Monday, February 25, 2008

We Were Never Mnml, February 2008

Normally this column focuses on upcoming and recent releases, but this month I’d like to speculate on the integral impact of technology on the development of the sound. It’s worth dwelling on, simply because in 2008, it finally feels as if there’s really no limit to the expressive possibilities of the software. So no excuses, alright people? So where’s that masterpiece you’ve been thinking of writing?

Technology is immanent to the sound; the smart producers know that the software itself has a creative voice, it begs (softly, of course) to be played in a certain way. Monolake’s Momentum and Apparat’s Walls were the two albums that first really ‘played’ Ableton as it seemed to want to be – of course the music was theirs, but each producer intuited (in their own very different styles) how to channel the signal in a way sympathetic to the needs and desires of the program. Who’s playing who? Both albums rendered a question based on such a distinction irrelevant.

The tools themselves (from hardware to software) have always had a decisive effect on the development of different kinds of music. The glitch movement of the late 90s – and its electronica cousin ‘clicks and cuts’ – took this to the next level. The entire thing seemed to be nothing more than the software speaking. The producer was rendered a side-effect, a conductor for what DSP software like Max MSP, Reaktor and Audiomulch was finally able to say for the first time, now that they’d become able ‘do the maths’ quickly enough – but only just, hence the glitches. Likewise, Autechre’s sound was to no small extent driven by the incredible sonic possibilities of the first Nord Modular. Booth and Brown were just miners, dredgers, explorers – their skill was just a matter of knowing how to gather the glittering silicone-based jewels and bring them out of the dark. Their pursual of this approach is also why their new album Quaristice doesn’t really work in 2008.

Nearly a decade on, we’ve witnessed the same thing happen with plugins, largely facilitated by ‘user-friendly’ programs like Ableton and Reason. For a while there in the early 00s, mnml was plugin music, a sound that developed through an exploration of heretofore impossible combinations of FX and obsessive attention on their interaction in the signal chain. It’s no stretch to see the mnml of this time (’03-’05) as Ableton music first and foremost: Robag Wruhme’s Wuzzlebud KK is perhaps the quintessential example of this. Wruhme’s 2004 success seemed to me to be based in the fact that he was one of the few producers working with Ableton in that way who spent any amount of working on the drum patterns and writing basslines: for the remainder, it was just geeks, layers of loops and 90% of the creative energy spent following the timbral shifts caused by the complex interrelationships of three kinds of delay. All this kind of stuff is still interesting to a small coterie of die-hards, and may well be necessary to push the sound in interesting directions, but it’s without a doubt also one of the key reasons for ‘the backlash’. Some producers, a lot of DJs and the majority of audiences have become bored stupid by this direction/cul-de-sac, which is one of the key reasons why so many mnml DJs in Europe are backlashing and playing deep house and classic techno again; they’re all productions that emphasise a timeless ‘feeling’ rather than trying to boldly go where no sound/effect has gone before, and, typically, their structure is far more traditionally musical.

At the moment, we appear to be in a recapitulative ‘neoclassical phase’ that’s about recovering the elements that made the music ‘timeless’, either through a direct recapture of the old sound (like Prosumer and Murat Tepeli’s Serenity album), or its filtration through contemporary influences. It’s bound to be a tension in a music that is so often about breaking out of the strictures of structure (using little more than stricture and structure), but right now, it seems like so many people are looking back through the archive for inspiration: witness the growing popularity of slo-mo/Beardo disco (encapsulating cosmic, Balearic and Italo) or the slew of decent Neo-Detroit and dub-house records on offer. Tru’sme’s Working Nights album (as good as it is) is basically a Moodymann joynt. Likewise, listen to Deepchord, Bvdub, Newworldaquarium, or the Drumpoet and Uzuri labels (which you should if you haven’t), and it’s like the last ten years (and all those plugins) had never happened. Perhaps we have finally, irrevocably given up on new. In any case, I would wager that 2008 will be a year of very well made but rather unadventurous records, with people turning out fine examples of proven formulas. At the same time, I really feel that a lot of DJs will be looking further and deeper than in the past few years – finally cottoning on (in their own way) to what DJs ike Optimo or Ransom have been doing for so long. The war against boredom and redundancy continues apace.

But now that the software has matured and a lot of people seem keen to jettison its monstrous offspring, it seems like the ‘next frontier’ is control: so far, despite so many efforts, nobody has come up with an integrated DJ controller with both the sonic possibilities, intuitive interface AND realtime feel of a ‘proper’ musical instrument (scratch heads will disagree with me) – but you get the feeling it’s really not too far off, and this is really exciting (not least of all for the people who crack it or the nerds who use it as wank fodder). Imagine if electronic music was no longer dependent on ‘equipment’, but finally found its ‘instrument’, its Fender? You just bring your media to the club in a wee box, and the ‘instrument’ is waiting for you. OR maybe you’ve got a personalised one, with all your media loaded, that works wirelessly, and is invisible… you just dance, while the crowd hears a direct stream of your skills and knowledge… shame a lot of DJs can’t dance. Hmm.

Friday, February 22, 2008

loud silence

i am on sick leave at the moment, which means a few more posts from me than normally would be the case. unfortunately, though, this one is putting the boot into m_nus so you may just want to skip ahead to the new lawrence set below if you don't want to hear another rant about richie and his gang. at the beginning of the year, m_nus announced that it would begin its 10 year anniversary with 10 weeks of silence. i must admit, i found all of this rather ridiculous - announcing so loudly that m_nus was going to be quiet. fair enough, richie + most of the others not djing for 10 weeks is a bit unusual (but even then, it is currently the winter season in europe), but for many labels, not having a release or special event for that period is certainly nothing to proclaim to the world. if anything, all this noise about m_nus deciding to be quiet seems an excellent indicator of how overblown the label/crew/sound has become. indeed, the very concepts the label seems to represent - minus/subtraction/minimalism - are the complete opposite of the way they've been operating.

looking through their back catalogue, the first releases came out in 1998. jump to 2005 and you have the 25th release, the 'minimize to maximize' compilation, which is roughly about when the m-nus brand really started to explode. in the first 7 years or so, m-nus was a smaller and more subtle label. releases were reasonably infrequent and of a high quality. but by the end of 2007, the total number of releases had more than doubled, with barem's ep bringing the total to 59 (plus two releases on the items and things sublabel). plenty have commented on the declining quality of the releases, so there is no need to say much more here. i am ambivalent about that aspect - while m-nus is no longer a bastion of quality as it once was, it still has a very good roster of artists, and as a djs and liveacts they are amongst the very best when on their game. so it is definitely stupid to write m-nus off. you cannot deny the quality of people like troy pierce or magda (and richie when in form, which seems to be not that often at the moment).

the point i am really trying to make is that the whole m-nus thing has become so overblown, it has completely betrayed the ideas which motivated it in the beginning. and this seeming need to tell everyone that m-nus is now being 'quiet' (despite the fact that i've received 3 emails from them during this period - more than any other label's email lists that i am on) is very representative of how far richie and co have strayed from the original path of m-nus. anyway, it reminded me of this passage from one of my favourite texts, an old samurai book called hagakure:

"A group of eight samurai all took the same road for some merrymaking. Two of them, Komori Eijun and Otsubo Jin'-emon, went into a teahouse in front of the Kannon temple at Asakusa, got into an argument with the male employees there, and were soundly beaten. This could be heard by the others, who were in an excursion boat, and Mute Rokuemen said, "We should go back and take revenge." Yoshii Yoichiemon and Ezoe Jinbei both agreed to this.
The others, however, dissuaded them, saying, "This will cause trouble for the clan," and they all returned home. When they arrived at the mansion, Rokuemon again said, ''We should definitely take revenge!'' but the others disuaded him. Although they sustained heavy wounds on their arms and legs, Eijian and Jin'emon cut the teahouse men down, and those who had returned were taken to task by the master.
In due course some thought was given to the details of this event. One person said, "By waiting to get the agreement of others, a matter like taking revenge will never be brought to a conclusion. One should have the resolution to go alone and even to be cut down. A person who speaks vehemently about taking revenge but does nothing about it is a hypocrite. Clever people, by using their mouths alone, are taking care of their reputations for a later date. But a real stalwart is a man who will go out secretly, saying nothing, and die. It is not necessary to achieve one's aim ; one is a stalwart in being cut down. Such a person will most likely achieve his purpose.''

i have no problem with the concept of 10 weeks of silence, as such. but if m_nus want to be silent, then just be silent, rather than telling everyone about it. like all addages and cliches, there is more than a bit of truth in 'actions speak louder than words'. i know there has been plenty of complaining about m-nus of late, so apologies for contributing to it. but after receiving the 3rd email from them during their silence, i couldnt resist posting about it. anyway, lets leave berlin and move to hamburg:

a plus to that minus

three of the four members of this blog have a borderline fetish for the dial record label out of hamburg (the other is trying in vain to start a dial backlash to follow on from the m-nus one, which is so passe). anytime a new set a dial artist appears, we all get pretty excited. this time it is a dj set by lawrence, recorded at pacotek on NYE. i have nothing but good things to say about the pacotek crew. as well as great taste in music, they also kindly record their sets for the rest of us. so here it is, almost 4 hours of lawrence behind the decks. while known for his productions, lawrence has been djing out more in recent years and the guy can definitely play. a nice mixture of deep sounds. enjoy.

lawrence @ pacotek 31.12.07*

*this is a direct link. if it goes down, leave a message and i'll re-up it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

name and shame

in a recent post, i complained about a prominent pirate blog that was actually advertising, and thereby profiting from spreading music illegally. even if one could make a defence for downloading of music illegally (the argument my fellow blog member pete has raised is the one of people from poorer countries - it is a question of access), i cannot see how one can justify actually profiting from it through having advertising on the blog. one of the comments to my post was 'what can we do?'. the larger question of how techno should deal with the pirating and copying of music is a large question and not one i am going to deal with here (i would note as an aside, that one advantage of an all vinyl djing world is that this was perhaps the most effective barrier to piracy one could possibly find). what i want to do with this post is basically 'name and shame' those that are advertising on this music blog.

the problem with the 'name and shame' technique in this case is that i cant actually name the blog, as this would just promote it and make the illegal links even easier to find and potentially help the blog's revenue. what i can name is those that advertise on the blog. if labels or artists want the blog's details, they can send me a message and i would be happy to pass the information on.

and believe or not, this blog that provides copyrighted material is serviced by none other than google adsense. yes, it appears google supports things besides censorship in china... i've emailed google, so we will see if that does anything.

the primary ad on the page appears to be for free music toolbar called 'starware music toolbar'. i cant imagine any readers wanting to use this program, but obviously one to avoid. finally, on the blog, it lists the site 'mp3sparks' as its "lovely sponsor". again, i doubt this is a site readers would use, but steer clear of it (it is also seems a bit odd than an mp3 retailer would be the primary sponsor for an illegal mp3 blog).

i doubt this naming and shaming will do much, but perhaps it can be a small step in the right direction. as i said in the previous post, there is something seriously wrong with a music blog actually advertising and as such, profiting from sharing music illegally.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

listen to this mann

one thing i love about this music is how quickly you fall in love with people. and for some reason, it seems to take much longer to fall out of love with a dj or producer once you've found them. after appearing on your radar they generally stay there. i must admit that a year or two ago, i knew the name 'marcel dettmann' but not too much more. these days i must instantly get my hands on anything he touches (the same can also be said about his regular partner in the studio, ben klock, but this post isn't about him). for me, this is techno for the new millennium. i know all the hard tech guys are still around and banging it out, but what has constantly hit me is how stuck they are in their sound. it largely stalled a couple of years ago and as far as i am concerned, hasn't moved forward, at least not sufficiently. this is where dettmann and klock differ. make no mistake about it, if you listen to one of dettmann's sets (like the ones below), this guy's music clearly has balls. but for my mind, there is something more there. he is not just hammering it out. there is real depth there. anyway, this is all a rather longwinded way of saying that some new marcel dettmann dj sets have appeared and i'm happy. the first is a two hour live recording in vienna and is deep, dark and berghain all the way. the other is a guest mix for a radio show along with len faki. based on the way it sounds, i am pretty sure dettmann is the first hour and faki the second. i am not really a fan of the second hour - while the quality of faki's productions are undeniable, i have not yet been convinced by his dj sets. this judgment is based on a few sets i've downloaded so probably isn't a fair one. anyway, make sure you get both of these and keep a close eye on dettmann. this mann is really worth watching in 2008.

marcel dettmann @ houztekk goes crazy, flex 5.2.08
part 1
part 2

marcel dettmann & len faki @ houztekk radio show 1.2.08

(both of these sets can also be found streaming in the archives of

a few more treats

the annual club transmediale festival in berlin has recently come to an end. one can only hope that the performance by allstar trio moritz von oswald (basic channel), max loderbauer (nsi.) and sasu ripatti (aka vladislav delay/luomo) was recorded. even if their performance didn't quite equal the sum of their parts, as philip sherburne tells us, i'd be very, very keen to hear how it turned out. just the idea of those three guys collaborating gives me goosebumps. anyway, this inspired me to upload two very nice recordings from last year's festival, which were broadcast on but largely overlooked. the first is by one of this illustrious trio - sasu ripatti - but this time in a rare outing under his uusitalo guise. the other comes from another producer that is well loved by us ssgs: lawrence. here he performs as sten. enjoy these two:

uusitalo @ club transmediale 2007
sten @ club transmediale 2007

finally, another treat. a rare recording from jan jelinek that has recently emerged. this is from 2001, which is right around when he was in full gear with his oh so lovely farben productions. anyway, i figured there might be a few peeps out there who'd be keen for this (if they haven't come across it already):

jan jelinek @ nightgroove 12.5.01

some exciting news to finish

we have decided to expand mnmlssgs a bit further to include (in the near future) a ssgcast. this is just starting to get organised, but basically we are looking at presenting a more boutique series of special mixes by special people. the point is not simply to host a mix, but to use it as a way of promoting djs and producers we believe are really talented and deserve as much attention and press as they can get. we hope these ssgcasts can act as a medium for spreading the sounds of people that we feel should be listened to. at this stage, we've got two mixes in the pipeline and hopefully more to come. stayed tuned. we are very excited about this.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

the ethics of pirate blogging

i came across another site today that provides illegal links to music for download. my friend mentioned this to me as supposedly one of the largest pirate sites about. just a quick look suggests that this is probably the case: the catalogue of releases available for a 'cheeky' is pretty serious (both the categories 'minimal' and 'techno' each have over 1,000 posts). admittedly, the problems of illegal downloads for techno have been well rehearsed and there is no need to go over them again. and clearly a site that links one single track to download is different from one that provides a regular stream of full releases - eps, lps, the works. but for me, what separates the site in question from these others is that this one actually has the nerve to advertise. i dont want to get into the ethics of illegal downloading and what that means is terms of stealing from artists, but this site is on a whole other level - actually profiting from providing this music for free. it even actually has an email address to contact about advertising on the site! the site's catch phrase is 'all we know is music', but clearly they also know a thing or two about making a quick buck on the side. i find something really repulsive about all of this - the blatantness of it, the complete disrespect for the artists by happily providing whole back catalogues, and actually seeking to profit from all of this. i am not trying to get too high and mighty - i admit i've had downloaded music from such blogs, but i feel this site in particular, especially as they are actually profiting from it, is on a different level: there is something seriously wrong about all of this...


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Between Chaos and Control: Jeremy P. Caulfield interview

After bugging out at a rave in late nineties Toronto (somewhere between chaos and control), Jeremy P. Caulfield ‘saw the light’, bought decks and began to develop his unique sound, which has remained steadfastly deep, dark and (most of all) tight. Always adept at balancing the intensity of minimal techno’s direct impact with the depth and atmosphere of deeper styles, Caulfield’s DJ sets are renowned for their pace, flow and ‘hidden corners’, some of which even contain possible gold coins, and turtles... Well, I guess you’ll have to show up to one of his DJ gigs to discover what all that means, but in the meantime, here’s the lowdown on one of techno’s tightest…
I saw/heard you follow on from Jennifer Cardini at Rex in 2005, and it was remarkable how much tighter you were than her – tight as a drum. Then, when I listen to some of your older releases on Trapez, again, it’s the ‘tightness’ that really stands out. I wonder if you could describe for me in your own words your approach to DJing and production, and whether you can relate to this box I’m trying to slot you into ;) ?

Well thanks! Yes, tightness is my calling card. It’s both godsend and a bummer of a birthmark. It’s both what I’m into and the frame/constraint which I enjoy working within, and it has been since the beginning. I just think there is a lot you can do with being ‘tight’, and to me is the essence of the techno or minimal that I play. I like my sounds to slap and pulse in a mechanical repetitive way. Even if I’m trying something organic or fluid, I like it to feel man made and contrived. It creates both a comfort and an edge – like talking to someone who doesn’t have eyelids and never blinks…

More simply: what makes a good DJ? And what makes a good techno DJ? And what have you learned through experience playing out? What would you say are the common mistakes of novice DJs?

I come from an old school of DJs and my old favourites were always tight, had good energy and flow and had a dark and mysterious edge to them. I like people that play music with hidden levels and corners to it, like Nintendo Mario World or something – there’s a beat and a groove but there’s also a secret corner that you can get lost in (with coins and turtles?). But when I started it was Derrick Carter, Richie Hawtin, Marco Carola, Laurent Garnier, Zip, DJ Bone (etc) that influenced me, because regardless of the type of music they played they were similar styles of DJs. Things have changed a bit now: Carter plays vocal house and Garnier is French and loves cheese, but they created a room or defined a space with their sound – this to me is a good DJ. A common mistake of novices is playing bigger than the room they’re in. Sound should be contained and only overflow the edges at peak times otherwise you just have a flood… and a mess and then there’s fucking turtles and coins everywhere.

How do you see your craft developing? And how is technology influencing this?

I have much more control now than ever, but control comes at a price, and the more I try to control the more I get controlled by technology or limitations etc...

I also spend much longer than I ever did organising my music as I play on Serato. I have especially worn a hole in my delete button because of the tonnes of disposable music I get sent to me. It no longer takes any work for someone to send you a promo, so the ‘work’ part has been left to me and that’s downloading… and 95% of the time deleting. Technology also fits my attempts at being ‘tight’, but tightness can be an offshoot of obsessive compulsive behaviour, so I now have to say ‘that’s enough’, ‘that’s enough organizing’ ‘that’s enough tweaking’ etc, etc – let’s leave some decisions ‘til the night of the party. So now I’m trying to be both an avid pre-planner and a skilled improviser – no easy task.

Abletonitis? Does it exist? And is it as bad a disease as some people say?

Yeah, but again, it’s part and parcel of the OCD of today. In the end it’s way more work and not that much fun for making mixes. For production it’s great, although I still wish I could sit in with the developers one time and say “Listen, it’s time for you monkeys to fix a few fucking snags, capiche?”

How has the digital revolution affected you in terms of sales and distribution? What are some of the uses and disadvantages of this new economy? Would you say it’s a positive or negative thing, on balance?

Right now it’s all a balance... everything is in tandem... but let’s see...

I love the idea of a ‘dumb unit’ – perhaps it’s the use of ‘dumb’ (I have a parallel fascination with the idea of a ‘dumb waiter’). What have been the best and worst moments for you with the label (in terms of running it, accomplishments and the like)?

Well, I’m glad you see it as that kind of dumb, because that’s what it is. Simply empty, and ready to be used, not dumb as in stupid. I think the best moments are right now. The fact that someone asks me intelligent questions about a label that I‘ve been running for some time makes me feel good... and to run a label and know that people have an interest in it is great and more than I can ask for. The worst, well that’s just constant as well and usually involves people not doing what they said they would, or failing to live up to promises of just end up being total psycho ass dicks who turn on you. Some people suck and they just ruin it for the others like us who just want the label to run smoothly, for artists to get paid and so forth, but this happens in all industries and techno is not so bad compared to fashion or film… I think this cartoon from the Farside sums it up ..

Tell me about your background in music. How did you get interested in groove-based music? What turned you on to techno, etc? What was the turning-point where you thought (cosmically) ‘YES!’ Or was the process/damage incremental?

I remember being at an old rave in Toronto years ago. I was on acid. When I looked into the crowd my mind would yell ‘CHAOS!’ an then when I looked at the DJ my mind would yell ‘CONTROL!’ That was the crossroad. The next week I bought a (one) turntable and started from there… and I never looked back.

What have been the biggest ‘landmarks’ in the ‘landscape’ of your musical development?

I think they’re coming up, which is great. Australia, Japan, Fabric, South America, the label doing well. These are all landmarks for me. My musical development is simply about where I get to go explore and play as a DJ. It’s all about who I get to meet and hang out with and possibly a noticeable rise in bed linen quality while on the road that I use as a gauge. It’s the main reason I do this. I just want to bring what I do different corners of the world and meet like-minded people, and the more this happens consistently, and the more I can cover my ass for the future, the more I feel I’m in my comfortable and desired landscape.

In a 2005 interview, you said the following: “There's been a real resurgence of minimal here (in Berlin), lots of good music and artists. Some of it is kind of redundant, though. I was around the last time minimal got its head stuck up its own ass, and I could see it ending up going that way again. Too many tracks with changes so minute only other producers would notice.” Okay, so cut to ’08 – did the feared cranial lodgement occur? Or… ?

Twofold: it grew two heads and stuck both of them up its ass.

What is something that might be a ‘hidden’ or ‘silent’ influence on you and your work that might be inaudible from listening to what you do?

Lots... Sound and other music is of little influence to me, but visuals and environments make me think about what soundtrack would fit that landscape or time. For me my biggest influences have been Lebus Woods and his experimental architecture, Fluxus, Archigram, Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas, and the early modernists and their theories and delusions on building and the transformation of an environment. I’m also into brutalism and find solace in what others deem ugly. JG Ballard and his non sequitur short stories, Mike Davis, my favourite drive-by journalist, and anything with regards to the edges and fray of society. Of course film plays a big part, especially Terry Gilliam and his visions of the dark fantastic. I grew up in Hong Kong for some years, so this hyper urbanism is a big part of what I do. Getting to Hong Kong put it all together for me. I had been dreaming of neon and rain since I first saw Bladerunner and then boom, I was this white kid in the thick of it. It had a lasting effect.

Who have been some of your biggest influences (producers, DJs, labels, sounds etc)? What are some of your favourite all-time records? What about recently – what’s been ‘floating your boat’ of late – top 5 for 07? Predictions for ’08?

My biggest influence hands down these days is Lee Curtiss. There’s no one else like him and I hope (and I will try to be a part of making it happen) that Lee gets the respect he deserves. He’s the perfect mix of smooth sexy music with a healthy dash of grit and darkness. He has a scant disco underpainting that is extremely complex but only comes to the fore if you choose to find it or listen for it, other wise he’s so smooth and accessible. Additionally Ryan Crosson, Seth Troxler, Seph, Butane, Seuil, and of course Bruno Pronsato are all guys pushing the envelope these days. Favourite records, songs and moments (from the electronic world) : Quo Vadis by G-Man . Pingpong by Speedy J, Studio Eins, Profan, Zip and Sammy D in 2000, Richie Hawtin at Jak’s back, Laurent Garnier at the Planet E party in Detroit 2000, Jake Fairley’s Crisis, Funkenflug der Traum by Ellen Allien, Stone Age by Luciano, Into the Duster, Pantytec at Mutek, Luciano at Weetamix NYE 2006, Mogwai, Scotty deep, Cabanne, Teste, The Wipe, so many.

What has living and working in Berlin taught you about Toronto (and vice versa)?

Berlin taught me that I wasted a lot of time trying to be a big fish in a little pond in Toronto and that localism is a waste of time. For anyone struggling to get respect from your hometown, fuck it – work in the studio, live your life and then pack it up and hit the road, you’ll be better off. I have great friends and crew in Toronto but at the end of the day trying to succeed there was all just so unimportant. Toronto is an odd and unhealthy mix of non-producing DJs all fighting for a little piece of the pie, and the pie is stale. But then I miss the innocence of Toronto. I could work in my studio there without a care because I was alone and just get things done. It was away from everything. Berlin has been good to me; I have fought hard for my position and in the end never met that much attitude. Right now, being in Berlin is very cool and packed with great people, friends and influences.

What does travelling teach you about being home?

That I need a better bed and softer sheets.

What are the things most often neglected by club owners that could facilitate ‘next level’ parties?

The best sound they can afford; monitors volume proportionate to the room; proper acoustic room treatment; isolated DJ booth set ups; full digital set-ups to accommodate quick switching between digital DJs; a real back room that doesn’t smell like vomit or look like somebody overdosed in the corner the week before.

What should the Melbourne fans (un)expect from your upcoming visit?


What’s something that pisses you off about techno, the scene and everything?

Not much jades me anymore. Unless someone gets in my face I let everything be as it is. To me there is never a perfect time for sales, for bookings, for the scene. It’s just about waves and you have to just keep moving forward and not get caught up on the fact that M_nus this or Ricardo that, etc...

What’s something you’ve learned through music that has helped you in life (and vice versa)?

Drugs are good and bad.

What do you know now that you wish someone had told you ten years ago?

Drugs are good and bad.

What’s something that’s guaranteed to make you: angry/crazy/smile?

angry – waiting for people (in general, for emails, at the airport, in life)
crazy – a room full of enthusiastic punters, good food
smile – a new city

What kind of music would you make in a world without electricity?

Bongo congo music.

What’s troubling you… ?

I worry about everything.

Finish this sentence: ‘The world would be a better place if only…’

...old tired men weren’t in charge.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lee Jones polishes my bonnet

A very quick heads-up on Lee Jones’ new ‘Aria’ EP on Aus. This is a truly sublime piece of hyperkinetic tech-house that gives the sensation of low-friction, high-speed movement, similar to John Tejada’s ‘Eurotunnel’ from ‘06 or even a highly polished (like a Porsche 911's bonnet) version of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn. A lot of prog heads (go on, you know you were one)and DJs playing this in bigger rooms will prefer the Tigerstripes remix on the flip (which has tougher drums plus more bells, whistles and ornamental FX thrown into the mix) but it’s the aerodynamic elegance of the original cut that throws my heart (and my speakers) a flutter. This one’s getting about six rinses a day at the moment… get on it.

Friday, February 8, 2008

moves and fitz

ok, i've been in a bit of a deep house mood lately. this has largely come about due to a really excellent new set by miss fitz. i don't really know much about her (which reflects blindspots in my knowledge more than anything else), but i plan to start finding out more. she appears to be in tune with the wave of really excellent deep house, which is gracing our ears of late. anyway, not too much point talking about it, just listen to this set and you'll hear what i mean. thanks to john clees at for making this set available. you can download it here or here. and this is a partial tracklisting the peeps at have put together:

000 Unknown - RAL1002
004 Miss Fitz - Menternal
008 DS - Orangefood (Zimmermann rmx)
012 Russ Gabriel - Three Fifty One
016 Trusme - Don't you know
027 Prosumer & Murat - Turn Around (Cassy remix)
032 Rozzo - I wish I was a cat
Aaron carl - Wallshaker (dub mix)
045 Sascha Dive - Deepest America

also, it looks like there are some other miss fitz sets available in the music section of her website. i plan to go and give some of them a listen...

and while on the deep tip, i'd strongly suggest taking some time soon to download some of the many sets move d has kindly made available to us. according to his myspace, he has been having some troubles with the file sharer he is using, so these sets won't be up for long. get on them while you have the chance. if the links go down, though, send me a message and i can repost some of them. you can find a collection of move d's dj sets here and a few livepas here. given how good his productions are, my suggestion would be to start with one of the pas, the liveset he recorded recently at robert johnson is the one i've listened to and enjoyed the most. saying that, the dj sets are also great so get some of them too...

finally, it seems only appropriate that i include a cassy set in this post. this old set of cassy's from somewhere in aalborg 2005 has recently been unearthed. i must admit i wasn't even aware of who cassy was back then, so i missed this when it first appeared. shame on me. anyway, i certainly didn't make that mistake a second time. again, here is a partial tracklisting from the very knowledgable cats:

luke sardello „subtle measures“ sound proof music
minimal man „make a move“ trelik 14
kenny hawkes „dance for me“ mff
dj sneak „love“ 83 west records
shake „good and...easy“ puzzlebox records
wyatt earp & jonas tempel „chronic acidtosis“ casa del soul records
chez damier kms 049
m-core „be gene“ i-fach
tony rodriguez „estilo africa“ brothers vibe
rick wade „i can’t take it“ elevate
dj slip „psi ok kronixxx“ an1malz
dj mouse „invitation ep“ casa delsoul records
dominik eulberg „rotbauchunken“ robag wruhme rmx
hector moralez and chris carrier„real juice ep“ robsoul recordings
dominik eulberg „rotbauchunken“ tobi neumann rmx
lil mark „rock da house“ paranoid music
soul capsule las ramblas trelik13
chez damier „be my“ native rmx prescription
todd terry „the music“ dubmix
„rhumba macumba“ instrumental brothers vibe production
james duncan „’d’jam“ real soon
tyree „soul revival“ dance mania
tyme „use me“ mk remix trans fusion
luomo „class“ force inc

i'll post some more sets when i find some real boat floaters, but enjoy these deep ones in the meantime...

*EDIT* just came across this new monster of a recording from an [a:rpia:r] party in december 2007. i have only listened to the first 90 minutes and so far it is as good as you'd expect. normally i don't post any links here i have listened to multiple times, but i figure there are some peeps out there who'd be interested in this set regardless of whether it has gotten the ssg stamp of approval. anyway, it totally fits with the vibe of this post.

rpr sound (rhadoo, pedro, raresh) @ club session bucharest 29.12.2007
part 1
part 2
part 3

for those who havent had a chance to listen to the new romanian wonderkids, i suggest giving this a download. i must admit all the hype surrounding them made me rather sceptical to begin with (combined with a disappointing effort by raresh on a recent cocoon mix), but having listened to a few of their sets and some of their of productions, it appears the hype may be justified. at the very least, these guys certainly know what they are doing...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Open and shut case? [a speculative rant on the significance of Yellow's closure]

I have mixed feelings about Yellow’s closure.

Yellow were responsible with providing rich tours for a lot of the North Atlantic innovators of house and techno. This is probably their greatest contribution to the culture. As mentioned in a previous post on ssgs, tours like these have provided Americans and Europeans with the opportunity to continue being lauded and ‘innovative’ while having the opportunity to make pots and pots of money, eat delicious food, and bang hotties. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that, is there? I bet we all wish we were getting (handsomely) paid to do the wild thang.

The soundsystem was excellent, but not as good as Unit’s (although about a million times better than anything in Oz), and the lineup always felt like a who’s who of yesteryear (with exceptions, of course). I’m glad it offered what was effectively a pension program for middle-aged has-been jocks, but… hmm, maybe it’s about time the place closed. And maybe it’s time some of those Detroit innovators sat down and produced a few decent, new records.

On this tip, I often also wondered if the club wasn’t supporting the old school to the detriment of the new? Perhaps Yellow’s ‘lil sister club Module fulfilled this other function, fostering smaller nights and giving a stage for up-and-coming talent – I’m not sure about the status of Module, but hopefully it will survive the closure of it’s big sibling. Who knows, maybe this will mean more talent and resources get thrown into Mod? Why do I doubt it...

Yellow was also the club in Tokyo where the Japanese inferiority complex was most apparent, a place where (with notable exceptions) it’s all about paying homage to foreign innovators, supported by the local imitators. Tours suffixed with the brand ‘Detroit’ would mean entry prices of up to 6,000 [almost 40 euro] for someone like Jeff Mills or the Three Chairs, with usual prices of 4,000 [25 euro] on Saturdays for whatever international, a price that would include a drink and the honour and privilege of sharing the dancefloor with about one hundred too many punters. Okay, so this is what guaranteed the comfy livelihoods of the artists performing, but personally, I got so jack of the crowds and prices on the weekends that I’d only go to midweek nights there (which is when the interesting stuff was on anyway).

Yellow’s proximity to the cesspit of sleaze that is Roppongi also meant that you’d get more GIs and sleazy people (Japanese otherwise) than anyone (other than a sleazebag) would ideally like. I came very close to needing to punch several motherfuckers (with big popeye arms and rude buzzcut heads) putting their paws on girls just trying to dance. Mind you, compared to the sleaze levels at Rex in Paris, Yellow is nnnnothing.

Unfortunately, this is not simply about the closure of ‘a nightclub’ – if only. To me, this is about the shrinkage of ‘free space’, and about the (in)security state cracking down on people expressing themselves and letting off steam in their preferred fashion. It’s obvious that Yellow were still making some money (how profitable exactly I don’t know, but…) so, like Maniac Love, it all comes down to ‘community pressure’ the existence of ridiculously draconian laws (no dancing?! what are you guys, Seventh Day Adventists?!) and the political mandate to ‘send in the bullies’. Giuliani pretty much did for New York’s nightlife in this way – it’d be a shame if the same thing happened in Tokyo.

It also shits me that you can guarantee that there’ll be no real protest about the closure. I know ‘passive aggressive’ is the Japanese way, but it gives me the willies the way nobody ever arcs up and riots in Japan. Anyone who’s ever been to a leftist/pacifist protest in Tokyo will know that you get encircled by riot police who ‘guide you’ through a set, controlled route. Meanwhile, right-wing sound-trucks trundle freely anywhere they like downtown, blurting out their infernal xenophobic rubbish. If such a thing happened in Germany or Australia, it would be international news. There would be a riot, or protests, or debate. In Japan, nothing happens. Recently, on a visit to the great shrine in Ise (Shinto’s holiest shrine) I watched as one such sound-truck, travelling in the transit lane reserved for coaches, was waved through by a police officer while citizens in the left lane were left to rot in gridlocked traffic.

What’s the connection to Yellow? To me, the closure is part of a larger strategy of crackdowns, supported by increasingly xenophobic/nationalist governments obsessed by ‘security’ (the functional, preventative, security organisation) backed by neighbourhood yuppies concerned by the effect the club has on the value of their real estate. And this is hardly a specifically Japanese problem. But importantly, we should be supporting clubs with an open door policy where late nights of licentiousness continue, unintimidated by all these fuckers. And without going into much detail, I know from frightening personal experience that the toilets at Yellow are under surveillance. The contrast with the Panoramabar couldn’t be greater – all the more reason to support it and other venues like it, including free parties, outdoor parties, informal parties, illegal warehouse raves and the like. Cherish the derelict spaces.

The alternative is increasing segregation, a world of invite-only clubs (full of jetset fuckers like Vincent Gallo, Sophia Coppola and their ilk), VIP rooms (and fucking laminates and lanyards – fuck off) and privatised party islands (serviced by local ex-fishing communities turned coolies). I don’t want to live in a world like this, full of velvet ropes, CCTV cameras and private security (on the one side), and squalor on the other. I don’t want to live in a world transformed into Lagos, into Johannesburg, into Miami, nor do I want to party in a club which is a microcosmic expression of this set of social relations. Whilst the closure of Yellow hardly makes this a reality (and I’m sure Tokyoites will be quietly creative and exploit the cracks in the wall), it’s but another link in the tightening, lengthening chain. Who’s being protected from what? And why?

The life of a club ends with its ‘closure’ – we need to think seriously about ‘openness’. It’s important that we work through the walls being placed between us and our spaces of expression... I say this in the same breath as I think, well, maybe it's always been thus with nigtclubs, and maybe the closure of this is no different and no more significant. Hmm.


Chris: Pete makes some good points, but in the process misses the point

I don’t necessarily disagree with most of the conclusions Pete reaches, but I don’t think Yellow’s closure is a good example of the issues he highlights. First, while Yellow was home to the techno and house heroes of yesteryear, it wasn’t quite the pension fund that Pete suggests. Many of the older guys are still very relevant – Carl Craig and Larry Heard to name two – and even those that perhaps aren’t producing much – Laurent Garnier, Francois K and Derrick May for example – these guys certainly have their place in the scene, even if it is just as excellent conduits for initiating the new and reminding the old. Second, especially since the Liquid Room departed, Yellow has been a hub for new sounds, as well as old – the exceptions are much greater than Pete allows for. To take an anecdotal example, the last four nights I went to at Yellow were (I think, and in reverse order) a Chaos party with Bruno Pronsato and Fumiya Tanaka, a rather odd dub night with Deadbeat and others, and two Real Grooves parties, one with Akufen and Adam Marshall, the other with John Tejada. The point is that Yellow has been catering for the old as much as the new. So basically, I don’t think there is much positive that can come out of Yellow closing. It is not addition by subtraction, it is just subtraction (especially if this results in more gigs being moved to hell on earth Womb).

My main disagreement, though, is that I don’t think Yellow’s disappearance is an example of the larger problem he sees with closure and securitization. The points he makes are all relevant to Japan, and elsewhere, but not to Yellow. Since our posts, it has come to light that the reason for Yellow’s demise is that the property has been sold and it is going to be redeveloped (while my other mnml ssg members have pointed out that the official reason may not be the ‘true’ reason, I see no reason not to believe it, especially when it fits). So it is not so much a matter of free spaces, but just spaces. And this is a problem I touched on in my previous post – it transcends Tokyo and is an issue for techno worldwide. As much as techno is being detached from the club environment (the prime example being the way we can happily listen to recorded livesets at home or on our ipods in situations completely different from their original consumption), the music is ultimately dependant on these dark, dirty places where we get together to share and dance to it. If anything, given how big the digital hit is to record sales, chances are, it is increasingly gigs that will keep producers producing. But worldwide we see clubs closing, with the biggest cause being gentrification – cities being taken over by middle aged and older people that have no time for what cities should ultimately be about. To take the example I know best, Melbourne’s scene – which was flourishing in the late 90s and start of the new millennium, really bottomed out for much of this decade, until the last year or so. And one of the main reasons, I’d suggest, is that quite a lot of the main venues (especially the Docklands which were lost to property redevelopment) disappeared.

Quite simply, we need the space to enjoy this music. I really think the pressures placed on clubs by property redevelopment and the changing nature of major cities is going to be one of the quietest, but greatest, problems techno is going to deal with. I am sure that one of the reasons Berlin is so central for techno is that in some ways it is an anti-city: it has so much open and free space in its very heart – rare indeed. Anyway, we will see how this all develops…

Enough of the heavy stuff (for now). Next post will be some more boat floaters and mixes we are enjoying, we promise!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Tokyo Clubbing: Club Yellow, Sayonara

Some more sad news for electronic music lovers here in Tokyo. I’ve received an email from the promoter of one of Tokyo’s monthly techno events confirming that as of June 2008 the venerable Club Yellow will be closing its doors. Forever.

Yellow (actually called Space Lab Yellow, but everyone just knows it as Yellow) first opened its doors at the end of 1991. Located in Nishi-Azabu (not Roppongi, as is often and erroneously said) the club became known world wide as Tokyo’s bastion of house music, seeing regular visits by such artists as Francois K, Laurent Garnier, Theo Parrish, and Moodymann.

Yellow was more than a house club, however, regularly hosting techno events. Jeff Mills, Michael Mayer, Scion, Akufen, John Tejada, Derrick May, Derrick Carter, Steve Bug, Whignomy Brothers, Bruno Pronsato, DJ Zip, Lawrence, Cobblestone Jazz, Pier Bucci, Ellen Allien, and many others have graced the decks and laptops at Yellow. It is no exaggeration to say that the club was an integral part of Tokyo’s electronic music scene.

I have yet to learn the reason for the upcoming closure, but the promoter told me that it “has something to do with the government.” This comes as little surprise, as Yellow has long been targeted by the police, who randomly drop by to enforce Tokyo’s “no dancing” law. 2007 saw the police stepping up their attacks on Yellow, with several parties effectively shut down as the club was forced to close off access to the dancefloor.

(A very brief digression about Tokyo’s “no dancing” law is necessary here. That isn’t the law’s proper name, but I’m not an expert on Japanese law, and that’s what everyone refers to it as. Essentially, if an establishment has a dancefloor, dancing is not allowed between the hours of midnight and 5am, although I believe the hours were recently changed to 1am to 5am. An odd sounding law indeed, and from what I’ve heard it’s actually an anachronistic one. I’ve been told that the law was passed sometime during the post World War II American occupation as a way of keeping American soldiers away from dancehalls and the “women of the night” who frequented them. The topic deserves a proper post of its own – in fact it really deserves a thoroughly researched article – but for the time being this should suffice to bring readers up to speed.)

Tokyo’s electronic music scene has been diminishing over the past few years, with the loss of such legendary venues as Maniac Love and the Liquid Room (the new Liquid Room in Ebisu is essentially a venue for live bands) limiting the options for clubbers who are serious about electronic music. Yellow’s upcoming closure will draw the circle in even tighter, and may well be a crippling blow to the scene.

Yellow currently plays host to at least three major regular techno events: the monthly Real Grooves parties, Fumiya Tanaka’s Chaos parties, and Mule Musiq’s Kompakt nights. As of May, the Real Grooves events will relocate to Unit (the best remaining club space in Tokyo); where the other events will relocate to is currently unknown.

There’ll be more news as it comes - stay tuned to this channel.

Personally speaking, I’m shocked and saddened by the news of Yellow’s closure. It was a special place for me, being the very first dance club I was taken to when I discovered electronic music. (I remember Safety Scissors and Jake Mandell were playing that night.) It has been a key player in the scene here, and its loss will be enormous. With the police enthusiastically targeting clubs left and right (even Womb has been having problems lately) and major (techno) record stores such as Cisco closing down, I’m seriously worried about the future of clubbing and electronic music in Tokyo.

Chris laments: Something is Rotten in the State of Techno in Tokyo

When I heard the news that now Yellow would be shutting its doors, my initial response (once after I got over the initial shellshock) was to consider buying a plane ticket to Tokyo. Yes, the impending death of Yellow is that significant. There was understandable scepticism over whether we were making too big a deal over the Cisco Records closing its record stores and moving to a completely virtual presence. Fair enough, as many people commented people will keep getting their music in other ways, and the community of records stores is probably overplayed anyway. But now we hear that the best club in Tokyo - Yellow - is shutting down in a few months time.

To put this in perspective, when I visited in Japan in 2001, the 3 major and most central clubs in the Tokyo scene were the Liquid Room, Maniac Love, and Spaceclub Yellow. First, the Liquid Room left us, only to be replaced by the ultimate cocktease - a new Liquid Room, which looks and sounds amazing, but almost never has techno. Then came the slow decline and eventual death of Maniac Love. Yellow, along with Unit (run by the Liquid Room peeps), have since taken up the slack, with the vast majority of people worth seeing playing at either of these places. Yellow has been absolutely central to the techno and house scene especially since the Liquid Room's passing, with great djs and lives gracing its decks every week.

And soon, no more. Not only is Tokyo losing a crucial cog in the techno wheel, it is also losing an amazing club. Reflecting on the places I've been, the Liquid Room and Berghain/Panorama are the only clubs I've prefered to Yellow. This was a small intimate space with great sound and crowds that cared (unlike the dancefloor hell that is the awful Womb). I know I am not alone in these sentiments; I remember Laurent Garnier describing it as his second home (after The Rex) and Francois K saying something pretty similar. Hell, this is even where Richie chooses to spend part of his remarkably loud and silly '10 weeks of silence' (based on an eye witness spotting by one of the ssg crew).

So beyond us losing another great club (hardly a first), what exactly does the death of Yellow mean? Well I guess it depends on whether the Yellow crew setup shop somewhere less troublesome (they had been shut down repeatedly for breaking the incredibly stupid anti-dancing laws). Presuming they don't, Tokyo is suddenly left with a huge gaping hole - I'm sure Unit and Colors will pick up some of the slack, but what I fear is that the previous comments made by Pete, which appeared a bit too hysterical at the time, could be a bit more likely. His main point was not simply that these closures are bad for the Tokyo scene, but also that it has serious ramifications for many artists who use the huge payments from Tokyo stopovers to help support themselves during leaner times in Europe and elsewhere. To take a specific example, I remember talking to Jeff Milligan and he said this is exaclty what he does - a Japan leg lets him survive for months in Berlin and, also, importantly, makes him more willing to tour new places (like China and Australia in this case) for a much lower fee. So the point is, Yellow's death could have greater consequences, depending on how things play out.

Also, I think it is representative of a more general challenge that techno culture will face in the coming years. The increasing gentrification of many cities is bringing about more and more closures of clubs, or refusals to give licences for parties at warehouses and other spaces, plus less locations for underground/illegal parties. The environmental conditions that existed, and were so important, during the early decades of techno's emergence and consolidation are now under threat. Hell, even the authorities in Ibiza are cracking down on clubs. So to put it simply, how long can techno survive and thrive without the spaces and places to listen, dance and enjoy? Do we all have to move to Berlin? How long before things start changing there too? To my knowledge, I think Bar25 has now closed its doors for good because the area is being redeveloped, so perhaps things are already changing in Berlin too. So where are we going to go? Instead of asking "where's the after party?" we may have to start wondering, "where's the party?" Hmm. Not the best start to 2008...