Since Wrong Shirt, his 2010 debut, Till Krüger has been mostly quiet. He’s had just three records since, in fact. Put it down to the demands of getting his architecture degree, or something else, but it seems likely he’s still struggling through the creative funk he and I discussed in a 2011 interview. After all, his field—early Detroit techno and its European incarnations—has been extremely well-plowed. But where so many producers have recognized this and moved to more fertile grounds, the young German stubbornly remains.
If coming up with fresh, Detroit-styled ideas is tough, Krüger does have one thing going for him, though: a great ear for melody. Whether entwining several disparate synth lines or just letting one sequence breathe, he has a knack for making it sound natural. On “Skew,” this quality is especially apparent. Its five sequences—count ‘em—range from insistent bass to neon-glazed pad, and move together beautifully. Unless you’re particularly jaded, it’s a track which will fast make you forget the many similar ones which have come before it.
Taking a simpler tack, “Trends” and “Good” aren’t quite so thrilling, but they remain products of the Krüger approach to melody. The former rides on a cushion of fat digital bass and liberally dollops bell-like melodies on top. The latter’s many shades of pastel are more comforting than anything, as if describing a pleasant daydream. Again, neither of these cuts is groundbreaking—and not every track has to be—but they’re ample evidence techno’s earlier forms still have some legs yet.]]>
Vocal samples have an uncomfortable history with dance music. At times, they’ve been used tastefully, with great success. Talented producers find a zingy lyrical snippet, creatively re-purpose it, and a hit is born. Then there’s the times where hacks decide to rip an entire Martin Luther King Jr. speech and slap it over a beat. There are stops between the two extremes, of course, but the fact remains that sampled vocals can be dangerous. It’s interesting, then, to see Oskar Offermann tackling the issue with his latest record, Distance Is Depth. Over the past five years or so, the German has amassed a gem-packed discography, most of it made up of instrumentals, and including the criminally overlooked Do Pilots Still Dream of Flying? LP. He clearly doesn’t need to lean on samples the way average producers are often tempted to. And yet, just once, it feels like Distance Is Depth does exactly that.
The very first sound in “4th Dimension” is a cheesy stanza announcing, “It’s like I’m in the fourth dimension.” As it repeats, it threatens genuine monotony. Displaying his usual talent, though, Offermann lathers the sample into a strident rhythm with the help of big, fuzzy kicks before washing it all away with a gorgeous string melody. The sample in “Here Before” feels almost as arbitrary, but the track’s fizzing colors dart across the spectrum with such vibrancy and repetition that the stark words end up a welcome counterpoint. Strangely enough, the only place where Offermann seems to have missed the mark is the title track. Its musical credentials are no less impressive than the other cuts, but they’re overshadowed by a tedious discussion about quality and competition in the music industry. It’s not quite as painful as the ubiquitous MLK speech, but it’s close. Distance Is Depth is a great record, so long as you can remember not to drop the needle on this middle track.]]>
Rivet is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. Since re-branding himself back in 2011, the artist formerly known as Grovskopa has been faithful to just three labels: Naked Index, Kontra-Musik, and Skudge Presents. His music, though, has been far more diverse than this information would imply, trading in such things as saw-wave funk (“Grifter”), fragile elegy (“Sleepwalker”), and neo-rave (“Driftwood”). In his past life, the Swede was an experimental techno artist, pushing stylistic boundaries. Rivet may be a more straightforward project, but its aims are no less demanding: to make every track from scratch, even if it means deleting favorite samples or VSTs.
Bear Bile, the project’s sixth 12″, showcases the continued success of this ascetic approach. It’s a rather neat summary of Rivet’s breadth thus far, as well. “Pt. 1″ sees him continue on the aforementioned neo-rave path, blasting impassioned vocals through clusters of fat beats but gradually winding things down to an unusual (i.e. really interesting) cinematic close. “Pt. 2″ sharpens the drums up for a more modern finish and curdles the mid-range with all sorts of nasty synthesis. These sides of Rivet are accomplished and great, clearly. But my favorite times are when he lets his heart run wild. The cheerful and psychedelic “Pt. 3″ might be the best yet. Matched by a slow, steady rhythm, its acidic undercurrent lacks the tense edge the 303 usually imparts, and its syrupy hooks are utterly addictive. It’s not chocolate so much as it is a fructose-loaded syringe. In true Rivet style, though, it somehow feels neither cloying, nor out of place next to the heavier cuts.]]>
For a country of just over 6,000,000 inhabitants, Ireland seems to punch well above its musical weight. It has several renowned labels, for starters: Feel Music, Lunar Disko, All City, and [NakedLunch]. While it hasn’t quite achieved the same status, Kenny Hanlon’s Apartment Records is as credible as any on the list. After all, Hanlon was a contributor at the late-and-great Infinite State Machine blog. Accordingly, his label has tended to trade in classically informed house, techno, and electro. Apartment Six, the label’s first compilation, doesn’t break the spell.
New Jackson kicks off the record in fine style, rubbing away the grime that obscured Tr One’s 2013 track “Viceroy-9c.” His interpretation is a more lucid one, where the track’s energetic bass and flurries of classic toms can better shine. It really lifts, however, when a snaking synth line enters in the final quarter, to helm an elated crescendo. The remaining three tracks are slightly more downbeat, aiming for melody over momentum. Slowburn’s “Riders of the Sea” uses its woozy chords just to tease, slipping them in-and-out of earshot but never quite offering an easy grasp. One can’t help but pursue them to the song’s end. The Superior Inferior shoots for the opposite with the unashamedly retro “A Bit Much Confusion.” Thankfully, though, there’s not a hackneyed Chicago bass line or Roland drum sound in its lead-driven duration. The track’s rigid snares and gaudy choirs instead pay homage to the Kraftwerk and Moroder era, in tasteful fashion. Last, and perhaps most interesting, is The Cyclist’s noise-swept sketch, “Crax.” Its warm chords and spare drums would have been pretty strong on their own, but the decay he plasters upon them adds a whole extra dimension, like a majestic, sci-fi city gone to ruin. This cut in particular highlights the breadth and adventurousness of Apartment, which, like its country of origin, continues to punch well above its weight.]]>
[Crime City Disco]
As I’ve noted in the past, Crime City Disco’s mission to release “deep, slow, and disco-influenced” house is hardly unique. And yet, the Berlin-based outfit has continued to carve out a decent niche for itself, thanks to the quirky predilections of its Swedish owner, Tobias Gullberg. In the hands of someone else, the label might have gone super serious, but it instead remains lighthearted and fun. Record eight, Vintergatan, (“Galaxy”) sees this merry outlook trained further skyward than anything since Nils W’s “Bladerunner Soul,” back in 2011.
The result doesn’t feel too much like house or disco, really. “Sjörök” in particular shares more in common with the work of artists like Dominik Eulberg and Extrawelt, and their ethereal, modern takes on techno. Like those producers, though, third-time collaborators Johanna Knutsson and Hans Berg exercise enough restraint that their swathes of trickling arpeggios and cosmic chords sit just right, rather than succumbing to proggy bombast. The cut’s gentle, spaced-out currents are all the more potent for this understatement.
Aiming for a more driving sound, “Vintergatan” strips back the fetching complexity of “Sjörök” for a simpler chord progression. A little too simple, perhaps. While the final quarter is well lifted by more of those colorful arpeggios, it seems like even just a few bars of them could have had a real effect elsewhere, without detracting from track’s overall propulsive vibe. Despite this small point, there’s a very tangible sense of unself-conscious fun on display. In both cuts, actually. Maybe it’s just me, but fun and simplicity triumph easily over the tracky, pseudo-sophistication cultivated by so many of Crime City Disco’s peers.]]>
After more than 20 years in the biz, you could forgive Vince Watson if he started to run out of steam. After all, his club-oriented work has rarely left the sleek, melodic boundaries he established with early records like the popular Mystical Rhythm EP. As his latest missive faithfully advises, though, It’s Not Over. Somehow, the Scotsman frequently seems able to make new records even more lush and elegantly intricate than their predecessors. And really, in this domain, few names can match him (Kirk Degiorgio, perhaps). It’s clear he has plenty more to say.
The title track rests on a knife-edge between overblown sentimentality and genuine poignancy. As in the past, though, Watson keeps it on the right side — just — evoking powerful nostalgia with a long, lazy chord progression and simple beat. Music writers sometimes talk about getting “lost” in a song, and “It’s Not Over” is a prime example — it’s awfully hard to tell where the melody begins and ends, and all that’s left to do is surrender to its gentle peaks and troughs. “Freq” is more upbeat, employing a niggling, similarly infinite chord sequence to shake off the nostalgia, and push to a patient crescendo. Compared to some past work, both sides are relatively simple in this respect, each featuring just one main motif. With soundtracks and more traditionally musical projects occupying more and more of Watson’s time, it seems like perhaps he’s keen to strip down his club work a bit — consciously or unconsciously. While this still makes for some very pleasant tracks, It’s Not Over can’t quite match the multi-layered splendor of tunes like 2011′s “Atom,” or 2012′s “Love in F Minor.”]]>
Context is a funny thing: it can totally change our tastes and expectations, if only temporarily. For example, Peach opened last July with a pleasant 12″ from Cromie & Sage Caswell. Kyle Hall delivered a great remix on the flip. Enter record number two, Earth House Hold’s See Through You. People seem to like it plenty, despite the fact that it’s more or less a bland incarnation of progressive house. Maybe it’s just a good record. Or maybe — and this is more plausible — people liked the first 12″ so much, they wanted to like this one too, before they’d even heard it. We’re all guilty of that to some extent, right?
The tracks aren’t bad, really — just plain. Earth House Hold, aka Brock Van Wey, averages about four ambient albums a year as Bvdub, and in both tracks’ melodic sections, that influence is evident. “Back Where I Belong,” for instance, revels in breezy Balearic vibes, letting them wash over a big room beat for 12 minutes. Austin Cesear did something similar with “1 Year,” but where his sunny overtones escalated nicely, Van Wey’s barely get out of the blocks. It’s a shame, because they’re quite pretty. The rhythm section follows the same pattern, varying little and keeping time more so than creating interesting swing. Matthew Dekay and Lee Burridge’s “Lost in a Moment” did something similar, and both suffer for it. Finally, limp vocals deliver lines like, “Last time, you said that you’d always be there, so tell me, tell me, how you expect me to care?” “Little Late For That Now” shoots for a quieter dance-floor moment, but despite its pastel-chord charms, the beats again feel leaden and the vocal performance uninspiring. Peach may yet have great things ahead of it, but this record, which feels eternally poised for take-off, isn’t it.]]>
[One Track Records]
It’s been four years since John Daly started One Track Records so he could release his own music. At face value, the concept seems a bit gimmicky: one original song per record, with various reworks (e.g. beatless, dub) to back it up. With the Irishman’s sharp arrangements, though, the label’s nine records to date have rarely felt padded. The alternate versions are often as enticing as the main mixes, in fact. Though the catalogue` is clearly aimed at DJs, you don’t have to be one to find good value within.
On number 10, Solar Sailing, that statement doesn’t fully ring true, even if all the versions are great. The “Full Tide Mix” is a spring-loaded catapult to the cosmos, where majestic nebulae slide by in blissful slow motion. The thing might be underpinned by a pretty deadly kick/bass combo, but its huge swathes of melody make it feel more like Detroit’s typical version of utopia than anything. “The Deep Mix” plunges even further into the narcotic space fog, golden strings singing out through the void and moving the track’s musical center of gravity upwards, slightly away from the feet.
Plenty of artists release single-sided 12″s, on the proviso that just one track is strong enough to carry the whole record. That’d probably work here too, but the sheer similarity of the “Full Tide” and “Deep” mixes feels more like a wasted opportunity than anything. This fact is highlighted by the “Rhythm Section,” which strips away all the melody, resulting in a pretty robust tool. Of course, the last cut has limited home-listening appeal, but in spite of this and the similarity of the other two, the elegant Solar Sailing is worthy 10th record for One Track.]]>
Back in October 2012, Skudge opened a new sub-label, Skudge White. Its first record, the simply-titled Fishermen seemed like perfect fodder for Skudge’s usual blackout tactics. For one, nobody had ever heard of Fishermen. And while the EP’s five tracks bore a distinct and striking signature, it didn’t seem an obvious match for any established artist. Sure, plenty of people do brutal industrialism, but at 110 BPM, with fragile chords soaring overheard? Skudge had the perfect hype-generator on its hands, in other words. From the very beginning, though, the world was permitted to know about Fishermen, a fresh project from two Swedish old-timers Martin Skogehall (AKA MRSK), and Thomas Jaldemark (half of Donk Boys and Kretipleti). Since then, two more records have surfaced: the twisted Delirium Tremens EP for Kontra-Musik and December’s under-the-radar Patterns and Paths LP, another for Skudge White. Despite this, next to nothing else has been said about the project. We called up Martin and Thomas to bring us up to speed, and to compile our 189th podcast, an hour of haunting, chord-heavy techno.
Download: LWE Podcast 189: Fishermen (58:42)
01. Ulwhednar, “Eld Och Vatten” [Northern Electronics]
02. Smell The Flesh, “Cardiac Arrest” [Skudge White]
03. Oneohtrix Point Never, “Boring Angel” [Warp Records]
04. Precision Surgery, “The Repocurse Part 2″ [Kurzwellen]
05. Precision Surgery, “The Repocurse Part 5″ [Kurzwellen]
06. Stanislav Tolkachev, “Heartbeat” [Geophone]
07. Violetshaped, “Anesthesia” (Keith Fullerton Whitman Remix) [Violet Poison]
08. James Ruskin, “Excerpt Two” [Jealous God]
09. Tuff Sherm, “Marrow” [Merok Records]
10. Milligram Retreat, “The New Alignement” [Enfant Terrible]
11. Knarz, “Knarz” [Acid Fuckers Unite]
12. Dan Fun, “Untitled” [Börft Records]
13. Diseño Corbusier, “Golpe De Amistad” [Auxilio De Cientos]
14. Dopplereffekt, “Zygote” [Leisure System]
15. Milligram Retreat, “Orbaug” [Enfant Terrible]
16. Violetshaped, “CX310″ (JK Flesh Reshape) [Violet Poison]
17. Fishermen, “Dyspnea” [Skudge White]
18. Kerridge, “From The Shadows That Melt 1″ [Downwards]
19. Cut Hands, “Nzambi La Muini” [SeekSickSound]
20. Powell, “A Band” [Death Of Rave]
21. Kerridge, “From The Shadows That Melt 4″ [Downwards]
22. JT Stewart, “Swfysu” [Indische Buurt]
23. Smell The Flesh, “Nobligatum” [white*]
24. Paula Temple, “Colonize” (Perc Bubble Mix) [R&S Records]
25. Fishermen, “Get None” [Skudge White]
26. James Ruskin, “Into A Circle” [Jealous God]
27. Old Apparatus, “Baboon” [self-released]
28. Vågmästaren, “Protect” [white*]
29. Distel, “VXXX” [Enfant Terrible]
30. The Stranger, “Providence Or Fate” [Modern Love]
* denotes track which, at the time of publication, are unreleased
It’s been almost ten years since you guys first met online. How did that happen?
Martin Skogehall: It was MySpace, when it was new and fresh. Then we started chatting with MSN, directly.
So you were checking out each others’ music on MySpace?
MS: Yeah, the Swedish scene was kind of small back then, so as soon as you heard something you liked, you’d contact the guy and tell him it was good. I met a lot of friends online that way, but Thomas and me have stuck to each other.
What made you guys want to keep chatting to each other?
Thomas Jaldemark: We have the same music taste, and there’s always stuff you can chat about.
MS: We were talking about equipment. “How did you make that reverb?” Technical stuff, you know.
Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot from one another over the years?
MS: Yeah, Thomas and I, we make music in a kind of different way from each other. I learned a lot working with ambient sounds, and experimenting with different kinds of effects that I didn’t think of myself. I don’t know what you learned from me, Thomas.
TJ: I guess a lot to do with beats. Hi-hats and other percussion. It’s much better for me now than before.
Apart from your music, what do you think has kept you guys together?
MS: I think we’re two very simple people, both of us. We’re not trying to be cool, or something. We’re just two normal Swedish guys, actually. We have the same vision of music, the same vision of darkness, and the same vision on what’s good and bad music.
TJ: The first time we met in person was like meeting an old friend. It was totally natural.
That was only early in 2013, after the success of the first EP, wasn’t it?
MS: Yeah, it was like going on a blind date. [laughs] It was at the railway station in Gothenburg.
How was that, to finally be together in the studio?
MS: I thought it was really fun. It was like, “Ah, you do it like this?” “No, no, no, it’s faster doing it like this.” Seeing how we work; how I use one kind of equalizer and he uses a complete other one.
TJ: I learned a lot that weekend. To get a more immediate response on stuff was good, also.
Why did it take you so long to meet up? It was after what, eight or nine years of friendship?
MS: We didn’t have any excuse to meet. [laughs]
TJ: It’s a big distance. I lived in Malmö before too, so it’s like 500km between Stockholm and Malmö.
MS: No, but I think we were just internet friends and music nerds. All we needed from each other was to get tips on music, or talk about music. And girl problems, weight problems, everything. We didn’t have to meet physically. I’m kind of lazy, so if I don’t have to travel, I don’t do it.
TJ: Yeah, I think we both are pretty lazy.
Just how small is the scene in Sweden that guys as far apart as Stockholm and Gothenburg can know each other and produce together?
MS: I think we’re kind of a small country. Me and Elias from Skudge, we’ve known each other longer than me an Thomas. We also had a group before Skudge. Elias introduced me to a lot of people in Stockholm, because I’m not born here. We keep together here. We’re only nine million people here in Sweden, so if somebody makes good techno music, you know who it is.
Do you like it that way?
MS: Yeah, I like it. It’s like we keep each others’ backs’, in some kind of way. It’s always fun to see, “Oh is Axel Boman playing with Ben Klock? Wow, good for him.” I think everybody’s like that, kind of proud when your countrymen do something good.
We talked about the first time you met in person, but why did you suddenly decide to collaborate after so many years of friendship?
MS: I was into my MRSK thing, and I wanted to do something new; something darker, or more experimental. Thomas felt the same way. So one day he just sent me a melody with a kick drum. And I just thought, “Damn, that’s just what I want to do.” I added some stuff to the track, and then we had our first track, “Anchor Buoy.” I think that was the start. We found each other at the right time.
Do you find it frustrating, having to wait for other person to respond, rather than just having them there with you?
MS: Yeah, sometimes. I might send Thomas 11 versions of a track, and he says, “No, a little stronger with the melody,” “No, it’s too strong now.” “No, change this sound.” If we were sitting in the same studio we could figure that out much faster.
TJ: It takes some extra work sometimes, but we get there eventually.
Martin, when you’re working on a track, what do you feel Thomas can add to it that you couldn’t achieve yourself?
MS: I often ask Thomas, “Could you add some of that darkly-industrial-harbour-evil sound?” He’s very good at those atmospheres.
TJ: I’ve always experimented with that kind of sounds, so I know how to do it. That’s maybe why.
And Thomas, why do you send tracks to Martin?
TJ: Often, I feel satisfied, but it’s not good enough. And then I send it over to Martin and he’s like, “Yeah, I want to add that and that.” Often it’s almost-finished tracks, then Martin always makes the hi-hats and stuff much better than me.
MS: I almost always delete all of his drums. [laughs]
TJ: You bastard. [laughs]
MS: I have a kind of fetish with the beats and drum sounds. I’m a kind of control freak when it comes to the beats. And Thomas is a control freak when it comes to the atmospheres.
Do you ever have disagreements on how a track should proceed?
MS: I think it happens sometimes, but we usually have a compromise.
TJ: But it’s not often.
MS: Because if I don’t like something Thomas made, he can have the song to himself for his own project, and if I make something he doesn’t like, I can make an MRSK or a Smell The Flesh track with it.
Now that you’ve met, do you think you’ll get together for another weekend in the future?
MS: We have plans to meet up this year and get a live set together. We both have the equipment; we just have to make it work.
What gear are you planning to use for that?
TJ: I have a Machinedrum, and Martin has an Octatrack, and think we’ll have some kind of bass synths and pedals, and stuff like that. It’s pretty much just a sketch so far, so we need to meet up and decide what we’re going to do.
MS: Distortion pedals and reverb pedals. A lot of guitar pedals, I hope. They have a really nice sound to them.
Why do a live show, rather than just DJ?
TJ: It’s more fun to play live. I think that, actually. I played live with my previous project, Donk Boys, and it was always, always fun. The DJ gigs are not the same for me.
MS: I think as a group, it’s more natural to be playing live than to have two DJs standing there. Of course we’d love to have DJ gigs as well, but when we DJ, he plays a song, then I play a song, then he plays a song. So when we play live, with machines, it would be more working together, at the same time.
What was the album process like, compared to just making singles?
MS: The thing is, we had about 20 songs to choose from. The intro, “Greenhorn,” is actually a very old track, it’s from the early days. So we felt naturally like we both loved that song, so that was the intro. So we had that one, and we just kept on making tracks. When we had twenty, Skudge and we chose 12 favorites and then we started the puzzling around. You know, “Each side of the vinyl should have a good variety.”
Did either of you have an idea of what you wanted the album to sound like before you started to make it?
TJ: I think we had like seven, eight tracks in the beginning and then we felt like we found a sound there, and we wanted to continue with that and make more of that stuff.
MS: You know, the theme of our music is to be at sea. Quite early, we wanted to make the album like a journey — under the water, over the water, on lost islands, in submarines. So Patterns and Paths is the perfect title for the album, it’s like being in different parts of the ocean and the sea. We have images in our mind. When I start a track and send it to Thomas, it might be named, “Trapped Under Ice” or, “No Oxygen in a Submarine,” or something like that, and then he understands what kind of sound I’m after; what kind of feeling we want to create.
Having that Fishermen theme, does it make the music-making process easier? To have an image and just construct it?
MS: I think it goes both ways. It’s like with my other project, Smell the Flesh. It’s like, “Damn, do I always have to make dark music now?” And with Fishermen I thought, “Damn, do we always have to make songs about the ocean?” But you know, Fishermen can go on vacations as well. They can go to the mountains, or to the Bahamas. So it’s easy when you think like that, but if you make another album it might be a concept where a ship just wrecked at a lost island and it’s just voodoo people everywhere.
So if Fishermen can go on vacation, should we expect the next album to be filled with “Coma Cat”-type xylophones? [laughs]
TJ: Bossa Nova!
MS: We’re actually working on some new tracks that are kind of different. You can hear it’s Fishermen, but I think elements of nature will always be in our tracks. And the dark, industrial sounds. But the name Fishermen doesn’t mean it always has to be about fishing and the water.
Yeah, because you came up with the name pretty casually, didn’t you? It wasn’t a labored decision.
MS: The first track Thomas sent me, “Anchor Buoy,” was called “Fishermen’s Friend.” I named it something else, and then we just started calling the tracks different fish names.
Why did you originally call it that, Thomas?
TJ: I think my throat was really bad that day, so I had to eat Fishermen’s Friend. It’s as simple as that. [laughs]
MS: I was really into the series Deadliest Catch, where they’re out fishing after king crabs. I love that show. “Greenhorn” is from that series; “Anchor Buoy” is from that series. I watched that a lot when we started, and I feel those guys are really hard, tough guys. I have anxiety a lot, so I was always thinking, “God damn, how do they do it?” You know, fishing in the Russian sea in the middle of the night, waves bigger that skyscrapers, and getting a panic attack out there. It would be terrible. And then I would take that feeling and make a track.
How does that anxiety affect you in terms of touring and playing live shows?
MS: I haven’t been touring, or played live gigs for a long time. But I’m going to treatment for it right now. I’m an old rock drummer, so I’ve been playing rock ‘n’ roll all my life. But something happened back in 2006 — I was in an accident — and after that my soul turned on me. It’s post-traumatic stress syndrome. I was worried, but now I’m not, because I have control over it. What I’m worried about now is, I’m used to sitting behind a drum kit, but when you’re going to bring machines into the game, that’s what I’m worried about.
To return to “Deadliest Catch,” do you think your music properly conveys that horror of being in the Russian sea?
MS: I think so, in the beginning. I think so now as well. You know, working in a big factory or working with dangerous stuff. “Isopod” is being chased by a big whale or something. I tried to make a dramatic theme for the track. I think with Fishermen, that’s what both of us are trying to do: bring drama to electronic music.
To my ears, the tracks also have a very unique sound, in a technical sense. Why is that?
MS: We’re not going by any rules. “A kick drum has to have a compressor on it.” Fuck that. “You need to EQ that sound.” Fuck that. If it sounds good, it sounds good, you know? I think we just got rid of all the rules that we had in our minds before, and then the music becomes more innovative and sounds different from everything else.
TJ: Yeah, we can break the rules that we already know. The bass and the kick drums, they don’t have to be super-fat, as long as the track is good.
MS: But in the track “Get None” on our album, the kick is really, really fat, so we can do something really out of proportion, too. So if we want to have a hard clap, we do a really, really hard clap. Like Mike-Tyson-slaps-a-child clap. [laughs]
So it’s important to keep your sound moving forward?
TJ: I think it comes naturally. We always want to keep moving forward, because if you get stale, it just gets boring. We always experiment with stuff, so we’re going forward all the time.
MS: A new thing we’re trying out now is to make longer tracks. But not monotonous tracks, just long tracks with a lot of variety — about ten minutes or so. We have a track we’re working on right now, that we’ve been working on very long, we call it “The Whale,” because it’s so big. So we have to conquer that whale, just like Moby Dick.
Tell me about the mix.
MS: It’s not a classic DJ dance floor mix. It’s really travel-at-sea, in different kinds of weather. Stormy, calm, under water, above water — so the mix is stories from the sea. That’s the theme. We did it over the internet, making different parts. Maybe Thomas mixed three tracks, and I added three tracks, and so on. But we had that in mind when we made the mix. We really wanted to do something really special.
For a while there, Russia was practically silent. House and techno may have been global phenomenons by the 90s, but we heard precious little about it from the planet’s ninth most-populous nation. Recently, however, that’s begun to change. Alexey Kalik, who runs Udacha with his wife Oksana, can’t explain the quiet revolution. All he knows is, “three to four years ago, we had an absolutely different situation here.” At the time, there were no labels like Arma or Ethereal Sound, and artists Anton Zap were barely known outside the country. Now, though, having achieved a “certain level of self-expression,” Russians are finally beginning to attract international attention.
29-year-old Kalik, who produces under the moniker A5, is one of a number of artists and label owners helping to lift the lid from the native scene. “It’s difficult to say about the future,” he admits, “but I’m sure we will find a lot of new names.” Udacha, which means “luck” in Russian, has showcased a good number of them already, as well as cultivating an approachable and subtly unique brand of music. Its seven 12″s have been a tour de force fusion of house, jazz and good-natured synth weirdness. Udacha 5, for instance, is bookended by two slices of sharp jazz swagger, while the middle is dominated by Kurvenschreiber, a Russian trio who record their rambling, dream-like tracks live.
Oksana & Alexey Kalik
“[The label] is not strictly about jazz, or my love for jazz,” Kalik says. It’s a necessary comment, given how many of his signings throw cool bass or classic Rhodes keys into loose, improvised-sounding arrangements. This recurring theme, he says, reflects his high school years, where he played in a grunge band and spent his days listening to Nirvana. The jazz bent isn’t the aim in itself. He simply remains fascinated by the tangible feel of live (or live-sounding) instrumentation, and even has plans to put together an Elektro Guzzi-type project using drums, bass and piano. Exploring outside the boundaries of electronic music is important, he believes, because, “Everything affects everything. And this experience can help you make more distinctive music.”
It’s an attitude clearly reflected by the Moscow-based label, which dances quietly to its own beat, ignoring the current trend for lo-fi or retro-inspired productions. Its second record was almost the complete opposite, in fact, featuring Russian artist Bipolar Depth and an idyllic, future-gazing take on house. Even Udacha 4 by PJOTR, the straightest, most upbeat record in the catalog, carries this dreamy spirit with it. It’s surprising, given that the music is sourced from a mix of close friends, and strangers on SoundCloud. Maybe it’s like the famous Infinite Monkey Theorem; search long enough online, and you’ll eventually find music which suits your style, even if it’s the jazzy, elated form of house Udacha seems to be pioneering. Or at the very least, collecting all in one convenient place.
Once the music has been corralled, Kalik sits down with his wife and conducts a brainstorming session of sorts. From these come the ideas for Udacha’s stunning artwork, which she draws in pastel crayon. Like the music, the images themselves, such as a lighthouse, a hot air balloon floating over icy water, or a drum kit suspended in space — are seemingly disconnected, but their underlying style brings them all together. Naturally, Kalik’s podcast for Little White Earbuds performs a similar feat, collecting music from as far back as the ’60s, and mixing it with his label’s latest records via non-beatmatched fades and other unconventional devices. He doesn’t always program and mix this way, Kalik says. “I just wanted to record something which tells the weird story that I associate with our label.”
Download: Talking Shopcast 19: A5 (61:56)
01. The Funkees, “Akula Owu Onyeara” [Soundway]
02. Daphni, “Mapfumo” [Resista]
03. A5, “Whirligig” [Udacha*]
04. Mashine, “Trippin’ With Me” [Ethereal Sound]
05. Dices, “Confuse” [Udacha]
06. Ashes To Machines, “Resistance” [Leleka]
07. Dada Ques, “Outerealmer” [Udacha]
08. Trueman, “Odyssey Saga” [Udacha]
09. The Doors, “Light My Fire” [Elektra]
* denotes tracks which, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased