Our seventh Functions of the Now mix comes from Berlin’s M.E.S.H. – a thick and sludgy, irrepressibly restless collage of modern club sounds that beautifully represents Janus’ anarchic soundworld. Having released his first EP on Dyssembler, this month will see the release of “Scythians”, an incredibly diverse and lush sonic ecosystem released through Berlin staple PAN. A host of remixes can be found on his Soundcloud, and have fortunately satiated followers along the way. Together with Kablam and Lotic, M.E.S.H. holds a residency at Janus, a legendary party at Chester’s and radio show on Berlin Community Radio with a history of booking underground heroes like DJ Nigga Fox, Total Freedom, DJ Sliink and DJ HVAD.
Janus is a fractured and elusive environment for a fucked up world. Something that seems really important to the project is the tension between pleasure and discomfort, those involved aren’t afraid of torment, frenzy and noise. The sonic signifiers riddled throughout Janus’ world– screams, smashing glass, drawn swords – suggest battle and destruction, yet the infamous hedonism of their Berlin night life heritage is equally prominent. Lotic’s anarchic Damsel in Distress mixfile destroys traditional mix narrative, taking lengthy FX-ridden breaks and stop-starting unexpectedly. Janus’ aesthetic is similarly disjointed, mixing the sharp contours of graffiti, the surrealism of Bosch’s hell and the hyperrealism of anime into a broken collage encompassing past, present and future. F l y e r s for the party eschew comprehension in favour of pure aesthetics, they caustically regurgitate consumerist symbolism rather than offer information. What direct communication does seep through usually manifests itself in slogans – “Selbstmord statt selbst-parodie – Klar!” (Suicide over self-parody, duh!), “Hate-Hype-Copy” – which symbiotically suggest political discomfort and the language of advertising.
Stream: Black Cracker – Ash On The Ground (M.E.S.H. Remix)
M.E.S.H.’s tunes feel like they are being summoned out of raw electricity and thrust directly into hyperreality. It feels almost subliminal, sounds are more suggestions than anything concrete as origins are constantly deferred and obscured. “Imperial Sewers”, off the forthcoming EP, toys with hardstyle tropes but only obliquely – they are romanticised and rewired through a myriad of other influences. These exquisite corpses are littered throughout the mix, throughout the hell Janus have created.
Before we get into our interview with M.E.S.H. it’s time to recommend a few bits and pieces as is custom for our Functions of the Now posts; though every time this gets harder and harder for us to narrow down. Checking back in with some previous guests from the series, inaugural FOTN-er Strict Face has continued his rude form with an astounding release for Mr Mitch’s Gobstopper Records. If you thought eski square waves were getting old we implore you to let the devastating Fountains wrench your heartstrings. Ever busy, Strict Face is also joined by Inkke on another fantastic free compilation, Frass FM. Meanwhile the label that gave us Gage have unleashed a devilish R’n’G Summer anthem courtesy of the increasingly untouchable Murlo: scope out the video here. Elsewhere we have two incredible bootlegs from promising newcomer Air Max ’97: first remixing FOTN-er Sudanim‘s Midrift, then even more excitingly doing real damage with Björk’s drexciyan classic Pluto. A stream of ‘Progress and Memory’ from his excellent EP on Liminal Sounds can be found here. Another new face we’re extremely excited about is SPF666, who’ll be releasing his ‘Scorpion Cache‘ EP on 15 May. It’s a pitch-perfect balance of grime and ballroom with a set of super heavy remixes from Neana, Mike G, Massacooramaan and Commune, all of them exceptional. We’re also really been feeling Plata‘s dark wobbles and Secundus‘ weirdness, whose sense of melody is reminiscent of Lil Jabba’s noodley adventurousness. And of course we couldn’t leave off this outrageously good remix package of Truants anthem “Yasss Bish”, courtesy of the irrepressible Qween Beat crew. Killer ballroom cuts from MikeQ, Divoli S’vere and JayR can be yours for the price of a single facebook like: don’t sleep!
TT: To start out can you give us some history of the Janus parties? M.E.S.H.: “It started around two years ago and it’s Dan DeNorch and Michael Ladner who are the two organisers, with Dan doing all the booking and Lotic and I, and now Kajsa [Kablam] being residents. We did the first one in an older techno club, we brought out DJ Sliink, Craxxxmurf was still alive at the time, Lotic and I played together. That was sort of the first big Janus party. But it only really started popping off when we moved to Chester’s, which has been our regular space for the last year.”
I read that they have some massive defunct sub in the middle of the floor there that will explode your brains or something. “The system in there is way bigger than we can touch. The technician, Andy, has been working there for years and years and he built it all himself. I’ve heard rumours that one of the booths with a stripper pole actually is built to resonate as a speaker in itself, but they don’t turn it on anymore, or something.”
So what’s the philosophy behind Janus? “Well, there are a lot of parties in Berlin that are very much “about the music,” and there are a lot of parties in Berlin that are scene parties, where the people there might not know or care about the music that is playing at all. So we walk this line where we don’t really want to be music nerds with a boring elitist party but at the same time we’re booking people that we really love but who don’t really get booked out here. Bringing out Jersey Club acts, influential underground DJs like Why Be, bringing out people who might not even have a booking agent.”
“Sometimes we’ll have a guest who might be far outside of an audience’s comfort zone if they’re used to only hearing certain genres in clubs. For us it’s about setting up our line-ups so that it kinda makes sense. Nigga Fox came on before Kode9 and it went off. It made sense. Jam City, Nadus and Venus X on the same bill feels right. The way Dan books DJs follows a particular logic, more to do with the overall experience of the night, and the residents try to create a context so it doesn’t feel like a random outsider thing that’s just stuck in the middle of a techno club.”
There seems to be a real communal and direct approach to DJing with the Janus crew and your extended fam like Why Be, TF etcetera. To me it feels really anarchic and, in a way aggressive? Is that considered or is it just whatever comes? “It’s more like whatever comes, but then that turns into its own thing. The way that we play is a little more start-stop, it’s a little more irritating. [laughs] Or even abrasive in a way? I think that has a lot to do with playing on CDJs. When you’re playing on CDJs, especially with the newer Pioneers, you’re working with the cue button, hot cues, loops, mixer FX. I just mix in a more disjointed way with that set up, although this mix is a bit smoother.”
I noticed you smothered it in heaps of effects and extra sounds. “Yeah, I did a bit of post-production on it. I wanted the mix to not be very dynamic, I wanted the waveform to be like a tube. I also wanted the tracks to have the same pressure even though they’re from really different sources.”
“I think it’s too easy to just be eclectic and play whatever pops up in your feed or whatever. Since I tend to follow a few different strains of club music at once, I’m always trying to bring things together in a way that makes sense to me. Like chucking that Marcel Fengler track into the mix after a grime track, to me that makes sense.”
That really reminded me of Ben UFO saying in an interview somewhere: “grime is techno and techno is grime.” That blend was just like, bang, there it is. “[Laughs] I had to torture you for four minutes with that DJ Darka track, but I love that track so much.”
Yeah, it’s deep. So how does that mixing style come affect your production? “Just Janus starting totally changed the way I produce. Firstly having a spot to try things out but also the pressures of the dancefloor have had a big effect. I can make sounds that are really upfront and work the whole system but they’re not proper tools. They’re produced like a club track but they could also trainwreck your set or just make people really unhappy.”
So you are still essentially making tracks with the club in mind? I guess PAN has always ridden that middle ground. “I mean, I wish that I only made straight up club tracks. I usually start out trying to make a club track and then follow a different thread or get too interested in one sound. I would love the discipline to crank out bangers, or whatever, but I leave that to others.”
How do the aesthetics and sonics come together with Janus? It seems very collagist to me, same with the mixing style; bits and pieces forming a whole. “Most of the artwork is done by Dan, although I did the cover art for the mixtape series we’re starting. Dan’s goal with the flyers I think is to be a bit illegible… not falling into this promo language, maybe not even making the names readable. With Lotic’s mixtape art we are definitely commenting on the cycle of hype and appropriation that is rampant when music is fed into the Internet. Everyone in Janus is a bit neurotic and, like, touchy, we’re always arguing amongst ourselves so I think that all comes out in the artwork and the music as well.”
On “Scythians” off the new EP, that MIDI vocal really reminded me of “R Plus Seven” from last year. OPN was talking a lot about the interzone between the digital and the real and I think that features in a lot of your music and aesthetic as well. “Yeah, it’s weird for me because I’ve always been in the box with production so I take a lot of those ideas for granted. I started out as a teenager with Fruity Loops and that kind of stuff. I grew up on software instruments and VSTs, so I’m drawn to these sounds. I never went through an analogue phase, so my cornball tolerance is different because I just had these VSTs with like a thousand presets – that was a universe in itself. I was never trying to emulate a certain synth or create a patina to apply to everything, for me the struggle was more about creating context around arbitrary noises. And I really like clean digital spaces, reverbs that have space to reverberate.”
Stream: M.E.S.H. – Scythians (forthcoming Pan)
Let’s talk about your relationship with grime. “I’m definitely an outsider, especially coming from the West Coast of the United States. Honestly most of what I know about grime comes from a good friend of mine who runs the silverdrizzle YouTube channel. With the newer stuff that’s coming out, I feel like right now anything at 140 bpm that’s produced in a kind of angular way is called grime. Which I think is fine because it groups things together in a way that is… semi-meaningful.”
That’s something that I’ve been struggling with a lot and kind of trying to avoid providing answers for. I think that semi-meaningfulness is why we’ve been approaching people like JGB, the Her crew and yourself, who aren’t really hard out grime producers. But then again, neither are the Boxed community when you think about it. I guess that’s what makes it so exciting. “There’s so much stuff coming out that’s really good, but it doesn’t have the typical way of grouping it together, whether it’s through bpm, or cities or whatever. It’s hard to answer when people ask what I play and what I produce, but at the same time my preferences are really, really particular.”
I’d also like to talk a bit about the influence of hardstyle and trance, in “Imperial Sewers” there’s a really beautiful synth line that’s totally hardstyle but also kinda not. “I’m really influenced by a strain of super melodic hardstyle, the gigantic melancholic synth lines and pitched kick drums and all that. I used the structure of the triplet-heavy kind of hardstyle tune so it has that shuffle even though the drums are more static.”
It’s interesting because these kinds of genres – trance, hardstyle, brostep now – are all really repressed in the ‘proper’ dance music world, they kind of exist in its collective subconscious. “Right, they’re not in big magazines but they’re at festivals with, like, half a million people.”
Exactly, actually I just read a listicle on Fact that started out ‘trance isn’t cool, has never been cool and will never be cool’ and I find that kind of odd. It’s just nice to hear someone working with it rather than looking down on it or whatever. “To me it’s like folk music, just having these tunes and this total social experience, lyrics that are really banal but set over this grandiose, full spectrum dominance sound. Lush, high budget visuals. I don’t know, there’s something that resonates with me.”
Tell us about the new one on PAN. “I’m really excited to get it out. I recorded it mostly in LA and finished it up in Berlin. Even though it’s short, it’s the result of so many iterations. I’m just really slow with production, getting bogged down in the details, so having it wrapped up is really nice for me. Like, someone will ask me to do a remix and it’ll take me 9 months, and I’ll do six or seven versions. The way I work is so neurotic and inefficient, it’s actually amazing that I finished a record.”
Thanks for all the beautiful work you’ve done, thanks for all the happiness you brought into our lives, and thanks for being an inspiration to so many of us. You may be gone but you’ll never be forgotten; you made the world a better place and you changed the course of music forever. Rest in peace DJ Rashad, for always in our hearts. We’ll be taking a break from publishing new content on this website out of respect for the kind and talented soul that deeply touched so many of us at Truants. Our love goes out to Rashad’s family and friends, Teklife and Hyperdub.
Stream: DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn – Welcome to Amsterdam
Words by Soraya Brouwer, 27 April 2014. 1 comment
Today we have a little treat in store for you by songstress and DJ Piu Piu, who has been taking over European dance floors for a few years running now. We first heard of Piu Piu through her affiliation with the the late Youngunz (notorious for launching the very site you’re reading now) and she’s come a long way since then, although she’s been perennially on-point; from her early efforts on Kitsuné to her “B.M.F.” cover bringing tears to the eyes of Maybach Music fans worldwide, she released a free album entitled Nightintale in collaboration with the likes of Ryan Hemsworth, Metro Zu and Bambounou on the production and landed her own bi-weekly radio show on the brand new French daughter station of Rinse FM.
“[Piu Piu's] slick, high tempo DJ style brings together elements of house, R&B and ghetto-tech with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. It’s club-ready party music that’s right up our street,” write our friends at Vitamins on her dance floor flair, and we are in harmony. In anticipation of her gig at their night at Sneaky Pete’s this Friday (which is also her first ever appearance in Scotland) the Parisienne mixed a small hour of tracks together for all of us to enjoy – and club-ready is exactly how the mix makes us feel. Kicking the mix off with ’90s house and Baltimore Club, Piu Piu then takes us on a journey of a slew of classics and exclusives by Truants principals such as Inkke, Chaos In The CBD, and Peverelist, with plenty of room for the likes of Ty$, Deeon and DJ Milktray in between. This Vitamins mix makes us want to go to the club and tear it up, and we wish we too could be in Edinburgh this Friday more than anything.
If you are in Scotland’s capital this Friday you are in luck – come party with Piu Piu herself and the Vitamins commissioners Tanner, Shaun and Sam in club Sneaky Pete’s. It fills up quick, so get down early! For more information, see here. Continue Reading →
Words by Soraya Brouwer, 24 April 2014. Leave a comment
Hailing from the rainy Pacific Northwest, you may not have heard much about Korma aka Tommy Mertens, but get ready for that to change. We’ve had our eyes on him for a while now and others are starting to take notice. Last month he released his Bootlegs EP on Hush Hush Records full of remixes and edits that showcase his audible agility. We got a chance to speak with him to hear what the future has in store and he also graced us with a mix for the latest edition of our Truancy Volume series.
For those of us that don’t about you, tell us a little about yourself. “My name’s Tommy, I’m 21 and I live in Redmond which is about 20 minutes outside of Seattle. I had to do this for my Red Bull Music Academy application – ‘say five fact interesting facts about yourself’. It was hard because I just don’t think about myself like that all the time. I went to Bellevue College for music production for a quarter or so but I wasn’t feeling it. I should go back to school though, I’ve been thinking about it.” What would you want to go back to school for? Music production again? “I could do music production again if it was actually relevant, the class I was in was just too basic, maybe business or cooking. They’re totally at the opposite end of the spectrum but that’s what’s been on the horizon.”
Cooking, huh? If you Google ‘Korma’ it’s an Indian dish, what does the name mean? “At first I didn’t know it was an Indian dish. It was the name of an old Skream tune, I thought it was a cool name and was sort of disappointed when I figured out it was a dish. Only about half the people I tell really know it’s a dish.” More people know it’s a Skream song? I didn’t know it was. “It’s actually a pretty unknown Skream song. The other half just thinks it’s a word. It’s nice that it’s a bit ambiguous.”
How long have you been producing for? Your Soundcloud used to be a bit fuller than it is now. What happened to most of the tracks up there? “I’ve been producing for 4 or 5 years, since I was a junior in high school. When I first started producing I would just upload all my stuff on Soundcloud but now I’m a bit more careful about how I curate it. I’ve reined it in a bit. I did do a free download of a D Double E remix recently, which is a bit of a rarity for me now.”
First time we ever met you was at a weird underground pizza party in South Seattle. Can you tell me a bit more about that? “My friend Tony Miller who runs Datafruits hit me up about that and that was before I really played out a bunch. There was 2-3 people in a basement – not even a basement really, no insulation, or floor. I brought my Technics out for that and played an all vinyl set.” So you’re not spinning all vinyl as much? “I just use Serato now, vinyl’s so expensive it’s not really viable. Moving it around is tough and it’s so heavy that if you’re going to play for more than an hour it’s not worth it. There’s nothing local in Seattle for vinyl, so it’s hard to get ahold of newer tracks. Shipping is expensive to Seattle, getting it shipped out, sometimes it doesn’t show up and it doesn’t have tracking. MP3’s also tend to be much more exclusive.” We once got a record that had a huge chunk out of it, like someone had taken a rock and just scratched it. “I think it’s cause we’re from the US and people get mad that we’re buying the good records!”
What else happened to get you connected with Hush Hush? “Another DJ at KEXP, Sharlese, helped me get into contact with Alex. This was about a year ago when I went to a Ben UFO show at Q and hung out a bit with Allen who I met at the Datafruits party. I had just got my friends old ID and met a ton of people that really helped me get to where I am now. I think this was 4/19 last year, after Ben UFO. I kicked it with Allen’s friend Liz who introduced me to Sharlese later that night. After we met, Sharlese was hitting up Alex the whole time like “you’ve got to play this kid on the radio!” That’s when I knew that Seattle would be supportive.”
Describe the Bootlegs EP you recent put out. How did it come about? “It’s seven R&B remixes of popular stuff with varied production and my own style. I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll do again but it’s fun. I was just uploading R&B remixes on Soundcloud and Alex heard a couple he thought were cool. He asked me if I wanted to do an EP so I wrote up a few more tracks after that.” Is there a back and forth or what? “Alex is generally pretty positive, he’s never said anything negative about anything that I’ve sent him. He wanted little changes for the end of some tracks but he’s never really been harsh about it. Maybe it’d be better if label heads were more blunt. I’ve never sent something to someone and they were straight up like “change it.” It’s not something that I would really hate if I knew the person had good taste in music and knew what they were talking about. It’s obviously not something someone who runs a label wants to do.”
Is it hard to not have that, do you feel like sometimes you get a bit inflated? “As an artist you kind of just have to be self-aware enough to know what’s gonna fly and what’s not. I feel like you can go back and forth on a track, like I hate it I love it, but I think I’m at a point now where I can know if it’s good or not. I know the rhythm I want to do before I even put it down, I hear it in my head and know it’s going to sound good.”
What sort of equipment are you using to record? Any hardware? “I do everything in Ableton and then master it in Ozone. I don’t use any hardware. That’s a world that I need to start exploring because I just use pretty basic digital stuff. It’s cool but it’s obviously an unneeded expense. Tape decks would be something I’d like to get, rolling your track through a tape recorder so it sounds more analog-y. On that French Fries release “Drums / Traxx” you can hear it hissing. Sounds like shit from the 80’s and they’re using 808s and all that hardware. I’m not sure I could incorporate that into my sound, I’m just trying to push into the future and be a bit ahead of the sound. I’m inspired by visuals, I see something and I try and visually represent it with music. “Skyline” was inspired by shit I see on Tumblr.”
Stream: Korma – Skyline (Mumdance 26th Rinse rip) Continue Reading →
Words by Tim Willis, 24 April 2014. Leave a comment
The D.C. producer sprang Rules up late in 2012 with a self-released, eponymously titled EP, attached with it the sort of experimental, alt-R&B pastiche that that particular year perhaps began to see too much of at the time of release. From looking at SoundCloud statistics, EP cut “I’m Patient” provided the biggest splash for Rules on the net since his project’s inception, and was a convincing conduit of the aforementioned style—a sound that speaks more to a certain time and less of a place, but one that continues to reappear if only without the same sense of novelty. Rules’ penchant for bluesy tones, then-virtuosic vocal pitch manipulation and spare drum programming would seem only ephemeral looking at the bigger picture, what with new showings of tracks like “Free” and the announcement of an EP with cuts of (assumedly) similar style.
Stream: Rules – I’mPatient
Freed up from Rules’ vault as a demo, “Free” represents a marked change in the producer’s MO. If it’s not a complete directional pivot, the track seems to at least indicate a change in musical pace—including tempo, which is realized most clearly in the final third. Beginning with bare percussion components and slow, pummeling kicks, one would be quick to equate it with Rule’s understated preceding material (which, besides the EP, only amounts to a couple remixes) but things take a turn for the atypical when a magnificent lead riff takes hold. However the producer went about getting the sound, it’s undeniably predominant in the mix, and paired with the sampled refrain “I do believe that I can break free” becomes this uplifting wake-up call to existence, really. “Free” even rolls through a short episode of deft footwork, if collective interests weren’t piqued enough about the upcoming DEMOCUTS01 from Rules.
Stream: Rules – Free
Words By: Michael Scala
Words by Truants, 22 April 2014. Leave a comment