AK: SPKRBOX 1/19/23

Trent Mosley

The mix’s soundscape can be described as both atmospheric and aquatic; every break in the rhythm feels like a dive underwater, every return like coming up for air. Submerge, surface, repeat. Here, AK’s touch is undoubtedly organic; the rhythm shifts and shivers, and more so, is pointedly intuitive.

Detroit DJ, AK, is irrefutably an alchemist. Her hour-long jungle mix, SPRKBOX 1/19/2023, displays a talent for constructing intricate and fluid soundscapes as well as expressing an unadulterated love for the chemistry of melding sound. The key takeaway here though, is that above all else, the set is simply irresistible.

The mix begins with Dawn Penn’s 1994 pre-reggae rocksteady hit “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)”. At first, we only hear the solitary vocal sample of U-Roy’s “Wake the Town” before the heavy bass line comes rolling in and Penn’s soulful voice sets us into motion. Yet once we believe we’ve finally settled into the sound of the classic song, the breakbeat makes its explosive entrance. From there, we’re privileged to a complex array of sound: hypnotic, oscillating synths, reverberated drums, and pressurized beats that demand to be deeply felt, and most importantly, danced to.

The choice of samples are at once familiar and new; one can’t help but smile hearing Sade’s “Kiss of Life” or Lil Wayne’s “Throw It In The Bag” and then feel a sense of even further elation when the jungle riddim comes swaggering back in to reinvent a beloved hit. Of particular note are the subterranean subs that provide an integral foundation to the mix, as with any other breakbeat, and bestow a wonderful counterbalance to the aforementioned melodic songs that AK spins throughout, giving another layer of depth to an already multi-dimensional mix. The apt usage of spatial audio here emphasizes this expansiveness and proves to be nothing less than an utter joy when experiencing the feeling of a synthesizer glissando from one side to the other.

The mix’s soundscape can be described as both atmospheric and aquatic; every break in the rhythm feels like a dive underwater, every return like coming up for air. Submerge, surface, repeat.  Here, AK’s touch is undoubtedly organic; the rhythm shifts and shivers, and more so, is pointedly intuitive. At no point does the sound feel repetitive or trite, the breaks feel so natural that one would think that this is how these tracks were always meant to be played. A late reprisal of a sonar-like synthesizer or seductive sample used towards the beginning of the mix functions to recontextualize and connect the current sounds to the old, as well as acting as a signal for what comes to be the end of a journey.

One of my favorite moments comes towards the latter half of the mix at the transition of I Need Your Love (Like the Sunshine)” into Fishbone’s “Everyday Sunshine”. After the beat momentarily fades out, we hear the sound of the sample’s resounding vocals accompanied by a bittersweet piano refrain play out before the beat strikingly returns again. It’s a moment that capitalizes on its thematic namesake; a melodic break that kindly allows the listener a brief second of fresh air while simultaneously giving the sample a moment to shine, bask even, before the rhythm inevitably propels us forward, cutting through the lush soundscape like a beam of light. 

The motif of sunshine proves to be a particularly fitting description for the mix as AK creates such an insular, evocative sonic landscape that one could say it resembles another universe entirely. Spectral, sprawling and atmospheric sounds are illuminated by familiar melodies and organic rhythms like an artificial sun providing solace to the lingering patron on a night club’s hazy dance floor.