The Astral Plane Blog: Your New Music Bible

Well, this is awkward. Since I didn’t write a column last week (or the several before—sorry to leave you hanging) and there aren’t any cool shows on the horizon, I’m stuck either telling you about all the great campus events you missed or arbitrarily choosing and narrating some broad musical development in Los Angeles or elsewhere. Neither option sounds great by itself, but how about we split the difference?

I am obligated to start by saying KSPC’s recent Hardcore Blowout, co-sponsored by Scripps Associated Students, Associated Students of Pomona College and the new Extreme Music Society, was an absolute blast. Strike Back, Frustrated and Primitive Ways, three punk outfits from the Inland Empire, rocked the Social Room. As is common for KSPC’s annual event, there were definitely more audience members from the surrounding towns than from the 5Cs, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s always great to see the bridge between the two communities that allows events like this and No-Chella to form.

There was also the proper club shelldown that L.A. duo Nguzunguzu and the Astral Plane DJ Team (otherwise known as Gabe Meier PZ ’14) brought for Friday Manners’ basement bash. Full disclosure: I was one of roughly five people that put that event together, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the best experience I’ve had at an on-campus show in a very long time. Meier played his signature brand of forward-thinking club trax, Nguzu blew the lid off the place with classic grime anthems and rap bangers, and the crowd wanted nothing more than to get down.

But enough about what you missed! While talking to people about the Friday Manners lineup, I realized how few people here have actually read Meier’s blog, the Astral Plane, and honestly, that’s a shame. It’s without a doubt one of my favorite places on the Internet, and beyond that, Gabe’s a very interesting link between nearly everyone in the burgeoning online club music scene. So I thought it’d be interesting to give people a bit of a guide to that scene by way of navigating through the Astral Plane’s staggering amount of content.

By far the best part of the site nowadays is its mix series, which allows mostly new artists to present their own particular take on the virtual club, often focusing on the intersection of instrumental grime, Jersey/Baltimore club and hip hop. Since the series is well on its way to 100 entries, though, I’ll go through some of my recent favorites.

Letta’s offering is nothing short of a masterpiece, running through sad grime bangers and exclusive dubs, including his own breathtaking mix of Dej Loaf’s still-incredible “Try Me.” If you like rap acapellas and experimental beats, you’ll find much to enjoy here. Letta’s from L.A., too, forming a rare connection between our city and the largely London-based sound. His new record, “Testimony,” comes highly recommended as well, fit for late nights and lonely mornings.

Also hailing from L.A. is C.Z., whose mix from just this week was an absolute firecracker. Having only been familiar with him from his connections to WEDIDIT and other Soundcloud trap artists like Djemba Djemba, I was rather surprised by this one, as it shows the producer move into more hard-hitting club territory with tracks by artists like Drippin and Murlo.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, in addition to being generally sick, the AP mix series has also done a commendable job highlighting the incredible female selectors that make this scene tick. The mix from Toxe, an 18-year-old Swedish wunderkind, is sinister and sensuous all at once, focusing on the transnational aesthetic that her collectives, Staycore and Sister, have been pushing. The Large, hands-down one of my favorite DJs, dropped a dancehall session for the site last November, and a year later it still goes.

Besides being a who’s-who of the club world, the Astral Plane has also recently moved closer to being a full-fledged record label, having released two great compilations along with several remix EPs. The most recent, Psychotropia, features tracks from bleeding-edge producers like Soda Plains and Mechatok. Frankly, given the quality of these tracks and the amount of effort it took to make this a truly global effort, it’s ridiculous that all this stuff is free.

Finally, Meier himself constantly puts in work as a selector. First, there’s his monthly “For Club Use Only” column for FACT magazine in London, which is one of the best parts of one of the best music sites on the web. For those who don’t live their lives via Soundcloud, it’s an indispensible roundup of a fast-paced scene.

He’s also got a monthly show on Radar Radio, the expertly-curated pirate radio station, that often focuses less on club bangers and more on ambient excursions into house and techno. Occasionally, he’ll also guest for L.A. community radio station KChung or KXSC’s excellent program Club Strategies.

Last but not least, he’s one of the resident DJs at Clubfriends, a new party series at the Lash, co-hosted by Highland Park label Friends of Friends. Any time you find yourself itching to go out on a Tuesday and Table Manners simply won’t cut it, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better destination than Clubfriends.

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