The German duo Kettenkarussell make restrained house music that recalls the early noughties output of labels like Dial and Kompakt or the work of Move D, focused on both the subtlest nuances of tracks and an overarching deep blue atmosphere. The project is more update than rehash, though, predominantly as a result of its focus on live performance; as detailed as their music is, it also has a loose, unrehearsed quality that undoubtedly comes from experimenting on the fly. They’ve released two 12″s on the Giegling label which are well worth tracking down, but hearing one of their sets really puts those tracks into context. These performances unfold methodically, with a real concern for space, and develop a slinky kind of funk as elements are quietly shifted, added, and subtracted. It’s so easy to develop tunnelvision listening to their calming, organic style of hypnotism — maybe a bit like witnessing the scenery shifts on a lengthy train journey atop that constant click-clack. In anticipation of their appearance at London’s Whitechapel Gallery on September 17th as part of the Alpha-Ville festival, Kettenkarussell sent us a recording of their set at this year’s Fusion festival, as well as some insight into the project and its priorities.
LWE Podcast 58: Kettenkarussell (37:20)
How did you start making music as individuals, and how and when did Kettenkarussell begin? Were there any specific influences that served as catalysts?
Kettenkarussell: We met in school and were hanging out with other friends in the free periods, experimenting with different things. Usually Thursday between the 6th and the 10th period we got wasted before the sport lesson began. We always liked everything with a certain spirit, no matter what it is. If you want some names: Helge Schneider, Murcof, At The Drive In, Jan Jelinek, Mclusky, Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano, Radiohead, The (early) Blood Brothers, Vincent Gallo, Tortoise, Sector 16, Prince of Denmark, David Lynch, Cedric, Ninja Tunes, Warp, and Stone Throw Records.
Is there any special meaning behind the name? Why “chain carousel”?
Riding a chain carousel is a nice experience.
I assume the live performance is a priority for you, as there are a few Kettenkarussell sets floating around right now. What do the sets consist of? For me, there’s an inherent looseness, but also a very structured trajectory; I was wondering how much jamming is going on; how much do the tracks change from set to set?
We would like to be a band, and yes if everything feels right, playing live is the moment where everything comes together and suddenly makes sense. In the live set we try to combine all kinds of sketches. It’s never arranged; sometimes we do a kind of set list, but mostly we react onto each others vibrations. In the past this was much easier, because of the rookiness, but this is still the approach.
Do you make a distinction between the material you perform live and the material you release?
In every set there are new tracks, so it’s always changing. That’s why we hardly play songs that we finished. We like to surprise ourselves all the time, stay excited and come up with something new.
When you work on tracks for releases, do they evolve out of a larger jam session, or do you specifically set out to make something for a record?
We try to finish the songs that touched us the most during a live set and than find other tracks that could fit into the context of an EP.
Is there additional gear on the recordings that you don’t (or can’t) use in the live setting (or vice versa)?
No, the live setup is the same we got at home. Often we do music while traveling or even just before the gig, using the excitement and nervousness to not piss our pants.
Can you give a little bit of background on the live set you’ve provided for Little White Earbuds?
It’s a part of a live set from the Fusion Festival 2010. Over the years this Festival had a huge influence on our music and the way we play live. That somehow was the place where the Kettenkarussell was born.
Obviously you’re not holed up in a bunker somewhere, but you do use pseudonyms and your persona is perhaps a bit murky. Is anonymity important to you?
Yes, it’s one part of our personality, also musically. If we would make music under our real names, it would be different. In our opinion techno should be faceless and not about names or persona, or some nice pants.
What’s the role of minimalism in the project? Is there a certain point where you decide enough elements are involved? Is that use of restraint reactionary? It often feels like a respite from a lot of loud and overloaded contemporary material.
We were influenced during a time when it was more common to play really reduced and kind of low music all night long. We got stuck on this in a positive way.
What’s next for the project?
In September we are playing at The Oe Festival in Denmark and Alpha-ville Festival in London. And we are preparing for changing times, in a lot of senses.
LWE Podcast 58: Kettenkarussell (37:20)