Third year means going out less, if not at all. It’s a mix between the few hours of sunlight that hits Newcastle during the winter months depleting my energy (I am an under-sunned houseplant) and increased workload. I still like electronic music though, and a lot of the time crave the cathartic release you get from dancing for a few hours in a dark space at night. I figured I’d have to find some kind of alternative: jogging, baking, listening to Soundcloud mixes from my laptop speakers at home. The first two didn’t suit me so much but the latter worked out surprisingly well. I started using Mixcloud and Soundcloud as tools to shape my music taste, following DJs and collectives I’d either seen at the club or had never heard of before. Internet stations such as Red Light Radio, NTS and Newcastle’s own Backdrop LIVE podcasts accompanied my Heaton Park dog-watching walks, seminar breaks and essay writing sessions. My bedroom is a haven of candles and pre-recorded DJ sets. A lot of people will argue that it’s the liveness that makes it; the physical beat perforating eardrums and ions between bodies, but I think plugging in to a DJ Sprinkles set with a decent pair of headphones works just fine, for now.
Yaeji (aka Kathy Lee) is a New York based DJ, producer and frequent Mallgrab collaborator. Released as a single around this time last year through Godmode records (think Shamir), New York 93’ is about the all-too-familiar experience of not feeling at home despite being.. home. Opening with ‘I've gotta say it's not the same/ I don't deny/ I won't remind’, the mix of Korean and English lyrics continues throughout the track in soft, reverb-heavy vocals, words blurring behind lo-fi beats. Somewhere between ambient house and pop, Yaeji’s music is hard to categorise but it’s the kind of production I didn’t even realise I was searching for until I heard it. The MIDI synths evoke the sad but hopeful melodies I hear in a lot of Portishead songs – danceable but also something you could meditate to. The chord progression is constant while the beat goes from slow to steady as the kick drum leads into the more conventional sounds of a house track. With her popularity rising from the internet and affiliation with technofeminist collective Discwoman, Yaeji’s emerging presence pushes the question of whether an album is to follow or not. Either way, my fingers are crossed.
One of the best dance parties I’ve been to was hosted by Backdrop, a club night defined by its focus on ‘uniting sonically curious, open-minded souls through extended sessions in wild & muscular music’. It was a five hour Tama Sumo b2b Prosumer set at World HQ and I stayed till the 4am finale. So when I saw that they were organising an event that centered discussions around the power and politics of dance music, I was intrigued to say the least. The night will begin with a panel featuring Saoirse, London-based collective SIREN, Berlin-based Room 4 Resistance and NUSU’s own Marginalised Genders Officer Saffron Kershaw-Mee. Focusing on the much needed conversation about how to ensure that all clubs are safe spaces for LGBTQI+ folk, women and marginalised groups, the panel will also address the gender and racial imbalance in music today as well as the roots of underground parties. From 10pm, the DJs from the panel will be mixing techno and house tracks from an eclectic repertoire. With a portion of the ticket funds going to Northern Pride and the International Rescue Committee, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Friday night in the Toon.