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In Praise Of Astral People

A few weeks back, dancing away in a packed Civic Underground, a wave of exhilaration swept over me. This wasn’t down to drugs or some cosmic or spiritual epiphany, but rather because I was at an Astral People (AP) show, locked in tight to the bass heavy rhythms being offered first by local lads Cliques and then Pangaea, a stand out of the UK club scene. This wasn’t the first time that a party thrown by the good people over at AP had given me such a sense of exhilaration; indeed it was something that I had felt many times before. But this particular moment felt unique, urgent, almost tribal; it felt like I was, along with everyone else in that room, tuned into something special.

On the eve of Astral People’s second birthday, it feels necessary to offer up whatever praise I can for the dudes responsible for bringing out a bunch of the best DJs in the world and for their fostering of some of the most vibrant local talent on offer in Australia. Recipients of a SOYA award in 2012 for promoter of the year, AP are currently right up there with the best music companies and promoters in Sydney, perhaps even Australia. Through their promotion and management, they are providing Australia with a vital service that highlights some of the brightest lights in music today; the true lightning rods of underground dance and hip hop music.

The consistency of the acts that AP brings out to Australia is second to none. These dudes clearly have immense taste. A sampling of some of the acts that they have brought out and looked after over the past couple of years includes names like Pearson Sound, Balam Acab, How to Dress Well, Blawan, Pariah, Ikonika, Omar-S, Action Bronson, Oneohtrix Point Never, L-Vis 1990, Bok Bok, Baths and Prefuse 73. For anyone into underground electronic, dance, bass music or hip-hop, this is a veritable goldmine and one that I have been digging into as much as possible. It seems that every week that goes by they are announcing another artist or DJ that I have wanted to see for ages.

Their festival, Outside In (now in its second year) is about as boutique a festival that exists in Australia. The two headliners for this year are Zomby and Freddie Gibbs, hardly the biggest names in electronic music or hip-hop. But are they two of the most interesting, exciting and critically acclaimed acts in their respective genres at the moment? Absolutely. Which is one of the central reasons I am so enamored towards AP for what they do. They clearly take risks and are happy to do so if it means bringing some of the best (if little known) music to Australia for all us punters to experience the kind of exhilaration mentioned at the top of the article. Their curating skills no doubt played a part in their hosting of a night at this year’s Vivid Festival which featured Omar-S, one of the pioneers of Chicago house.

The list of local acts currently on the AP roster speaks for itself really. Jonti, a Sydney via South Africa artist has garnered international attention and acclaim for his psychedelic tinged, Beach Boys-esque beat making skills. Signed to Stones Throw Records in the US (home to the likes of Madvillain, Aloe Blacc and Mayor Hawthorne amongst others), his 2011 debut Twirligig was one of the best of that year and he has since gone on to produce tunes for rappers like Hodgy Beats of Odd Future fame. AP also looks after Collarbones (one of the best local groups of the last few years), Rainbow Chan, Cliques and Wintercoats to name but a few.

The artist on the AP roster that has most tickled my fancy however is Dro Carey, a leftfield electronic producer hailing from Lewisham in Sydney’s Inner West. Dro Carey, who also produces under the Tuff Sherm moniker, best represents the aesthetics and ideals that make AP what it is. His music works at home or on the dance floor, a mélange of off-kilter, bass heavy and oftentimes sinister beats that is some of the more interesting stuff you’re likely to hear right now. Heavily influenced by the current UK bass scene, Carey’s music is the perfect centre point for what AP represent. His tunes have garnered attention overseas, particularly from the UK dance music website FactMag, who have featured one of his mixes and who keep abreast of all of his releases (of which there are quite a few).

So do yourself a favor and go to an Astral People show and get amongst. The feeling of exhilaration on offer when dancing in a packed nightclub is one of the great pleasures of life, an AP party being the surest avenue for such an experience currently.

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