Frits Wentink is my kind of dude,’cos he loves oldschool hip hop tunes and he implements this passion into his rusty house beats. This interview was conducted for the one and only DJBroadcast.
Dutch house star Frits Wentink goes under many aliases including Steve Mensink, Felix Lenferink, Urkelle, Kuhlmannmensink and more famously, as the full half of Will & Ink. Having recently moved to Berlin Wentink appeared in Traxsource’s top 20 Deep House Artists of 2014 chart. Unlike other DJs, he doesn’t confuse hard work with steadfast seriousness and makes his groove-loving, sample-packed music with ease. Wentink’s true passion emanates throughout his music, with the occasional moments of humour.
In the last few years, Frits Wentink released many EPs that focussed on the less polished and sweatier side of deep house music. In the beginning of March 2015, Wentink releases his first long-player called Rarely Pure, Never Simple on WOLF Music. Despite the album’s name, the tracks are actually quite pure and not overcomplicated, merging Wentink’s love for house, 90s hip-hop and jazz in surprising, soulful combinations. Premiering three tracks exclusively on DJBroadcast, we spoke to Wentink via email about his artistic intentions, collaborations with vocalist Loes Jongerling and why he prefers tape saturation to sound perfection.
The title of your album comes from an Oscar Wilde quote about truth. Do you look for truth in music and if so, in what sense? The less said about truth the better. So I left that word out. I feel that what I wished to express is covered in just ‘Rarely Pure, Never Simple’. That part to me contains a rather uncomfortable feeling, which I think is present in my music. The quote also touches on a feeling of being unclear and not conforming to rules. I guess I don’t always produce the obvious tunes, and I’m quite happy that way.
You’ve released five EPs in less than three years. Do you prefer the shorter format of an EP and what made you decide to release an album? Would you describe this debut as taking on a new musical direction? An album is a big thing, and I didn’t want to release a set of tunes combined with skits. It took my quite some time to come up with a direction for an album; not only house music, but tunes from different genres that are connected. I’ve wanted to release an album for quite some time now, but it was only until the guys at Wolf gave asked me that the idea did it real being to take shape.
As producer I have always been active in many different genres other than house, so it was not a completely new musical direction. However I think I’m showing a side of me here that people haven’t heard in the previous Frits Wentink releases.
Do you sample from vinyl? What kind of music do you like to sample apart of jazz? I would say the main thing is jazz. Apart from that I have a collection of folk music; records from Folkways Records and such. One of the last tracks features just the basic loop of Gavin Bryars minimal composition.
Apart from vocal samples, you use the Loes Jongerling’s vocal talents. How long have you worked together and how did that start? We have been working together for roughly four years now. Loes was a friend of a friend. I heard her sing a few times before we met personally. At some point I just started sending her loops and she would do her thing on that. The first release we did was on Triphouse, a track called ‘Barry Two.’ We also collaborated on Felix Lenferink tracks. It’s fair to say that we always had some discussion on how to use her voice and for what genre. Loes was more into the soul funk spectrum, like downtempo stuff, and at the time it was more difficult for me to get downtempo tunes released. But on an album it fits perfectly. I’m very happy the way this turned out.
Apart from house, several tracks on the album sound like 90s old school hip-hop. Why did you include them on the album? Because I absolutely adore that sound. House has always been my main thing as an artist. But when I’m at home all I do is listen to 90s hip-hop. And that’s not just all the old tracks. There is a large community of producers making new lo-fi hip-hop, quite original actually. So that sound is still very alive. I feel that a lot of the sample based house music has a firm base in that genre. And I took this as an angle to produce the album.
In your own music, as well as in your selection in mixes, you prefer grubby and dirty samples over crystal clear and spatially designed sound. What are the important things in music production in your point of view?
I do prefer things like tape saturation. However just distorting the master channel is a bit too easy. The remix I did recently for Nachtbraker on Heist has a noise background -again tape saturation- but I kept the mix pretty clear. That’s how I like it. I feel that tape sounds and saturated samples give most of the character to a track. I maybe a bit nostalgic here.
Concubine was formed one Berlin winter, when Rick Bull (aka. Deepchild) and Noah Pred shared not only the same neighbourhood, but also a certain musical neurosis. Thanks to working as a collaborative project, they rediscovered their artistic freedom and joy of pure creativity. Their debut album is built on improvisation and intuitive creative processes which stream along tight house beats and ubiquitous synthesisers.
Both Bull and Pred have been active in the game for quite some time. Deepchild has released a mixture of techno and house records since the beginning of the new millennium. Noah Pred owns Thoughtless Records and has put out out many of his own releases, along with several collaborations with Soultek, Mateo Murphy and Pablo Bolivar. Nevertheless, some time ago, both of them reached a point of certain catharsis and eventually closed themselves in the studio. This lead to their first collaborative debut, where their mutual passion for various music styles beyond house and techno can be heard, as well as experimentation in the realm of sounds and melody without being burdened by some ponderous concepts. And thanks to their previous experience, outstanding production skills and generally being a good match, it sounds pretty good. And on top of that, it’s available as a free download.
How long have you been working together and how did it start?
Noah: We’d known each other for a couple years, but it wasn’t until Rick moved into a flat a couple blocks from me that we tried jamming. The first attempt didn’t go so well – I think we were both hungover or something, because what we did that first time was so bad I thought we might just not be a good fit in the studio together. A couple weeks later we tried again, which is when ‚Luxend‘ came together, and from there on we were locked in. We started doing sessions on a weekly basis throughout that winter and between our travels; each session since then has resulted in a new track.
Rick: Noah’s description is fairly apt – though he’s omitted the fact that I’ve traditionally been petrified of collaborations, primarily as I’ve felt that my composition process can be somewhat erratic and personal. Noah’s workflow seems to have a certain degree more focus and poise than my ramshackle freeform methodology; the irony being that after our first nervous session, all subsequent collaborations flowed almost effortlessly. It’s been a profound and joyful artistic exchange – a reminder for me that there’s a lightness and synchronicity when musical exchanges are uncontrived and accommodating.
In the description of making the album, you mention that working as Concubine frees you from musical neuroses. Did you both feel that way when you started working together and where does the neurosis come from?
Noah: I think we made a conscious decision to approach our sessions as intuitively and instinctively as possible without getting hung up on ideas about what should or shouldn’t work, or would or wouldn’t be appropriate for certain contexts – just doing what felt and sounded right purely for the joy of the creative process, and seeing where it took us.
Rick: Particularly as club DJs and producers based in Berlin, it’s easy to become affected by some of the myopic tendencies that often dominate the scene – to be bound by its overbearing self-awareness and hipster politics. Early last year it felt as if both of us were approaching a certain burnout point. Despite our history and profiles, we needed a way to rediscover a sense of sonic playfulness. Concubine was a space where we could place ourselves with relatively little to prove, either sonically or in terms of club politics. It was a chance to rediscover an unburdened approach.
How has the collective intuitive work on Concubine enriched you as musicians? Would you say that you will continue being generally more playful and focus on the creative process itself even when making solo music in the future?
Noah: Absolutely. That’s another benefit of collaboration – it always seems to provide perspectives and methods that have the power to inform each artist’s solo work, although never quite in the same way. I think it’s safe to say this project has already had an impact on my solo process.
Rick: Agreed. It’s always surprising to see the ways in which collaboration actually does effect individual work – and often this unfolds or ripens months after a piece is complete. One of the beautiful experiences I’ve had with such things is forgetting who may have been responsible for a particular element of a track – the blurring of memories can be quite lovely, and always educational.
Noah, you’ve released few records of collaborative projects before (together with Tom Clark, Pablo Bolivar and Tim Xavier). How does working with Rick differ from your past collaborations?
Noah: I only recently rediscovered the power of collaboration. Before I realized I could make electronic music I used to play in psych-rock bands, and part of the initial allure of electronic production was the ability to fully realize my compositional ideas without having to appease anyone’s ego – except of course for my own. In recent years I’ve been able to collaborate with some other artists who I’ve respected for years, and the respect is mutual, so the process in the studio is coming from a place of mutual trust and confidence. With Rick it’s just been super fun. Every track has come together so fluidly, sometimes it almost seems too easy. I think we’ve both been astonished by what’s come out of our sessions – even the shortest jams have been incredibly fruitful.
You are both known for your solo house and techno productions. With Concubine however, many more influences can be heard – from krautrock-like meditative beats to ‘80s synth pop and disco. How much did you let yourself go with Concubine? Did you have any kind of sound in mind when you started?
Noah: I think it all stems from the intuitive approach we took – really just encouraging whatever ideas came up in the process and following through with them.
Rick: It’s great that these influences are evident. The jamming experience was peppered with moments of “wait, listen to this…” or, “do you remember that?” I remember pulling out bits of 2-step and boogie-down to play Noah, talking about our favorite Detroit techno pads, etc. I guess you could say Concubine has been a way for us to share and consolidate our nerdy musical histories and smear them with our own fingerprints.
How important is the element of improvisation in your work?
Noah: Absolutely crucial. Improvisation is the seed of all our work to date.
Noah, in an interview conducted by Rick for DJBroadcast, you mentioned that you’d like to remind people of their cosmic heritage with music.Did you follow this approach also while making the Concubine album? It sounds quite spacey with all those synth layers and field recordings…
Noah: For me, that’s the whole reason for making music in general: to create experiences that have the potential to remind people (and also make me feel, in making it) that they’re part of something far bigger than the rather narrow focus we all tend to obsess ourselves with day-to-day. And you can’t get bigger than the cosmos. I don’t personally interpret the spacey synths and dubby sounds as a direct reference to that, but I can see how that might be a takeaway.
Rick: Music is just one tool, one shared passion, one part of a wider process of learning “what it means” to be human that I’m deeply invested in. At its root, I feel like music has helped us examine our tiny place in the scheme of things. It’s helped us find mental silence. It’s a reminder that we are part of a deeper ecology. Music isn’t necessarily an end point; it can be part of a deeper conversation about what makes us human, and how we can (hopefully) tend and care for each other more tenderly.
Do you use a lot of analogue equipment like synthesizers? What will you use for your live shows?
Noah: Sure – we’ve used Rick’s Alpha Juno, SH-101, Volcas, and Monotribe, along with my Microbrute and RYTM, and a buddy’s TT303 on a couple tracks as well – so there’s plenty of analogue gear on the record. Our live set features a range of synths, drum machines, and controllers with Live. At least half of the outboard gear for that is analogue. We’re not dogmatic about these things.
Rick: It pains me to recognize that irksome gear fetishism has reinforced so much dull sonic puritanism of late. Revisionist notions of the “correct way” of doing things are boring and problematic. Digital, analogue, hardware, software – it’s largely unimportant to us. TR-808s are fun, sure – but it’s worth remembering they carved their place in music history because they were not intended to be used in the way they were – they were hardware outcasts! I think there’s a great lesson here. Judgmental purist attitudes are largely unhelpful. Embrace whatever tools avail themselves, and let them reveal their stories.
In your PR text, you quote Marshall McLuhan’s “medium is a message“ claiming that music is never just music but carries a meaning, a message. Do you yourself try to perceive music, art or other „media“ in a larger context? And do the tracks on your album carry some intentional messages or concepts, or is it rather intuitive?
Noah: I don’t know that there are any preconceived messages or concepts in the music, and in fact, I think many art forms can be most enchanting when they leave room for the observer to project their own meaning into it. But I think Rick chose that quote in reference to the album being a free download.
Rick: We’re both McLuhan fans, and this classic quote of his resonates rather deeply for myself, almost as a mantra. The music we’re sharing is as much about the way in which it’s exchanged, shared, produced, as it is about the songs. When J-Lo sings “despite all the rocks I wear, I’m still Jenny from the block” it could be argued that the medium of delivery tells a slightly different story. We’re all subject to these deep contradictions in the music world. Concubine is a way to throw open some of these questions into the public sphere. What does it mean for us if our music is free rather than monetized? How do we enter into a wider cultural conversation about music, its performance, its communal value in such a saturated sonic universe? In this regard, the medium is very much the message.
You will release your collaborative debut digitally and for free. The reason behind it is to “break some personal assumptions about the way the ‘industry’ works, or ‘should’ work“, as Rick described. Considering you are both well-established DJs and producers who have been in the industry for quite a while, what bothers you about the contemporary industry?
Noah: After exploring other avenues, it just seemed like a good opportunity to raise some questions about the subjugation of musicians in a profit-extraction economy rampant with thirsty middlemen: why are musicians still exploited for the profit of a chain of “industry professionals”? Why give corporate entities like Apple or Amazon a cut of our work? Or Beatport, for that matter? Especially when thousands will resort to stealing it anyway, why present retail barriers at all? Increasingly, musicians themselves are only seeing payment from gigs, and the most important transaction is in the ear canal anyway.
That said, I love that this industry provides so many free-thinking, free-spirited, passionate and creative people with meaningful (if often underpaid and unstable) work – and I love the sense of solidarity we all share in it. But there’s a certain disillusionment with deeply entrenched dynamics and power structures that are well worth questioning – dynamics that are rooted in the culture at large and have a negative impact far beyond the music industry itself.
So if you would have the power to rearrange some of those mechanisms or dynamics within the music industry, which would they be and how would you would you change them?
Noah: I don’t know that I’m qualified to make large scale proposals here, but I believe that a lot of people would love to see less mediation between themselves and the artists they want to support. It’s almost a microcosm of the global economy, where established entities tend to accumulate the most capital. It would be nice to see a system where there’s a better balance of power between artists and fans, with less profit diverted in between.
Rick: I feel that there are already swaths of different mechanics and micro-models for artists to explore and experiment with. What’s lacking, perhaps, is a deeper paradigm shift or re-imagining of the relationship that art and community can have together – very much as Noah has mentioned, mirroring global economic trends and assumptions. It feels as if arts practice is becoming more rarified, stratified, and focused on short-term aspirationalism. Conversations about non-financial models are largely absent, as are conversations about arts-exchange, longevity and development over decades. Often, we’ve supplanted notions of the arts as „voices of the community“ with ideas that certain arts are tools to reach a certain end. I’m more interested in an ongoing conversation, a robust political dialogue, and using our work nourish and sustain conversations which extend far beyond the club floor.
For this to happen, we need a conversation comprised of many voices, across cultural strata. I think we could probably benefit from consciously forgetting many tropes of the contemporary music industry. Believe it or not – music and dance existed before they were met with remuneration, before they were recordable forms. There are profound lessons in dreaming of a music world more expansive and empowering than the one we’re spoon-fed to accept as gospel. Burn the gospel. Light new fires.
Recently, I wrote a piece for DJBroadcast on Top 10 electronic music podcasts – by the way, DJBroadcast has great collection of podcasts as well! Of course, I avoided the most obvious ones like FACT, Resident Advisor or XLR8R, which are brilliant but you already know that. Nevertheless, while doing my research and putting together all my favourite and found podcasts, I had a trouble of choosing just 10 of them (eventually, the original list includes CLR, Beats In Space, DOODcast, Electronic Explorations, Melbourne Deepcast, Invite’s Choice Podcasts, Seek Sick Sound, Smoke Machine, ABC Music Podcast, Modyfier).
Here are some other great podcasts and mixes that offer suitable background music for your dinner party, party music for your home party or chilled out music for your after party. Or are just packed with wonderful music you would barely find yourself or with tracks you heard on a party and forgot to track them down with Shazzam.
Obviously, I couldn’t start with anything else. Secret Thirteen provides well crafted mixes with an emphasis on a narrative, concept or contemplation. Techno, experimental, electronica, industrial, noise, acoustic… There are so many of them that it’s hard to summarize essence of the mixes, but if you’re a keen and thoughtful listener, this is for you.
NTS Radio Podcasts
My favourite online radio streaming live the dopest music from London every day, 24/7. The radio shows are often run by great artists and producers based in London (Dark Sky, Erased Tapes, Four tet, Mica Levi, Lee Gamble, Murlo, Moxie, Young Turks record label…), but also give space to guest DJs or are thematic (bass, grime, dub, house, Japanese music, disco, spoken word, vinyl only…). Do I really need to add more? DON’T ASSUME. <3
BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix
This very famous mix series needs no introduction, because they are in the game for decades and a guarantee of quality. If you want to know who will be the next big producer or DJ in the field of electronic music of any kind, follow this.
Drumcode is a record label, party and last but not least a podcast series ran by Swedish prominent techno head Adam Beyer. His Drumcode FM radio show is broadcast globally on more than 40 radio stations and very often brings live sets from Beyer himself or his DJ buddies like Pan Pot or Scuba.
Podcasts by an urban fashion shop from Frankfurt. Every Friday, they publish a new podcast called Lovelyfriday, which either consists of old school hip hop or lighter forms of house. I have to admit I noticed them because of my nickname, but later on I connected my Friday afternoons with these chilled out, easy and pleasant podcasts of theirs. So just sit back, have a smoke or cup of tea, watch the sun go by from your window and press play.
This record label from Cologne published podcasts full of music of the deep spheres. Imerse into dub techno, ambient and deep house. It’s not about big stars, but more locally orientated, which doesn’t lower the quality!
Pingipup is a small German record label focused on various kinds of electronica. Nevertheless, their podcasts are much more colourful and indeed enjoyable and usually present a wide range of old music from all over the world, jazz, folk, oriental, funk, acoustic and so on. Clean your kitchen, draw a picture, weave a flying carpet or just sit back and relax.
Wax Treatment is purely a podcast platform hosted by DJ Pete and Fiedel, ocassionally with DJs guests like Shed, Milton Bradley or 2562. Knowing this, it’s quite obvious that it’s heavily about experimental and unusual kinds of techno, bass, house, broken beats and such. The podcasts are available only via iTunes and their website includes all the tracklists, where each track links to an online shop where you can buy its physical copy. Great for DJs and collectors!
A small label with few releases. The podcasts are a lot about house, but also broken beats, funk… It presents new kids on the block (Philsch, Frida & Gurte) as well as people who define the genre (Josh Winiberg, A guy Called Gerald).
Warehouse is a techno party in Moscow, that recently started making podcasts. It’s just 7 of them so far, but they look really promising with DJ guests (such as François X) who create rich, miscellaneous techno podcasts.
Kann Records Podcasts
Sevensol & Bender’s Kann Records also run their own podcast series. Since Kann is house-orientated label, the podcasts are mostly about this musical direction, but also acoustic, experimental, electronica, ethno, soul, jazz…
Mysteries of the Deep
‚PODCAST EXPLORING SOUNDS FAR BELOW THE SURFACE‘ from NYC
KWs: Dark, deep, experimental, ambient, techno, house, 80s wave, drone, ethno… The artists behind these podcasts aren’t usually so well known, but they offer great quality music.
URB Magazine Podcasts
URB is a magazine about urban music established in 1990. Their podcats present new fresh producers and extraordinary names mixing music of all kinds – house, urban beats, hip hop, techno, disco. The podcasts are always introduced with a short text and usually also a tracklist.
Get Deep is a Berlin based party in ://about blank, which also publishes brilliant ‚mixcasts‘ full of house, disco, soul and generally music with a deep, funky and often cheerful vibe. Apart of obligatory Soundcloud, you can also get the podcasts via iTunes.
Another podcast series focused on deep music. Their own description kind of says it all: ‚Berlin-based netlabel founded in 2012 with focus on deep electronic music (dubtechno, ambient, ambient-dub, deephouse)‘.
Selector Series claims to be a music consultancy and even though I’m not quite sure what that means, they make a good job selecting interesting dance music in their podcasts and sharing some nice music on their social media.
Do you have a favourite podcast that is not in any of those two lists? Share it with me and I’d be glad to include it in here!
After years of releasing tracks and EPs on labels like Stroboscopic Artefacts and Truss Trax, Donor finally presents his debut LP. On Against All, Donor continues to create a space for travelling within your mind, as oppose to moving your body on the dancefloor. But being of a dystopian nature, this travel isn’t cheerful for one second.
Those who are into dark, slow and experimental techno have probably already heard about Donor. Apart from his fundamental contribution to Stroboscopic Artefacts, Greg Schappert is also known for his ongoing transatlantic collaborations with Truss as well as a series of solo releases on Semanthica Records, Prosthetic Pressings and his own netlabel Miniscule.
Even though he’s lived in cities like Barcelona, Madrid or Tokyo, his musical inspiration originates from the sounds of Birmingham, Berlin and Detroit. On his debut long-player, Donor adds the sounds of New York City to the list, a city often portrayed as the central point of attacks or World destruction in dystopian sci-fi blockbusters. Ironically, apart of John Carpenter, he’s not so much into science fiction. He prefers to create it himself with his abstract, minimalistic techno.
On Against All, Donor continues to rank himself among the producers who do not take an optimistic approach towards the future. But unlike some of his peers (colleagues from Stroboscopic Artefacts and Perc Trax), he doesn’t mirror or criticise the pre-apocalyptic present, but outlines the atmosphere of the dystopian future using sounds of the present – primarily field recordings. Alongside these, he also uses the Roland TR-909 and his iPad.
Nevertheless, Donor operates with his sound arsenal in an unorthodox way: instead of leaving his field recordings to be heard as they are, he transforms them into alien signal transmissions (‘Hands On’, ‘In Your Place’) or chops them into staccato sound patterns (‘Station A14’, ‘Fault Is Found’). When using synths, he preferes to go for their rhythmical arpeggio effects or eerie atonal layers than for tones or melodies. In ‘Menace is Mine’, he creates brilliant but unsettling sounds, similar to that of a mechanical creature breathing heavily while destroying anything human that crosses its path.
Against All is permeated with hopeless, anxious feelings and a dreary atmosphere of wandering around desolate, ravaged cities or landscapes. Acording to Donor himself, ‘Calling’ is supposed to symbolise frustration, ‘Own Exile’ “the aftermath or total destruction” and ‘Menace’, a “desperate attempt to communicate with the unknown”. Although not every single track has a sophisticated conceptual idea behind it, each evokes a vivid, dark and doomy atmosphere. All except for the last track ‘In Your Place’, which is reminiscent of Lucy’s ‘Falling’ from last year’s LP, which soothes the listener after the series of uncompromising apocalyptic vision, giving you hope as well as serving as a requiem, praying for the salvation of all dead souls.
Bryan Müller is a Munich-based producer who keeps astonishing music fans as well as critics with his outstanding talent of blending various styles in an innovative and bracing, genuine way. On his second LP, Müller has matured sonically and found himself in a more serene position without losing playfulness or desire.
Born in ‘93, Müller has been musically active since a young age, with an interest nurtured by his father who let him play drums in his band at the age of only ten. Müller still derives inspiration from being involved in the skateboarding scene – not only through his love for hip-hop, but also through the making of cut and skate videos. Up until the present day he still works with sounds recorded with a video camera: “It’s always interesting to record different ‘noises’ and edit them until you have a groove,“ he explains.
This experimental approach is pronounced in SCNTST’s music. The sounds and beats aren’t designed to be crystal clear and computer-like perfect; Müllerprefers to play around with sounds and genres he simply likes. His debut Self Therapy bounces from electronica and broken beats to techno and hip-hop. His track ‚Jah Wut Dub‘ for the Miami Noize 5 compilation naturally switches from reggae and dub to techno and back again. Puffer, Müller’s second album is more complex and yet calmer. The tracks are often ambient, coated in hazy layers of sounds with only a few moments of techno (‚UV Houzz‘, ‚Generated‘, ‚Mondquelle‘).
After the slow starter ‚Render For peace‘, Müller unfolds his characteristic filtered, rich synth sounds along deep dub-techno beats in ‚Life of Ares‘, which turns out to be one of the strongest tracks of the album. Similarly in ‚Sers‘, he combines mellow techno with dreamy synthesisers that resemble sunlight reflecting off the water. ‚Zuge‘ (i.e. trains) is based on iridescent foggy synth pads and echoed vocals that pour with fluctuating intensity. More chilled out electronica or broken beats can be heard on the glittery ‚Kristall Edition‘ and ‚H8 Drop‘, the closing and possibly, most outstanding track on the record.
On Puffer, Müller proves to be very patient and mature for a 21 year old. He doesn’t rush with frenetic beats and surfeit of sounds, but slowly builds up atmospheric, sometimes almost cinematic pieces (‚Gletscherspalte‘, ‚Ice‘, ‚Zuge‘, ‚Render For Peace‘, ‚Hendy‘) while not taking things too seriously, with a playfulness sticking out here and there. Take ‚Ice‘ for example, its semi-improvisational, light-hearted approach is combined with alien-like, experimental sounds. Moreover, the album starts by greeting listeners with a “Yo“; a solitary reference to SCNTST’s beloved hip-hop.
It’s not for sure from how many tracks Müller had to choose from for Puffer (for his debut, it was around 200). The result definitely holds together better, both sound- and atmosphere-wise and shows us that SCNTST isn’t only able to master dance floor bangers, but also mellow and introverted pieces for a concentrated listening.Puffer is indeed one of the albums that deserves to be listened to while doing nothing else apart of letting your mind being carried away.
With his new cinematic album, Vakula extends his rich prolific discography. On A Voyage To Arcturus, an album created according to a book published in the 20s, Vakula takes us on a fantastic journey through music genres, philosophical systems and alien atmospheres.
Mikhaylo Vityk (Vakula / Vedomir / V) is a Ukrainian wonder with a unique style of both DJing and musical production. Vityk is known for being a driving force of modern house music and also for his two record labels: Bandura, where Vityk focuses on combining Detroit sound and deep, space out house, and Leleka, where he releases his experiments with melodies, ethnic elements and music from the mid 60s, 70s and beginning of 80s. Apart of that, Vityk is also inspired by sci-fi and fantasy as well as the mythology of the land from where he comes. Even the moniker Vakula comes from Vityk’s desire “to create a national hero Vakula, like in old Ukrainian fairy tales.”
Although Vityk’s inspiration by myths and science fiction has been quite obvious within his career, he brings it to a whole new level on his new LP. A Voyage To Arcturus is the imagined soundtrack to the book of the same title. Written by novelist David Lindsay it combines sci-fi, exploration of human nature and mind, philosophy, belief in God and existence. In the story, a man called Maskull leaves his life on Earth and sets out an interstellar journey to Tormance, an imaginary planet orbiting a double star system called Arcturus. During his stay on the planet, he explores many alien worlds which represent various philosophical systems.
Vakula joins the exploration of vastness, confusion and imagination of the human mind and follows Maskull’s fantastic quest through metaphorical landscapes. Many tracks are named after the chapters in the novel. In the opening track ‘The Seance’, Vakula used ethereal ambient background and quoted a part of the first chapter, where the host of the séance explained to his audience the procedure of materialisation. Those are the only words on the whole album. Primarily built around percussion and synthesisers, there are also funky guitar jams, flutes and choirs – everything recorded live.
In the chapter ‘The Wombflash Forrest’, Lindsay described a drumbeat in the forest: “The drum beats had this peculiarity – though odd and mystical, there was nothing awe-inspiring in them, but on the contrary they reminded him of some place and some life with which he was perfectly familiar.“ That’s how Vakula’s music on the whole album appears; mystical, but at the same time familiar, because Vakula travels through both time and space with his music. Nevertheless, those who are fans of Vakula’s deep house music may not be satisfied, since only ‘New Sensations’ evolves into a graceful house beat. Otherwise, A Voyage To Arcturus sounds like an old technicolour journey through all the mystical, pleasant and odd places on the earth, from a bar in Miami to an elevator in the 30s; from a Mexican street to African ritual music with a Krautrock concert and an 80s hotel lounge inbetween.
But not all the tracks on A Voyage To Arcturus are full of funky beats and naive melodies. In ‘Surtur’s Sounds’, Vakula embodies the dramatic drum beats that spread around the Wombflash Forrest in the book. In ‘Matter Play’, Vakula masterly depicted playing the lake as an instrument, which “was full of lively motion”, as it’s described in the novel. The track goes on with gurgling synth sounds ranging from wobbly and mystical depths to sneaky noises with a very peculiar atmosphere similar to experiments in music concréte from the 50s. A Voyage To Arcturus is a fascinating audio adaptation of an even more fascinating novel and has proved that Vakula is capable of creating complex, yet diverse musical pieces beyond genres and trends.
Sicilian born Luca Mortellaro (aka Lucy) is a mastermind behind Stroboscopic Artefacts label, which explores the eerie and impossible landscapes behind the borders of techno. Creating a platform for like-minded musicians like Kangding Ray, Dadub, Rrose or Xhin, Stroboscopic Artefacts has established as one of the most favoured labels in the deep waters of abstract dance music. Apart from the label, Lucy’s activities include solo production and performance of his musical artistry underlayed with serious concepts, or collaborations with Speedy J as Zeitgeber. Probably because of his writer’s past, Lucy talks in bracelets and uses surprising examples while explaining creative processes within the label as well as its creation, inspirational sources and why does he feel like a contemporary shaman.
You will release Chapter 3 from 5 EP compilation series for Stroboscopic Artefacts 5th birthday. How are the chapters outlined, is there some evolution in sound referring to each year, or does the whole series have some concept?
What I wanted for this “5 years edition” is something different than what we did for other series, like Monad or Stellate. I wanted a real wild celebration. So this time, unlike before, there wasn’t such a conceptual background behind it. I remember that when we were building up the Stellate, it was very intense – all the discussion and relationship with each artist, when it’s like “That’s what we’d like to do, that’s how we’d like you to behave in the studio.” While this time, it was one shot one kill, so one track per artist in 5 releases, which symbolise the 5 years. So I didn’t want to be involved or manipulate the output too much. I was in a mode of acceptance meaning “All the people from the tracklist have shaped our label during these 5 year, so this time, my trust is 100%, because I also want to understand, what do we actually are.” This is only possible when you take your hands away, let them do their thing, collect the results, put them in a nice order, and after that just listen to what’s happened in those 5 years (even myself as a label owner).
It was all released on 12“, which is usually dedicated to the dancefloor output. So this time I asked the artists to just go wild in that direction. That’s what it’s about – celebration. Celebrating that after 5 years in a very tough underground industry, we are still alive and we can economically survive. And all these people have been hugely important to us. That’s why I wanted to give them my full trust this time. Because normally, the process of a musical output for Stroboscopic Artefacts includes a lot of talking.
And do you have to say the final word in those cases?
No, it doesn’t work this way. It’s a dialectic process, back and forth. Sometimes, the most interesting things came actually from fights (laughs). I still remember that making the Dadub’s album was an insane process, we almost lost our minds discussing and fighting about it. But in the end, it becomes a final product, then it gets pacified, and nobody can touch it anymore. So this “let it be” kind of experience is both new and not new – not new because the same feeling was happening with the very first releases, when you had nothing to lose. So that’s why I wanted to close this circle with the same attitude.
So were the whole 5 years series made for the dancefloor, including your own track which will be released on the 5th chapter? I ask because quite often the music released on Stroboscopic Artefacts challenges one’s dancing skills with its changing rhythms and spaces…
Yes. Mainly because it doesn’t always have to be beautiful. I don’t believe in “beauty” as a concept (meaning well done, well treated, well mixed) in general. It’s really important to have the knowledge to do a proper work. But then it’s up to your artistic will of expressing yourself to decide how to treat that knowledge and how to even deform it to something that can be hard to be listened to… But it is a statement.
Apart from this musical approach, Stroboscopic Artefacts is also significant for its visual aesthetic. You’re a part of Oblivious Artefacts collective which is responsible for SA covers and visuals. Do you also create visuals for your own releases?
I cooperate, but the Oblivious Collective is run by my brother Ignazio, who’s really in charge of the actual visual creation. He and the collective are responsible for giving a graphic shape to whatever we’re trying to do. And I have to say that it has been so powerful, that it works also the other way around. Slowly, through that graphic shape, my mind also got into a certain place. I almost subconsciously started looking for things that could reflect those visuals.
So do you have favourite visual artists or movies where you take the inspiration from?
Well, in this case I can talk for the collective. For example what we did for the Monad series. Ignazio and his colleagues started to reworking old handwritings of biological particles. They found some beautiful old handmade studies from 19th Century and they adapted them to Monad series.
Monad is something self-related, that doesn’t have so many connections to the outside world. For an artist, it’s an uncompromising vision, therefore the release is like a mini-album made of four tracks. That’s the concept of Monad. In this space, you can go to extremes, dare to do things you wouldn’t normally do. That’s why at the beginning, we wanted to be only digital, because I didn’t want to restrain it in any way or to think about how many copies do we have to sell to at least be even. It has been interesting to see how all those artists give their best, when you give them this kind of freedom. They did something that’s typically them, but at the same time typically us. That’s the constant interchange, which is what I was describing with Oblivious Artefacts.
Of course I’m very lucky, because Ignazio is my brother and therefore we have a certain kind of a very deep connection, we barely need to talk. We both know what’s going on. That’s why I wanted focused on the same person – from the artwork and the flyers to the website or even a newsletter. Everything comes from “artefacting” process, meaning a handmade process. That’s my relationship with them.
That’s what I think is also significant for the label – that anything I listen to sounds like a carefully made piece of art, an artefact. Do you have certain criteria by which you choose the tracks or artists for the label?
Yes. You don’t use shapes and forms and boxes, you try to avoid them. Because, as an artist, you know that this particular label is a space of freedom for you. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be completely anarchic. There is also a process of discipline. For me, freedom in its absolute is a very stupid and nonsense concept. There are always lines you have to work with, which I call “archetypes” – Karl Gustav Jung was talking about the way our mind works with archetypes, which are these basic forms, that are ancient, ancestral, rooted deeply inside us. They kind of move your perception. But you can never move outside of the archetypes, because you wouldn’t be human. It works similarly like this with music. For example, why do people call us a techno label? We aren’t really a techno label, most of the albums aren’t even suitable for dancing.
Well, people need labels to orientate themselves.
Yeah. We give people a chance to do that by playing with those archetypes, with those basic shapes that make you conceive and perceive something as techno. But the real creativity comes in when you deform these archetypes to your own will. Taking it to the nerd level, it’s like when you’re working with reverbs in production – reverbs are nothing else than imaginary rooms. It’s one pure sound that gets affected by the space around it. When you play with reverbs in a certain way which you wouldn’t be able to implement in a real world, you create impossible shapes in the room. But still, there are walls, it it still a room and there are walls resonating in this room, so that’s what I mean with discipline. To respect those archetypes.
So let’s say that you’re doing something similar to what M. C. Escher was doing visually? The results are impossible in reality, but he also used shapes, lines, objects…
Yes, exactly. But I have something to add: You just said “in reality”. But I think that that reality has the same dignity of reality of the everyday reality (smiles). I mean, for me it is a reality. It’s not like when we make music, it’s something else. It is another reality with all its dignity. That thing exists, it makes me feel in a certain way, and those things exist as well as the fact that I’m hungry and I’m gonna eat a dish. It’s the same level. It’s just that, sadly, in this particular Western civilisation, we are too grounded to the everyday horizontal rhythm of life. This is not something that has been in many other cultures, it doesn’t have to be that way. For example, I do practice a lot of meditation and yoga, and those places, where you find yourself, are real. Same goes for the music.
Do you plan something new for Stroboscopic Artefacts after releasing the final 5th chapter in March 2015?
Yes, there are some plans which I’d like to keep secret for now, but there will be some interesting collaborations going on.
Going back to you saying that you practice yoga and meditation. When was the last time when you felt like shaman while performing in a club?
The most recent time was in Poland, I had a gig in Poznań. That was one of those moments when the magic happens and I felt kind of like a shaman. By shaman, I mean the state of mind when your “real” fades away and it’s not yourself with your conscious mind mixing and choosing the tracks and modeling the music, but it’s just a big wave of energy coming in and you feel like you’ve been used by something else.
Like a medium.
Yeah, like a medium. It’s a very beautiful experience. It’s actually a reason why I do all this.
Do you see a connection between disconnected or virtually connected Western world living anonymously in cities and the popularity of clubbing, where people can connect on a deeper level together and they can experience a reciprocal process of giving and receiving energy?
Totally. And you’re actually saying the reason why I think a huge development in techno is happening at the moment, which is very different from the roots of techno. I see a lot of artists who are just kind of nostalgic and repeat paradigmas, that were already there in 1991, over and over again. But what is very different? When you hear first releases of Jeff Mills for example, he’s like: “That was the sound of my CD, that was the techno-logy going on.”
What’s happening now (and what I’m also trying to do) is to give it another meaning, which is this deeper connection, restoring the ritual sense on the dancefloor. Because it’s a hugely important social ritual. That’s why people are getting so interested in it in a slightly different way than previously, I think. At least in places which I like and I like to play in, there’s kind of a respect to these processes. It’s not just about expecting the next hit. It’s more a “treat me” attitude, like you’d be on a healing therapy. And that’s when the extended sets make a total sense. It’s something that people often maybe don’t even realise, and that’s the beauty of it. They don’t know that they’re so attracted to getting lost in a club. And mainly, the clubs that are more appreciated at the moment are those where you can be on your own and have your own experience. I’m talking about Berghain for example, where I found myself getting lost few times. It’s also a very lonely and introspective experience, but that loneliness and that sense of freedom is only possible when you are in that ritual. Because if you’d be really, physically alone, you wouldn’t act that way for sure.