Fresh Kicks 151: Slowcook
With a mix of turbocharged jungle, footwork, R&B, dubstep and more, Zhao Dai Beijing resident and Equaliser co-founder Slowcook shakes up the Fresh Kicks series
Slowcook leans into the unpredictable. The Beijing DJ’s sets and mixes swerve like comets through house and techno, into galaxies of jazz, disco, pop and punk, past dubstep’s deep space and into wormholes of footwork, jungle and turbocharged 160 rhythms. Whatever the sonic universe, Slowcook wields her selections with a precise, alchemical touch. You might never know where you’re headed when she plays, but you can be sure it’ll be a hell of a ride.
“My sets are not limited to genres, bpm, moods or beatmatching,” she tells DJ Mag. “It's quite free to change, just like nature: sometimes it is smooth like a river, sometimes it's intense like a storm, sometimes summer night and sometimes winter morning, because that's how day-to-day life is, and I got my inspiration from life and nature. I'm quite into euphoric and psychedelic trance stuff on the dancefloor.”
Slowcook started 2021 behind the decks at a club in Chengdu, as part of a mini-tour celebrating Chinese queerness with her Equaliser collective’s G2Gather (鸡兔同笼) party, alongside HTTP (Shanghai) and Chilldo (Chengdu). Right after midnight, she dropped the Chinese pop track, ‘Map of Happiness’, by Taiwanese artist Elva Hsiao, and waved goodbye to a year of untold twists and turns: one that taught her the importance of facing uncertainty head on.
“2020 was a turning point, and a year [that] made me really understand what impermanence is,” she says. “Most of my plans for 2020 were suspended, and many things I didn't plan for happened. So, in general, a year full of surprises and emotions.”
In spite of everything, 2020 was a busy year for Slowcook, who is a resident DJ at underground Beijing club Zhao Dai. “[It’s] a space where you can be yourself or anyone as you want,” she says of the venue. “You can liberate or comfort yourself there.” As clubs began to reopen in China during the summer, Slowcook’s gig calendar began to fill up with sets across the country. As she toured, she sensed a fresh, familial sense of community forming in China’s underground club scene, with venues facilitating exchange projects with their residents, and connections becoming stronger between DJs, promoters and spaces. “The atmosphere is energetic,” she says. “DJs from different places are bringing the new sound and new vibe. Without international superstar DJs, the club culture is more community-based now, which is intimate and liberal.”
That sense of countrywide community reached a new landmark in August, when Slowcook joined a line-up of artists and DJs affiliated with clubs across China (Elevator Shanghai, All Club Shanghai, Tag Chengdu, Oil Shenzhen and more) to play Zhao Dai On Leave, a three-day festival held on the beaches of Qin Huang Dao. A celebration of a thriving underground movement, and a notable return to the dancefloor after months away due to the pandemic, Zhao Dai On Leave felt significant. “I never went to a dance music festival in China with so many friends travelling from all over the country before,” says Slowcook. “It was so lovely and doesn't even feel real, especially in 2020.”
In 2019, Slowcook and some friends launched DCYY/到此一游, a label and event series aimed at hosting parties outside of a club setting. In 2020, the label released two sprawling ‘Home Fitness’ compilations, featuring contributions from Chinese and China-based artists such as Yang Bing, Yu Su, Knopha and Numbertheory, alongside international names such as AceMo, Cassius Select, Yazzus and Chippy Nonstop. All proceeds raised from the first edition in March went toward providing equipment and essential items to frontline medical workers in Wuhan, while the second edition in June broadened its fundraising focus to include various Black Lives Matter, indigenous and LGBTQ+ initiatives.
The spirit of solidarity, companionship and mutual aid has informed Slowcook’s musical journey since day one. Having grown up listening to Chinese pop — an early favourite was Richie Jen’s ‘Too Softhearted’, which she would listen to every weekend morning as a child, watching the sun light up her parent’s livingroom — Slowcook started exchanging MP3s with her friends in High School, while building her own collection of CDs and tapes as her taste spread into rock, electronic and experimental music. Shortly after moving to Leeds in 2015 to study a masters in Music Management, she started avidly collecting records and learning to DJ, and it wasn’t long before she was playing regularly at parties in the city.
In 2017, Slowcook co-founded Equaliser, a collective geared toward creating opportunities for cis women, trans women, non-binary people and trans men in electronic music. Hosting parties and DJ workshops in Leeds, as well as presenting a regular mix series for emerging artists on SoundCloud, Equaliser quickly established itself as an important platform, which has continued to develop since Slowcook returned to Beijing in 2018.
While the pandemic and various life commitments meant that Equaliser activities in Leeds were paused in 2020, it has continued to thrive in China, hosting five DJ workshops and a production workshop throughout the year. Looking ahead, there are plans for a G2Gather spring ball in Zhao Dai, as well as more tours, talks and workshops under the Equaliser banner. On top of all that, Slowcook has also found time to start learning music production, and has commenced work on a new independent radio station, which is set to launch this summer. Dynamic and passionate, Slowcook is a leading light in Beijing’s underground, and there’s no predicting what challenges she’ll rise to next.
Slowcook’s Fresh Kicks mix is a prime example of her high-energy, genre-defying club sets: she sprints from R&B and dubstep into turbocharged jungle, footwork and propulsive experimental rhythms over the course of an hour, with some detours in-between. Check it out below, along with the tracklist.
West by West - 匆匆
ButtaSmooth, CHILLGOGOG - 下雨下雪有云有风
FKA twigs - holy terrain (ft. Future)
YUF-O - Rebuild, Recharge
Fracture - Shada Shada (ft. Nah Eeto)
Moresounds - Dead And Bury (ft. Fracture)
Martyn X Om Unit - Tracksuit Dub
Laughing Ears - Buona Fortuna
Addison Groove & DJ Die- Standard Affair
ISMAEL. - Proximity
Osheyack & Nahash - Hold Pattern
Ceephax Acid Crew - Fossil Funk Zappi Mix
TRAX HAVEN - Gold Teeth (Tee Blue Rizla Mix)
Hyph11E - Get Out From Under
SNKLS - I Don't Give An Acid
DJ Rashad - Angel Dust
Special Request & Tim Reaper - Quiet Storm (Time Reaper Mix)
Duburban - Back For More
Sully - Memories
OCTUBRXLIBRV - 0212 (Florentino remix)
DJ Crazy Feelings - Bang Bang
Itoa - You’re The One For Me
Lewis James- Worth the Pain
A Guy Called Gerald - Humanity (ft. Louise Rhodes)
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