The Astral plane explore Heterotopia

By connecting the club space to a virtual one, Heterotopia keeps a sharp focus without ever running out of ideas. That’s something anyone invested in dance music should aspire to.
By    October 31, 2014

a0640576583_10Son Raw’s deep like Derida

It’s not every day that I get a compilation of club beats named after an essay by Michel Foucault. Specifically, it happened exactly once: last week when the good folks at The Astral Plane sent over Heterotopia, a compilation named Heterotopia after the French philosopher’s concept of “different” spaces. Now the philosophical concept of the club as separate from ordinary reality isn’t new – it’s been around since early discos offered safe havens for the queer/black community and was codified in text when Hakim Bey wrote about Temporary Autonomous Zones in 1991, a concept the Techno community quickly made their own. In an era where dance music is increasingly seen through the lens of corporate festivals and branded superstars however, the idea of the club as distinct from ordinary capitalist structures never been more vital, or more in danger.

Heterotopia (the compilation, not the space) explores this through dance music that reclaims the concept for the underground. The beats are broken, the melodies minimal if present at all, and there’s a strain of defiance throughout: in the case of Public Love, the heavy sampled breathing hints back to Chicago House’s explicit sexuality without relying on throwback sounds. Elsewhere, Air Max’97 pushes the sparseness even further, constructing Chasm out of little more than percussion, broken glass and bass pulses. Even at Heterotopia’s most ornate, Celestial Trax’s speedy sci-fi rush on Illuminate, there’s a palpable concern to keep things dark and subterranean without deviating into pure abstraction.

It’s worth noting one additional virtual space shaping the album: the Internet. Despite The Astral Plane being based in LA, Heterotopia feels completely unmoored from the slower, Hip-Hop based sounds associate with the city. The production roster includes artists from Seoul to Santiago and there is a distinct 21st century cosmopolitanism to the proceedings. Therein lies Heterotopia’s greatest strength: by connecting the club space to the virtual one, the compilation manages to keep a sharp focus without ever running out of ideas. That’s something anyone invested in dance music should aspire to.


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