|Label of the month: Plan B Recordings
The raw and dirty sounds of New York's underground.
There's a thick film that seems to coat everything that Plan B Recordings releases. It's as though artists send a record in, and then it gets thrown into a puddle for a week before moving on to the mastering house. You know, just in case the artist hasn't quite gotten things dirty enough on their own.
The man behind much of this aesthetic is DJ Spider, a New York-bred DJ and producer whose many projects only seem to have an attitude in common and little else. "Everything I did was dark. I was a very angry, rebellious kid growing up. The hip-hop I was into was always the craziest hip-hop you could hear. The metal I was into was the darkest, fastest, craziest fucking shit out [there]. The faster, the better, the dirtier, the better, the crazier, the better," explains Spider. As you might be able to tell, music in general has always been an obsession for Spider. It wasn't until he reunited with some of his earliest influences, however, that he came to electronic music in a concentrated way.
Flyering for parties in the '00s, Spider came upon legendary deep house night The Shelter with Timmy Regisford. "I was going to a lot of jazz shows, listening to a lot more funk... and Timmy basically turned me out with the soulful side of house and that's when I was like, 'I've got to get back into the R&B-based style of electronic music.'" It wasn't a big jump from there to Deep See, a long-running weekly party run by E-Man and Lola in New York City, that—by virtue of its Tuesday slot—was by and large a heads-centric affair.
As Lola remembers it, "The experience of playing to people that were so into music, either as dancers or just as heads, was just so awesome because you could do whatever you wanted and just vibe out. And that's what we did!" Spider eventually joined up with the crew, helping to promote the party as well as DJing himself. Tuesday nights are among the toughest of the week to get a crowd in the door, but Deep See was one of the most resilient parties in the city. They lasted about a decade.
Plan B Recordings isn't quite Deep See's offspring. But it certainly was a defining influence. DJ Spider started the label in 2008, and he reached out to Lola to join the project after the first release. "Lola had soul and she had a style that I really liked because it was a little rough too. She would play straight-up techno and she would play soulful house. I was totally wowed by that because that's what I like to do," says Spider. From the start, the label has been a platform for the many Spider aliases and collaborative projects. Look over their discography, and you'll see Spider and Spider Bites all over the page. Dig deeper into their sublabels and you'll see other aliases that Spider works under like Alarma!, Bomb Site and Kuru.
It's a dizzying array of names (and sounds) but it all makes sense to the man behind them. Spider is for the deep house stuff, sometimes with a hint of jazz. Kuru is upbeat, but darker and more dubby. The rest deal with more experimental forms of music, and give Spider the space to indulge his passion for noise and ambient music.
In addition to his solo work, Spider also has plenty of collaborations on the go. Early on, Spider and Lola teamed up for an EP—one of her first experiences with production. "One of the best things he ever taught me was that you can learn whatever it is that you wanna learn," Lola remembers. "Just apply yourself, study it, keep working at it, and grow your technique. Develop studio fundamentals." Those studio fundamentals are developed in what Spider calls The Lab, his Bronx space where he houses his Soundcraft Series 200B console, a Moog Rogue synthesizer and the Boss SP-505 workstation. "Most people ran to Roland," Spider explains. "But Boss was cheap!"
It's hard to discern whether the gear contributes to Spider's distinctive sound. Nonetheless, most tracks seem to have some common characteristics. A house bounce. A regular offbeat that subtly keeps the momentum rolling. ("Gutter House" is a perfect case in point.) And an overwhelming sense that the whole thing is on the verge of coming apart at any moment. It's a cliché to say such things, but listening to Spider's tracks truly make you a bit seasick—in a very good way.
The other artists on the label—Lola included—usually don't have Spider's obsession with dankness. The deep house of Hakim Murphy and Amir Alexander, however, is just offkilter enough to slot neatly into the Plan B aesthetic. Murphy's "Sharp Senses" is dreamy higher consciousness stuff, with a synth detuned just enough to keep you grounded. Alexander's "Deep Banger!" meanwhile has some sort of vehicle drive right through the middle of the track every so often because, well, why not?
Watch the YouTube clip for "Deep Banger!" that Plan B uploaded, and you're met with the sort of imagery you might expect from the label. UFOs flying across suburban landscapes, rockets taking off, galaxies exploding. In the label's artwork, there's a definite theme of unease that runs through everything. Children in gas masks. Shadowy figures walking down empty streets. Samurais. It's a mash of ideas, not exactly coherent—but definitely evocative of something unexplained and unknown.
As Spider puts it, "I read up on a lot of what's going on politically, scientifically so I'm kind of pissed off with the way things are going down….I talk to people sometimes and they say they think my stuff is a little political or metaphysical. It's got a little bit of everything in there because it's what I'm into, that's who I am. I don't have ideal conditions, I live in the basement of a building, in one room that's my studio. I live in here, I make all my music here, everything I do is here. I sacrificed having luxury or any extra money to travel or to buy nice things. Everything is stripped down so I can create, just so I can do my music."
Lola now records under the name Dakini9, partly chosen because "it's kind of androgynous" and "the anonymous element" it brings to things. She also has a few projects on the go, not least her work with yoga and the new Supreme Scyence label—a collaboration with Jenifa Mayanja and Lady Blacktronika. As Spider put it, they've both given up an enormous amount to make music the focus of their creative lives. "I was younger, I went to cooking school after graduating from high school and I cooked for eight years and it was the same thing, every single day I was learning. I can't identify with people that work on music one or two days a week or something and you've got a family and a job and this and that," he explains. "That's all well and good but for me the people I like working with are in it all of the time and that's all they're thinking about."
Plan B Recordings Mix
This month's label showcase is from DJ Spider, one-half of the team behind Plan B Recordings. Spider explains: "All of the tracks presented have come from our catalog and are all available on vinyl, CD or digital. I mixed this in my studio here in the Bronx, NY. I used two Technics 1200MK-2 turntables, one Pioneer CDJ and mixed it through a Numark M6 mixer then into my Soundcraft Series 200B mixing console here in my studio, which then sends it straight into Logic Pro version 9.1.6."
Download: RA Label of the Month 1204 Mix: Plan B Recordings
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Filesize: 198.7 MB
01. Bomb Site - Aftermath (BTU Music)
02. DJ Spider - SOS (Steve Frisco Remix) (Sublevel Sounds)
03. Chris Mitchell - Limitations Force Everything (Vanguard Sound)
04. Dakini9 - Human Existence (Plan B Recordings)
05. DJ Spider & Dakini9 - Swine (Plan B Recordings)
06. DJ Spider & Hakim Murphy - Submerged Giant (Plan B Recordings)
07. DJ Spider - Gutter House (Plan B Recordings)
08. Hakim Murphy - Sharp Senses (Plan B Recordings)
09. DJ Spider & Hakim Murphy - Attack Lines (Plan B Recordings)
10. DJ Spider - Debt=Slavery (Plan B Recordings)
11. DJ Spider - Wicked Priest (Plan B Recordings)
12. Amir Alexander - Deep Banger (Plan B Recordings)
13. DJ Spider - In The Land Of Demons (Plan B Recordings)
14. Marshallito & Bileebob - Spaceis (Plan B Recordings)
15. DJ Courage - Celeste (Plan B Recordings)
16. Kuru - Unseen Overlord (Sublevel Sounds)
17. Dakini9 - Residual Feeling (Plan B Recordings)
18. Kuru - Mobius Strip (Sublevel Sounds)
19. Spider Bites - Mimas Death Star (BTU Music)