Scrolling through a month’s worth of downloads, tips from friends and SoundCloud likes is always a bit frenetic, the mind attempting to coalesce the tangled mass of sonic detritus into something resembling a coherent narrative.
The first edition of For Club Use Only featured artists from a wide array of genres and locations, all collected under the amorphous banner of club music. And while it’s my opinion that all songs included are fit for club play, one commenter noted that “at least half of those tracks would kill the dancefloor.” Without getting into definitions or theories (which I’m honestly not qualified to be throwing out), I think it’s important to note what I mean and don’t mean when I refer to “club”.
Some of the songs included in this column are not dancefloor bangers in the classical sense – many are jarring, dismembered takes on pop music that function as both fascinating sonic deconstructions and as challenges to actual dancers in actual dance spaces. Some songs will emerge from hyper-localized scenes built around specific dances and codified ways of speaking and acting. If anything, I hope that that For Club Use Only challenges the whitewashed sensibility that dictates what is danceable and what is not. This means that a lot of the music included probably won’t be fit for your neighborhood bar or pub, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. Enjoy.
It’s hard not to be happy about the emergence of so many young ballroom producers, and Oakland’s DJ Spider – not to be confused with the New Jersey techno maven of the same name – has quickly revealed himself to be one of the best, strutting his talents on Philadelphia outpost Pumpdabeat, home of DJ Delish, VJtheDJ, Sir Eddie and more.
With tracks that function as both ideal runway tools and self-sustaining songs, Spider’s stripped down take on traditional ballroom tropes is immediately accessible. Taking cues from Strictly Rhythm and even early DFA, ‘Step Out’ is Spider’s best track to date – a chunky piano house cut with a devoted runway vibe. As the rest of the dance music world begins to recognize, investigate and steal from ballroom culture, it will be artists like DJ Spider who will carry the touch for the real adherents.
Not the hallowed secret that it was a few years ago, Mexico City’s NAAFI collective is finally garnering the international acclaim it deserves, drawing impressive line-ups in its hometown and issuing a string of highly acclaimed releases from OMAAR, Smurphy and more. Lao has been a part of NAAFI since the very beginning and has stood out for his nocturnal take on grime, with an aesthetic that values texture and atmosphere over histrionics and gimmicky vocals.
‘Recepcion’ follows several impressive bootlegs and its outsized approach to Mumdance-esque 909 grime is successful on nearly every level. Hypnotizing arrangements bump into sharp snares and rounded kicks, but each respective element falls effortlessly into Lao’s mix, an all-enveloping experience that goes down easily.
Air Max ’97 x Missy Elliot
‘Pass The Shape Cut (Aspa Slice)’
One third of Melbourne’s Club ESC (alongside Air Max ’97 and Rap Simmons), Aspartame has become one of our favorite on-the-low selectors, crafting an aesthetic built on dancehall riddims, early 2000s R&B and the CDJ-based stylings of deejays such as Total Freedom and Venus X. Last year’s WITHER // BLOOM mix for Golden Syrup was a fitting introduction to the Aspartame sound, but it was the 100 BPM 1310011014 mix that was his first real statement of intent.
Most recently, Aspartame has dropped this cheeky nod to woman-of-the-moment Missy Elliot, and while it’s always difficult to judge blends, edits and bootlegs on their own merits, this little treat is worth returning to over and over again.
‘Industry (DJ NJ Drone Edit)’
Part of the excellent remix edition of Portland duo Magic Fades’ Push Thru LP (out now on 1080p), New York-based producer DJ NJ Drone’s ghetto house-flavored edit of ‘Industry’ has had us enraptured since its release in early February. Having released his debut EP, Energy, on Dallas label Track Meet last December and contributed mix work to Purple Tape Pedigree and WDIS, DJ NJ Drone is a well-known name among a web-focused, East Coast crowd, but has yet to explode on a national scale.
Energy, aided by remixes from Murlo and Rabit, shows off a hybrid approach to grime that values both empty space and the percussive madness of ghetto house. His take on ‘Industry’ is more stripped back than the EP, but retains its stutter-start qualities as it transitions into an uptempo thumper.
‘Restless (Joey LaBeija & False Witness Remix)’
Two of New York’s finest come together to remix terminally underrated crooner Rahel’s ‘Restless’, flipping the original’s cloud rap-y backdrop into a club-ready slow burner that inexplicably transforms into a piffed-out kuduro joint halfway through. Under False Witness and Labeija’s supervision, Rahel’s delicate vocals explode into full color, her ominous tone and repeated warnings to “make up your mind” coming together with pulses and later, the syncopated skip of Lusophone dance music. Certainly inspired in no small part by Kelela’s Cut 4 Me, this trio has an opportunity to stake out a spot in the still nascent middle ground between contemporary R&B and insular club forms.
‘I Need Her’
After getting some choice play on Bjork’s recent Rinse FM appearance, J(ay).A.D. has been pointed to as the next in a line of producers, including Mssingno, Visionist and Dark0, who are approaching grime production with an orchestral grandeur and a sly nod to diva R&B. ‘I Need Her’ was actually released on the Amsterdam-based producer’s Dedeyuru Vol. 1 EP, released via Bandcamp on New Year’s Day, but it’s worth revisiting in this column, in no small part due to its innate, dirt-smudged beauty.
One of several near-beatless excursions on the EP, ‘I Need Her’ clocks in at just over two minutes, but contains an overt emotional punch that seems to reorganize how the track’s gunshots and crackling disintegrating percussion are perceived by the listener. And while J(ay).A.D.’s oeuvre also includes Lotic-esque deconstructions and gunfinger-inciting skeng tracks, his crying-in-the-club efforts involve a rare pathos.
Latin Club Take Over Vol. 1
With the seemingly non-stop stream of quality Jersey club emerging right now, it can be difficult for untested producers to differentiate themselves from the crowd, but Paterson, New Jersey’s DJ Cueheat has done just that. Latin Club Take Over Vol. 1 is a collection of the producer’s own remixes of reggaeton hits from the past several years and can be consumed in continuous mix form or as individual tracks.
The Caribbean’s ubiquitous dembow rhythm is fused with Jersey’s increasingly popular kick pattern, and vocals from Daddy Yankee, Nicky Jam and more are chopped into oblivion. Cueheat doesn’t necessarily rewrite the script here, but the bounce on Latin Club Take Over is inescapable and it’s a pleasure to see the remix subject matter diversifying.
Since we started our Astral Plane mix series a few years ago, few volumes have been rougher than Akito’s, and he’s continued to explore the sound on his most recent EP for Trax Couture’s World Series. Headed by the cracking Original Mix of ‘Dalston Dips’, World Series Vol. 5 is an intense listen, full of razor sharp snares and the type of soundsystem-specific low end that we’ve come to associate with Bristol.
While both the Original and Alternative mixes of ‘Dalston Dips’ are remarkably fun to play out, EP closer ‘Sordid Forfeit’ is the standout for me, comprising a thrilling arrangement of square waves set over a monumental Jersey-influenced kick pattern. Last month I included a track from Dreams’ World Series Vol. 4 in this space, and I’d be surprised if next month’s column doesn’t feature a track from Vol. 6.
Changing up the pace a little, Portuguese trio Niagara are one of our favorite acts out of the Principe Discos camp, pushing an organic take on house and techno that is chock full of polyrhythmic complexities and wonky vocals. Although they’re not as well known as kuduro-focused artists like DJ Marfox and DJ Nigga Fox, Niagara have begun to make inroads, and it appears that their next release will come through Charles Drakeford’s FTD Records.
‘Falcão’ comes out of the gates like a slingshot, all distorted psych guitar and elastic bass notes, and as the track progresses it becomes clear that it’s nearly as fun to try and identify the different instruments and noises as it is to dance to. With Ben UFO already playing it out, expect ‘Falcão’ to have a long shelf life.
Acre x Justine Skye
‘Never Physically Leave (Prince Will Edit)’
While there’s certainly no dearth of attention heaped on the Fade 2 Mind posse, Prince Will always deserves a special shout. Whether through his contributions to F2M’s Rinse show or his behind-the-scenes work at the label, Will is an integral component of the operation and is always a pleasure to see play out. As noted previously, judging blends is a bit tricky, but this Acre x Justine Skye hits all the right notes and should turn fans of Acre onto Justine Skye and vice versa.