Album of the Day: ASC, “Astral Projection”

The story of 21st century club music has been less one of step-change—dramatic developments like house, techno, drum & bass, or trance—than one of the evolution of the subtler tendencies within and across genres. One of the most crucial of these has been slowness. In dubstep’s half-step lurch, experimental electronica like Andy Stott and Arca, alt-R&B, post-FlyLo beat-scene psychedelics, Berlin techno’s retreat from pounding extremes—even the reggaetón-influenced mainstreaming of tropical house—there was a retreat from the idea of beat as “driving” and into looser, more limber relationships between drum programming and dancers’ bodies.

One of the most interesting crucibles for this experimentation has been a half-tempo zone in drum & bass. Artists like dBridge, Om Unit, Sam Binga, Japan’s ENA, and San Diego’s ASC have in various ways opened up d ‘n’ b’s spaces and saved it from the harder-faster-denser sonic arms races that drove some of its variants into an evolutionary dead end. ASC has taken those lessons and started applying them to other templates. Having spent his last two albums on entirely ambient drones, he’s now exploring a place completely between genres—using the same moody sound palette as his previous records, but going across the tempo range, and crucially using patterns of three beats, rather than the 4/4 patterns of 99.99% of dance records. Oddly, despite this unorthodox rhythmic approach, the record sounds strangely familiar: the tonality, the flow, the bodily impact of the sub-bass, all echo early dubstep, Drexciya-style Detroit electro, and ASC’s own half-step d ‘n’ b. Yet as you get absorbed into the swirling waltzes, they will take you to strange, intergalactic places. Certainly adventurous DJs could play this too—and the dances that people will do should prove to be pretty interesting.

-Joe Muggs

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