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Fresh Kicks 134: Syn

Spanning hard drum, nu-metal mutations, Jersey club and trance-imbued techno, Syn pulls no punches in her frenzied Fresh Kicks mix

“We play a lot of the ‘Hard’ genres,” says Syn of CXNT, the queer party she co-runs in Cork, Ireland. “Hardstyle, hard drum, hardcore, hard house.”

Operating out of The Roundy, a tiny, 80-cap, upstairs venue and record store, CXNT has established itself as the sweaty epicentre of the southern city’s burgeoning hard dance scene, where syncopated, percussive rhythms and experimental electronic mutations reign. Syn launched the party alongside fellow DJs Doubt and Capricorn in July 2019, responding to what they saw as a lack of events and spaces for LGBTQ+ folks in the city with tougher, edgier music policies. With eight parties under their belt in as many months, CXNT’s impact on the Irish musical landscape has been quick, building a loyal following and standing alongside the likes Dublin’s Club Comfort, Thrust and Grace as a vital club series, creating alternative platforms and spaces for queer DJs and dancers alike.

“There’s always a lovely and strong energy in the room,” she says, remembering CXNT’s third edition, when UK hard drum aficionados MM and NKC sent The Roundy into rapture. “You could see the sweat dripping off bodies. People were just going insane!”

“CXNT is a space for powerful women, mischievous queers and post Paul Street goths to engage in a cathartic celebration of themselves,” Syn explains, adding that the party was named in tribute to Igna Muscio’s 1998 feminist book, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, in which the writer “illustrates how powerful words for women have a negative or insulting undertone in society, and the importance of reclaiming the power behind those words for oneself.” 

Reclamation of power, and the full, cathartic expression of oneself is something that underpins Syn’s own music too, and nowhere is that more prominent than on her new EP for NKC’s Even The Strong imprint, ‘Temper’. The EP is a masterclass in hard drum; the sturdy, percussion-led club music that Syn and her peers in Cork’s Flood label have been pushing since their late teens, when they discovered NKC’s Her Records. Rugged kicks and reverberating, volatile drums burst across the EP, launching its distorted noise swells, submerged bass and indistinct howls to riotous heights. Dark, febrile and determined, the EP is described as “an expression of the frustration associated with the treatment of transgender folk in Ireland,” and channels the agitation Syn was feeling at the time toward the systematic mistreatment she and others experience as trans people under an archaic system, citing “ever-growing waiting lists for hormone replacement therapy, unnecessary psychological evaluations and the lack of education in the public sphere”.

The frustrations and anxieties that are woven throughout ‘Temper’ are echoed in its artwork and accompanying photoshoot, by 3000000000am and Dónal Talbot respectively. When workshopping ideas for photos, a suggestion 3000000000am made incorporating abstract art with images of a naked woman stood out Syn, and the resulting shoot is one that is pointed and striking. 

“To me it represented gender dysphoria in a physical way as well as my own feelings of anxieties, isolation and vulnerability,” she explains. “I felt it was a provocative image that well suited the provocative ideas behind the EP. I’m sure most people will just think they’re nudes and I joke about that quite often, but to me there is a more personal meaning.”

In April, Syn will launch BODIES, a sister party to CXNT in which each edition will give a platform to trans DJs in Ireland, and where all proceeds raised on the night will go toward paying transition related expenses for whoever is playing. “There’s an incredible amount of expenses when you start to transition, beyond medical intervention.” Syn explains. “A new wardrobe, laser which usually would not be covered by health insurance, legal fees for name change etc. The main goal of the parties is help ease these financial strains on the artists involved. It can be hard enough to support your art itself so juggling both can be extremely difficult, I know it has been for me.”

“Another point of the night is to protest the inadequate healthcare available to transgender people in Ireland,” she adds. “I hope punters would leave knowing more Irish healthcare for trans folk. There is no HSE gender clinic in Cork, meaning travel is necessary plus an extra expense to be seen. There are no top or bottom surgeons in Ireland at all. You must apply for such services with the treatment abroad scheme and fund a lot of your trip and recovery time yourself. As well as that the HSE and NGS claims to follow the WPATH guidelines for trans healthcare but in reality do not. They still use an outdated psychiatric model even though gender dysphoria has been reclassified from a disorder to sexual health by the World Health Organization. If we used a self affirmation model like countries such as Iceland it would also remove the ever growing waiting list and you would be able to access hormones directly through your GP instead of the NGS. I think most people simply don’t know or understand these things so it's really important to raise awareness.”

The first edition of BODIES will see Syn playing all night in Limerick’s Pharmacia venue, with proceeds going toward her own transition. More dates are lined up for the coming months featuring DJs like Capricorn and Bambi, as well as an accompanying zine being made with Club Comfort’s Roo Honeychild. 

Meanwhile, 2020 will see Syn maintaining the momentum that has seen her make massive strides in the past year, having played a Dual Power party in London and at Bristol’s No Future, as well as having landmark sets at Club Comfort, Thrust, Grace and at Irish experimental festival, Open Ear. 

With collaborations, remixes and standalone tracks, as well as her debut album in the works, expect to be hearing a lot more from Syn in the coming year. In the meantime, you can check out her Fresh Kicks mix below. Spanning hard drum, guitar-laced breaks, Jersey club and trance-imbued techno, Syn unleashes a rhythmic hurricane over the course of an hour, pulling no punches and showcasing her frenetic DJ technique. 

Last track that blew your mind?
“Stasya ‘Big Ole Dick (Stasya's Ride)’”

Last film you watched?

Last DJ that blew your mind?
“DJ MM tearing Dual Power to pieces”

Favourite album to relax to?
“I actually tend to not listen to music to relax and often just watch cartoons. I'm currently rewatching Yu-Gi-Oh!”

Favourite producer?
“I actually can't pick a favourite, so many people out there killing it and everyone has their moment”

What record is top of your wishlist?
“It was the last track in my mix but I just got it thankfully”

What's the best club you've played at?
“The Roundy in Cork because of the staff and people who manage it”

Want more? Check out our recent Fresh Kicks mixes wtih Avernian and BFTT

Eoin Murray is DJ Mag's deputy digital editor. Follow him on twitter @eoin_murraye