that stuff and making it make sense." __ Joel Eel "I wanted to make dance music that had imperfections, and subtle moments of improvisation" Joel Eel tells me when I ask him about his solo project. a personal undertaking that serves as an extension of the abrasive industrial notes he creates as part of his New Justine project. "The initial goal of the this project was to write music that steps away from immediate availability, to move away from the accessibility of digital music or physical tangibility and have it give birth predominantly in a live setting" Joel tells me. Viewing the alias as an outlet for his Korean up-bringing in North America, Eel's music is a raw-rubbed reflection on identity, upbringing and pressures of perfection. Performing a live set using only analog gear and without a laptop, Eel sees it as a good bedrock to create engagement with a crowd of dancers as quickly as possible. Working from the belief that putting in place "a certain rawness" enables the audience to become as physically and mentally thrown into the fray as Eel himself, he acknowledges that one of the goals of the project is to move away from the easy accessibility of the internet, or even the physical tangibility of records, and give birth to something that exists raw and screaming, only in a live setting.

__ BURGLAR Evan Burgess tags many of his tracks with #spooky on SoundCloud, which he says is partially an admittance that he doesn't take himself too seriously. It's a pretty apt tag though - his work as Burglar prioritizes haunting synths and violent percussion, soaking pop vocals in reverb and stretching them out over stuttering, relentless grooves, stretching Ariana Grande & Bieber into deformed amalgamations of their former poppiness. Originally a club DJ who became exhausted by an endless deluge of top 40 remixes, Burgess moved his focus towards a darker sound, now prioritizing production - many of which can be heard on an encyclopaedic SoundCloud page. Speaking about what he values in his production, Burgess tells me "I think it's important for an artist to be uncompromising in their vision. The artists that I most admire have been steadfast in their sound and aesthetic, regardless of trends." Non-musical influences for Burgess include architecture and algorithms -"objects of inherent structure and order. Rigid systems to designed to serve a purpose." __ Viscera "DJing came out of not hearing the music I wanted to hear in clubs" James Hurley states. "It's always been about filling a perceived void. My influences come from all over; from funeral doom metal to Berlin techno to Evangelion." While Hurley began on what he describes as "a very traditional path of house and techno", he eventually started shedding notions of what genre limitations set, and instead prioritizing sounds that are mesmerizing to him in the moment. "I want it to be dramatic" Hurley states. "I want to give the audience the same rush of dopamine that I feel listening to a really great set - there's not much interest for me in just being the background thud of a party." __ Dustin Good & Butr

What made you start making music? What made you continue doing it? What was the last piece of music you bought and what do you like about it? Dustin — Started learning from listening to records, playing as many instruments as I could. Learning to write my own music and communicate it to other players or audiences. Last piece of music I bought was a "Blue Magic" record from 1973, classic vocal RnB with beautiful arrangements. It's paints a wonderful picture of an era where love songs weren't afraid to be love songs. Butr — Started collecting early detroit techno and hip hop in the 90's and got inspired. started dejaying hip hop and collecting samplers/synths to make techno/detroit electro. What kept me interested was the constant learning of machines and synthesis in general. The last record I bought was the 12" of KMFDM god like. I've been on an industrial kick. What do you think the relationship between performer and audience should look like in dance music? Dustin — Read the crowd, make people dance. Butr — Do what you love, hope people like it and dance to it. What's the last piece of art (music or otherwise) that had a profound impact on you? What kind of things inspire your work? Dustin — Underground derelict detroit venues. Architecture. Butr — Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds were a slight obsession and inspiration lately. All projects solo piano works and as a duo for their ambient projects.

__ Emissive Emotion. Kick drum. Contrast. Powerful and to the point, these are the things that Evan Vincent values in his musical output. Coming at his DJ sets with an instinctual, slightly absurdist and easygoing nature that he states he's learned from the work of folks like Vonnegut, Magritte, Timothy Leary and Alan Watts, he cites catching Ben UFO at the now defunct London dance hub Plastic People as a set that's left him feeling transformed as a result. Vincent holds the community piece of dance music production as intensely valuable. "Despite the fact that modern music making often relies on technology and being hunched over a laptop, tunage is always better with friends" he tells me. "Any chance you can get to collaborate should be capitalized on." When I ask him to share some of his internet presence, he pauses. "Is it okay if it's a mystery for people?" he responds.

Sign up for our mailing list: