fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 7: Subhas Nair, “The baton is in our hands.”

Subhas Nair, wearing a black COVID mask and tee shirt, both emblazoned with the URL: STATEVSUBHAS.COM

Subhas [Instagram] is a unique voice in Singapore, whose music and organising confronts issues such as capital punishment, the treatment of migrants workers, climate capitalism and racism while advocating for class solidarity. His activities have provoked the ire of authorities and our conversation took place as he awaits the outcome of a court case in which the State accused him of “promoting ill will between races and religions.” Subhas’ upcoming album is scheduled to drop when the verdict is announced.

If these issues concern you, take a look at the Migrant Worker Death Map, Singapore and consider supporting Migrant Mutual Aid Singapore.

If you like what you hear, sign up to receive details about Subhas’ upcoming album The State Vs Subhas Nair. You can also support Subhas via

Music used in the episode is on the major platforms Spotify and Apple, in chronological order:
Malabar (2021)
Riot! / Dumbshit! (2018)
Bhasa (2021)
Long2befree (2021)
The Line (2020)
UTOPIA (feat. Migrants Band Singapore) (2021)
Blk101sunsetway (2018)
DMT (2021)
Time Of My Life (2021)
Some Nights (2021)

Our conversation was recorded 26 June 2024 while in residence at Singapore Art Museum, 1 April–29 June 2024.

Let Subhas take you on a tour of Singapore as he unpacks some of his music!

fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 6: Good Morning Geylang

A view of a carpark entrance through a silhouette of palm fronds. The leaves of the fronds match with the hazard stripes painted onto the speed hump and the strong parallel lines of the image made by the railings and gate,

“Good Morning Geylang”, a deep listening dawn mix and a meditation on migration, labour, infrastructure and place-making in Singapore. Made in residence at Singapore Art Museum, 1 April–29 June 2024.

The field recordings that make up this mix were recorded in the streets, rooftops and void decks around the neighbourhood where I am staying in Geylang. Singapore is undoubtably an air-conditioned nation however I’m not a fan of such climate controls. I prefer to keep the windows open and as my apartment is on the 4th floor of an old shophouse, I am at tree height. I’m often stirred before dawn by the sounds of birds chattering. Soon after I hear the first MRT commuter train rumbling off in the distance and as the city starts to wake it is often the sound of a garbage truck and its distinct pungent scent that brings me to my senses. I’m in an area where many migrant workers also stay and in the mornings I can watch them gathering in the street below, waiting to be taken in trucks to work sites around the city. I’ve been struck by the interplay of daily rhythms at this time of day. With reference to Henri Lefebvre’s notion of rhythmanalysis, I can discern  the circardian rhythms as night turns into day, the institutional rhythms of the train schedule and the rhythms of the working day. Singapore imports much of its construction and domestic workers from neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Their wages are lower than locals and they have few rights. There has been some discussion about constructions workers who are transported around in lorries with minimal safety, an exception to Singapore’s road rules, and there have been several serious accidents.

“Good Morning Geylang” is the first iteration of a live sound work I am developing. Comprised of field recordings I’m making in Singapore as a reflection on migrant labour/leisure. I’m thinking of it as a deep listening work to be performed in pitch black — picking up on a recent discussion of sensory deprivation following the debut of REFUGE at Singapore International Festival of Arts, by the Observatory in collaboration with Duck Unit, Rully Shabara and Justin Shoulder.

A list of artists I’m thinking about includes:
33EMYBW, specifically Mandala (2023)
William Basinski
Robert Curgenven
Philip Jeck
Francisco López
Oval (early releases)
Steve Reich (early tape pieces)
David Toop
Chris Watson

fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 5: (Pseudo) Sino-Club

Rollerbladers in the underpass between City Hall and Esplanade, Singapore-

“(Pseudo) Sino-Club Mix” by DJ Ayam Hitam is a kind of sonic fan-fiction recorded in Singapore for Labour Day, 1 May 2024. With the artists Animistic Beliefs and Wanton Witch as its spirit guides, the mix invokes the Bangkok queer and feminist rave collective NON NON NON as its animating force, racing towards an inevitable climate catastrophe (cli-fi) dsytopia/utopia as evoked by Rắn Cạp Đuôi Collective. DJ Ayam Hitam scrapes the surface of the so-called “Global Techno Underground” to fashion a sound shape-shifitng across South East Asia and that is allegedly “decolonizing dancefloors” (de-culo-nizing as they say in Latin America) in clubbing metropoles such as Berlin and London.

The art of crashing a mix
This mix was recorded live using a Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 controller and Rekordbox . The “game plan” was to start with Neo Geodesia’s “Wat Ang Ta Minh” and get to Rắn Cạp Đuôi’s “Bloody” by way of Animistic Beliefs and Wanton Witch. After landing in Singapore in April, I purged my playlist of UK bass, footwork, gqom—my go-to genres—to instead play around with tracks made by producers from South East Asia, or those who have some vested interest in this region. Over the last week I scoured my hard drives for odd bootlegs and also listened through the back catalogues of labels SVBKVLT and Genome 6.66 Mbp, affiliated with the now defunct Shanghai club Shelter and its successor ALL. Indeed, it was the recent release of Osheyack and Nahash’s Bait (2024) (notably none of the tracks from this EP made it to my mix) that prompted me to read accounts of this burgeoning scene in Shanghai, prior to Covid. In an interview from 2019 for zweikommasieben, Osheyack discusses clubbing as a new phenomena in China with no precedence or (rival) scenes:

I think the difference is that the club culture there is so new that there is not really a context or a hierarchy of “you need to do this” in order to play on Saturday night. So there are a bunch of people from a bunch of different places and Chinese kids—who are completely new to club music in general—and they are just picking up everything and re-contextualizing it.

I was also taken by his description of ALL’s patrons as a ”DJ-set culture of people wanting to hear a bunch of different shit mixed together.”

Last year I introducing a friend to DJ software, with which one can match BPMs at the touch of a button. She caught on very quick and was already working up a small crowd during this first afternoon session in a small bar. After some time, she turned to me and said something like: “I understand how to mix between tracks that are of a similar BPM, but what if I want to mix a track of say 120BPM with a track that’s at 160BPM? Is there a button for that?”. Actually, I think on Rekordbox there is a function that auto-mixes across speeds, steadily moving the pitch and crossfade between tracks, but I enjoy listening to the hand of the artist, and so I replied to my friend’s query: “That’s the real art of DJing, knowing how to crash a mix!”

Not that I’ve necessarily achieved that with this mix. I did attempt to plan and rehearse it before recording it for the radio, but I failed in my attempts to play it again (the) same. Mixing across a range of BPMs, nudging the pitch sliders back-and-forth, eventually I gave up trying to repeat myself and tried to get into the zone. Made to share on Labour Day, 1 May, it is apt that this mix resisted being laboured over!

Working with software, I’ve come to think about the parallels between DJing and console video gaming. Is not the (novel) musical instrument as much a toy as it is a tool? Making this mix felt a bit like playing a racing game in which one attempts to get to the finish line without crashing. The thrill is in the ride and the challenge is to not “drop the ball”, ie fail to mix in the next track. Wipeout would be the obvious point of reference, which I may have played once and was certainly terrible at it. Rez, a musical first-player-shooter, might be more appropriate. Although, as I recall its soundworld was more like progressive house and techno rather than the wonky sonics and “crash montage” mixing I tend towards.

Listening back, this is not my most elegant mix. I do cringe at some of the sloppy segues and there are some segments where I seem to have wandered astray and am clutching for the right track to get me back on course. I’m also reminded of the “bashment” ragga sound systems that first lured me into mixing. Here the selector might not always beat-match to the ones and instead employ sound effects, rollbacks and fearsome noise as part of the sonic collage experience. The spills are as much part of the thrill and are a counterpoint to interlocking rhythms that wind-up dancing bodies. Was there ever a sound clash video game?

01. “Wat Ang Ta Minh វត្តអង្គតាមិញ” – Neo Geodesia
Saphy Wong is the founder of the “multidisciplinary Asian platform and record label”, Chinabot. Under the moniker Neo Geodesia, Wong treats traditional Khmer music with experimental electronic processes. This track is lifted from the remarkable 2562 Neon Flames (2020), in which Wong revisits the sudden death of his mother during the celebrations of Khmer New Year 2562. I’ve heard nothing else quite like it.

02. “Edda” – Rui Ho
Rui Ho is a new discovery for me, whom I came across via Genome 6.66 Mbp. This track can be found on 戰記 (2017), which I believe was her first release. She has since evolved into a “non-binary pop singer”, and her more recent releases foreground vocals and narrative.

03. “吃掉” – Jason Hou & Yider
I assumed I found this on a Genome 6.66 Mbp compilation, but I cannot locate it. I have a feeling this track also crossed over into UK grime and dubsteps playlists circa 2016, which is how I might have picked up on it following some thread about Sinogrime. Here is a curious video of Hou performing an AlphaSphere, a curious haptic sensor-based instrument.

04. “Club Apathy” – Osheyack & Nahash
A definitive release on SVBCVLT, 2021.

05. “Shatter” – Hyph11E
Tess Sun is one of the most lauded artists affiliated with SVBCVLT and this track is a personal favourite lifted from Aperture (2020), an album about holes!

06. “Empty Spoon” – Wanton Witch
Miriam Alegria’s is relatively new to me. Currently based in Berlin, via Malaysian Borneo and Bangkok where she founded queer rave collective NON NON NON [Instagram]. Wanton Witch caught my attention at CTM earlier this year, performing as part of Thai artist Pisitakun’s takeover of Berghain’s Säule, launching his “The Three Sound of Revolution” project. She opened her set with a slew of what sounded like high velocity Baile Funk cut-ups, before nose-diving into 4/4 hard techno. This track is from her album AKU (2023) which struck me for its emotional breadth, shifting moods and polished production.

07. “Kniom Nahn” – Lafidki
Since 2008 Saphy Wong has released music as Lafidki. Taken from his debut album Chinabot (2017), “Kniom Nahn” has a charming music video, you can watch below. Chinabot has emerged as an important platform connecting South East Asian and diaspora artists pursuing experimental (club) productions.

08. “Medical Fodder” – 33EMYBW
While 33EMYBW (nee Wu Shanmin) is arguably the face of SVBCVLT, I first encountered her music from the Arthropods Continent on the compilation Alterity (2020) released by Houndstooth, a label affiliated with the London club fabric. “Medical Fodder” opens the album and remains for me one of its highlights.

09. “Kawasaki Outrun” – DJ Loser & Xiao Quan
I have no idea who these people are or how this track came to me. Invariably as I was slipping down some internet rabbit hole, but I cannot recall for what and when. That DJ Loser is based in Thessaloniki provides some clues, as I have spent some time in Greece in recent years. Is Xiao Quan a former pop singer in China responsible for the “Social Shake” meme dance craze? And/or this producer living in Sâo Paolo? Whiskers are trembling, what other treats await?

10. “Childhood Memories (Totobuang)” – Animistic Beliefs
Taken from the Rotterdam duo’s extraordinary album MERDEKA (2022), notably released on N.A.A.F.I. (No Ambition And Fuck-all Interest?) from Mexico City. As mentioned above, Animistic Beliefs were foundational for this mix, leading me towards this so-called “global techno underground”, and specifically some of the sounds surfacing in South East Asia, that are supposedly decolonizing dancefloors. I would loved to have caught them on their tour through China and Vietnam [Instagram] in the last weeks. I’ve heard murmurings about the unhinged rave scene in Vietnam, that is in contrast to Singapore’s relatively costly and thus closed party scene.

11. “虫草FIRE Edit” – RVE
From Genome 6.66 Mbp’s Club Shanzai Bootleg Compilation (2020), “a collection of remixes, edits, and blends by artists from Greater China.” This is all I could find.

12. “Puritan (Gabber Modus Operandi Remix)” – Homicide
Homicide, a political rap crew who formed in Bandung in the 1990s, are legendary. This remix by Gabber Modus Operandi, who are currently forging their own legendary status, was commissioned by the afore mentioned Pisitakun for his multi-faceted research project with the DAAD. “The Three Sound of Revolution”  focuses on the artist’s interest and involvement with revolutionary protest music in Thailand and expands its scope to consider the South East Asian region. The album Middle Sound (2023) was launched earlier this year at CTM. Incidentally, Pisitakun has also released music with Chinabot.

13. “The Border-Walking Monk” – Howie Lee
From the 7 Weapons (2020) series released by Belgian label Maloca Records. Splitting his time between China and Taiwan, Howie Lee is the co-founder of the label Do Hits, which also counts Jason Hou in its stable of producers. Lee is a veteran producer and visual artist who earned a reputation for music that melds traditional and folk instrumentation with contemporary club production techniques, working across a range of genres and aesthetics. I appreciate this track’s wonkiness.

14. “Sacrifice” – Selecta
From Genome 6.66 Mbp’s Genome Compilation Vol​.​1 (2016). I can’t find anything more about this artist.

15. “LCD (Estoc’s TFW Your Name Is Written On The Ostrakon Remix)” – Tzusing & Hodge
The Malaysian-born Tzusing is famous, no? I most likely came across him via his affiliation with the Berlin-based label PAN. This track is from an album of remixes, Next Life (2021), released via Tzusing’s label Sea Cucumber, that can be found “on the sea floor worldwide.”

16. “As If You Whisper” – Wanton Witch
Another cut from AKU (2023).

17. “With Us (feat. Nahash)” – Osheyack
From Osheyack’s Sadomodernism (2018) released on Bedouin Records from Tokyo. While a thought-provoking and theory-informed release that takes aim a complacent clubbing, I must admit to have simply reaped its bangers. From the 2019 interview mentioned above it’s worth noting Osheyack’s approach to performing live during this time:

When I play live, it’s a lot of short, small ideas cut up and pushed together, so that it’s digestible and danceable, but it’s trying to throw people off-kilter as much as possible, to shake people out of the “dancing experience.” And I’m very much trying to make a comment on that kind of static genrefication that goes on in Europe—to try and break down rules as much as possible.

18. “LilBlackDizzeeKidXCX6Truth” – XDD
Another track from Genome 6.66 Mbp’s Club Shanzai Bootleg Compilation (2020). No further info on XDD, but evidence that Sinogrime may have developed as a productive dialogue rather than simply a British projection.

19. “Scheme” – Evaa
It seems Evaa is based in Brussels. From Genome Compilation Vol​.​1 (2016).

20. “Boss 直聘 Bootleg” — GG Lobster
A favourite from Club Shanzai Bootleg Compilation (2020). GG Lobster co-runs the Hangzhou label/crew Functionlab, who have also released music by Xiao Quan—the weave tightens.

21. “Cows” – Gooooose
Gooooose is another stalwart producer for SVBCVLT, and this track is taken from the label’s compilation Cache 02 (2020). The sample is from a Saturday Night Live sketch “More Cowbell” (2020), depicting a recording session by the band Blue Öyster Culter and that features actor Christopher Walken as producer Bruce Dickenson. Here’s an entertaining and informative video of Gooooose making a beat for FACT’s “Against the Clock” series.

22. “Hyph11E X Dj Missdevana (Amor Satyr edit)” – Amor Satyr
An edit circa 2020 by Parisian producer Amor Satyr, who co-runs the label WAJANG with Siu Mata.

23. “ZENO” – Slikback & 33EMYBW
I had to slip Slikback in here. Taken off the Slip A (2019) EP released on HAKUNA KULALA, a subsidiary of Uganda’s Nyege Nyege Tapes. Slip B (2019) was released simultaneously on SVBCVLT, and the EPs are an outcome of the much respected Kenyan producer inaugral visit to China. Representing an exchange between East Asia and East Africa, this project maps out a cartography of (alter?)globalising club musics:

For the first stage of the project, SVBKVLT invited Kenyan producer Slikback to China for a 3-week tour and residency in April 2019. During these 3 weeks, Slikback performed in 5 cities (Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Beijing), spending time in the studio with artists throughout the tour. The results of these studio sessions are now being presented in the form of two EPs, to be released simultaneously across the two labels Hakuna Kulala and SVBKVLT on September 6th, coinciding with Nyege Nyege Festival 2019, Jinja – Uganda, at which Slikback and 2 of the collaborators, Hyph11E and 33EMYBW, will perform. All the artists involved in both releases will then perform at Unsound Festival Krakow in October 2019.

24. “Kurang Tidor – 幻觉” – Animistic Beliefs
Another track lifted from MERDEKA (2022). The title employs the Bahasa word for “independent” or “free” to describe the artists breaking free of expectations as they set out to explore postcolonial intergenerational trauma and their own changing selves.

25. “Bloody” – Rắn Cạp Đuôi Collective
This track that is the finishing line for this mix is from the Saigon collective’s recent album 1 released on Nhạc Gãy, a Saigon-based music and arts collective who throw raves, release experimental club music and lead mental health initiatives. An earlier version of “Bloody” soundtracks a short video by Nhạc Gãy, SỐNG VỚI LŨ (2021), which translates as a “living with flood”, an idiom for accepting the situation, “any situation at all”. The video juxtaposes scenes of flooding with sequences of raving. As Nhạc Gãy explain:

Vietnam’s latitude puts it at the forefront of global warming consequences and a part of it will begin to be submerged within a few decades. Yet, playfulness and ingenuity of Vietnamese can turn the uncomfortable and unforeseen into a new playground.

The video can be viewed via this GoogleDoc.

LAFIDKI Kniom Nahn (Official Music Video)

fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 4: Carnatic controversy

The cover photograph from Lalgudi G. Jayaraman and Party’s album "Violin, Venu, Veena". Six men sit on the floor of a stage, poised for the camera with their instruments.

Recently, when visiting my mother in Sydney, I came across a cache of vinyl records that she bought in the 1970s and was now storing in her garage. They are predominantly recordings of South Indian Carnatic music, often considered to be a “classical” form. Whenever I visit, I spend some time clearing out items accumulating in storage. While I’m certain these records had not been played for decades, my mother and I both agreed to hold on to them. Hidden in a cupboard I found the family stereo system from the late 1980s, and while its radio was useless, its tape deck was defective and its speakers had been misplaced, I was surprised and delighted that the turntable and amplifier still functioned. So I set about dusting off and digitizing some of these records, listening closely to a kind of music that I largely ignored growing up.

Coincidentally, my mother introduced me to a family friend; a distant relative who had recently moved to Sydney who is a musician and visual artist active in the Indian classical music scene. As we were getting acquainted, the conversation turned to the controversy rippling through the Carnatic music community. The singer Thodur Madabusi Krishna, popularly referred to by his initials T.M.K., had been awarded the coveted Sangita Kalanidhi for 2024. This is a prestigious accolade conferred annually by the Madras Music Academy (established 1928) and is considered to be the “highest accolade in Carnatic music.” The 48 year-old musician and writer has become a controversial and divisive figure for his criticisms of caste and class inequalities in the world of Carnatic music, notably as one of these privileged elites. Indeed, in 2023 Krishna was given another prestigious award; a Ramon Magsaysay award for his efforts to reduce inequalities, using “art’s power to heal India’s deep social divisions, breaking barriers of caste and class.”

While Krishna gave his debut performance at the Music Academy, aged 14, in recent years he refused to participate in the Academy’s annual month-long festival in December/Margazhi, known as Kutchery season, objecting to its caste favouritism. Instead, he was among a team of social organisers who co-founded the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Festival at an under-served, centuries-old fishing village in Chennai, to showcase a range of cultural forms across numerous sites and venues.

In 2023, T.M.K., who is of the Brahmin caste, commemorated the centenary anniversary of the anti-caste movement Vaikom Satyagraha, with music that honouring E.V. “Periyar” Ramaswamy, who is often referred to as the father of the Dravidian movement. Krishna’s critics responded that he in turn advocated for “Brahmin genocide”, recalling one of Periyar’s provocations.

“Carnatic controversy” does not include any music by T.M. Krishna. Rather, the task of digitising my mother’s record collection became a timely entry point into learning about Carnatic music and its current issues in the context of India’s Hindutva. The music in this episode in sequential order is:
N. Ramani, “Raga Ranjani”
Salem S. Jayalakshmi, “Muthu Vidhanam”
Palghat T. S. Mani Iyer, “Eka Tala” (excerpt)
Lalgudi G. Jayaraman and Party (N. Ramani, T. R. Mahalingham, R. Venkataraman, Umayalpuram Sivaraman, T. K. Murthy), “Violin, Venu, Veena” (excerpt)
Sivananda Vijayalakshmi, “Soundarya Lahari”

It’s worth noting that the family of the late Palghat T. S. Mani Iyer (1912–1981) have a particular “beef” with T.M.K. who interviewed the revered mridangam player’s for his recent book Sebastian and Sons (2020). Concerned with Dalit Christian mridangam makers and their relationship with Brahmin musicians, the family claimed they were not aware of the scope of Krishna’s concerns and felt deceived by the “caste-based” tone of his book.

Critical Radio, Springerin: “Art GPT” 01/2024

Hideakie Gushiken sits in an urban walkway. Wearing a lumbung radio tee shirt, his eyes are closed as he sings and plucks a stringed instrument. In the foreground of the image is the fluffy wind break of a hand held audio recorder.

“Hideakie Gushiken, documenta fifteen, 2022.” foto: Sumugan Sivanesan

“Critical Radio: Community Building and Solidarity in a Low-Bandwidth Medium” published in Springerin 1/2024, “ArtGPT.” Excerpts below:

At an assembly held during documenta fifteen, it was suggested that net radio is a kind of low bandwidth activism taking up digital space in a largely privatized and commercialized World Wide Web. While this may be so, fugitive radio claims that the critical front is not at public facing websites, rather “critical radio” emerges in the kinds of organizing, skill sharing and community building that occurs alongside the production of content. Hack-labs and live broadcast happenings facilitate sharing, co-learning and generate enthusiasm for alternative networked-sociabilities. While such gatherings are often premised on pursuing free and open (source) culture and promoting digital commons, it is arguably conviviality that shapes the micro-politics of experimental radio activity.

“Make friends not art” was a phrase that memed during the Jakarta-based collective ruangrupa’s takeover of documenta fifteen (2022), also known as “lumbung one,” valorizing of the social aspects of art-making over its commodified objects. Friendship was thus politicized as it determined the communities, practices and issues leveraged through infrastructural art power. This was notable as evidence of antisemitism alongside racist and transphobic attacks rocked the event, leading to censorship, withdrawals and the resignation of Documenta’s Director General Sabine Schormann. Nevertheless, solidarities resolved among those remaining and initiatives, such as lumbung radio, are ongoing. Organizations have since proposed to “learn from lumbung,” a reference to an Indonesian community rice barn, emphasizing the pooling and redistribution resources among inter-local networks and collective planning. I think it would also be wise to learn from the Humboldt Forum.

When I moved to Berlin in 2017, curators I met sought to politicize their practices. Now some admit to being strategically silent, contributing to a climate of self-censorship and antagonism that recalls East Germany’s Stasi era or McCarthyism in the United States. As spaces holding multiple perspectives are dramatically reduced, what are the alternative platforms for critical debate?

fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 3: The Dham Dham Method

Participants in Dham Dham Riddim are clustered around computers and MIDI controllers.

A conversation between Dinoj M [Instagram] and SajaS [Instagram] of DreamSpace Records, artist Lucinda Dayhew [Instagram] and myself, Sumugan Sivanesan. Together we co-organised “Dham Dham Riddim”, a nine-day intensive music production “bootcamp”, held between 21 and 29 February at DreamSpace Academy, Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. The workshop sought to introduce people to digital music production across a series of sessions that progressed from field recording to sampling, from rhythm programming to lyric writing, and then on towards making a song that will contribute to a compilation album or EP. It emphasised using free, open source and accessible tools, with a focus on the digital audio workstation, Reaper. It arose out of a three-day workshop “Thaalam Riddim Reapers” we organised at DreamSpace Academy as part of Dinacon 3, 2022.

The episode also features the voices of participants in the programme including: Sivanathan Nivethika, Rameshkumar Sathursaan, Sajanthan Vasanthakumar, A.H.M. Asaath, A.S. Sajeeth, Thavarasa Jeyashanth, Velrajan Rohan, Ravichandran Jeroem, Chandrujaan Sathiyamoorthy, Yash Kirirajah, Kabilashini Balakrishnan, Anantharajah Ajai, Mokeethan Sathiyamoorthy, Suresh Ashwin, Raviraja Rishahari, Sakithyan Jeyakumar, Christy Suthakaran Abiyashap, Christy Suthakaran Joshua, Joseph Jesreyal Jeyashanth, Dinoj Mahendranathan, Sajani Sivasithamparapillai and Nirushika Pragash…I hope I’ve not missed anyone!

Lucinda Dayhew and Sumugan Sivanesan’s travel was funded by Goethe-Institut Germany.


fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 2: disarming peace

A silhouette of a figure, backlit standing on a stage. The image is rendered in greyscale as a negative.
1. “Anti War Dub” – Digital Mystikz On 26 January 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found [YouTube] there was a case for potential genocide being carried out by Israel in Gaza. The court stopped short of recommending a provisional cease fire and rather required Israel report back in one month about measures taken to address its concerns (legally binding for member states). My friend, the artist Sybille Neumeyer, responding to the ongoing loss of (civilian) lives commented that there is no longer a neutral position. Indeed, I’ve heard arguments in Berlin that calling for a cease fire opposes Israel’s right to self-defence and is thus antisemitic—an accusation that can lead to serious repercussions in Germany. This episode is a playlist/meditation on how peace activism has become weaponized, reflecting on my experiences at Transmediale and CTM festivals this year. 2. “Afrotek” – Scratcha DVA The context of this episode is the Strike Germany campaign, that began in January 2024 when the Berlin Senate announced that it would adopt an anti-discrimination act as a condition of its cultural funding, which included a controversial working definition of antisemitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). It reads:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

To which the Berlin Senate added an extension which conflates criticism of Israel with the persecution of Jewish people. This decision was protested by a significant part of the cultural community in Berlin (see this letter signed by numerous Berlin-based artists and cultural workers). Strike Germany deploys similar tactics of Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS), understood as a means of peaceful protest used with success against apartheid South Africa. The BDS movement against Israel has been banned in several countries and in 2019 the German Bundestag passed a resolution to outlaw it in Germany. This decision is subject to ongoing dispute (see this letter from artists, academics and cultural workers protesting this resolution). The Strike Germany campaign can also be read as a retaliation for the forced resignations of artists and cultural workers in Berlin who have been critical of Israel, notably from South Asia (eg the resignation of Documenta 16’s finding committee in November 2023 and the cancellation of Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie 2024 soon after). Strike Germany has had a significant impact on the cultural sector, initially in Berlin’s club scene/economy, with artists withdrawing from performances at its famous Berghain club. The “sister” festivals, Transmediale and CTM, held annually in late January and early February were also affected this year. London-based producer Scratcha DVA is one artist who announced  his withdrawal via Instagram, and whom I was looking forward to seeing in Berlin. This track “Afrotek” (2021) with Durban producer Mxshi Mo brings together UK bass and gqom [YouTube].
3. “ANG INTERNASYUNAL BUDOTS BOMB STYLE REMIX [SISONS GREETINGS!]” – Teya Logos CTM opened on 26 January, the day the IJC announced its findings, so it seems significant that the festival’s first club night at the aforementioned Berghain featured a room curated by Thai artist Pisitakun, a recent fellow at the DAAD’s Music & Sound programme. Pisitakun’s research concerns the music of social movements for democracy in South East Asia and during his time at the DAAD he launched The Three Sound of Revolution project, named after the “three finger salute.” With reference to the popular TV series Hunger Games and derived from a signal used in the French Revolution, the gesture has been recently adopted by protestors in South East Asia to demand Solidarity, Equality and Liberty. The Three Sound of Revolution is divided into three sub-projects, “Middle Sound”, a compilation of protest songs, chants and speeches remixed as dance/party music by a selection of artists was released in November 2023. This was showcased during Pisitakun’s take over of Berghain’s Säule, with the artist inviting others representing South East Asia to perform and also installing a screen printing station to distribute talismanic revolutionary imagery. Given the situation of strike and withdrawals coupled with protests against the rise of populist Right wing movements in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, Pisitakun’s programming struck a chord. While CTM joined wide-spread criticism of the Berlin Senate’s anti-discrimination bill, it refrained from directly commenting on the war in Gaza and many of us were interested in—and perhaps anxious about—how participating artists would respond. Someone who clearly did not give a fuck was Filipinx artist Teya Logos playing “hardcore” Budots dance music, while screaming and slam dancing. She closed out her performance with a remix of the anthemic “Dammi Falastini” by Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf [YouTube]. 4. “MONn-aARCHhE-EAT-JACKAAAL” (Elvin Brandhi Remix) – Pisitakun

“Since I was born I witnessed three different coups: in 1991, 2006 and 2014,” says Thai artist Pisitakun. “The question is stuck in my mind: Why do we have so many coups?

This track, remixed by Elvin Brandhi, another artist featured in CTM, is from Pisitakun’s album Absolute C.O.U.P. (2020) [bandcamp] 5. “Prayers” – Pinky Htut Aung This recording is taken from the compilation Common Tonalities (2022) produced as part of Goethe-Institut’s Nusasonic project focused on experimental sound cultures in South East Asia, made in collaboration with CTM alongside Yes No Klub (Yogyakarta), WSK Festival of the Recently Possible (Manila), Playfreely/BlackKaji (Singapore). From Myanmar and currently based in Paris, Pinky is a multimedia artist and noise musician. She spoke on CTM’s panel “Revolutionary Music Movements under Distorted Rule of Law” (31 January 2024), where I asked about the connection between the kinds of popular protest songs that was discussed in the panel and the noise and “hardcore rave” dance music that was showcased at Berghain. While such sounds are often overlooked by music scholars and professionals, I was interested in how they had become popular in times of social upheaval. Noise music is distinct from commercial pop music and elite classical or compositional forms. It could be understood as being a liberatory or cathartic practice, and is often made collectively, but is it necessarily political? Or does it signify a politics that is different to conventional party systems, like anarchism? I was struck when Pinky said that for her noise music is therapeutic. To pick up on CTM festival’s theme “Sustain” for its 25th edition, could it be said that music sustains people through difficult times? 6. “Indignation” – Divide and Dissolve Divide and Dissolve [bandcamp] are well known for their commitment to Black and Indigenous struggles as much as for their slow, loud and lurching music, devoid of vocals. I said to a friend who is keen to play heavy music with other racialised people, that she might not be familiar with Divide and Dissolve’s music, but she would certainly know their tee-shirt emblazoned with the words: “Destroy White Supremacy.” A classic, is how someone described it at the band’s merch stand and Divide and Dissolve have since produced a series of tees with statements that are, according to the band, “designed to provoke a conversation.” Emerging from Naarm/Melbourne’s punk scene, where I first saw them play in 2017 alongside anticolonial death metal band Dispossessed [bandcamp]. Divide and Dissolve have gone on to achieve notable success, releasing their last two albums with Geoff Barrow’s (Portishead) label, Invada. So I was curious as to why they had not heeded the call to divest from Germany. With my mind still occupied with Pisitakun and Pinky’s panel about protest music and noise earlier that evening, Divide and Dissolve set the scene at Berghain with a large back-projection of a animated Palestinian flag, rippling in the wind behind a wall of amplifiers. Guitarist and saxophonist, Takiaya Reed arrived on stage wearing a black and white keffiyeh across her shoulders and the duo’s drum kit was similarly draped with the checkered cloth that symbolises Palestinian liberation. After Sylvie Nehill left the band in 2022, Reed has continued with a roster of drummers and tonight she was joined by someone she named “Ced”, “Syd” or “Seb” oder…? Having established that their performance at CTM was a statement of solidarity, Reed breathed into her soprano saxophone to begin the first song only to realise that it was broken. She asked that if anyone in the audience could help, she would appreciate them coming back stage. For some long minutes we stood around, before the super-sized animated flag chatting to our neighbours and sipping our drinks as pop music played over the club’s legendary sound system. This was turning out to be an awkward performance. Arguably, Divide and Dissolve decided to stay with the festival as their appearance would be more effective than their withdrawal. Indeed, artists critical of Strike Germany have argued that withdrawal is a privilege for only those who can afford to do so and often targets organisations working “behind the scenes” towards justice and peace. However, Divide and Dissolve also disrupted the smooth functionings of the event. Aside from delays due to her broken instrument, Reed took her time between songs to explain her position as someone with Black and Cherokee ancestry. She talked about cycles of violence, as those who have suffered genocide in turn perpetuate genocide, and elaborated on how some First Nations people in the US having survived colonial violence became slave owners. While Divide and Dissolve have cultivated a loyal and attentive following around the world, Reed’s ruminations were not well received by all at Berghain. I didn’t think it unusual when someone called out that she should stop talking and “play more music”, and certainly the audience was thinning out. Undeterred, Reed continued to address her heckler in a calm voice, without aggression, but nevertheless confrontational. With Reed holding the space and taking her time to discuss the issues that motivate the band and to name and thank all who had supported her, I began to think that Reed wields her vulnerability as a kind of power. Indeed, if Divide and Dissolve’s bone-rattling sound is as much therapeutic to experience as it is cathartic to perform, it is arguably during these times of violence and anxiety that it is most needed.
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7. “Holy Motor” – FITNESSS feat. LUnG FITNESSS’ striking intervention was into Berghain’s dance floor. Appearing among the crowd with a panel of backlit buttons strapped to their chest, FITNESSS’ provocateur (is it Jas Lin 林思穎?) encouraged the audience to push them and trigger sounds then heard on the main room’s massive surround sound system. FITNESSS are corporeal; physically confrontational and I suppose cathartic in a screamo kind of way. It feels more like a happening than a concert, as the crowd follows the action around the room. We are often pulled into to touch, mosh to crisp digital noise and so-called “sound design” or to pogo to pop music. I’m not sure if FITNESSS is the person I am watching being dragged around the room on their back, or the event in which the boundaries between performer and audience and the social conventions of the club are (physically) challenged. Towards the end of the performance, a shirtless vocalist lurches into the maelstrom of bodies, rasping into a microphone. I guess this is LUnG. Later online I read:

A FITNESSS performance is an expression of raw energy—creating immersive experiences that challenge conceptions of being and communion through movement, electronic sound architecture, and post-modern aesthetics. With an emphasis on audience involvement and collective presence, FITNESSS’ work explores the volatile nature of interpersonal dynamics, as well as the transformative power of crowd synchronization.

8. “Dimensional Spleen” – Aïsha Devi I have been looking forward to see Aïsha Devi perform for some years. Although she does perform often enough in Berlin, I always seem to miss it. Now, touring her recent album Death Is Home (2023) [bandcamp], I find myself sitting exactly front and centre in the Volksbühne theatre where Devi will perform the closing concert. The stage’s scenography consisted of patchwork drapes and flags, set in motion by fans. Strobe lights and fog machines further contributed to Devi’s theatrics, and I heard someone commenting about “the weather on stage.” Dressed in a sheer black dress and shiny black trainers, Devi was often rendered as a silhouette and it soon became apparent that she had a Palestinian flag affixed to the back of her outfit (see main pic above). I can’t be certain about Devi’s use of flags. Given the artist draws inspiration from her paternal ancestry in Nepal, I’m guessing they are a reference to the Buddhist traditions of the Himalayas; when the wind blows through “prayer flags” bearing sutras they are believed to recite them. Devi often discusses the links between her mediation practice and music production by way of the healing qualities of frequencies. In a recent interview for Metal she offers:

Modern physics acknowledges 11 dimensions, and we perceive life in just 3D. To heal this civilization, I think we will have to be much more aware of our existence outside of this corporeal reality and in a higher dimensional plane. I really think that hyper-materialism is annihilating our sense of immortality, and that’s why the intangibility of music is so present in our life. Music is one of the tools that can help us initiate this consciousness and open the portals. I want to bring back the essential ritualistic aspect in contemporary music.

I admire Devi’s open-mindedness and willingness to speak her mind as much as I enjoy her music. When she addressed the audience at the closing of the concert she voiced her support for Palestine and said: “I came here because this is my community—you are my community.” Despite several withdrawals (and at least one forced cancellation at Transmediale), I often heard people reiterate this sense of community with phrases like: “this is my community and so in these days of war, genocidal violence and the threat of fascism it is important that we come together and talk.” Certainly, there are those of CTM’s community who were missed. Kyham Allami, for example, who was instrumental to Nusasonics’ Common Tonalities project, announced his individual and indefinite strike from all German state funded work in October 2023, some months before the Strike Germany campaign. This prompts me to think about the politics of friendship during this time of polarization. TBC…

fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 1: footwork fever

A blurring image of an an extended leg, clothed in long trousers and sneakers, on a wooden dancefloor. The dancer is encircled by an audience that can only be gauged waist-down.

Image lifted from The House-O-Matics Reunion TV Special (2014), Watch N Witness.

If dub is a “mutant virus”, as Kevin Martin wrote back in the mid-1990s, then perhaps footwork is a fever—bringing some heat to a globalising club culture? Emerging from the South Side of Chicago, footwork and its sibling juke have certainly caught on since I first heard such productions via the blogosphere circa 2010. This was largely due to the late DJ Rashad (1979–2014) and DJ Spinn who had to began to tour beyond these scenes and into Europe. Here is an informative interview with these innovators and ambassadors of footwork at Redbull Music Academy from 2011.

Planet Mu’s Bangs & Works compilations (two volumes released 2010 & 2011) are often credited for bringing this genre of dance-battle music, gestating among the community centres and gyms accessible to the South Side’s youth, to the world. In this interview for Resident Advisor, 2011, Mike Paradinas, founder of Planet Mu, discusses the process of connecting with young producers in Chicago and sourcing the music for these compilations, such as ripping audio from YouTube! This was soon followed by compilations such as Juke Underground’s Juke World Order (2014–16), Teklife’s VIP (2016-ongoing) and On Life (2017–ongoing) series and Juke Bounce Werk’s JDUBZ (2014–ongoing) series among others, which attest to the global appeal of this urban dance music that evolved out of booty house and ghetto tek. I’ve been steadily accumulating a hard drive directory full of these compilations over several years, and while juke and footwork tracks have been part of my DJ playlists for some time, it was only recently that I found myself really digging working with these forms. So, over the Christmas break I decided to sift through my archives, organising GBs of music towards making this turning-of-the-year mix. An annotated tracklist follows.

01. “Hello (Footmerc edit)” – The Isley Brothers

From Juke World Order Vol. 1 (2014) [bandcamp] released by Juke Underground to showcase juke and footwork as a worldwide phenomenon. I must have stumbled across this  compilation online in the years I stopped mixing, between 2010–20, and it has sat shelved on a hard drive. Although they seems they were quite active, I couldn’t find out much about Footmerc online, other than they are based in Austin. This video of a Teklife footwork battle at SXSW2013 is a curiousity. Their reworking of “Hello It’s Me” (1974) by the Isley Brothers is nostalgic, yet likeable, and serves as a friendly entry point.

02. “Get Down Lil Booty” – EQ Why feat. Traxman

I think I first came across Traxman [bandcamp] via a Dance Mania compilation. Active since the 1990s, Corky Strong AKA Cornelius Ferguson is a so-called legend of the Chicago scenes as part of the G.E.T.O DJZ INC and Teklife crews. His releases are prolific and varied across several labels, including Planet Mu [bandcamp]. I was led towards his Acid Lyf [bandcamp] releases while listening to some early techno in recent years for fugitive radio. I was for some time thrilled by this mix he made for Resident Advisor, impressed by his seemingly irreverent but precise technique.

With arguably the best name in the game EQ Why [bandcamp] AKA Tyrone Smith is another prolific stalwart of the Chicago scenes. I first came across him via Chitokyo Mixtape (2013) released on Orange Milk Records [bandcamp], which is an eccentric and high-speed montage of 60 tracks over 60 minutes. There is more to be said about Japanese footwork scenes, whom EQ Why and Traxman seem to connect with. None of it made it to this mix—perhaps another time! This track from EQ Why’s Juke Pack Vol. 2 (2021) [bandcamp] does a good job moving the mix rapidly from familiar pop/soul sounds into bass-heavy, repetitive dance floor workouts.

03. “Shawty You Lit 2” – DJ Taye

There was some hype about this Teklife prodigy coinciding with the release of their debut album, Still Trippin’ (2018) on Hyperdub [bandcamp]. This track comes from Taye’s more recent self-released “mixtape”, PYROT3K (2020). It was the sampling that got me hooked — tight and repetitive and that shifts emphasis for rhythmic effect.

04. “Haters Knock Em Out” – DJ Pierre

DJ Pierre is probably best known for his work with Phuture (alongside Spanky and Herb J) who brought Acid House into the world in the late 1980s. This track came to me circa 2008 via a Subterranean Playhouse Sampler I picked up on an e-music service and is probably one of the first juke tracks I heard, although it does not sound so much like the kinds of music I associate with the genre. I was very happy to find it while rummaging through my hard drives. Relatively slow, hypnotic and repetitive I can imagine it piquing the interest of dubstep and grime enthusiasts.

05. “Azzoutof Control” – RP Boo

Kavain Wayne Space, often referred to as the “Godfather” of footwork, is credited with making one of Juke’s foundational tracks, “Baby Come On” released on Dance Mania in 1997. Tracks such as this, with its repetitive rhythmic refrain and phasing, remind me of the early tape works of Steve Reich. Made for dancers, Boo’s productions are undoubtably funkier, but they suggest a kind of fascination with sonic phenomena (eg psychoacoustics) that seems to operate beyond the tropes of dance music genres. The much-loved “Buuuuu” eventually released his debut album, Legendary (2013), on Planet Mu [bandcamp] and label founder Mike Paradinas (who records as μ-Ziq) has been instrumental in promoting Boo and his legacy around the world. There are several insightful interviews with Boo online and I can recommend this conversation for Red Bull Music Academy 2016, where he discusses, among other things, the late DJ Rashad paving the way for his first gigs abroad. Via this video I came to the delightfully candid documentary of the House-O-Matics 29th reunion, 2014, embedded below. Made by Watch N Witness for television(!) it bears witness to the emergence of footwork out of juke and ghetto house, with cameos from notable dancers, DJs and producers such as the late DJ Deeon (1966–2023), who was affiliated with the Dance Mania label.

06. “Naked Rewerk” – DJ Innes feat. BE3K

Before making this mix, I’d not yet heard the way footwork has infected vogue ball, although I was not surprised. I was, however, surprised to learn that Jake William Innes resides in Sydney, where I also grew up. This says something about the globalisation of footwork which seemed resolutely localised in Chicago from when it emerged in the late 1990s until it was taken abroad by DJs Spinn and Rashad circa 2010. Innes’ Shout Outs (2019) [bandcamp] brings together previously released tracks and collaborations with the likes of Divoli S’vere—a stalwart of New York’s Ballroom scene and member of Qween Beat, founded by the legendary MikeQ, and with whom BE3K [bandcamp] is also affiliated. Innes is part of the TEKK DJz crew [bandcamp] alongside Traxman, and indeed the pair released a collaboration, The T & J Project (2015) [bandcamp].

07. “WFM” – Heavee feat. Gant-Man, DJ Paypal, DJ Phil, Sirr Tmo

Heavee [bandcamp] was another new discovery for me as I sifted through numerous Teklife compilations. Described on Hyperdub’s website as a queer producer, Heavee’s tracks segued perfectly between the unrelenting “work” tracks, shifting the mix into different gears that reference RnB, jungle and vogue ball. This track is from Heavee’s WFM (2018) album released on Teklife [bandcamp]. Later in the mix I was amused by how Heavee’s “Take Control” sparred quite nicely with the histrionic minimalism of RP Boo’s “Total Control” and into Jana Rush’s howler, “Disturbed”. To my mind, a reliable “connector” track is the mark of a great producer/DJ and Heavee’s tracks feature…um…heavily in this mix. I hear some influence of video game music (VGM) in “Floor Burn”, confirmed in this interview for DJ Mag. There is also an appreciation for space, tension and drama that plays out on the EP from which it was lifted, Audio Assault (2022) released on Hyperdub.

08. “Diamonds (Ventah Remix)” – Iyer

Iyer first came to my attention for his Tamil Footwork (2014) [bandcamp] released on Ground Mass Music. At the time based in Singapore, Iyer has since relocated to San Francisco and his productions also speak of the globalisation of footwork as a music genre, if not the culture that emerged around competitive dance-battles. Searching for a different footwork flavour, I was snagged by this remix by Ventah from the Tamil Footwork Remix EP (2015) [bandcamp], with its nebulous synths and boomy and muted kicks. By chance, it aligned perfectly with Statik’s refix of Goldie’s Timeless (1995) classic below…

09. “Inner City Life (Statik Footwork Refix)” – Goldie feat. Diane Charlemagne

I suppose one could say that this 2021 re-working of Goldie and Diane Charlemagne’s drum n bass crossover anthem by a Manchester-based DJ and producer—and made available as a free download from SoundCloud—tugs at the heart strings, as did the original. Which makes me think it adds a flourish of old-fashioned nostalgia to the mix! I thought of it as the mix’s “emotional core”, although it occurs about 17 minutes into an hour-long sequence. I’d say it brings another shade or mood to the mix following a series of pumelling “work” tracks. Statik’s remix is also indicative of the way footwork was embraced by UK DJs schooled on jungle, such as Paradinas mentioned above and Hyperdub founder Steve Goodman AKA Kode9. Under the moniker Addison Groove, Brighton-based producer Tony Williams, known for his dubstep productions as Headhunter, began bringing the genres (and speeds together)—and struck up a friendship with Rashad around 2008. DJ Rashad also concurs in a 2013 interview for The Quietus, noting the genres’ similar tempos, as does another notable and prolific British producer Mark Pritchard in this interview for Fact magazine from the same year.

10. “Our Love” – Surly

From a compilation JBDUBZ Vol. 4 (2016), released by the Juke Bounce Werk collective [bandcamp] which seems to have gone offline. Another label that emphasises the globalisation of juke and footwork, foregrounding an international network of artists. What I know of Surly, gleaned from their bandcamp page, is that they are based in Auckland, which had a reputation for nurturing a thriving drum n bass scene in the 1990s. This spare, shuffling track, with its skittering snare/rim patterns offsetting (synthetic) orgasmic moans, brings another kind of fidgety swing and affect to the mix. I often think that DJing is not simply about matching beats, but about tension and release and this track serves to wind things down in terms of its beat science, but raises the erotic quotient significantly. It’s certainly not a battle track, but then I find it a little over the top for love-making, which I suppose it what makes it effective as a “DJ tool”.

11. “Funky Groove (Bass Bag)” – Heavee

Another great track from my current favourite producer, that takes the energy of the mix up a notch with its forceful drums and brash bassline that serendipitously locks snuggly into Surly’s twitchy groove. There’s also some special talent in making the “funky groove” sample not sound totally kitsch. Taken from TRACKPAK V.5 (2020) [bandcamp], Heavee describes the track as being inspired by UK producer Addison Groove’s “Footcrab” and specifically this remix my DJs Spinn and Rashad.

12. “Barnacles (Kode9 Remix)” – Hyph11E

I was trying to avoid Kode9. The London-based DJ, producer,“label boss” and sound theorist AKA Steve Goodman has certainly shaped the kinds of bass and urban dance musics I listen to. However, as an early champion of footwork, I was wary of his influence overshadowing this mix. Also, I’m not sure if this remix would be considered footwork. To my mind, Kode9 takes Hyph11E’s sound design (AKA Tess Sun, who worked in film/television sound production before focusing on music), which has the atmospherics of a sci-fi alien horror movie/game crossover, and sutures them to a “banging” drum track (I think lifted from DJ Paypal’s “100%“) with dollops of ectoplasmic bass. It rattles alongs like a mousetrap rollercoaster and it even has a big dipper moment, when the snares and cymbals drop out and the kicks and bass take over, which makes me think its structural blueprint comes from playing first-person video games. To my ears, it sounds closer to breaks than anything else in this mix, which I find quite funny. I can’t seem to take breaks very seriously—which need not be a criticism. Why shouldn’t dance music be full of novelty and thrills? The textural quality of the sounds is also different to what has come before it. Letting it play all the way out, I also found it mixes quite nicely with the EQ Why track, that follows, their respective bass punctuations seem to goad each other along, adding some extra bounce in the bottom end.

13. “Whip, Shake, Werk, Bang” – EQ Why

Like most of EQ Why’s oeuvre, this track from 2020 [bandcamp] is well produced, charismatic and works reliably in a mix. Its frequencies resonate for me in all the right places and structurally the song punches, kicks and twitches just as I like.

14. “Mkwa” – DJ Hank

A slick sounding, robo-voiced, footwork-RnB-garage hybrid. The title, I’m supposing, is a reference to Midori Takada and her role in the Mkwaju Ensemble, who are cited as influences. From a much-hyped and well-received City Stars (2022) EP released on Hyperdub [bandcamp], which points footwork (retro) futures towards shiny new horizons. Pure ear candy!

15. “So High” – Jlin

Growing up in Gary, Indiana, Jlin AKA Jerrilyn Patton developed her music on the fringes of Chicago’s footwork scenes, and is often described as being “footwork-adjacent”. I find that in the experimental music scenes in which I circulate, Jlin has come to represent the more experimental, abstract or “fucked up” aspects of footwork and is increasingly being recognised as a contemporary composer—a piece she developed with Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2023. This track, taken from Dark Energy (2015), Planet Mu [bandcamp], is to my mind playful and winsome, evidence of a lightness-of-touch.

In my experience of mixing footwork I’ve found that much of it conforms to a 160BPM/80BPM tempo. While the drum programming of producers such as Jlin are often described as “complex”, “abstract” or  “asymmetrical”,  footwork tracks tend to retain a 4/4 time signature (vestigial house?). So while it might not always be so easy to hear the “one” that emphasises the beginning of a new bar in polyrhythmic productions, there a different points in such tracks where it can be cued in or looped to emphasise a specific rhythm. In some footwork tracks, a looped vocal sample supplies the rhythmic backbone, eg DJ Taye’s “Shawty You Lit 2” prior.  Samples in footwork are often short sound bites, that serve as a hook and are potentially instructional on the dance-battle ground: “work it”, “bang this joint” etc. When listening back to recordings of my mixes, I was struck by how these different voices seemed to speak to each other, coming in from different points in the stereo field and occupying different spaces of the frequency bandwidth…

16. “Ridin Hi” – DJ Earl

So, it’s obvious that DJ Hank’s refrain of “you make me feel so high” would speak to Jlin’s “so high” before encountering DJ Earl’s “you ridin’ hi”. From a compilation Dred Collective Vol. 2 (2014) [bandcamp], released by a London-based “multi-genre digital labal”.

17. “Propaganda” – A.Fruit

I’ve only just come across Anna Fruit while making this mix; a Russian producer who the internet indicates is now based in Barcelona. This track appears on Teklife’s On Life Vol. 3 (2022) [bandcamp] and sounds to my ears like it would suit a vogue ball.

18. “Workitbaby” – SubCode

I found this on Juke Bounce Werk’s JDUBZ Vol. 4 (2016) and there are ten in this series so far. The track is from SubCode’s self-released YoushouldbeDancin (2016) long-player. Not a lot of info— they seem to be glitchy productions comprising samples from rap and RnB. It segues out of the “high” segment of my mix, made up of what I’m calling “fragmented” tracks. The looping and cutting could be developed further as a particular mixing style.

19. “Bang This Joint” – DJ Manny

A tight production by Manuel Gaines, one of the co-founders of Teklife, lifted from his Control (2023) EP released on Planet Mu [bandcamp]. I like how all the sound sources are tweaked and EQ’d and sit in distinct zones of the frequency bandwidth. The repetitive sampling winds up the rhythmic tension, and this is another track that lends itself to be mixed according to the vocal line.

20. “Floor Burn” – Heavee

From Audio Assault (2022) released on Hyperdub, an EP that the producer says is designed to score specific scenes in a video game battle such as:“the calm before the storm, the showdown, the battle, and the aftermath”. To me this track builds up the drama of the mix and sounds like something I could imagine hearing at a vogue ball.

21. “Total Darkness” – RP Boo

From Planet Mu’s Bangs & Works Vol. 1 (2010) [bandcamp], the looping vocal sample in this track makes me a little anxious—it sounds an alarm—and after some repetitions it sounds to my ears like the singer is invoking: “Boo-ooh…RP Boo-ooh”! It has an epic build up—it’s almost two minutes into the track before the voice commanding listeners to “take the floor” kicks in. I can’t imagine what this would do to a dance floor.

22. “Take Control” – Heavee

Some fun mixing/wordplay as RP Boo responds to Heavee’s suggestion, “I think it’s time to make the floor burn” with “take the floor” which is then cut with Heavee’s “take control”. I suppose this would be the battle sequence of the mix. This track is from Heavee’s TRAKPAK V5 (2020) and is described as being influenced by dub and ragga.

23. “Disturbed” – Jana Rush

Arguably the emotional climax of this mix. I find Rush’s productions to be spare, almost skeletal. Nevertheless, the vocal sample is hilariously hysterical, bringing to mind diva driven house music. It’s taken from her Painful Enlightenment (2021) LP released on Planet Mu [bandcamp].

Jana Rush’s DJ style, which you can watch here at HÖR Berlin (2023) had some influence on this mix, notably the way she (jump) cuts tracks with the faders, alongside her use of effects. More so was Nick León’s bold use of echo during his DJ set at the closing party of Unsound 2023.

24. “Stolen Phone” – Fire Lord & Seven Six

From Juke Underground’s compilation Juke World Order Vol. 2 (2015) [bandcamp], I feel like I’ve been carrying this track around for a long time. Its production standards are not as slick as much of the music featured in this mix, nevertheless its humour, driving pulse and jarring noise that have kept it in my playlists. I also thought it cute to bookend this mix with two cuts from Juke Underground’s series; beginning with a track that extends a friendly “Hello” and ending with another that issues a curt “Goodbye” before hanging up!

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 12: The Image of Gaza

A protest placard sitting on a bench stating: “PROTECT ALL CIVILIANS-CEASEFIRE NOW”

My friend, the artist and broadcaster Nathan Gray [Instagram], describes the current war in Gaza as the “New Berlin Wall”, as it has polarised a city that is home to significant migrant communities from both Palestine and Israel. In a country held accountable for the Jewish Holocaust and which considers Israel’s security and right to exist its “Staaträson”, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment have surfaced since Hamas’ 7 October attack in southern Israel. From a distance in Finland, I began to approach these developments via anti-racism frameworks; being attentive to (historical) forms of biological race and ethno-nationalism, alongside more recent concepts of ethnocracy—a term coined by Oren Yiftachel, a Professor of Political Geography, to describe circumstances in which democratic processes are unequally distributed among citizens, biased towards ethnic groups in power.

Cultural theorist Paul Gilroy opens his book, Against Race (2000)—re-published as Between Camps (2004)—with a citation from Frantz Fanon:

At first thought it may seem strange that the anti-Semite’s outlook should be related to that of the Negrophobe. It was my philosophy professor, a native of the Antilles, who recalled the fact to me one day: “Whenever you hear someone abuse the Jews, pay attention, because he is talking about you.” And I found that he was universally right—by which I meant that I was answerable in my body and my heart for what was done to my brother. Later I realized that he meant, quite simply, that an anti-Semite is inevitably anti-Negro.
Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks) cited in Gilroy 2000, p. 1.

Writing at the turn of the last century, Gilroy argues that the ambition of anti-racism work should be to dismantle race as a category of difference, and he urges his readers to be wary of emergent forms of racism arising from technological developments, such as genetics.

Like many others, doomscrolling through a feed of “atrocity images” and trauma over the past two months, my interest was piqued last week with the publication of an investigation “‘A mass assassination factory‘: Inside Israel’s calculated bombing of Gaza” by +972 Magazine and Local Call , an independent, bipartisan and non-profit platform established by Israeli and Palestinian journalists. Authored by Yuval Abraham [Instagram], the article outlines Israel Defense Forces (IDF) use of machine learning and AI in determining military targets, in particular a system named Hasbora (The Gospel). There has already been much discussion about the inherent bias in such systems and criticism about their use in policing, so Hasbora’s deployment in a situation where vengeance is a motive is alarming. It should be noted, as Abraham states at the beginning of this interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, that this report was vetted by the Israeli military censor. That is, the IDF has some interest in publicising this information. A recent article in the New York Times reveals how Israel’s security intelligence failed to act on early indicators of Hamas planning an attack on 7 October, thus Abraham proposes that the Netanyahu government is under pressure to produce a “victory image” for its citizens, and arguably one that foregrounds its technological prowess.

Investigative journalist Antony Loewenstein, whose recent book The Palestine Laboratory (2023) is concerned with how Israel develops and tests its sophisticated military and surveillance technologies in Gaza, is often called upon to comment on these issues. Contained within a security wall, Egypt’s national border and the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza is often described as an “open-air prison”. With over 2 million people in area that is approximately 365 square km, it is one the most densely populated regions in the world. As noted by scholars Eyal Weizman (2007) and Jasbir K. Puar (2017), Gaza is tightly controlled; dependent on aid, supplies and (communication) infrastructures that are ultimately managed by Israel, calculated according to what is necessary for survival. Thus, it can be easily analysed as a bio/necro-political regime. Following the end of the cease-fire on 30 November and as the staggering civilian death toll continues to climb, the US and other allied states, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, are qualifying their statements of unequivocal support for the war Israel names “Operation Iron Swords”, cautioning the Zionist state to minimise civilian casualties while continuing to sanction its efforts to completely destroy Hamas. In an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!, Loewenstein points out that these states are continuing to export arms to Israel, and that some of them have significantly expanded these exports since 7 October. Alongside arms proliferation and shared intelligence, these states are also implicated in global supply chains that produce these weapons technologies. As such, the images (and information) currently flowing out of Gaza are effectively, as Al Jazeera presenter Jonah Hull puts it, a “live-fire, real-time experiment” demonstrating these technologies and their concomitant political strategies.

This podcast, “The Image of Gaza”, returns to the theme of “optics”. It is a montage/mixtape of news media, music, infomercials and street recordings that serve as a prompt to think about the images flowing out of the war and how they are being received and interpreted by different interests. These include:

– affective “atrocity images” of an exceptional humanitarian crisis at scale and evidence of possible war crimes
– a “victory image” that Israel’s Netanyahu government is under pressure produce following security intelligence failures to act on early indications of Hamas’ 7 October attack
– a “live-fire, real-time experiment” demonstrating Israel’s military technologies and that attest to a global weapons market and production supply chains that implicate the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia in the war.

Media used (in order)

Music: “Drone Command”, Marc Torch

A song that was briefly removed from Spotify in May 2023, provoking a backlash against the popular music-streaming platform.

Yasmeen Daher from Palästina Spricht/Palestine Speaks addresses a demonstration in Berlin, 4 November 2023.