Cio D’or, Die Faser

Erik-Natzke
Painting by Erik Natzke

[Prologue]


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As in a Papal Conclave, so in international dance music. This may or may not be a hard and fast rule. But “always follow a fat pope with a skinny pope” seems to be proving true in the way the wind is blowing now: ever so softly, away from U.S.-influenced, Berlin-centric deep house, towards techno. That house movement, spearheaded by the able likes of Move D, used a different set of instruments than much of the deep house that influenced it, but picked up on the same old impulse of house to use new technology to provide a listening experience that is immediate, directly rewarding, and that closes the gap between pleasure receptors in the brain, shaking hips, and stomping feet. Cio D’or is intricately tied to a different response to the Berlin minimal that, for better or worse, has been the previous decade’s most powerful force in shaping electronic dance music. Her music is a lucid exploration of the space between Saturday night minds and Sunday morning bodies, and Die Faser is the culmination of that trend to date. It is also a rare full length from a motley international crew who are reshaping attitudes about the relationship of foreboding sonic aesthetics and pleasure, and pointing out, to those of us who might have missed them before, the horizons of the challenging and rewarding style that I would rather call anything else but “headfuck techno.”

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The format of Cio’s album is unusual. Die Faser is available on vinyl only in bits and bobs. A string of 12 inches feature a track or two each, backed up by remixes. These platters will seemingly be convenient to DJs who want to weave a few Cio moments into their sets, but are useless to anyone who wants to take in the album as an integrated whole. For this, digital download is the only way. The album’s deft assembly makes the physical version of this music more disposable than the version made up of ones and zeroes only. This unusual situation rather suits the sounds that reach your ears. The ephemeral tracks here seem not to be very anchored to the tactile world. “Faser” means fiber, or grain, and for all the organic connotations of those words, this album seems more like a strand plucked from the more remote corners of the techno aesthetic. That aesthetic can be imagined to correspond to a nebula in space, or an icy, remote mountain vista. What all these images share is the notion of a place far removed from everyday experience, where perhaps our instincts even warn of danger, but where an otherly beauty shocks our senses at a stunning pace.

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Opener “Zellulose Wind” is a short ambient piece that does just what it says: Cio extracts a sound like hollowed out bass which is what we would hear if we transmuted wind into film. A few helpful, foreign bleeps and blips hint at nice things to come, without promising much. And then “Goldbrokat” bursts in. Its resonant kick drum and bass line combination — redolent of Plastikman’s “Consumed” — brings the listener immediately back down to earth, more specifically to the club. What starts as a neatly toned, purely consistent bass grinder, reminiscent of Sandwell District techno, quickly grows complex with asymmetrical percussive touches sprinkled around the mid-range. And then gloriously, if not quite surprisingly, a cellulose piano springs its voice into the gaseous breakdown in the track’s fourth minute.

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The effect is terrific. Beauty and harshness, feeling rough and feeling good, being afraid to go further and wanting to find what you might if you do: all seem to go together again, still maintaining their proper segregation into techno bass and trance bleep, minimal helter-skelter and ambient tension. The rest of the album keeps up this balance, pulling similar tricks in unexpected ways, using musical sleight-of-hand to unified effect. It isn’t until very near the end, in “Cotton (La Petite Geisha),” that all of these impulses succeed in binding together to shift the stylistic paradigm into something the album’s fluid understanding of genre, tone and emotion has promised. “Cotton” is almost certainly not the album’s strongest track in terms of musical construction, but it is the moment when Cio’s perspective comes most authentically to the fore. Reluctant drums open in territory that might make you think we’re diverging towards Prologue’s more skittish moments. But luminous beeps, and strings, which probably bear more of a debt to trancer Kosmas Epsilon than Richie Hawtin, work miles better than they have any right to, and we soar towards something imperfect, which strives towards the numinous.

The two closing tracks reveal the range here in terms of style, but also in quality. “Wildseide,” with its discontented echo of ø; “Atomic,” drives us back towards the earthy trepidation that grand moments always cost. But “Pailetten (Bonbonus),” strikes out to the realm of the inhuman, in the album’s most questionable experiment. Cio D’or has delivered a frequently flawed album that nevertheless reveals a deep engagement with what electronic music can offer us, and understands the pain most of us have felt in trying to get to it. Her honest acceptance of taboo elements like trance and minimal has made for an integrated experience that will leave you asking different questions about the rest of the records that you hear for a while to come. Just don’t call it headfuck techno.

chrisdisco  on November 18, 2009 at 11:54 AM

interesting review. why i dont understand is why you emphasise “just don’t call it headfuck techno”. so my question is, what is it? how would you describe it? you note that there is a collection of artists working with a similar sound palette in a reaction to mnml, how would you collectively define that sound?

i know “headfuck techno” isnt a great term, and it definitely has been blown up out of proportion, but the reason why i first started using it is that for starters i couldnt come up with something better, but also because it describes a feeling rather than a specific sound and for me that is what links artists like cio, dozz, the other italians, mike parker etc. what else can you call it? it is definitely different from the berghain sound or the stuff with is a throwback to 90s UK techno. and while it might have some trancey aspects to it, these artists are ultimately coming out of techno backgrounds. the only other alternative i can think of is something like psychedelic techno, but that probably gives the wrong connotations.

so, what is it?

Colin Shields  on November 18, 2009 at 12:35 PM

good question! it’s always easier to say what not to do than what to do..

headmakelove techno??!!

littlewhiteearbuds  on November 18, 2009 at 12:35 PM

At the risk of contradicting myself (a firm believer in genre/sub-genre titles), does one need to replace a genre title they’ve dispensed with? Colin goes a long way towards explaining the sound, one that’s (like Chris says) complicated and doesn’t fit neatly into anything established.

Perhaps this term is meaningless, but Die Faser seems a bit like post-minimal techno. Its minimalness feels like a byproduct of D’or sound rather than the focus, which together form a different sort of techno sound.

Looking forward to more discussion on this topic.

chrisdisco  on November 18, 2009 at 12:58 PM

i think you can go overboard on labeling genres and sounds, but at the same stage, it does serve as a useful tool in distinguishing trends and locating artists within wider movements. and i think this is definitely a specific brand of techno which is doing something different and it is worth recognising that in how we describe it. ‘post-minimal techno’ definitely fits – cio is clearly reacting strongly to that, but at the same stage, i’d also classify the berghain producers as ‘post-minimal techno’ but i’d be hesitant to put them in the same category. thinking about it more, my feeling is that ‘psychedelic techno’ is probably the most accurate.

Will Lynch  on November 18, 2009 at 1:01 PM

personally, I don’t think new sub-genres need to be delineated nearly as often as they are, and certainly not this case. why not just techno? artists like cio d’or, dozzy, mike parker etc certainly fit that title’s basic criteria, and if for some reason you need to sum it up more precisely, just use some simple adjectives like “dark” or “trippy.” why make an entire genre out of it? seems to me it’s not a widespread movement so much as a style shared by a relatively small group of like-minded artists and labels.

Will Lynch  on November 18, 2009 at 1:09 PM

and one other thing— why not let genre titles appear on their own?? if i’m not mistaken, the term “house” came about from people referring to yet-unnamed style of music being played at a Chicago club called “house” (maybe someone can correct me on the specifics), and these days i often find myself saying “berghain techno,” which is simply the easiest and most useful way to refer to that style of techno. seems that any genre prolific enough to need it’s own title will receive one without any active brainstorming…

Chris Burkhalter  on November 18, 2009 at 1:29 PM

One thing that I think connects artists like Cio D’Or, D. Dozzy, Mike Parker, etc., and which distinguishes them from a lot of other darker techno, is that their techno feels very fluid.

I’ve got no beef with “headfuck” as a description. For the moment, I think people know the general sound you’re talking about when you use the term. Which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of other genre tags. Terms like “minimal” or “deep house” apply to such a broad range of sounds that they’re almost meaningless today, but people don’t much balk at their use.

chrisdisco  on November 18, 2009 at 1:55 PM

@ will: i’m talking more about labelling trends than genres, if one can make that distinction. and the need to try to label it was simply practical, it emerged from wanting to explain this development in techno.

Joe H  on November 18, 2009 at 4:52 PM

if i’m not mistaken, the term “house” came about from people referring to yet-unnamed style of music being played at a Chicago club called “house” (maybe someone can correct me on the specifics).

The term house comes from where the music was being played in at the Warehouse. Warehouse music quickly became just house music.

Colin S  on November 18, 2009 at 10:29 PM

Cheers guys! The don’t call it headfuck quibble was not meant to define this. If you’d like to talk about what else I said, not about naming, that would be great!

Yours, Colin

Colin S  on November 18, 2009 at 10:34 PM

@ will … mike parker is a bit different! he goes back a bit further than cio??

Evad  on November 19, 2009 at 4:18 AM

lovely mix from an even more lovely person.

and about the “headfuck techno”: i see cio as one who builds bridges between genres. so i would call it bridge-techno. 😉

chrisdisco  on November 19, 2009 at 5:23 AM

@ colin: but you emphasise that point about not calling it headfuck by saying it twice, and it is also how LWE described your review on twitter, so i think this all encourages it to be read in that context. and i’d still like it if you could explain exactly what your issue is with the term (even if you dont want/feel the need to offer something else in its place).

as for the release, it is interesing i dont think cio would see herself coming out of, or referencing, trance in anyway, but there is that element (understood broadly) there in some of her productions and mixes.

Colin Shields  on November 19, 2009 at 10:05 AM

Chris, I see your point. Headfuck, to me, is a term of endearment to those who know, but it seems to imply that a degree of nuance is missing. To me, the subtle psychological exploration of this music risks being steamrollered over by a a phrase like headfuck, which for most people calls to mind music along the lines of bangfacers.

ssgs are the subtlest listeners to this style of techno that I know, and you’ve earned the right to use any term you want! i’d hate to see this tag come to do more harm than good as the fanbase of these artists grows.

Trance is obv a loaded term. for me, what’s significant of these guys is that they’re not afraid to lay on a bit of a trance-like feel. The whole style has been such a taboo, it seems like many have been unwilling to do this for a long time. I doubt Cio would name any trancers among her influences as well, but for me it’s a good thing that that sound can be in the mix a little.

Chris Burkhalter  on November 19, 2009 at 11:12 AM

I dunno, I think that a lot of the time when people are hearing trance influences, it may be more the influence of 90s electronic ambient records that have kinda fallen out of fashion in recent years. Just look over some of Dozzy’s pulls for an ambient set and you’ll see some of this.

chrisdisco  on November 19, 2009 at 1:16 PM

@ colin: thanks for the explanation. that is an interesting point i’d never thought of. i guess the problem is that for better or worse, the term is out there now!

@ chris: agreed. it is definitely an element of throwback to 90s ambient and tech-trance. that works for me.

Tom  on November 22, 2009 at 10:16 AM

10000 x Thnaks for the Review from us !!!

Martin Roberts  on November 28, 2009 at 6:58 AM

I hate the term headfuck techno too. I’ve been lamenting it ever since it started being used. I however love mnml ssg and read their blogs as keenly as this one. I assumed the term had been coined because it was unusable by the mainstream electronic press and would therefore remain fairly ‘underground’, but that was just a guess. Whatever the term, I would say it was one of the most exciting current trends in electronic music, deep and emotional and emotional music that incorporates a minimalist sound design.

SLCTR  on December 10, 2009 at 3:01 PM

I’d definitely agree that a particular descriptor for this style is hard to settle on (I go for ‘space techno’) and I definitely hear the trance element – but why it sounds trancey i’m not quite sure…. Maybe it is just the unashamedly nostalgic dimension?

But really we just need to get on with lauding the pretty awesome music – more lovely stuff from Cio D’or, with a really strong feminine influence that is soooooo welcome in techno. Lets not be simplistic about the gender thing – some producers, like Dozzy and Luciano say, early Dinky obviously, are able to express the feminine element of themselves in their music I’d say, whilst most (often including female producers) can’t express it. So all in a great sounding and most welcome release

arelici  on September 1, 2010 at 5:02 AM

Its just psytrance,reinvented and minimalized but same psytrance…crowd is same – as far as i see,basically now all of psytrance fans who dont wanna be associated with the “trance” in its bad connotation, can have this as the way out.
Techno will stay techno and its here to stay..so please dont associate.

Cio D´Or  on January 29, 2011 at 11:17 AM

A little late, but I just want to say thank you “Little White Earbuds” for posting “Die Faser” & all comments.

I need to say something about “Psy Trance”:
Psy is coming from psychodelic and has to do something with consciousness. Of corse in earlier times it had to do something with drugs. There was Psychodelic Rock (Jimi Hendrix &&&) and also Acid Techno, Acid Jazz or Acid Trance or Psy Trance.
Also the earlier times of techno (like Ralf Hildenbeutel & Sven Väth) was a kind of “psychodelic Techno” Or hear Aphex Twin: Analogue Bubblebath.

I think, because some (& probl more&more) of music consumers & producers are more or less bored by “funny Lambada music & vocal_snippets”, they are looking for other ways to express & probl….how you say, with “Psychodelic music”
But one thing for shure: There is a lot of new psychodelic & creative music on this planet, but it´s something different as the one drawer like Psy Trance!!!
There is Psy – Dubstep, Psy – Techno, Psy – Ambient, Psy – House, Psy – Rock, Psy – Classic, Psy – Experimentel and many more directions!!!
To think probl. more “psychodelic” as for “fun & $ & big cars & sex “, only is a kind of attitude towards life. It isn´t better or more bad…. just different.
The very best from Cio D´Or

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