- The Club Chai crew are based in Oakland, and in just a year they've become one of the West Coast's most vibrant, open-minded collectives. The sound of its founders, 8ULENTINA and foozool, is eclectic and sometimes confrontational, the kind of stuff that might not fly in a regular nightclub. Their online roster extends across the world, and they place an emphasis on the underrepresented, favouring producers from immigrant diasporas and with femme or genderqueer identities. If you're not in Oakland, the easiest way to hear the sounds of Club Chai would have been through mixes (like 8ULENTINA's excellent effort for Truants last year). Now, though, the party becomes a label with Club Chai Vol. 1, a whopping 21-track compilation that shows just how broad their vision is.
In the loosest of terms, Club Chai is aligned with the experimental club scene, especially the kind driven in part by personal identity politics—NON, for example. That crew's MORO appears here with a hypnotic edit of Oneohtrix Point Never's "Ezra" entitled "Ezra Entrena El Bumbum (Moro Midflight Edit)," one of the compilation's highlights. Many of Club Chai Vol. 1's best moments come in the form of what might seem like simple edits: Nargiz's "OoW No More" seizes on the discordant guitars of Rihanna's "Woo," while foozool's standout "Azat Ազատ" lashes a sample of an Armenian choir with thunderous drums. Rather than just building a dance floor tool around a pop song or obvious sample, these tunes use their source material as another ingredient in an imaginative tapestry.
Other tracks don't sound like anything so familiar. 8ULENTINA's incredible "Adana 2.7" is a well-produced banger that feels like it was made out of steel beams. DJ Haram's "Big Girl" works 16-bit video game synths into her killer dancehall-style beat, while Marcelline and Sunatirene team up for a 12-minute soup of celebrity samples and musique concrète that sounds like the Super 8 version of Amnesia Scanner's hi-def radio drama.
Juggling so many ideas and genres, the crew wisely sequence the compilation like an album. It begins with straight-up club music, like the Latin industrial of Turbo Sonidero, gets weird in the midsection and reemerges towards the end with a string of techno tracks, including a raw acid jam from Russell E.L. Butler. There are some less-than-stellar moments: Jasmine Infiniti's hyperactive ha-stab workout goes on for too long, while the occasional folky track and the vocal-heavy closing run leave the compilation on a somewhat muddy note. But for 21 free tracks from a group as wide-ranging as Club Chai, the collection is remarkably cohesive.
The experimental club scene, as young and volatile as it is, is always in flux, which means it can sometimes sound amateurish, as producers discover new sounds and techniques along the way. The scene has rarely come off as mature as it does on Club Chai Vol. 1, which presents a huge spread of artists of different stripes firing on all cylinders and stretching the limits of what the experimental club scene can include, whether that's sound collage, futuristic dancehall or straight-up techno. In focusing on voices that might be left unheard otherwise, Club Chai prove that they've got a whole lot to say.
01. lak - some/thing
02. Turbo Sonidero - Portentous
03. Organ Tapes - 2GOD (DJ Corpmane's Instrumental Version)
04. 8ULENTINA - Adana 2.7
05. stud1nt - Suture
06. foozool - Azat Ազատ
07. NARGIZ - OoW No More
08. MORO - Ezra Entrena El Bumbum (Moro Midflight Edit)
09. Jasmine Infiniti - Hapocalypse
10. Kala - ART
11. DJ Haram - Big Girl
12. Lechuga Zafiro – Orquidea T-1000
13. Marcelline & Sunatirene - A Spell, A Rare Sound
14. SPELLLING - BLACK WAX
15. The Creatrix - Love Is No Time
16. Russell E.L. Butler - Def Jam 5 10 16
17. Ariel Zetina - Angelbaby
18. MAIELI - It's Over Bae (Florentino Remix)
19. Ambr33zy BA! – Fuego Fuego feat. Acentoh
20. V Kim - Pussy Not Polite feat. Kimchi Princi
21. XUXA SANTAMARIA - Hollywood Babylon