Australia often tends to get overlooked when it comes to underground club music. But recently several artists, such as Air Max ‘97, Melbourne’s waterhouse, and Adelaide’s Strict Face, have been successfully putting the scene on. Jikuroux, a young producer and DJ born and raised in Sydney, has the capacity to change the game as well. Her debut EP 'Ruptured Pulse', which was released last fall on Air Max’s DECISIONS label, wielded percussion like a sword – subtle and dark, yet quick and bright. Gasps, crunches, and the occasional Britney Spears sample brought a pressurized urgency to the music. She cites her early influences as footwork and trap, and you can hear that in her tumbling, yet controlled, manipulation of snares and kicks.
Her new record, 'Cradle Bay', takes the essential qualities from 'Ruptured Pulse' and maximizes them, giving them an anthemic and glittering quality. The tracks pulsate and glow, like a flash of light among shadows, but also inhabit the feeling of something out there waiting in the darkness. This duality makes for a fully realized, thoroughly powerful EP that’s bound to be the soundtrack for many a significant clubbing experience.
We caught up with Jikuroux before the Polymorphism x DECISIONS showcase at Berghain in mid June – her first show overseas. Her approach to DJing and the versatility of her productions seem especially suited for big rooms like the Berlin institution; however, for those of us who weren’t lucky enough to attend, she’s put together an exclusive mix that you can listen to below. Read on to hear about what nightlife is like in Sydney, how anxiety manifests in sound, and the importance of melody in the club.
What changed for you, sonically or creatively, between 'Ruptured Pulse' and 'Cradle Bay'?
I spent more time actually producing and mixing down and doing more technical things that I didn't really know when I wrote my first EP. And by the time the first one had come out, some of these tracks were over a year old as well, so there was a lot of time in between these two. This one was written this year, and it was definitely a different process. The first one I was sitting on my balcony in headphones basically, that's where I wrote it. And then for this one, my friend made a studio out the back of his house, with monitors and you can smoke in there and it was just a very different vibe. I would spend hours at night just writing the music. I think that that definitely affected not only the composition, but the effect that the tracks have in the club as well, because it was definitely more of a condensed vibe. I was also in a better place emotionally as well, I think, which kind of gave me clarity. I spent a lot more time stripping things back and really working on fewer elements, whereas on my first EP I was jamming in all of these sounds.
Your press release mentions the way 'Cradle Bay' explores hardness/softness, but obviously softness can be hard and vice versa. What are your thoughts on how that takes shape in your music?
I think melody is so powerful as a tool, especially in the club. Grime has always been a massive influence on my music, particularly because of the melodies. I think that the melodies in grime are really underrated or not necessarily spoken about, it's usually spoken about like how hard it is or the square bass. But 'Functions On The Low' and all that kind of stuff, is really beautiful music that would sometimes honestly make me cry. I also played piano for a very long time in my childhood, so melody's always been really important to me, because it can also be really hard. Just because you're using a bell doesn't mean it's this girly, soft instrument, it can actually be really hard or really thought-provoking. I don't want to get so into identity politics, but as a queer femme as well, femme-ness is always taken as something really soft, which is not necessarily true. Or even if it is, softness should be redefined as something that can be quite hard as well. I really like playing with that kind of duality in my own music, because different people experience music in different ways and some of the most beautiful music can also be some of the creepiest or scariest kind of music there is, because it's so emotionally driven – just because it's emotional doesn't mean it's soft either. It can actually be really aggressive or really anxiety-producing.
Like how anxiety can make you feel really manic one moment and have you wanting to curl up and hide the next.
I think that I make music in that way as well, because it's never so linear. There are definitely phrases in my music that are like "okay, this is really hard hitting" but then I totally turn it on its head and give more of an r'n'b feel to it and play with that as well. That's why I love DJing, because you're always turning music on its head and something can sound so 4/4, and then suddenly sound so off and sexy and slow. I think I do tend to approach producing almost like I'm DJing, in a sense, and using a certain riff and then mixing that with a different kind of beat underneath it and then going back to it.
When you say that this record is “reimagining anxiety as something beautiful,” are you speaking to a global anxiety or an interpersonal anxiety, or both?
I mean, definitely both. I can't separate my own anxiety from my music. Sometimes even when I'm making music, I feel anxious about it, which is such a weird feeling because I'm totally in my own space and should feel so comfortable, but then there are all of those pressures that still kind of exist in the music-making process. It's like, wow if I'm listening to this song, does this make me feel anxious? And it's similar when I'm curating a DJ set as well, it's like, what makes me feel anxious and what doesn't? So with that being said, it's not like I don't want to play tracks that make me feel anxious, because I also think that's important. Also, in the club, everything is so heightened with the massive soundsystem, it can just be so intense sometimes. At times clubbing can be really anxious. Dance music came from anxiety as well: collective anxiety, the anxiety of identity politics, all of those kinds of things, and so I think all artists feel anxious. Not many people vocalize it, but you just know that everyone goes through that, obviously to different degrees and for different reasons. It's definitely always going to be a core theme of my work and also my DJ sets, because it's relatable but also not because everyone feels it in a different way. People might find one sound anxious and another sound not, you know? There are so many pluralities of sonic anxiety and the way that you relate to it.
There's just something so visceral about dancing and having your emotions out there on the soundsystem.
Exactly! And you always project yourself towards what you're hearing as well. I think you project yourself before you receive something in a way, so you're always going to hear something through your own lens, and that pressure that builds – particularly more in DJ sets – but pressure's always building and then falling back and building again. It's like this constant tension or struggle of understanding your body in a space, and how your body relates to the soundsystem.
But it's so unfortunate; it's always the parties for queer people, people of color, and femmes that get shut down the most because there are few “legitimate” spaces we can go to that feel safe.
Totally! One of the big issues with Sydney is how disconnected all of the parties are in that sense. There's queer parties, and then there's tech-bro parties, and then there's straight girl house parties, and it's really hard to intertwine all of that. I run a club night called EVE, which is kind of on hiatus at the moment. We were basically just DJs that wanted to play and bring out our friends from other cities, so we didn't really go hard on the "come to our night" thing, because we found it really awkward. But it's really hard to get a good mix of people that are interested in hearing new things. I definitely think it's growing, but it's a struggle.
What is the Australian underground club scene like in general?
It's a really weird place. There are a lot of people doing stuff but we all come from different cities, which sucks. Nothing is super localized, and I think if all of us were in one city, it would definitely be a stronger community. You've got Strict Face and Emily Glass and Club Sync in Adelaide, and then you've got Club Escape in Melbourne which has DJ Aspartame and Air Max ‘97 when he was living in Melbourne and Rap Simons. In Sydney you've definitely got a lot of crews. Recently, we got a new state government, which brought in lockout laws, which means: no drinks served past 3am, and you can't leave and get back into a club past 1:30 am, but that was recently changed to 2 am. It's been going on for two years, and so many venues and really important spaces have closed down. One of the biggest ones was called Goodgod Small Club, and that was a really cool place because lots of different people that were interested in really different things all came together, and it was like an intersection of different vibes. And now that that doesn't exist I think it's definitely more localized in a way, in terms of what you'll listen to. It's like, you've got the techno people, you've got the house people, you've got the more experimental music, live music. There isn't as much of a cross section anymore.
More broadly, the underground club scene on the Internet feels kind of disparate, but also connected in certain ways.
I think it's hard because we're in Australia, we're so fucking far away. Plane tickets are so expensive and another issue with the whole lockout thing is that we now are getting less international artists playing, which is really sad because I think the most important way for people to hear new music is by the people that make it themselves, to have them come over and actually share that. It's definitely not the same experience as having people that just found something on SoundCloud and haven't actually been to those kind of parties to play that music, and we definitely have nights in Sydney that are really problematic – people that are like "pussy," "cunt," "club music," and it's all white people that wear streetwear with WiFi symbols and Japanese characters. It's so embarrassing, but then it sucks because I feel like so many people look at that and think "oh that's that kind of music, that's what Jersey club is" and it's like actually no, it's such a whitewashed version of that. It really saddens me that there aren't more platforms for people to come and actually bring that music here.
On the other hand, I think one of the main issues with Australia isn't that we don't have enough DJs, it's that we don't have enough producers. I think that's a really important aspect of a clubbing community. It's not a bad thing, I love that everyone DJs because everyone always has a different take on what they're going to play, but it's really common in Sydney to become oversaturated as a DJ because you'll very much have a niche, then you'll always get booked for the same shows... I think the great thing about the US and Europe especially is that it's so easy to get on a train and literally be in another country and be able to play a show, whereas in Australia we're so far away.
'Cradle Bay' is out now via Decisions
Nina Posner is Mixmag's Bass + Club Music Editor. Follow her on Twitter
Mak & Pasteman - Void (Jikuroux Edit)
Bok Bok - Know Already
Wiley x Missy - Morgue x Lick Shots (Scam Blend)
Twista - Overnight Celebrity (Instrumental)
Mica - Go (feat. Tirzah)
Danny Weed - Salt Beef
Destinys Child - Baby Boy (Acapella)
Jikuroux - Slow Pressure
Jikuroux - Hollow Grin
Jikuroux - Themed Break
M.E.S.H - Damaged Merc
Superficie - Dengue Drums
Coucou Chloe - Doom
Tayhana - Encuentros Furtivos
quest?onmarc - Work This
Lexxi - No Order
Trust Issues x Slow (Air Max '97 Squeeze)
M.C. Fioti - Bum Bum Tan Tan (DJ Doraemon Remix)
Kingdom x Brandy - Haunted Gate, No Key (Jik Edit)
Madonna x Uli - Frozen Handshake (Jik Blend)
Asmara - Let Ting Go
Scam - Crank
Nidia - Puro Tarraxo
Jikuroux - Cradle Bay
Ikonika x Ciara - Manual Decapitation x Dance Like We're Making Love (Jik Blend)
Jikuroux - Cracked
Kablam - Priere (Jiks Love Mix)