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ncompromising soundsystem advancer Mars89 is the kind of artist who reframes the rave tradition with every release. That makes him the ideal candidate for Sneaker Social Club, where we love slinging bassweight sonics into the far reaches as often as possible.
Based in Japan and active beyond the confines of his studio, Mars89 has made a sizable impression in just four years of releasing a handful of records. Bokeh Versions carried his first releases, while he’s gone on to soundtrack a VR experience for the label more recently. He’s also collaborated with Jun Takahashi’s Undercover fashion label, appeared on Flore’s POLAAR label and played an important role in coordinating protest raves in Shibuya.
There’s a stark, stern heaviness to the Mars89 sound which leaves its mark from the first surge of dread bass. It hits with a primal urgency which calls to mind early grime instrumentals, but there’s also a touch of industrial clank and subliminal avant-garde notes lurking behind the foreground pressure. ‘Night Call’ stalks on a thunderous kick and pitch-black string stabs, while ‘Vigilante’s nervous refrain is underpinned by massive subs and an 808 cowbell turned into a musical instrument. On the flip, ‘North Shibuya Local Service’ ups the angular intensity with an interlocking barrage of claps, snaps and lock-ons, and ‘Aeropolis’ edges towards outright rave with its slithers of squashed breaks, 4x4 kick runs and a disheveled synth hook.
Even on the more forthright B side though, Mars89’s palette is so lean you can pick out every individual element. There’s no fat to be found anywhere on the record, ensuring every part lands with presence and purpose. You can somehow link the sound back to UK soundsystem culture, but there’s a necessary individuality at work here, which we’re beyond proud to platform and press up for the dance.