It’s no secret that we’re big fans of the Her Records stable. In fact, our only complaint (dictated through greed) is that we don’t hear enough from them. This goes especially so for the Danish component of the crew, the Club Prince, Kid Antoine. The snippets we’ve heard from him, whether on his Soundcloud, Her Records Volume 3 or The Astral Plane’s Heterotopia compilation, piqued serious interest amongst club music fans but further material was tough to come by. This is all about to change. Following an extended US tour by the original members of the label, Kid Antoine’s Proximity EP (HER009) has been announced and we’re delighted to be sharing his entry into the Truancy Volume series by way of accompaniment. These vivid 40 minutes are energetically supercharged and draw on the same UK funky, dembow and ballroom influences as the new release. Some of the EP’s tracks are to be found inside, along with exclusives abound and a very welcome showing of Freeze Tag Booty. We also got to put a few questions to Kid Antoine over email and you can read the enlightening interview below. His driving forces, both in terms of sonic inspiration and geographic location, are particularly fascinating and only increase our curiosity in what’s to come.
Hello Anton! Thanks so much for the mix. How are you today? “You’re welcome! Feeling very good at the moment, I just quit my job. Now I have the amazing privilege of being able to wake up and go straight to working on my music. I’m still laying in my bed right now but I’m looking to do something productive as soon as I wake up, like now I’m writing this. Drippin told me he gets up at 6AM every day to go to the studio, I’m not quite on that level yet haha, but I’m trying.”
I was hoping you could start off with telling us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a producer? “My name is Anton, I’m 20 years old and from Copenhagen. Back in 4th grade I was writing raps with my friends and my parents got me Magix Music Maker Hip Hop Edition, which was a drag’n’drop loops program. There was a piano roll in it too. It was more like a step sequencer with little boxes that you could tick, very cryptic to use. One or two years later I got Cubase which was just too much for me. Luckily I found out about FruityLoops and the step sequencer was basically how I learned the concepts of music e.g. realising the 4/4 structure. Just the most basic basics, but I really remember that as a revelation to me, going “Aaaaah this is how music works” haha. So I really feel like a child of that technology and almost a personal relation to these programs because “they” taught me how to make music. Fast forward three or four more years and I was using an MPC and Logic to make beats. I got really bored of it so I sold it all and tried out Ableton Live. That really gave me the same feeling that I had with Fruity Loops, the curiosity to experiment and be able to do anything you want, because you can “program” the music. The MPC is really limited to what you are able to create physically, using your hands to play.”
What’s the music/club scene like in Copenhagen? It’s not often mentioned among the major ones in Europe. “From my perspective, it’s been hard to say anything good about it, but 2015 is looking more interesting for sure. It’s very rare that there will be a club night here that I would want to go to, so I’m really glad whenever it actually happens. There are 2 different club nights right now that I am excited about and they seem to be held maybe every 3-4 months, so there is a long time between the cool nights. The festivals here are really what mostly brings the music I want to hear – Distortion being the one that usually delivers the club names and it’s spread over a very intense week. I’m very excited to see the Sonar Festival coming to Copenhagen, that is a huge leap forward for us. In general we do get opportunities to hear great stuff in Copenhagen, it’s just a bit inconsistent.”
Having said that, there are plenty of great producers coming out of Scandinavia. You and Eloq both from Denmark. Drippin from Norway. Cashmere Cat’s in a different field altogether but he’s gone global recently. First off, do you think there’s any particular reason we’re seeing so much quality electronic music coming from your part of the world? And secondly, is there anybody else we should be keeping an eye out for? “I think the youth here are educated to be open-minded and so in general have an open approach to new music. There is an audience to present it to, people who care about what’s going on. The problem is just that not a lot of people are taught to create, at least that’s the situation in Denmark. In Scandinavia there’s an unwritten law, the law of Jante, which basically translates to “You’re not to think you are anything special”. It’s a really cliché thing for us to bring up as the cause of the problem, but I really think it makes artists try to push boundaries to be distanced from general society. I recently met up with some friends from Berlin who had noticed that the Danish lifestyle is very admired but it’s also very uniform compared to theirs. The few people who differ from this way of living life will always have a strong will to proceed, and that’s how great art is created. It’s funny that you mention these three names since I’ve worked with all of them in one way or another. Out to them and fellow Scandinavians Dinamarca, Al Tariq, Why Be, Slick Shoota, M. Wrecker, Kablam, Emil_ (Skawr), the list goes on!”
You’re just about to release your debut EP, Proximity, on Her Records. How did you link up with those guys? “I had done these little clips that I had uploaded to Soundcloud and never really bothered finishing. One of those was Expected Encounter. I had no network at all, but NKC heard my tracks on there and passed them to Sudanim and Miss Modular. They reached out and said they wanted it for the 3rd volume of the Her Records compilation. In the meantime my computer had broken, so I had to dig out the project file from an old hard disk. The recreation of the project file was a pain but I managed to finish the track. I had never heard about Her Records before so it was a discovery for me as well! We clicked really well on our approach to club music so it came pretty natural for us to exchange ideas and tracks, it just developed from there.”
We’ve heard odd tracks from you before, on compilations and on your Soundcloud, but how was the process of putting together your first full solo release? “The whole process was very simple and straight forward actually. The EP just formed around the theme I’ve been making tracks with for the last year and a half or so, this concept of battle inspired music for the club. Expected Encounter was the start to that and the EP just might be the finish of it, and thereby a time to find new inspiration. I already had a lot of the ideas for track names and the scenarios they soundtracked in my head. When I felt a track taking a specific direction in the working process, it usually clicked with the track names I already had. I feel that track names are very important, planting an idea of what a track is about. Working on and finishing these tracks also made me very confident in my ways of approaching music production, so I have a lot of things that I’m trying out right now for future material.”
One of the things we love about the label is that you’re all obviously linked through this genealogy of “club” music, but everybody has their own influences which make them stand out from each other. Who are some of your influences from out of the ordinary? “Yeah we really have a common ground. That’s also one of the reasons why I think we got connected so fast. I am influenced and fascinated by ear catching pop music melodies, and I always try writing a melody that I will be able to remember when I wake up the next day – then I know I can continue working on it. Also, I used to listen to Dilla, Madlib and Samiyam/Flying Lotus stuff all the time, and still enjoy it. It isn’t really obvious in my music but it’s still an influence one way or another. I take a lot of inspiration from Movie FX and Foley stuff, but also the acoustic design of products. The sound of a car door being closed and so on. It’s something I’m trying to dive a bit more into. When I was younger I was on a one week internship at a sound studio that does a lot of the biggest Danish productions. It really opened my eyes to that whole part of not just scoring a movie, but actually sculpting the real life sound of it.”
What can you tell us about the mix? Looking at the tracklist it seems to contain a whole load of exclusives! “I’ve been working on and gathering music to do a mix like this with exclusive tracks from friends for a while now, so it was really satisfying to finally finish it. There are a couple of little new edits from me in there as well as two tracks from the EP. The mix starts off around the 110 BPM mark, with some evocative productions from the Her Crew and climbs steadily, evolving into faster high energy stuff before closing off with my melody edit of Beyonce’s already iconic “7/11”. Hope you like it!”
Kid Antoine – Stress
Cyphr – Ekleipsis (MM Edit)
Cyphr – ???
Divoli S’vere x Beek – Blow Ya Smoke (Strawberry Kush Remix) (KA edit)
Paul Marmota – Lifi
Celestial Trax – After All
Sami Baha – (NASA) Domain Awareness System
Drippin – Ethereal Blade (demo)
Putobronze – Acaba Com Tudo
Kid Antoine – Motion Sensor
Krakmaxter Cicloff – Batida Kuduro Loko G
Ctrl Trax – Intertropical Convergance Zone (KA edit)
K Kutta – Freeze Tag Booty
Dinamarca – Descontrol (Drippin Remix) (demo)
Ca$h Out – I Want The Money (MM Club Fix)
Eloq & Kid Antoine – Orion
Kid Antoine – Recon (MM Remix)
Brenmar & Julius Sylvest – Air Ball
Drippin & MM – LMK (demo)
DJ Xav – Flex Clique Anthem 3
Cirqa – Ion
Divoli S’vere – Meteor Effectz
Kid Antoine – Proximity
Beyonce – 7/11 (KA edit)
Proximity is released on the 16th March. You can preorder it here.
Words by Matt Coombs, 04 March 2015. Leave a comment
“Things were looking bad today / I didn’t know what to say / And the sirens are far away / But I never ever felt this way.” So ends “Crisis”, a B-side number from Jam City’s second album, Dream A Garden. The words, and the voice singing them, are Jack Latham’s own – a confirmation of the Night Slugs veteran’s multifaceted nature and a refreshing, rule-bending approach to releasing music. Indeed, Latham has long been dubbed a shapeshifter and a musician you can’t quite get a handle on. Musing on his debut album, Classical Curves, Rory Gibb at The Quietus closes with: “It’ll be interesting to see where Latham takes things from here, but it’s probably not worth attempting to predict.” Gibb’s prediction of the unpredictable is spot-on in terms of musicality. Instead of being all “geometric and jagged edge[s]”, Dream a Garden is woozy and organic. A hopeless romance underpins the entire composition – it’s heart-bursting stuff. Wah-wah guitars smirk and intros loiter, while tempos and rhythms soak in funk, boogie and jazz. A bit like Prince, but think walks home from the club in summer sunrise.
Yet at times, surrounding the album’s reverberating vocal chants, the musical construction is industrial and apocalyptic: the levels seem all wrong and snare drums are either splutter or knotted cackle. Bits that sound like soaring climaxes come at strange times, like in the album’s opener, “The Garden Thrives”; the first section is a shower of bullets from a firing squad, before it relents and you’re immersed in a scene, walking light-footed down a street, any street, gasping synths taking you, uncaring, to nowhere. This holding back and toying with tension does in fact exist in much of Latham’s work; even Classical Curves, a club album in essence, dared not exhale fully. The producer never quite putting his foot down so the music could propel like a tour bus along a motorway.
There is one thing, however, that marks a stark difference between Dream A Garden and any previous work: there is a clear political agenda. Many will have already seen the press release being circulated by the artist and his fans on social media (click here to view). Within it, Latham explains his intention: “No hope, no future, a constant war raging in the peripheries. / I wanna laugh about it / But I just can’t laugh about it. / And so it is then, this is a record about love and resistance.” The album, he says, is a “rejection of our fate as the generation raised on empty promises, SSRIs and indefinite war; curtains closed, alienated from our bodies, our voices, our earth.”
This idea of alienation is one that surely rings true with many: the real is becoming more and more abstracted with the media, insidious politicians and overwhelming capitalist control all smothered in Orwellian language, warping our perception and clouding our view. His website also explores this concept. To get to where you want to be, you have to click through pop-up style images of media cutouts, lonely hearts ads and gun-toting police officers before you land at the video for “Unhappy”, unhappy. Latham illustrates that, with the world at our fingertips and our brains rammed with knowledge at rates we can’t control, we seem, weirdly, more powerless than ever. Within this context, the smiling riffs in “Proud”, bubbling melodies in “Today”, and lazy, lovely sounds in the mockingly named “Good Lads, Bad Lads” take on a different, more sinister, meaning. In one way, Dream A Garden aims to reflect back on the listener – or consumer – the world in which we live, and accept. Latham dares us to keep ignoring – to keep clicking past – the misery.
Funny then, how the press release seems to use and manipulate the techniques Latham so condemns: aware of his audience as big-time-internet-using, music-news-guzzling listeners, he makes use of the highly visual culture we enjoy, where music is not just an aural experience but an interactive one. Vivid orange-red backdrop with script in white, this manifesto provides us with preconceptions that, once read, we can’t shake. Perhaps he is urging us to think for ourselves. But to label the album as totally cynical would be to discredit it. What is the garden that features in the album title and tracklist? Dream a garden, Latham demands, the garden thrives, he tells us. What is the garden? Thriving, to dream. The words certainly hold positive connotations, ones of hope, change and growth.
Jam City’s Dream A Garden LP is out March 23 on Night Slugs. Preorder here.
Words by Erin Mathias, 03 March 2015. Leave a comment
Moveltraxx, the French ghetto club music label headed up by Big Dope P, has a long lasting relationship with Teklife. While DJ Earl has been present on the last few of its compilations, other members of the transcendent footwork crew have appeared on Moveltraxx releases since as early as 2010. Indeed, it would appear that Big Dope P saw what was coming out of Chicago a while before we all did. This shouldn’t come as particularly surprising however given his track record as a purveyor of club music from all over America (and the world for that matter), including recent forays into Baltimore and Jersey.
Encapsulating this ethos was Street Bangers Factory Vol. 1, the first in a new series of compilations from Moveltraxx. Its name renders the content self-explanatory, and the bangers in question come from the likes of Dudley Slang, MikeQ and Divoli S’vere. One of the highlights for us was certainly DJ Earl’s fiery footwork number “Bring Ya Click” and so we’re delighted to be giving you the exclusive of his effort for Vol. 2, “Off Molly”. We’ll let the track speak for itself but, safe to say, it’s a welcome addition to Earl’s hypnotic and already impressive catalogue. Street Bangers Factory Vol. 2 also features tracks from Feadz & Big Dope P (which has already premiered here), Imami, EQ Why and Dudley Slang, as well as a remix of Ezekiel from Mighty Mark, TT The Artist & Mike-Mike ZOME. Be sure to cop the full length EP when it drops on the 9th March (Juno)/16th March (iTunes).
Words by Matt Coombs, 02 March 2015. Leave a comment
For our next session of Functions of the Now we’ve tapped LA local Guy Fridge, a character who has been quietly hard at work behind the scenes at some our favourite labels. After a stint working as A&R for Fade To Mind (where he was instrumental in bringing Neana into the fold) and Private Selection, Fridge has turned focus to his own methodologies and practices.
The mix tracks interaction between these artists’ vivid, grimey soundscapes and the humanoid contours of modern RnB and grime. What makes this instalment unique is a specific focus on vocal-led club music, one that refreshingly denies the empty and reductive ‘instrumental’ tagline that often accompanies new grime. Like many other apophenic mixes in the series, Fridge gathers data from a wide range of geographies and has them hit with the same reflexive, globalized energy. But here the cyborg collaboration, evident particularly in modern RnB, between human and machine is highlighted, spitting flames at the sacred binaries of yesterday and embracing a more ambiguous transhumanism. Suitable in a time in which artists like TCF are pushing the boundaries of anthropic artistic process. In a discussion after our Skype date Fridge emails me asserting “Latour says that in human-machine networks, such as the computer-user paradigm, machines play an active, rather than passive, role in creativity. The contours of technological systems shape, mold, and direct the human creative process… Consciousness is probably just a specialized organizational state of matter that can be replicated in any substrate- even synthetic ones!”
Fundamental for Fridge is an understanding of the constraints inherent to the computational creativity of Ableton and the drum machine, an age-old aesthetic question that harks back to Dogme 95 and the Oulipo movement but which remains crucial in our time. This mix tracks the various interpretations of these technological constraints so integral to grime and its praxis, particularly in its Fruity Loops era, and other sounds like it.
As usual, since our last edition there’s been a wealth of interesting music from the star system surrounding this series. Checking in first with our friends at Local Action we have Finn Remixed, a victory lap for ubiquitous 2014 grime anthem “Keep Calling”. Strict Face, the man responsible for the first mix in this series, turns in another fantastic instantiation of his ethereal signature sound on his remix of Only Boy but it’s Samename’s contribution that steals the show. Utilising the Japanese sound palette he perfected on eski-referencing debut ep Yume, Samename takes a sharp left turn from the vintage RnG of “My My”, and instead moulds it into a raucous hardstyle banger. Other FOTN alumni M.E.S.H. and Air Max 97′ also make a return with Infra-Dusk/Infra-Dawn and the Fruit Crush EP respectively. M.E.S.H.’s offering is the perfect sequel to last year’s Scythians, solidifying the ghostly presence of that record’s title track into something with a potent physical heft. Meanwhile Air Max 97′ continues the rhythmic trickery on his second release with altogether more playful results. There’s a definite point of intersection between the two if you examine the percussive skeletons but their respective moods demonstrate the breadth of the aesthetic we’ve been charting with Functions Of The Now. Out in the Soundcloud ocean we’ve been particularly enamoured with CLUB CACAO‘s uploads, ranging from classic 03 grime to noisier and more abstract excursions. Another essential transmission from those waters comes from Amnesia Scanner’s “As Angels Rig Hook”, a technoid backdrop to Jaakko Pallasvuo’s poetry that compellingly connects the dots between figures like TCF and the Janus crew. And though we’re sure you’ve heard it by now, it would be remiss of us not to mention Novelist’s first bold steps into the big time with his Mumdance collaboration on XL, “One Sec”. The 18 yr old MC sounds every bit the part as he navigates through stark and weighty sound design as well as its negative space.
So the first question I wanted to ask was about your work at Fade to Mind – you were an A&R there? “Basically I saw on twitter that Prince Will needed some help so I just hit him up. I didn’t know what they were looking for or anything but it turned out they wanted help doing like mail orders and shipping and just creating some better organisation in the business. We were also just sharing music, we’d just sit in the car for hours and play stuff for each other. At the time I’d been talking to Tim Neana for about a year and a half prior to that. I was a big fan… actually it’s funny, we used to have this pipe dream of starting a label together ourselves!” Hehe, what was it called? “Oh man, I don’t even know if it had a name. We were really young, Neana maybe 15 and me 17-18. Anyway, one of the first things I played to Will was this pack of dubs that Neana had sent me, and bang, it ended up becoming the basis of his upcoming EP for Night Slugs, as well as “Bow Kat“, the most recent release. Then L-Vis came out to LA for a weekend and Will hooked him up with the demos, immediately he was like ‘we need to work with this guy, he gets us’.” Sweet, such a nice little piece of history. To be honest I was surprised to learn that F2M had an A&R considering everyone is so on point. “Yeah, I mean the crew overall is very close knit and it really formed organically, they were all friends and knew each other online… actually everybody had each other as top friends of Myspace. Dave (Quam, Massacooramaan) also had this blog and would have people do mixes, and everyone loved his blog, loved the music he was covering and the shine he was bringing to global urban music. So it really started with these naturally forming friendships that happened online. Neana and Georgia Girls are really a newer generation, they were like 15 or 16 when Kingdom was releasing his first records. It’s a new set of people and they’re bringing their own ideas to the vision that the label has.”
In our email correspondence before the interview you mentioned that with the mix you were trying to draw the link between various urban musics, I was wondering if you could expand on that a little? “Sure, I guess one of the main things I was trying to do is show the versatility of RnB music. I mean RnB is really just the idea of a soulful voice, which can happen at any tempo, within any rhythmic context and within any melodic context. So that’s why there’s a diversity of tempos there, showing the connections between these various geospecific urban scenes and how they all kind of think in the same way, ultimately.” And also how they function in the same way. “Exactly. I would say all effective urban music has its number one principal as doing as much as possible with as few elements as possible and boiling an idea down to its simplest, most elegant state. And there a million ways of interpreting that simple formula, that’s why we have all these different styles and ideas. But that’s what I see as the uniting principle through all that music. A big part of that is because they’re all made in the same way, they’re all made basically using the same set of constraints. You’ve got a sequencer, a drum machine whatever or you have digital software, which gets a little more complicated. There’s a similarity in the production method, it’s just that the context is different and that’s why the results are different.”
Let’s chat a little about LA, what’s going on there at the moment? “I feel like it’s in a really good place at the moment, there’s a lot more space for new ideas than, say, NYC, with its huge warehouse districts. There’s also a great history of club oriented hip hop music on the West Coast. I mean, that’s really how I got into club music, through hyphy and West Coast hip hop. I would go to dances in middle school and I’d be super awkward or whatever but they’d be fucking playing Dubee or Sleepy D and that’s just… tight. That’s the music that hit me first as far as the club space goes, and got me into that way of thinking about music.” That’s really interesting coz that’s quite a different context for this series. “Yeah, but then when I was in high school I was super into Detroit and Chicago and got really into looking elsewhere, but that was really how I came into it.”
So what’ve you been working on recently? “I’m basically just trying to apply this aesthetic I’ve created to a template that could be applicable for a vocalist. So I’m basically trying to update or modernize urban music with my own aesthetic and my own sound palette. I’ve also been focusing on creating the most complicated signal path possible to achieve whatever result I’m going for. So intentionally trying to find the most ridiculous workarounds. I might write a melody but I want to misuse it and abuse it as much as I can. So I’m really interested in process and repetition. I’ll load a sample into a granular synth and manipulate it, then export it and keep re-exporting the output signal over and over until its something totally different and fucked up. So I guess I’m just trying to use these constraints incorrectly, doing something your not supposed to.” Cool, so by extension how has DJing played into your process? I love the dialogue between those two practices. “I’ve been working on a lot of edits recently, a lot of tool tracks, which rises out of DJing. I’ll be DJing and do a blend and really like it and that’s where a lot of my ideas for tracks come from. That transitional section, it’s amazing because you get these moments of chaos which turn into accidental beauty.” Yeah that really harps back to surrealism and exquisite corpse vibe which I’ve been super into. It’s old school! “Yeah totally. I love moments of violent, chaotic juxtaposition in club music. That’s why I’ll do stuff like play a drum track into something beat-less, abstract, or ambient; I feel like those intense club moments bang that much harder when you contrast them with moments of stasis. I think listening to club music on headphones before experiencing it in an actual club is to blame for this; I guess I have a bit less reverence for the dogma and formalism of that space than some. I also try to recreate these violent moments of conflict in my own production by simultaneously embracing economic and excessive uses of sound. By this I mean a careful combination of elegant construction and chaotic disruption.”
1. GF – Automata V1
2. Arca – Bullet Chained
3. MC Messiah – Nelieskit Melynojo Gaublio (Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf Edit)
4. Luval – Arousal
5. Sage the Gemini – Gas Pedal (GF’s 01.15.30.09.11.13 Edit)
6. Sentinl – Shinkendo.nrl (Full Neural Rip)
7. Dinamarca – A.M.A.B ft. Gnucci
8. Tyga – Wait For A Minute ft. Justin Bieber (Total Freedom Edit)
9. Rayven Justice – Slide Through ft. Waka Flocka
10. Usher- I Don’t Mind ft. Juicy J (Playback Reduction)
11. ________V – 08182013VX
12. Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf – Screen
13. Dexter Duckett – Snowflake
14. M.E.S.H. – Scythians (Lotic Remix)
15. Rabit- Black Dragons ft. Riko Dan
16. Music For Your Plants – Fossil
17. Ty Dolla Sign – Bitches Ain’t Shit (Why Be Edit)
18. SD Laika – Flicker
19. Tinashe – Vulnerable (M.E.S.H.’s DAW Is My Sewer Remix)
20. Divoli S’vere- Too Much (ft. Beek)
21. Headlock – Hold
CTM is an annual festival that takes place in Berlin alongside its sister event transmediale, a year-long project that aims to draw out new connections between art, culture and technology. CTM focuses on contemporary electronic and experimental music and as well as the multifaceted disciplines that branch off from the club experience. A host of parties, shows, installations and lectures are presented over the course of eight days in late January. This year’s overarching theme was ‘Un Tune’: the aim was to explore and examine the functional significance and effect of contemporary music. To that end, the festival hosted some 180 concerts, performances and installations involving more than 200 participants. We spent a weekend in Berlin, soaking up as much as possible in an all too brief space of time.
The first event for Truants to attend is Xeno IV at Berghain. After stopping for a drink in the semi-infamous Sunflower Hostel we make our way to the even more notorious nightclub, forbidding by reputation and in its brutal appearance. Visiting Berghain for a festival occasion is, we’re told, markedly different from seeing the venue in its regular capacity, and it does indeed seem more reserved than anecdotal reports would have had us expect. After two hours of warm-up music from local Boiler Room host and CTM co-curator Opium Hum, Aleksi Perälä takes to the stage – a stage, somewhere – to perform Colundi Sequence, built from the custom musical scale he fashioned alongside Grant Wilson-Claridge. It’s a beautiful experience: uncertain where to look, the crowd shifts and moves with a slight awkwardness, unused to a situation where the DJ or performer cannot be seen, a captive audience forced to break from what a friend describes as the “slightly fascistic” element of DJ performance culture. The music itself is exquisite, with frenzied synth arpeggios darting about the impressive sound system, each track harder and more corrosive than the last.
Hungarian artist Gábor Lázár follows, hammering out 45 minutes of sonic abrasion – not dense noise, but rather clipped blasts of sound that stray away from rhythm whenever it seems to approach. It’s even less conducive to mindless dancing than Perälä’s considered elegance. This assault is followed by a similarly-minded DJ set from Prostitutes, who ramps up the tempo and hits hard. Egyptrixx offers some initial intrigue, if only by virtue of his tardiness. A bizarre experience for many, no doubt, is the total silence that greets us on return from brief sojourns upstairs into Panoramabar. Some time later he takes to the stage and blasts lengthy passages of the grinding, metallic noise central to his latest album, Transfer of Energy [Feelings of Power]. He eventually brings in some beats, and the crowd, at this point almost static, is shaken from its stillness. By now awake for some 24 hours, we head home without seeing either Powell or Maelstrom, though not before a languid walk down the affluent Münzstraße covered in fresh 5am snow, listening to the crisp sounds of Vitalis Popoff (following some U-bahn-related confusion).
The following afternoon, an insightful discussion takes place between Resident Advisor associate editor Will Lynch and industry veteran Craig Leon. At CTM for a live performance of his recently reissued 1981 album Nommos, Leon speaks about his professional history, from recording in Florida before moving to New York (where he discovered and helped launch bands like the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie) and on to his present-day work in classical music. He describes his production style as more interpreter than dictator, helping bands iron out their ideas to create a coherent vision from their often rambunctious live approaches. In his mind, recording the London Philharmonic is no different from recording Suicide. He says that the albums he put out with the likes of James Galway and Luciano Pavarotti elicited more shock from the classical establishment than any punk album did from the mainstream. Mark E Smith of The Fall recently told BBC 6Music that: “A lot of producers, even if they’re big fans of the group, they won’t work with me any more.” On this day, however, Leon ventures: “Everyone says Mark is difficult to work with, but he’s one of the funniest guys I know. He’s incredibly aware of what he’s doing and he knows what he wants.” Coming across as truly affable and genial, perhaps Leon is simply that bit more relaxed than his fellow producers. As for the future, he describes a new modular take on the work of JS Bach inspired by the Wendy Carlos album Switched-On Bach. When an audience member asks why he hasn’t tackled the work of a composer like Bruckner, Leon responds that although he had actually suggested such a project, the money just isn’t there for anything considered that experimental. Furthermore, Bruckner’s arrangements are just too complex. Bach it is.
Jenny Hval and Susanna, joined by Heida Mobeck and Stine J. Motland. Photo by Oliver Beige
If Berghain was put to strange use on Friday, the setting at HAU seems a lot more appropriate for Meshes of Voice. An “interdisciplinary house”, the venue plays host to artists from the worlds of theatre, dance, performance art, music, visual art and discourse, and aims to create new alliances and produce different contexts. First to perform this evening is Lydia Ainsworth, a Canadian singer whose seemingly straightforward pop numbers are underpinned by electronic experimentation and heavily effected vocals. At one point her on-screen visuals cut out to a blank Apple screen emblazoned with the words “GET BANGED”, eliciting mischievous laughter. It’s a moment of levity before a really quite magnificent performance from Jenny Hval & Susanna, whose 2014 album inspired the event’s title. Accompanied by Heida Mobeck and Stine J. Motland, not only do they bring the album to life, but expand its character entirely, creating a dense and overpowering wall of sound causing an intense visceral reaction. Opening with unvoiced tuba blowing, manipulated to create the sound of waves, there’s an overarching sense of the mystic and mythical – forest spirits and mountain lords, benevolent and malevolent, hanging over the evening. The tension is so thick that after one lengthy sequence is complete, the audience remains deathly silent until Susanna playfully says, “Hello,” from her piano, prompting nervous laughter and well-deserved applause. There’s a sense of a unifying performance rather than a series of songs, those overlying meshes of voice – Jenny’s youthful, elfin, Susanna’s powerful, almost strident – coming together in grand harmony and discord.
Emptyset. Photo courtesy of CTM
One observation of the weekend is that Berliners don’t jaywalk; the locals are wont to wait for the appropriate signal before crossing the road. More than a few visitors are seen on their way to HAU for the world premiere of Emptyset’s ambitious Signal project, running across a clear street under the stern eye of a little red man in the hope of securing some of the few remaining tickets. In Signal, the Bristol duo aim to use ionospheric propagation (in the simplest of terms, radio waves) as the basis for their sonic explorations. In fact, the performance is delayed by an hour due to the unpredictability and activity of those radio waves. Their sound is initially transmitted to the Nauen Transmitter Station, the oldest transmitting plant in the world, some 42km away. It is then sent on to the Issoudun Station in France, from which it finally travels back to the HAU venue and out of its speakers. A long journey, along which many factors can cause havoc, yet the hour-long performance passes without any great hitch. The sound is thick, heavy and oppressive. Wholly immersive, the effect is heady, dreamlike, best experienced loud, and in the dark; something to be savoured and appreciated, if not enjoyed. A small sense of its scale might be touched when it will be replayed on Deutschlandradio Kultur in April, just after midnight (CET).
Shapednoise (l), Logos and Mumdance present The Sprawl. Photo courtesy of CTM
The final event of the festival takes place at Astra Kulturhaus, a venue that regularly plays host to acts across the spectrum, from Amon Tobin to Yo La Tengo. Tonight, it is the site of Tune Out, the CTM x RBMA finale. To start, Melbourne-born Berlin transplant Phoebe Kiddo performs her exuberant Mind:Body:Fitness project, a feverishly upbeat yet manically forlorn take on modern club music. She’s followed by Japanese trio Nisennenmondai, whose performance comes off as a touch robotic and lacking in human spirit, despite undeniable technical prowess and unwavering steadiness, particularly on bass and percussion. The drummer even manages to maintain blistering pace whilst checking her phone at one point. Guitarist Masako Takada takes to the mic at the performance’s end to say, “We have new record, so please buy,” to genuinely heartfelt laughter and applause. A highlight for many, supergroup-of-sorts Carter Tutti Void take to the stage for their own twisted brand of electronics, a lurching technoid stomp encouraging even the weariest of festival-goers to get down.
Then, The Sprawl. Mumdance and Logos’ performance is far from the urgent heft of their collaborative album, Proto. Instead, the pair draft in Italian drone and techno explorer Shapednoise. His task is to deconstruct and transmogrify Proto, moulding an unrecognisable barrage of sound from its skeletal constructions, which is both deep and abrasive. Inspired by William Gibson, a writer of speculative fiction who coined the term cyberspace, The Sprawl is a grand look at the modern world and its urban conglomeration. (Note also that ‘The Sprawl’ is the name of a track on Mumdance’s Take Time EP for Rinse last year.) Beats and rhythms occasionally creep in amidst abstract explosions, a constant threat of thud hanging in the air. Always aiming for great sonic drama and tension, the performance is replete with the bare tropes of grime and rave – sirens and hoovers, gunshots and cymbal reverse – yet in tearing these elements apart, the effect is one of confusion and reflection rather than hedonistic escape. It’s reminiscent of Lee Gamble’s Diversions 1994-1996, in which he sought to “extract, expand upon and convey particular qualities emblematic of the original music” – old jungle tapes from his youth. Maya Kalev, writing in The Wire, describes describes the ‘weightless’ genre coined by Mumdance and Logos as “a shadow or palimpsest of dance music, rich in its signifiers and history but lacking its typical drive and force”. The same could be said about this show for the most part, although it’s certainly not lacking in force, blasting heavy noise and mechanical squawk. It’s a stirring end to the evening, if not quite rousing and triumphant. For that, the crowd is sent to the adjacent Urban Spree venue, where Kontra-musik’s Ulf Eriksson and Lobster Theremin and Dekmantel’s Palms Trax take things home over five hours of ebullient house and techno, while a secondary room includes the first indoor coal fire Truants has ever seen next to a DJ setup.
Despite the brevity of our stay, it was all too easy to find and enjoy a variety of performances and activities at CTM. Engaging with each event on any level was possible, from mindless dancing to deep-focused concentration and involvement – and there were plenty of shows we were unable to attend. Now in its 16th year, CTM is a well established fixture on the Berlin calendar and shows no signs of complacency, attracting a range of international artists that are across several scales of diversity. More than just a festival (to call it such does a disservice to its scope), CTM offers as much as you dare put in. Here’s to its 17th edition.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 26 February 2015. Leave a comment