The Astral Plane has long been one of our favourite music blogs, with its mix series one of the best places on the internet to find hypermodern dance floor bangers and experimental manipulations of existing club modes. It’s the latter that the newly formed label arm of the site has concerned itself with thus far. With the word “deconstructed” approaching meme status in certain dance music circles it’s increasingly vital for the health of these styles of music that strong publications and labels separate the wheat from the chaff. So far so good with The Astral Plane, with a strong first year already producing acclaimed releases from Nunu, Chants and Exit Sense.
It’s SHALT, who’s really captured people’s attention though. Both the label and the artist debuted with his Acheron EP and it’s the perfect statement of intent for what both seek to achieve. Having bounced around cities that lack the localised club scenes that inspire much of the outer fringes of dance music, SHALT’s music is thrillingly undefinable. It’s both immediate and boundary pushing, taking the granular, emotive noise of the work of Tim Hecker or William Basinski and bolstering it with the physicality of soundsystem music. If you listen intently you might hear rhythmic skeletons that have some surface resemblance to those found in music from the Janus, NAAFI and Salviatek camps, but the mood is entirely different: introspective rather than celebratory. And in much the same way as those collectives there’s no real commitment to any particular genre trapping, with SHALT preferring instead to boldly go his own way.
Last week saw the release of a collection of perfectly chosen remixes of the Acheron EP, eight months on from its original release. On it SHALT’s idiosyncratic sound design is pulled into a variety of new shapes by some of our favourite producers: Ziúr augments “The Treatment” with slamming industrial noise and tuned kicks, M.E.S.H. diffuses “Acheron” into a gaseous cloud with his signature BPM-staggering trickery and Moro molds “Unconfined” into as much of an anthem as an angular club hybrid can be.
His Truancy Volume is the perfect extension of the release, contextualising M.E.S.H. and Moro’s killer remixes with a who’s who of club experimentalists: recent Hyperdub signee Endgame, “oblique club trax” master Air Max 97′ and NAAFI main man Paul Marmota amongst them. It’s dizzying stuff, so we caught up with SHALT for a quick Q&A to get some background.
Hi SHALT! How did you and Gabe go about choosing the remixers for Acheron? What is your relationship to them? “Essentially they’re just artists we both love… They’re all doing really unique things with their original music and all the remixes turned out great, so I’m just honoured to have them involved!”
Much is made of ‘deconstruction’ in club music, and in many ways your music fits into this milieu – what do you see as the context for your music and what are the motivations behind abstracting club forms for you? “I actually tend to see what I do as more repurposing of these club structures to fit the ideas I want to examine. Club music has a lot of the urgency and physicality that is necessary to properly discuss these issues, so for me it suits the underlying themes perfectly.”
Your debut EP Acheron was inspired by Kim Stanley Anderson’s Mars Trilogy, can you describe a little how that influence instantiated itself in the record? “In the end it worked as mostly a reference point (in terms of visual inspiration, song/EP titles) for the larger ideas surrounding the EP. It might have been a mistake actually to discuss it so much at the time, as it makes the whole thing play off as some sort of sci-fi fantasy thing, when I was actually trying to look at increasing life extension as an issue that’s currently playing out in reality. And these feelings of decay, artificial change etc that surround this issue have a big impact on how I designed the tracks.”
Can we expect future Shalt music to have a similar conceptual bent? “Totally, all the original music that I make is intended with a topic/concept behind it. In my eyes it’s vital to pretty much every part of the tracks (like structure, sound palette etc) and it’s important for me to push these issues in any form I can.”
You grew up in York and lived in Bristol (like me!) but are now based in Switzerland – what kind of scenes exist in these places and how have they nurtured your music? “Well you’ll know York’s pretty dead musically and Bristol has its whole scene already. In Switzerland there’s definitely a couple of places/nights that are interesting me, but there’s not a huge scene for this style of music out here. I’m not really sure they’ve impacted my music in any great way, but I don’t feel that’s such a bad thing – I’m always gonna make what I make regardless of where I am. I guess the fact that I don’t really have any proximity to artists that work in a similar sort of style to me gives me a sense of detachment from scenes – which again I don’t really mind.”
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us? “It kinda just boils down to a bunch of tunes that I love! I wanted to showcase some of the tracks off the remix EP, and blended them with some new ones I’ve been playing a lot, and old ones I still like to run.”
What do you have planned next? “My next EP, Inertia, will be out before the end of the year – to put it briefly it’s about individuals’ resistance to change when confronted with long term global issues. It’s definitely related to Acheron, just changing perspective to look more at surrounding ideas.”
NA – NA in a Mood
Druid Cloak – Netherchild (SPF666 Remix)
Ziur – Lilith ft RIN (Air Max ’97 Remix)
WWWings – Chimera (Endgame Remix)
Rizzla – Airlock (SHALT Edit)
SHALT – Acheron (M.E.S.H. Remix)
Paul Marmota – Cora
Dehousy – Vantablack
Mistareez – Sneak Diss (Akito Remix)
B.YHZZ – Stair Chase
SHALT – Unconfined (Dis Fig Bootie)
Future – Covered in Money (Taskforce Edit)
SHALT – Hypermalthusian (Aftermath)
SHALT – Unconfined (Moro Remix)
Kai Whiston – Rev
Ceramic TL – Sign of the Cross Every Mile to the Border
J(ay).A.D – Thinking About You
Celestial Trax – Together