Saturday, March 29, 2008

mann of the moment.

following on very closely from the last post about the current zeitgiest, here is a brand new set from another person us ssgs have been talking a lot about: marcel dettmann. since the last time i wrote, my opinion of him has only increased further. as far as his productions go, i've been very impressed with what he has done so far, and am confident the best is yet to come. at the moment we are seeing the fully fledged arrival of a really distinctive sound signature roughly centred around berghain. dettmann and klock are perhaps the most instantly recognisable names, but to this should be added T++, shed, norman nodge and marcel fengler, amongst others. if some people are reacting to minimal by going deep into house, this is the other direction: a (re)turn to techno.

beyond dettmann's productions, it is really his djing that has grabbed me. in his sets you can hear that this is someone who is at the very top of his game. his sound is tough and driving, without ever getting cold or alienating. my sense is that dettmann's star is on the rise, and this guy is really going to explode over the next 12 months, especially after the release of his new berghain mix cd on ostgut, which is due mid year. if you want further evidence, have a look at his latest chart below and listen to this new marcel detmman mix, care of

marcel dettmann april 2008 chart
1. Shed - Warped Mind [Ostgut Ton]
2. Tadeo - Reflection Nebula 056N (Substance remix) [Apnea]
3. Planetary Assault Systems - Kat [Mote-Evolver]
4. Redshape - Plonk [Present]
5. Peverelist - Junktion [Tectonic Recordings]
6. Tama Sumo & Prosumer - Brothers, Sisters [Ostgut Ton]
7. Radio Slave - Tantakatan [Rekids]
8. Norman Nodge - Native Rhythm [Ostgut Ton]
9. Ben Klock - 003 [Klockworks]
10. Pinch - 136 Trek [Punch Drunk]

for those who want even more of the berghain sounds, the latest berlin mitte institut show featured guests marcel dettmann and marcel fengler. you can download the whole recording (all 338mbs) and watch videos of it here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

mountain contact

ok, it has taken a while, but we've finally got the blog a bit more organised. in the top right hand corner of the blog we've now got our email listed, along with a link to our fancy new myspace/ssgspace. there is also - finally - a feedburner for subscribing to the RSS ssg feed. nice. but all you smart ssg readers had probably done that already, hadn't you? hopefully this will get us all contacted/connected/etc. and it is definitely worth keeping an eye on the ssgs as we are currently working on some things we are really excited about...

anyway, i can't just have a post about that - way too boring. so perhaps some suisse musical treats to sweeten this post. like pete, i've been listening to rozzo, the mountain people and all the lovely deep house sounds floating down from the suisse mountains. it seems almost every set i listen to these days includes a mountain people cut or the latest sascha dive ep (do you think people like the B side so much because it samples ultra-sonic?). and this is most certainly not a bad thing - i am thoroughly enjoying all this deepness. but it has got me wondering what has been going on up in those mountains. have the sounds always been so good? or has suisse really emerged as an important pole/point in the techno-sphere quite recently? i remember when chatting to bruno pronsato last year he said that for him outside of berlin, zurich was where it's at. and based on my nights out in geneva and lausanne the other year, i was also impressed with the suisse scene. it struck me as very well developed and mature. one only needs to look at the mental groove label, based in geneva, and it is obvious there are some cats (or mountain dogs?) that really know. so chances are, it is perhaps more a case of the zeitgeist moving up into the alps, rather than the suisse adjusting to current trends. case in point is one mountain person, rozzo - looking at his entry on discogs, i felt embarrassed that i only discovered him in the last year. his hiking partner, serafin, i found out a while ago care of betalounge, but it was really only when 'berlin has no cows' came out that i started paying closer attention. so i think it could have been a case of me - and many others - just not knowing about the amazing music and dj existing in suisse, and elsewhere for that matter.
it makes me wonder what else i am missing... so who are the hidden treasures out there guys? thoughts?

this has turned into a very longwinded introduction to two sets i discovered this week which i've really been enjoying. despite these being almost a year old, as far as i know they haven't been posted on the regular liveset boards, most likely for the same reason i hadn't downloaded them before - i/we didn't know better. but now we do. enjoy:

dj p45 radio may-07-show: guest mix by eli verveine (playlist)
dj p45 radio april-07-show: guest mix by rozzo (playlist)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We Were Never Mnml (Inpress column, March 2008)

When I look at this photo, I'm straight away reminded of the bit in Tejada's 'Sweat on the Walls' where the vocalist Q'Zen (spelling?) quips: 'Ungrateful bitches.' Okay, there's the tenuous link, here's the column...

Last month, I said that “2008 will be a year of very well made but rather unadventurous records, with people turning out fine examples of proven formulas,” to which another commentator responded, “erm, won't 2008 actually be a year when records that aren't even out yet can't be pre-emptively summed up by pithy non-plussed one liners?” Point taken, but I’m sticking to my pithy-plussed guns: at least as far as tracks are concerned, 2008 is partly about new applications to old institutions and the many happy returns of old genres dressed in fresh frou-frou. One among these is the boomptilicious deep house of the Swiss scene. I hear the parties are good in Zurich… buckets of snow…schuss… Anyway, the other day I was listening to Serafin and Luciano’s ‘Funk Excursion’ again. What an amazing record – what can you say? But excellence aside, I think that ‘Funk Excursion’ also has renewed relevance, because in many ways it’s the track that perfectly foreshadowed so much of what this Swiss sound has become. For me, the best intro into this is through the Mountain People (Serafin & Rozzo), but actually it’s Rozzo, more than Serafin, who’s been doing it for me of late. His track ‘I wish I was a cat’ has been steaming up the charts (as I’m sure many of you know), but if you really want to catch the guy at his best, check out some of his DJ sets. We at MNML SSGs have got some for you to download, but by far the best is his afterhours at ‘Slutfunk’ set. I can’t speak for the sluts, but I will vouch for the funk.

A question I’ve also been asking myself a lot recently is ‘what ever happened to Marc Leclair (Akufen)?’ Well, he’s working on a new album, apparently, but in the interim, check out Guillaume and the Coutu Dumonts, who appear on the Musique Risquée label that Leclair runs with fellow Canadians Scott Montieth (Deadbeat) and Steven Beaupre. Probably quite a few of you have heard Guillaume’s remix of Shackleton’s ‘Next to Nothing’, which has been getting a lot of play recently, but for me his album Face A L’est is the bucket I’ve been dunking my head right into. Very cool, spacious and groovy, with lots of well-chosen, slightly ‘ethnic’ samples… which also strengthens the link to Shackleton, in an indirect way. Guillaume has also released an EP on Oslo, which is the other label that gets name-dropped in the same breath as Mara Trax and Mountain People. The style is essentially a minimalist’s reduction of house, retaining its swinging basslines and exploring a penchant for Africanised killer percussion loops. For a lot of people, I get the impression that it’s the funky ‘+’ that cancels out 2007’s boring ‘–’.

*edit* chris here, apologies for interrupting pete's flow. for those who want to hear what these guys sound like, here are two new live sets:
- Musique Risquee night featuring Guillaum & the Coutu Dumonts live, Vincent Lemieux dj, resident dj Ana @ Harry Klein 23.3.08
- Guillaum & the Coutu Dumonts live @ Lessizmore 8.3.08

Hercules and Love Affair’s album has been getting rave reviews recently (and justly so). The other week when Optimo’s JG Wilkes dropped the club version of ‘Blind’ at their Third Class gig, I got moosebumps (and nearly grew antlers). Seriously, is this the track of the year? It is so far. Get your ears around it, if you haven’t already. But as good as ‘Blind’ (and H & LA’s album) is, there are also a few other recent long-playing releases that are equally worth of attention, ones I feel might have slipped under the radar. The first of these is Luke Solomon’s The Difference Engine, which forms an interesting (if unlikely) free-revving counterpart to Cristian Vogel’s excellent The Never Engine from late last year (which slipped into the black hole where most Chrissy-New Year releases end up these days). The likeness is not just in the name: both albums are turbocharged loop collages, ones that are really zooming off in their own direction. But where Vogel’s album was an excursion deep into the belly of the bleep (with heaps of great loops for all you dyed-in-the-plip-plop mnml headz out there), Solomon’s is all about using weird vocal samples, Jeff Buckley (yes, really), cellos, and maybe even the cat, the fiddle, the dish, the spoon and the kitchen sink to achieve something which is different, inventive and also totally listenable from start to finish. It’s just so darned engaging, it pulls you through its weirdo assemblage of sounds and keeps surprising and entertaining as it does.

Another album worth checking out is Kelley Polar’s newie, I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling. Where his last used Morgan Geist’s patterns and formulas as the structural stage for Polar’s songs and viola, the newie is much more Polar’s own build, and it’s more hymnal, more ethereal – just layer upon layer of incredibly colourful harmonies. The whole thing’s one expansive, floating work of kooky lyrics and hooky melodies, which makes it so incredibly catchy that it definitely has crossover potential – should the radio stations deign to get behind it. But, knowing the despot (Richard Kingsmill) and his distain for electronic music that doesn’t suck, it ain’t likely to happen outside of RRR and PBS. Polar has come a long way from being the string player on Metro Area records – this album is a showcase for an artist who has created a unique, fully-realised soundworld all his own.

Another creator who’s no stranger to praise from this column is Omar-S, but man, his recent work has been really exceptional. If you haven’t heard ‘Psychotic Photosynthesis’ yet, please remedy this. This guy is just ridiculous, seriously, and his protégé Luke Hess is only slightly less impressive (and getting better with every release). One of the reasons why Omar’s music is so outstanding is the freaky, freaky frequencies he uses, something either neglected in or absent from the tracks of the majority of ‘producers’ who work firmly and squarely within the ‘pure production’ aesthetic/stance. I’m beginning to feel that it’s the dominance of this idea of ‘pure production’ that has become more responsible than anything else for the incessant stream of incredibly polished, deadly boring records that we all suffer from. I worry that I’vre become dismissive of new labels or even anything that ‘looks boring’, but really, there’s so much to be dismissive of, so much to be bored by. Who’s got the time? So much of the problem these days that trying to keep up with music, even one sliver of the spectrum, is like trying to sip from a fire hose. Well, for those of you who’ve endangered their jawbone trying, don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Friday, March 21, 2008

all that glimmers...

in an earlier post about people to keep an eye on in 2008, one name i put forward was cio d'or. while i haven't heard that many of her productions, the few dj sets i've managed to find have all been bang on. my feeling that there is something special about this woman has been further confirmed by a new mix which has appeared on the excellent modyfier blog. for those who haven't come across modyfier yet, each episode consists of a mix and an explanation by the dj on the thinking and intent behind the mix (kind of similar to what pete did in his last post). this is a really unique and worthwhile way of presenting the music. so big respect to modyfier. and double respect for getting cio d'or to contribute the latest mix. definitely make sure to head over to modyfier and read cio d'or's explanation for how she constructs mixes and what she tries to do with them. while you are there, have a look through the impressive archive of previous episodes.

this modyfier mix from cio d'or has really grabbed me, largely as it has the same basic elements which have attracted me to her previous mixes. the structuring and programming is spot on, and through the records and her mixing she creates a certain sense of space which really appeals to my aesthetic. anyway, i could keep trying to explain her sound, but it would be much easier and more enjoyable (for all of us), if you just download the mix and give it a good listen.

cio d'or - process part 069 (polarlicht 22)

01. planetary assault system - the dream [peacefrog]
02. planetary assault system - the electric funk machine [peacefrog]
03. m.parker/d.dozzy - excavations [donato dozzy records]
04. riley reinhold - lights in my eyes [mbf]
05. function isolation - isotope [sandwell district]
06. d.dozzy/m.parker - excavations [donato dozzy records]
07. imek - elirios [apnea]
08. max cavalerra - der weg zur sonne [karmarouge]
09. mike parker - light&dark part 4 [ld004]
10. minilogue - space ep [traum]
11. dj galax - ruido & colorismo [cara]
12. jens zimmermann - blub [international freakshow]
13. cio d´or - psst! [motoguzzi]
14. marc romboy vs. stephan bodzin - puck [herzblut]
15. planetary assault system - the dream [peacefrog]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nativespeaker: 36˚C (possible thunderstorm)

I made this mix in January 2006, on an incredibly hot summer’s evening (like the recent one photographed above). At the time, I had just returned from travelling and was extremely disillusioned with the music scene in Melbourne. I just found it all so utterly alienating - I just didn't want to play the Tiefschwarz remix of whatever or some Hollertronix mashup, and at that time, that seemed like 'the deal'. So this mix came together through frustration – I just wanted to hear what I wanted to hear, and to hell with it if no-one likes it. I say this in the context of DJ acquaintances of mine telling me what I’d have to play in order to get gigs around town, and that there was no real way for me to find an audience for this style. Perhaps this is when I realised that if I am a DJ, then it is not in the mold of the ‘mobile DJ’ who’s there to bring the party and play whatever the crowd wants to hear. I guess I’m too much of a snob. As a consequence, this set is the DJ equivalent of ‘selfish in bed’, but that also means that it’s the focussed expression of its own desires, my own dreams. It is what it wants to be, and as such it’s very close to my heart.

I haven’t been DJing much since then (not in front of people at any rate), so posting this mix is also a way of announcing that 36˚C will be the first in a series of mixes that I’ll post over the next few months, whenever a good one comes together. I’d like all of them to have something durable about them, so I won’t be posting them that often and I definitely won’t be doing anything particularly zeitgeisty. Blogging allows me to share with you people records and sequences that would almost never ‘work’ in any context where they’d have to sing for their supper, but this can be a good thing, ‘cos to me this also points to something in groove-based music beyond the vulgar, functionalist calculus of ‘what works’, just as it's about questioning what a mix is 'for'. This is something that seems resurgent, and we SSGS have definitely been trying to present something of this with other mixers like Eli’s Carebear mix and so forth. Anyway, ‘nuff said. Have a listen, and please let me know what you think.

Nativespeaker: 36˚C (possible thunderstorm)

01. AM/PM – No Matter Whether [Dreck]
02. AM/PM – The Ends [11] [Dreck]
03. Lawrence – Teaser [Kompakt]
04. Carsten Jost – Krokus [Superpitcher mix] [Dial]
05. James DinA4 - ??? [Esel 03]
06. Luomo – The Right Wing [Force Tracks]
07. Oxtongue – Delight [Voigt & Voigt mix] [Kompakt Pop]
08. Mark Henning – With the Folks [Freude am Tanzen]
09. Guido Schneider – Long Distance Runner [Pokerflat]
10. Dublee – Eleven [Mule Musiq]
11. Noon(at – 780km nach osten [Salo]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Somewhere Far Away: Bvdub

In the last post for February here at mnml ssgs, Pete noted that one of the signature movements of this year, based on the closing months of 2007 and what we’ve seen so far of 2008, is a resurgence of interest in dub-tech. Witness the flurry of interest in DeepChord and Rod Modell, even though they’ve been around for years, thanks to their brilliant “The Coldest Season” album on Modern Love. Modern Love themselves have attracted attention with releases from Andy Stott, Pendle Coven, and MLZ. Andy Stott & Claro Intelecto hit it out of the park with their Resident Advisor podcast in January, and just a few weeks ago dub-tech veteran Pole did the same. We are indeed in the middle of a dub-tech renaissance.

While I’ve been enjoying the above-mentioned artists’ work immensely, the producer who has most captured my interest is a relative newcomer called Brock Van Wey, better known as Bvdub. Van Wey is a San Francisco based producer who has only been releasing material since the later half of 2007, but in that short time has already released four EPs and one LP on Styrax Records, his own Quietus Recordings, and MP3 label Night Drive Music and its sublabels. And thus far every release has been an absolute killer.

Van Wey’s tracks are long, gaseous pieces that gently drift along, underscored by an insistent (but never intrusive) beat. Serene, contemplative, and hypnotic, like watching grey clouds gliding overhead, the tracks owe just as much to the ambient scene as they do to dub-tech – something Van Wey has pointed out himself (perhaps keen not to be pigeon-holed as a bandwagon jumping dub-tech producer). The titles are also wonderfully evocative, and emphasize the meditative nature of the music: Somewhere Far Away, It Could Have Been So Beautiful, I Never Cried A Tear, Remembering To Forget, Dreaming Of Your Downfall, A Quiet Vengeance.

The prolific producer has recently started his own label, Quietus Recordings. Quietus is a CD-R label, with each release limited to just 100 hand-made, hand-numbered copies, each containing a unique photograph taken by Van Wey. Van Wey has said he will never consider increasing production, nor will the tracks be made available as MP3s. This is something I find fascinating, especially in light of some recent discussions about the merits of MP3 releases. Although he has released on MP3 labels, Van Wey is very clearly making a statement with his own label. Reading the Quietus website reveals that he wishes to establish a deeply personal connection between artist, listener, and label, with every step of production emphasizing the personal (and personalized) nature of each release.

Van Wey shows no signs of slowing down, with his website noting six upcoming releases (and the Quietus website mentions another, bringing the total up to seven). If he can maintain the excellent quality along with his output, Bvdub will most definitely be a key producer of 2008.

You can hear some samples of Bvdub at his myspace page or his own website, which also hosts eight mixes. (I’ve listened to the most recent two, “A Willing End” and “When”, and both are absolutely gorgeous ambient mixes without a trace of dub to them.) There is also an excellent interview with him here, and another here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mangoes and lemons, apples and oranges, chalk and cheese: the marks of the beat

Ten years ago, it would have been inconceivable that indie kids would have ‘taken dance music seriously’, but what with the likes of Kompakt and the DFA (with Pitchfork betwixt and between them tine after tine) all that’s changed. It’s been a long time since James Murphy (or his character in ‘Losing My Edge’) ‘first played Daft Punk to the rock kids’, but one of the things that’s remained fascinating for me after (and despite) all the cross-pollination and debordering is that you effectively have two communities listening to each other’s work’s with vastly different ears and expectations… or do you?

Witness the indie reaction to Hercules and Love Affair. A DFA dud, apparently… I confess I speak as someone who genuinely and deeply wondered why people liked Sound of Silver so much. And guess how much I’m digging H & LA? But I digress (in order to engage in a wild and unsupportable generalisation): the people who loved Sound of Silver probably also thought Gui Boratto’s Chromophobia and the Field’s From Here We Go Insipid were the dance albums of 2007…

And so here we are, in a place and time where people with vastly different soundmaps have converged upon a common field (however insipid or sublime)… and from here we go mutually misunderstood…?

One of the ways this shows is when slacker boys bang against amphetamine subcultures. A lot of indie kids who talk/think about dance music have never taken ecstasy in a club or danced all night to techno – and they don’t care to. Take, for example, the friend of a friend of mine. He had eagerly pre-purchased his Superpitcher ticket… but when he got to the gig, he was the only one there. Why? Could it be that Kompakt was reviled in Melbourne… ?!

‘What time is Superpitcher playing?’ he asked the bartender, checking his watch and thinking, sheesh, it’s ten o’clock already.

‘About five AM,’ replied a pierced fellow polishing a glass.

‘Fuck that,’ he said, and went home.

A lot of indie kids dislike house and are deeply suspicious of the gay/disco/gospel culture that is one of its foundational tropes (so are a lot of techno 'men' too though). This is ‘bad’, ‘cheesy’ music that is made using ‘soulless’ machines, instead of ‘real musicians’ (and Steve Albini). And besides, who wants to take E and listen to ‘doof doof doof’ when you can get drunk and dance around with (admittedly better looking) indie girls on the sauce while the DJ plays the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’. You can mouth ‘they don’t love you like I love you’ at her while you crack fat over the thought of Karen O’s sweat, torso and lipstick.

But (on the other hand) indie kids became curious, or, at the very least, it simply won’t do to dismiss dance music anymore… you might lose your preciously accumulated cred if you sneer at the wrong cat, if you don’t form some kind of opinion on Ricardo. Basically, the contemporary indie consensus seems to be that one ‘should’ listen to some electronic music ‘in some way’ (but only ‘the good stuff’). This has meant that ‘the good stuff’ has been reviewed, usually by half-decent writers with half-baked literary pretensions, who can hide their ignorance and perplexity behind a whole bunch of very prettily phrased phoney baloney.

But what’s ‘the good stuff’? Look out! Here Comes Love… was one of the albums that perfectly captured the condensation point. Indie kids (who’ve never been to a rave) raved about it; dance kids (with some exceptions) just thought the ‘pitcher was raving mad… man, did you hear his cover of ‘Fever’? But, however much Aksel and Kompakt committed ‘credibility suicide’ in danceland with Here Comes Love, both artist and label got a helluva lot of indie kudos from it, and roughly since then Kompakt invariably gets ‘taken seriously’ in reviews from indie rags and websites in a way that Perlon, say, would never do in a million years (Ricardo excepted).

Clearly, it’s not just that ‘Here Comes Love was crap’, even though, I freely concede that I think so, due to my expectations as well as the aesthetic prejudices that I hold (and cherish). What it was, really, was a whole new soundmap (with its own expectations, its own aesthetic prejudices) being brought to bear on ‘dance music’. And this is significant because it is this ‘indiemap’ that has become one of the decisive filters of new electronic dance music, shaping the understanding and response of new releases.

Recently, I read a review that typifies this way of listening to (and talking about) dance music. I want to dismiss it, but I can't, although it smacks of egregious misunderstandings (to me, to me) and is riddled with lazy, ignorant comparisons and non-sensical rhetorical flourishes. But why not dismiss it, if I diss it? Well, simply, it’s because I immediately recognise the indiemap, with its implied audience and the buttons it’s trying to push with them. I should add that this isn’t a Pitchfork review, and that although ‘the fork’ have been responsible for some of the most outrageously stupid and misguided dance music reviews, that they also ‘employ’ (I use the word with the looseness of empty pockets in baggy trousers) writers like Tim Finney, Phillip Sherburne and Mark Richardson, all of whom know their shit and write very eloquently about electronic music. Check out Sherburne’s review of H & LA, or Mark Richardson’s review of Quaristice, which was much more thorough and informative than the one I wrote for RA.

These are all great reviews, and nothing like the one I’m griping about – XLR8R’s for Sascha Funke’s Mango. Now, to these ears, Mango is an all-hat-and-no-pants harmonic/atmospheric tech-house workout as thin and underwhelming as Funke’s moustache. But I never ‘got’ Funke, never liked much of what other people said was his best work.. I never even felt the need to keep Bravo on my back-up drive after I’d wiped it off my mp3 player and sold the CD copy, let’s just put it that way. Anyway, you can read the whole XLR8R review here, as well as RA’s review here, but it’s not the artistic merit of Mango (or lack thereof) that I’m interested in. Anyway, to the chase!

Here’s the opener: “Somewhere between dancefloor utility, lazy-time pop music, and an audiophile’s workout lies the perfect techno album.”

Leaving aside the dubious truth-value of the claims the writer makes, what’s striking is the embedded assumption of ‘what techno is for’, which is, as the concluding sentence reinforces, “listening, dancing, and sleepwalking.” It is these three frames (and Funke’s success within them) that, for the reviewer, “reaffirm(s) Funke as a current master of the minimal techno form” as well as confirming “that the genre still has much more going for it than just its benchmark thup.” Well, I’ve never even heard a ‘thup’, but, unlike most dance music (Perlon) – which just goes thup – Mango is good because you can listen to it, dance to it and fall asleep listening to it (but not in a boring way). This listening, dancing, sleepwalking idea (the 'good things' forever threatened by some kind of unfortunate backsliding back into the land of thup) get expanded on in the next paragraph:

“At times, Mango just feels like an incredibly somnolent rock record, something Morr Music might deliver in a particularly ballsy release cycle; in other spots, it’s full of blinds-shut, bell-toned – oh, how he loves that sound – brooding ambience. Of course, there are plenty of Funke micro beats, perfectly placed, always developing in some way, like compass points leading from a wet winter street into the club that never sleeps yet never really pulls out of its dream state.”

Indie kid A: So, how’d you like the new Villalobos track?
Indie kid B: Yeah, well, I rate it for dancing and listening to, but as far as lazy-time pop music goes, this one sucks, man…
Indie kid A: Yeah… and it keeps on going ‘thup’ - but I *did* like the microbeats.
Indie kid B: Mmm, totally…

Just behind the blossoming bush of adjectives ornamenting the three categories of merit that can be awarded to techno (‘listening’, ‘dancing’ and ‘sleepwalking’) are a pair of tiny little screaming symbols that look like this: ‘?!’. They’re the symbols of a person totally out of place and depth, lost, scared, and worried moreover that they might reveal the at any moment the truth and depth, nay, the 'thup' of their perplexity… but they’re also howling symbols of non-recognition that can easily shift shape into cooing, soothing sighs of contentment, once the categories it blesses and recognises are re-introduced. Witness the ‘relief’: Nathan Fake makes ‘shoegaze techno’. ‘Pop’ goes the dance producer; ‘Scha-wing’ go the indie-kids. Meanwhile, back at the thup cave…

But this is ungenerous piss-taking (as much fun as I'm having with it) – at least this guy’s got his understanding of what the music is/does for him, an understanding that his friends will comprehend and relate to… and this, precisely, is what music is about to most people. Sociability, soundmap, bonding entwined memories and values – the empire of like. There is an idiom (?indieom?), and to me the Mango review was an exemplary form written in this dialect… the fact that I think it’s crap is beside the point… almost... 'the point' (or the question) to me is this:

Why don't techno kids have an idiom for discussing indie music?

Well, it's like Rik from the Young Ones once said to a senior citizen:

'Well, I've got news for you. I think old people are boring. And the only reason you don't understand our music, is because you don't like it.'

....over to Chris...

Chris’ two cents:

When Pete forwarded me the review in question, it immediately made me think of the Big Lebowski. And this scene in particular:

“Donnie – you’re outta your element”. Exactly. The indie kids and the reviewers they read lack the frame of reference to be able to understand and comprehend techno (broadly understood). I don’t have a problem with this when it comes to those who listen to indie; that is unless they start trying to have an ‘informed’ conversation with me. Of course, it is completely an individual’s choice how they engage with music. I must admit, I sometimes struggle to understand how compatible a love of techno is with indie (or when people say their favourite djs are Richie Hawtin and Tiesto). But at the end of the day, it isn’t my call.

Reviewers, however, are a different story. Doctors have to sign up to a hippocratic oath, reviewers really should follow a policy of ‘if you don’t know, don’t say’. When it comes to Funke, the reviewer’s only frame of reference is the Supermayer experiment of ’07, or as he so ineloquently puts it: “Supermayer’s super-minimal-cum-electro-pop/rock effort Save the World”. “Donnie. Shut the fuck up!” “Super-minimal-cum-electro-pop/rock”? Surely a phrase like that should get any writer fired on the spot. Anyway, I digress. The point is this – what exactly does the Supermayer album have in common with the Funke one? Very little, beyond the fact that it is probably one of the few dance albums the reviewer has listened to in recent times and is thus able to compare Funke to. I really can’t see any other decent explanation for this stupid comparison. Again, this kind of (il)logic on a personal level is fine, but it does not cut it for a reviewer.

On a deeper level, what frustrates me about this is that it helps to (re)construct a completely inaccurate frame of reference for those outside of techno – indie kids/whoever – whose understanding is influenced by those lacking even the most basic comprehension of what our music is about. It is exactly these kind of Donnie reviewers that reinforce the (mis)perceptions that surround techno and lead to some feeling the need to justify/explain the love for techno/house/mnml (as I felt I needed to for a long time).

Personally, I don’t give a flying fuck about indie. Never had, never will. I am an unabashed techno purist through and through. Saying that, an undeniable overlap/crossover/interest between indie and dance exists and will surely continue. Given this situation, the best we can hope for is having the frames of references expanded, challenged and pushed. And to do this, it is important that peeps with techno knowledge talk to the indie crowd, rather than leaving it up to a depressing large crowd of Donnies…

go deep

over the last few days i've really been enjoying this new set from samuli kemppi. there is nothing that spectacular about the mix, it is just very well programmed. kemppi lets this beautiful collection of records breathe and speak for themselves. the title and tracklisting completely give away what it sounds like - deep and dubby. definitely worth a listen for those who love this sound (as i do). enjoy...

Samuli Kemppi - Dubtechnomiks
Carl Craig - The Climax (Basic Reshape) | Basic Channel
Echospace - Sonorous | Fortune
CV313 - Dimensional Space | Echospace
Echospace - Spatial Dimension | Deepchord
Echospace - OBMX | Fortune
Deixis - Form.v1 | Abstract Forms
CV313 - Saraya | Fortune
Quantec - Lunar Orbiter | Echocord
MLZ - M-Brane | Modern Love
Leftover - Linear Aspect | Baum

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Change your spots or keep them?

I've recently been listening to two new mix cds, Ellen Allien's contribution to the Boogie Bytes series on Bpitch, and Robert Hood's installment in the ever-growing library of Fabric mixes. While these cds appearing about the same time is obviously coincidental, put together they actually provide a really nice contrast. Before giving my thoughts, here are tracklistings for the two cds:

Ellen Allien - 'Boogy Bytes':
1 Agf Liniendicke
2 Vera In The Nook
3 Ricardo Villalobos & Patrick Ense Fizpatrick
4 Melon Nitzi (In My Mind, So Fine)
5 Andres Zacco & Lucas Mari Carbonela (Seph's Vidrionela Remix)
6 Konpiùta Christmas Fairytale (Moessap Edit)
7 Sozadams Eyes Forlon
8 Richard Seeley Juicy Vermin
9 Lucio Aquilina My Cube
10 Melchior Productions Don Juan
11 Friendly People Music Is Improper (Martin Buttrich Remix)
12 Sascha Funke Double Checked
13 Gaiser* Withdrawal
14 Kassem Mosse A1
15 Little Dragon Twice

Robert Hood - 'Fabric 39':
1 Monobox Silicone Fingers
2 Robert Hood Element 9
3 Robert Hood Who Taught You Math
4 Pacou X-Factor
5 Robert Hood Strobe Light
6 Marco Lenzi Taboo
7 Joris Voorn Fever (Rephrased)
8 Fab G* Bust The Vibes (Real Disco Mix)
9 Dan March Sand Dune
10 Robert Hood Element 3
11 Diego Mind Detergent (Robert Hood Remix)
12 Jeff Mills Skin Deep
13 Robert Hood School
14 Robert Hood Element 23
15 John Thomas Mr. Funk
16 DJ Skull Informant
17 Scorp One Side
18 Pacou All It Takes
19 Phase Mass
20 UK Gold Agent Wood (Adam Beyer Remix)
21 Solid Decay Legalize!
22 Robert Hood Element 7
23 Robert Hood Side Effect
24 Mion Drop The Filter
25 Scorp New Energy
26 UK Gold Agent Wood (Original Mix)
27 Robert Hood Still Here (Los Hermanos Remix)
28 John Thomas Pulp Funktion 2
29 Robert Hood The Greatest Dancer
30 Low-Life Exclamation
31 Robert Hood And Then We Planned Our Escape
32 Robert Hood Element 12

My initial reaction on seeing these tracklistings (one shared by my fellow ssgs) was that the Ellen one looked interesting, but that the Hood mix was much closer to 2000 than to 2008. I had been really looking forward to seeing what Hood would do with his Fabric mix and truth be told, the tracklisting left me most disappointed. Having now listened to both of these mixes, my opinion has shifted considerably.

Ellen's mix may have plenty of good tracks, but it sits together incredibly awkwardly. To take only the most obvious example, she goes from the warming, Ibiza-esque Melon moment to the cold minimal of Seph, which jars the ears and flatout doesn't work. The whole mix lacks direction and coherence - shifting from sound to sound but never getting comfortable or settled. The result is a really subpar mix. For someone with so much experience behind the decks as Allien, it is a real surprise how poorly put together this mix is. And considering what Ellen has been capable of in the past - such as 'Weiss' - it makes this mess all the more disappointing.

Rob Hood's mix, in contrast, clearly reflects someone who feels confident, assured and comfortable in his sound. This is balls out techno; there is no messing about. It is fast, furious, banging and there are most certainly no apologies made. It may not be particularly fresh or especially innovative, but for what it is, it is done excellently. Jacob Wright at RA gives a good summary of it: "If you’re already a fan there’s not much here that’s going to surprise you. If you’re not so familiar this is as a good an introduction as any to both Robert Hood and the classic second-wave Detroit style." Given my dismay when I had read the tracklisting, I was happy to discover that Hood's effort sounds so much better than the tracklisting may imply. The mix really feels like Hood is saying 'trends or not, this is who I am and this is what I do'. In a certain sense, this generated a real sense of respect for Hood. He is not clamouring and shouting about all he has done - desperately trying to stay relevant like the old detroiters like May - but he is asserting his identity.

Listening to these two mixes together, what struck is that both represent different ways two prominent djs have reacted to the way techno has changed in recent years. Ellen Allien seemed to really peak a couple of years ago when electro-tech was going strong and Bpitch was at the forefront of pushing that sound. As the more electro influenced sounds have been sidelined by the pings and effects of mnml, Ellen has attempted to shift her sound accordingly. What this mix seems to indicate is how poorly she has managed to make the transition (in this regard, her mediocre Fabric mix of last year was also suggestive). She is certainly not alone in struggling to re-adjust to the way the music has shifted. Hood's approach, in contrast, has clearly been one of 'business as usual'. His mix represents a refusal to bend or change, rather continuing to pursue the same conception of 'minimal' he has held since 'Minimal Nation' way back in 1994. While this means he perhaps may not be as relevant as he previously was (his recent track 'And then we planned our escape' suggests otherwise, though), it strikes me as the better option after listening to these two cds.

To be honest, I don't think I'll listen to either of these mixes much. Despite some really nice tracks, Ellen's is just not very good. Meanwhile, Hood's mix may be very well done for it is, but the sound he presents is one that does not interest me much anymore. Still, it has been an interesting process listening to them and considering how djs do/can/should react to the continually shifting sands of techno. And at the end of the day, perhpas the lesson is:
why change your spots when you can keep them?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

bits to pieces

Oh my Dear: remixes by the numbers/for the numbers

Matthew Dear is definitely one of minimal’s golden boys – good looking, affable, genuine, and of course, overflowing with god-given talent. His output over the last couple of years has been very impressive in both depth and breadth. ‘Mouth to Mouth’ and his other Audion smashers endeared him to the dancefloor, ‘Asa Breed’ gave him indie cred (whether that is a good thing or not is another matter) and his appropriately titled album, ‘2007’, on m-nus was a standout for the label and him alike. But I am now starting to wonder whether a bit of that shine is starting to wear off. Let me explain.

Undoubtedly one result of the huge success of ‘Mouth to Mouth’ is that Dear has recently been doing plenty of remixes under his Audion moniker. And most of them have been pretty good. He managed to save the Chemical Brothers from themselves, put a nice spin on Hot Chip, add some oomph to Jesse Rose and perhaps most notably, turn a Blackstrobe stinker into one of the best tracks of last year. But a few months into 2008 and I am starting to get a bit sceptical about the Audion touch. My suspicions were first raised by his by decision to remix Dubfire. I have never heard the original version, and I presume it sucks, but either way, the Audion remix is so flat, dull and ineffective. But plenty of djs still put it in their charts. Huh? Then I heard his by the numbers job on Matt John’s latest. Yeah, the remix is alright, but again it is not particularly convincing. And finally I heard the most recent remix, which prompted this post. The Audion remix of Sasha. ‘What? You mean the prog dj Sasha?’ I hear you ask in a surprised tone. Yep, that’s the one. And boy does the remix stink. It reeks. The typical Audion tricks do absolutely nothing to save this track. The remix is entitled ‘Audion ain’t got no friends mix’. How appropriate. Seems like Dear is aware of how nasty his mix is.

What struck me going through and listening to the Audion remixes from the last year or so, which I did as I wrote this post, is how structurally similar most of them are. All go for about eight minutes and definitely have an Audion formula – the big builds, the effects, the whooshes and so on. I think with most producers the pattern would have got tiring long ago, but it is testament to Dear’s talent that the Audion remixer 5000 template has taken him so far. In this regard, it reminds me a lot of a couple of years ago when the market was flooded with Robag remixes. They seemed to appear on almost a weekly basis. After a while I was convinced that Robag had a machine he’d put the track in to and five minutes later it would spit out a remix with all the Wighnomy bells and whistles. Robag’s weekly efforts got old very, very quickly and I must admit, I still struggle with the Wighnomy’s because of it (kind of like a bad experience with a kind of food or alcohol). Of course, we are a long way off that happening with Mr Dear, but lets just hope he eases off on the Audion remixes for a while…

One final thought on this topic is that thinking about it gave me new found respect for Carl Craig and Ricardo Villalobos. Both are two of the biggest remixers around - I am sure they must have a constant flow of people asking for their magic fairy dust. What I am now starting to realise is they've both resisted following a set template with their remixes. And not sticking to a tried and tested formula when given the task of knocking a remix out must sometimes be quite tough. So kudos for sticking with it. Lets hope Mr Dear gets back on track soon. Given how much talent his has, I am confident he will.

Season’s Favourites

Dave (a fellow ssg) suggested compiling some of our favourites from the season just passed December – February, which is summer down under. Without putting too much thought into it, here are my tops:

Favourite dj: Marcel Dettmann
Favourite producer: Pawel
Favourite album: Rod Modell ‘Incense and Black Light’
Favourite track: Donnacha Costello ‘Black Bag Job (737)’

It is hard to pick a favourite liveset or podcast, as I go through them pretty quickly. All the ones I’ve enjoyed the most I’ve posted on this blog at some stage, though…

A Birthday Treat

The usual custom is that whoever’s birthday it is gets the present. Luckily for us, this time it has been reversed. To celebrate the three year anniversary of Mobilee, the host of Berlin Mitte Institut für Bessere Elektronische Musik, Fresh Meat, was joined by Mobileers Anja Schneider, Karol Kasi and Ralf Kollmann. The result is a fantastic three hour mix which does an excellent job of showcasing the label’s sound Definitely worth a listen for those who like the Mobilee sound. While I am not convinced about some of their roster, it is hard to argue with the talent at Mobilee’s core. I am a particularly big fan of Anja Schneider. I am firmly of the opinion that this is one girl worth paying very close attention to. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up becoming something like the female Sven Vath. We shall see. Anyway, you can download the set directly from the Berlin Mitte Institute here.

Get Well Soon...

One of my favourite websites is the fantastic Betalounge. For those who haven't yet come across this site, it has an amazing archive of streaming sets spanning almost a decade now and 752 shows. So much good music here to sooth the soul and mind. Unfortunately, the server went down about a month or so ago and is still not up. Lets hope Betalounge gets well soon. I can honestly say that not having its music archives available for my listening pleasure has had a noticeable impact on my life. Fingers crossed Betalounge will be fixed...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Consciousness is queen: the SSG boys get Q&A with Terre Thaemlitz

Terre Thaemlitz has always been my favourite Wire magazine covergirl. From his early years as an escapee of the US Mid-West who immersed himself in art theory and deep house, Thaemlitz has always refused both conformity and convention: twisting his skills and knowledge into weapons and artefacts against the expectations of the audience. His work is a constant challenge to the various forms of complacency it fucks with – even (and especially) when it presents itself as seductively beautiful ambient or skilfully built deep house. Recently, Terre’s more ‘straight’ tracks have been getting love and commerce from a lot of big DJs, but digging deeper into the back-catalogue reveals an artist adept in playing with and between conventions and genres and messing with your ed. Terre is the master of every convention she betrays, and we SSGs are truly honoured to have received in interview with both bit-depth and band-width you’d expect from one (or several) of electronic music’s most astute and interesting people. This is one to cherish, print-out, underline. Or at the very least, read slowly and pay attention – you lad(d)ies might learn something.

Describe the relation between your work, your identity, and politics.

Active self-betrayal and self-deception. Hypocrisy and shame are the bonds that tie those three spheres together for most of us – not pride.

Why deep house? What is it about this sound/feeling that moves you; how has it motivated you to express yourself through it or express it through you?

When I moved to New York, deep house was simply the local electronic music. I was a long-time fan of techno-pop and disco while growing up in the American Midwest, and always looking for other electronic music. Deep house was the music played in clubs frequented by my friends. My first house records were ‘Jack Your Body’, by Farley Jackmaster Funk, and ‘I Can't Turn Around’, by J.M. Silk. I still play them. But back then, as with today, finding great tracks is hard. There's always so much pressure to buy records in a DJ store – especially in the '80s when there weren't listening stations and you had to ask them to play something for you – but I have always been one of those people who usually walks out empty handed.

In any case, deep house was closely tied to those elements of New York queer culture I related to, tied to HIV/AIDS activist scenes, tied to transgendered scenes, etc. For me, those references are critical. Call me a traditionalist, but those are still the frameworks I think about when making house music, despite that they usually aren't the frameworks my tracks might get played in.

What is the relationship between the different elements in your compositions? What role do they play and how do they interact? What does the piano express that the drum machine cannot/does not, and vice versa?

I don't really concern myself with what an instrument can ‘express’. I'm more concerned with what it can ‘represent’. The clearest example of this in my projects is the Rubato Series, in which I used rather expressive piano to cover very boy-oriented techno-pop songs (Kraftwerk, DEVO and Gary Numan). In that instance I was specifically interested in the piano as a ‘domestic’ instrument most frequently learned by girls. But at the same time, my piano was computer composed, and also played in a rather canonical/patriarchal way (the macho aspect of neo-expressionism) – basically mixing genres, technologies and composition strategies while thinking about the various social elements with which they each have their largest appeal, and thinking about how my own identity intersects with those arenas. Like a lot of my projects, it is about the ‘idea of a transgendered sound,’ but I should be clear and say I do not think there is an inherently ‘transgendered sound’ or any other kind of sound. It's ultimately about social placement, history, genre recognition, and those kinds of things.

Of course, when thinking about instruments, I do have sounds that I like – sounds that I am drawn to as a record collector – and also sounds I don't like. But I don't really exclude anything as a potential sound source. I love taking music from one genre and placing it into a completely other genre, but perhaps less to hear what it can become, and more to understand what it was.

And, most importantly, when it comes to non-sample based sounds, the biggest factor is budget – what instruments I could afford to own, or pulled out of garbage cans, or whatever… Economics are the driving factor behind most electronic music genres. Chicago house latched onto the 808 and 303 because they were cheap at the time. Glitch came from cheap computers not performing properly, and uneducated end users who didn't know the ‘real way’ to use the software. Major distribution destroyed house… Max MSP destroyed independent electroacoustic music… But the genres still persist in various forms. These are things to think about when considering one's instrument choices.

Also, you write very articulately – I wonder, what you can express with music that’s ‘more than words can say’?

Most people – listeners and musicians – seem to talk about ‘sound’ as a way of communicating on a ‘pre-verbal’ emotive level. I think that's bullshit – and completely unreliable, in any case. It leads to statements like, ‘music is universal,’ when in fact people are usually responding to music that fits into a particular sound or genre. Responding to music they already like. Like Bossa Nova, who could hate that? Well, I bet if more people understood the mind-numbing lyrics it would have never caught on as it did. So, does Bossa Nova's international popularity reflect some kind of ‘more than words can say’ appreciation and understanding of a particular sound? Or does it show an ignorance of content and context? Most would say the former. I would say the latter. I would say their saying the former is symptomatic of the latter. That is what Bossa Nova is saying to me without words. This is how I think all music expresses socio-political things, in addition to, or despite, the more literal interpretations of lyrics and other things we are told to focus on.

And what things do you pass over in silence (and why)?

Silence, pauses, scratches on records, skips on CDs, fade-outs, fade-ins, even waiting for downloads to complete – these are also aspects of how we anticipate and receive audio as consumers. It also allows time to ‘think’ and ingest what has happened so far. That is how I try to use sound in a structural way, in addition to whatever metaphorical contents silence has in the genres I produce as a result of John Cage's music, or his silence about his homosexuality, or the AIDS activist slogan ‘Silence=Death,’ or whatever…

How do you feel space and time through music? How/why is ambience or a sense of ‘the ambient’ important to what you do?

Feeling space… it's strange, because I do often talk about sound in visual terms. I think a big part of this is my visual arts background, and having read a lot of visual theory. But I usually ‘feel space’ in a literal way – the space of playback, the quality of the sound system, etc. I think the issue of time is more directly related to the compositional process. For me, boredom is the most informative way of ‘feeling time’. It's about borders and limits of personal tolerance. When do we get bored? What happens after we get bored and the audio keeps going? Why weren't we bored before? Is it possible to ‘go back in time’ as the audio continues, and regain interest? Suddenly we have to confront our expectations about something, and decide to continue or retreat to silence and hope that's more interesting. Conceptually, boredom is much more exciting than traditional models of compositional momentum intended to captivate an audience.

What is your relationship with theory and practice? If practice makes perfect, what does theory make?

The three of us (theory, practice and I) have been on-again/off-again lovers for many years. I think theory is the diary of social trials and errors. For me, I'm more interested in theories of historical materialism, rather than theories that speculate futures. I think too much importance is placed on the necessity for ‘dreams’ and ‘goals’ (especially in childhood), when we spend so little time trying to simply catch up with understanding where we are in this time and place.

What about work and play? How do they contribute to making jack a dull boy?

While I am thankful as hell that I haven't had a ‘day job’ for the past decade or so, I think the consolidation of my work and private life in the same apartment has led to a kind of isolation. It can be hard, socially and financially. But this is also strategic, as a way of trying to minimize my interaction with mainstream capitalist culture. Or if I want to psychoanalyze myself, maybe it's really about my attempting to create an illusion of control over my life after growing up as a nerd-fag who still feels incapable of mainstream integration? In any case, mainstream aspirations for work and play always demand money, but the social and lifestyle returns are totally unappealing to me. Things like car and home loans just devastate people, grounding them in cement shoes, all under the pretense of ‘upward mobility’. I still think about the smartest kids in my high school, mostly women, who had so many aspirations, but quickly had to give them all up as the results of marriages, kids, divorces with assets, debt, etc. ‘Standard’ is brutal. It's always been important for me to preserve a kind of ‘lateral mobility’ in my life which is separate from the standard ‘upward/downward mobility’ most people fixate on.

And love? You wrote Lovebomb – is something like love carried by the signal? What’s the signal to noise ratio between love and commerce when making music for money?

Love and commerce are one and the same. The ways in which we love under capitalism are totally influenced by processes of reification and abstract value. If we apply Jacque Attali's formula of melody (signal) reflecting a society's order, and noise reflecting its dissonances, ‘love’ is definitely carried by the signal. But even for the ‘believers’ in love, in relation to the genres we're talking about, questions of love and commerce when making music for money is generally pointless because the money sucks. Forget existential crises. It's not worth a crisis. It's only a system that demands we leave ourselves open to bad deals and regrets – like any other freelance job.

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf dismisses Rudyard Kipling’s writing for having nothing of the feminine about it. How might it be important to have a little bit of each in the other (I think also of the Funkadelic song ‘Jimmy’s Got a Little Bit of Bitch in Him’)?

This question was key to ‘The Laurence Rassel Show’, the electroacoustic radio drama I did in collaboration with the Belgian cyberfeminist Laurence Rassel. It's available for free download from Public Record ( and Comatonse Recordings ( In it, we talked about models of feminist authorship as it relates to copy-left (anonymity, the absence of the name under patriarchy, etc.), as well as questioning the possibility of ‘transgendered authorship’ as something other than essentialist, identity-driven egomania all in the hope for social conformity (attempts at self-creation through hormones and surgery, etc.).

I wonder about gender in electronic music… Although largely a genre without lyrics, techno and electro (especially 80s-influenced electro) seems to tend toward an idea of toughness, masculine hardness, one that seems to contain an incipient homophobia that expresses itself through a distain toward (or rejection of) disco and house. I would even argue that this overwhelmed and killed the drum’n’bass scene, which became so ‘dark’ and ‘hard’ that the girls stopped dancing… House DJs often play techno, but in my experience many purist techno DJs distain house, and it appears to be a rejection of the music on the basis that it’s ‘poofy’, ‘sissy’, ‘faggy’ etc. I wonder what you make of that.

Actually, I was just having an email exchange along these lines with Dont Rhine of Ultra Red, who is currently doing some teaching at a university in Chicago. He was talking about how there are absolutely no traces of the Chicago house scene. No DJs, clubs, record stores, radio stations or anything. Compared to the homophobic ‘Disco Sucks’ campaigns of his youth, house music died a more passive death of neglect and silence that he links to AIDS, racism and Right Wing reactionary shifts. He was talking about how the death of house is such a metaphor for the genocide of queers in the '80s and '90s, and no one wants to hear.

Although I was a hardcore Techno-Pop fan in my youth, it was precisely the ‘straight, white’ tendencies of New York techno culture you pointed out that made it completely unappealing to me. I just fucking hated techno. It ruined so much electronic music for me, which is really depressing.

What makes a track exceptional to you? Tell me a classic that you feel is really outstanding and describe what it is about it that moves you so much.

Memory. History. Placement is what makes it ‘classic’. For me, I think Yello's ‘You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess’ is a real classic. It had a totally foreign sound when I first heard it as a teen. A bit emotionally disturbing, actually. I vividly recall thinking, "This is why the religious nuts around here believe music can be possessed by Satan!" I don't imagine many Europeans having that reaction to it, but for me, where I was living, what was around me at the time… it was a real ear-opener. But also, in relation to other electronic music of that day, the use of tapes and noise were really impressive. Yello has always had such an identifiable and unique sound. In some ways more unique than Kraftwerk, with their Kraut-rock beginnings.

Which of your own tracks are you most proud of?

I guess if you ask me about my own projects, for my electroacoustic tracks, ‘Means from an End’ (the first movement) contains a kind of tension and melancholy that has been hard for me to replicate. For house tracks, maybe ‘A Crippled Left Soars With the Right’ is my favorite EP. Unfortunately, it's also my smallest pressing, and was soon out of stock.

How do you see your craft developing (if indeed it is a ‘craft’ to you)? And how is technology influencing this?

‘Craft’ is no longer suspect to a lot of electronic producers. Especially in the house genre. Everybody wants to be a full-on musician. I think that makes a lot of music complacent, because we stop challenging social norms around how music should sound or be performed.

As for technology, does anybody else find it unbelievably patronizing that the default file name for most Apple software follows the formula ‘My…’ – ‘My Disc’, ‘My Song’, ‘My Movie’, etc.? It's a real sign of how we've socially come to project personal identity onto corporately structured media. It goes hand in hand with the rise of the ‘DJ as Artist’.

What of DJing? Vinyl? Digital? Both? Neither?

People should just use what they feel comfortable with. I personally prefer DJ-ing with CDs. I've digitized most of my old vinyl. It's so much lighter to transport!

Vinyl is a tricky media. Despite whatever warm affinities I have for it, it's also a total bastard to get mastered and pressed in a quality way. Totally cost-ineffective. Spectrally limited. Stereophonically limited, especially with bass frequencies… I could go on forever. Vinyl's great to make if you have the money and patience, though. Records are fun as objects, and rich in history.

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?

It's not a ‘revolution’ by any means. But there is something reactionary in the way ‘information based economies’ facilitate economic corruption, and are increasingly consolidating even more power in the hands of a few. In terms of labor, CD and vinyl factories are closing, which is symptomatic of the way certain levels of manual-based labor are being reduced in the West. It's tied to a kind of escalation of capitalism, but it's not new or revolutionary. It's just a shuffling of White collars and Blue collars on a global scale.

And music distribution has always been a scam of one kind or another. CD and vinyl distribution is often a pyramid scheme in which distributors offer small labels ‘deals’ in which they take care of product manufacturing for the labels. In the end, distributors function like lenders who advance manufacturing costs to labels. When distributors over-manufacture and under-sell, it is the small label who gets stuck with the cost of the returns. This is how EFA and countless other distributors went down, taking tons of labels with them. So I don't have any romantic nostalgia for the ‘old ways’, either. They are all corrupt.

My experience with online distribution is described on the Soundfiles page of my website. While the music industry panics about file sharing (reminiscent of the anti-cassette tape campaigns of the '80s featuring a cassette with cross-bones and the slogan "Home recording is killing the music industry, and it's illegal"), iTunes and other major distributors were selling downloads of my album with absolutely no contracts or permissions from me. They refused to answer my emails inquiring who they were paying royalties to, or let me speak with any member of their licensing team. It was a nightmare. If you've ever bought a download of my music, the money never was connected to me in any way. I finally got them to pull my files last year. It was all money being circulated between iTunes and their corporate distributor pals. Of course, they have no interest in my music. And whatever money they made couldn't have been much. It's just fucking information greed, trying to consolidate and monopolize for no reason other than a possible sale. This is horrible…

…but typical capitalism.

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

Ok, this will maybe tell you something about myself – I had to Google your question to figure out what you're talking about. I don't use Ableton, and I'm totally out of the loop with what ‘today's dance producers’ are using. It sounds like the dance equivalent of Max MSP, in terms of influence upon the end results. We have to remember that in an era gone by, people asked the same thing about turntables and samplers. They are all problematic. But what it comes down to is if the producer uses them complacently, or engages those problematic characteristics so as to actually fuck with process, fuck with mainstream expectations, etc. Complacency is the disease.

What have been the biggest musical influences on your productions? And what about more generally?

So many names, so little time… I couldn't possibly answer that. However, I am surprised by the ‘influences’ some reviewers come up with. They usually name people I've never heard of. My favorite is when they try to name things I've sampled, but they're totally wrong. It's like a mistaken literary reference. Lots and lots of wrong things have been written about me and my projects. I like that.

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?

No matter how anti-spiritual I say I am, it seems incredibly difficult for some people to hear my projects in "non-spiritual" terms – especially within the house scene. This is silencing on many levels, personally and socially. I think my anti-spirituality is completely lost on the dancefloor, overwritten by the larger context.

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

If you don't mind, I'd like to refer your readers to an article I wrote about a lesson I was taught as a child by personally meeting the members of Cheap Trick

How is living in Japan shaping you? How are you shaping it? How are you learning to better (mis)understand or (mis)recognise one another? What kind of acceptance do you find in Japan that you couldn’t in the States, and vice versa? Which if its dysfunctions do you find most fascinating? And which of its rejections are the most telling? What’s something ‘we’ (as Westerners or what have you) could learn from ‘them’? And is it necessary to be ‘us’ and ‘them’? Is it possible to not be a gaijin (when one is interpolated as an other)?

Damn, how many questions is that? [Laughs].

As a Westerner, I think it's fascinating to see how Western models of identity, particularly as they were formed in response to prejudice and discrimination, simply do not work here. That does not mean prejudice and discrimination do not exist here – of course they do, as in every society – but I am used to understanding those processes in relation to Western individualist notions of identity. Japanese identity is clan-based, not individualistic (which is a big part of why it is so difficult for immigrants to integrate here). It's an imposed democracy, and everybody knows it. But the benefit of that is, unlike a country like the U.S. which is terminally up it's own ass with self-righteousness about ‘freedom’ while fucking over its citizens and the rest of the world, Japan seems to be more open about the hypocrisies of contemporary ‘democratic’ society. Americans rant and rave about what ‘needs to be done’ while changing nothing – in fact, becoming more reactionary. Japan's ambivalence toward any possible realization of democratic goals under capitalism strikes me as somehow more honest, or culturally revealing. It's not any less depressing, but it somehow feels like something.

Within Asia, I think the most difficult thing for countries like China and Korea (which are still culturally wounded by the events of WWII and consider Japan an active military threat) to understand is that there have now been several generations of Japanese men who never had any military experience whatsoever. This is an incredibly rare social circumstance, since most countries make men serve mandatory military service. I think it is impossible to comprehend the cultural impact this has had on Japan. I don't think the Japanese can comprehend it themselves. Also, Japanese people can be superstitious, but organized religion is incredibly weak here. Buddhism only functions on a social level as ritual, unlike in most other countries. It's really freeing to be surrounded by people who approach any regular religious involvements as suspect. I hope the combination of these circumstances continues to play out for a long, long time.

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

I've watched enough Star Trek to know you should never mess with the space-time continuum.

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


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

Folk. (Culturally speaking, I think the kinds of music I produce are a kind of contemporary Folk, as opposed to Classical.)

What’s troubling you… ?

This long-ass interview! [Laughs] But we're down to the short-response questions, so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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

Insert lyrics to ‘Imagine’, by John Lennon… Few people listen to that song through Marxist ears, as I believe it was intended. It's quite beautiful in that sense. Too bad the song was ruined for me when used in TV commercials for the Catholic diocese in Missouri during the early '80s, before I had ever read Marx. And Lennon seems to have been kind of an asshole.

Questions? Comments? Abuse?

On your website's theme of sausages, they don't sell Italian sausage in Japan. I have never found them once anywhere. They're obsessed with Vienna sausages and German sausages. I find that strange, given the success of the Italian food boom of the '80s and '90s.

Done! (phew) Thanks….

Deep breath… and release…!