Released today via 2MR Records, Naja Warfare proves to be more than just techno. It’s a story of rebellion and transformation, honoring the legacy of the genre and Brooklyn’s will to fight back.
I’ve always known John Barclay as one of the leading activists in the Brooklyn underground scene. Besides helping to repeal the century-old and racist cabaret law, he’s maintained the beloved techno bar, Bossa Nova Civic Club, in the face of growing tension between city officials and the DIY community.
Despite these profound achievements, Barclay might be the nicest and humblest person I know. If he’s not behind the bar at Bossa or refilling the fog machine, it’s very likely I’ll run into him on the dancefloor at a local rave. In his heart, he is still a rave kid and his first solo project contains that magical essence of youth while inspiring social change.
Naja, a fictional civilization imagined by Barclay, is not much different from the community in Bushwick, Brooklyn that the producer calls home. As the story goes, the Naja people must retreat from their land after suffering a political betrayal. They end up forming an alliance with an exiled, but supernatural, group and return back to claim what is theirs. Similarly, the underground techno culture has fought against restricting policies of New York City nightlife along with unfair standards within the culture itself, such as the misrepresentation of POC, women and queer artists at events. Just as the Naja had to leave in order to level up, so too has the Brooklyn underground stepped back, collaborated and gained perspective, only to come out stronger and wiser.
As Liquid Soap, Barclay keeps the sound true to techno for Naja Warfare, incorporating elements of trance and industrial. Like war, it is both romantic and brutal. The epic overcast of clashing swords and distant war cries blend seamlessly with a crushing techno beat. Barclay uses a library of sounds sparingly, adding to the album’s rich storyline. Whether it’s the euphoric dub lines and uplifting harmony of “Sexxxi Alien” moving you into rebellion or “Battle of Xengani’s” twitching squeak-beat disrupting a trance narrative, each track feels like an adventure.
Barclay builds a project of punching basslines, rhythmic record-scratching and war speeches. His imagination calls the shots here, breaking free of elite techno standards. But I’d expect nothing less from a member of Brooklyn’s ever-evolving scene. Pick up a copy wherever you do so here.