I'm a new convert to the church of minimal techno. After years of disregarding the form with "un-tiss-un-tiss" mockery, techno crept up on me like fishing does a middle-aged man. I was looking for a stripped groove in a world of busy, aggressive electronic music. I caught myself buying record after record of this minimal stuff, enjoying something as bare bones and vicious as Female's remix of Svreca "Seda Muerta" more than a new release from a label a year prior I'd have blindly purchased. It wasn't until a night at Public Assembly and a flight with hours of marathon sessions that I determined the allure of techno and the reason for my new-fangled adoration.
A good record will keep your attention for its duration, be it 3:30 or 8:40 minutes in length. A good DJ set will keep you grooving for its entirety, be it 30 minutes or 3 hours. A good techno record will work beyond its duration to provide a piece of a long-form narrative spun by a DJ in real time, thereby evolving its original composition into a growing tapestry of music that works beyond itself. A song working at the expense of itself to create something larger by the hands of somebody who - in some cases - played no role in its original conception.
Considering that notion of a minimalist record, I saw similarities in how I feel and react when listening in the club or at home to a techno set. The music - singular or extended - offers no distractions, no hooks, no drops and rewinds, which enables complete egoless listening. The simplicity of a groove with unnatural intricacies seduces me into a state of meditation I've never experienced with music before. My thoughts drifted from myself, exploring deep-seated memories and addressing forgotten worries like a $20 therapy session with beer.
Minimal dance demands attention and focus; the reward is hypno-therapy for a fraction of the price. Cambo and I (the kort) performed our first Worth The Wax mixtape in over two months using records to get lost into as we attempted to tell our own narrative of a boy lost in his thoughts somewhere by a sub-woofer.
Massacooramaan's debut EP, Dead Long Time, is out now on Kingdom's label Fade To Mind. A family bristling with new talents and a blemishless catalog, FTD's latest offering continues in its tradition to push "sad, sexy, and scary" dance music. Dave Quam - writer, DJ, and producer - enters the fray with a four-tracker* that houses grenades in a diamond shell: chiseled weapons unearthed from a jungle mine, bloody and priceless.
The EP's title track loops a frenetic hook through a gauntlet of crystal claps, shattered glass, and weighted mallets the size of King Kong's knuckles. Quam's detailed and unique sample treatments sound fresh compared to his many peers, a veritable "Dance Mania next to music concret[e]" that few others dare embrace for the comfort of a solid Roland. Even when it sounds like Massacooramaan's producing-by-the-numbers (A2, 'Aww Shit!' ft. DJ Rashad), all it takes is a flip of the record for a second dose of ingenuity.
'Jumble Yelp' twists bits of (what sounds like) a field recording of the Amazon river into a humid, incessant riddim. Again, Massacooramaan handles this mix like a butcher does knives: sharp and precise sounds envelop the mix and fuel a flurry of patterns that'll make heads spin right off. I don't think you'll catch this track in a club anytime soon, but it deserves a spot on any forward-thinking mixtape that hits around 160bpm.
The strongest track is the EP's closer, 'Dancehall Princess.' Featuring a wicked Dancehall hook, sonic squiggles, and storming war drums, the tune's unlike anything I've heard. Hearing the song's progression for the first time will intimidate you, and I'll leave it at that. Massacooramaan taps into uncharted territory, where intricacy meets colossus, violence finds a groove, watercolor drowns in boiled oil...and we're all better off for it.
Summertime can really have an effect on people. The second release from Steven Warwick under his enigmatic Heatsick guise comes wafting off the shores of a much more foreboding, frosty project known as Birds of Delay. His work operating in the drone sphere of experimental acoustics with Luke Younger, aka Helm (who's debut solo release on PAN, Impossible Symmetry, is akin to Raime on mushrooms), makes his second EP as Heatsick all the more entrancing, seducing the listener in with a well-masked streak of mischief that manifests itself as groove incarnate.
The tracks on Deviation are as his moniker suggests: humid, roiling, blissfully unaware of the light-headed waves that continuously shudder the nervous system into rhythmic response. The instrumentation sounds completely outside the box; that is, analog drum machines and beaten-to-pulp synths injected warmly with layers of subtly treated, panting compression. The effect? A steamy dance-off that elicits eyes down, hands up moments of outdoor reverence which leave you bathed in sweat, but the welcome kind: glistening, grinning, and sighing with extra satisfaction at the next lick of breeze to grace your pores.
Warwick tunnels grooves on this 4-track experience almost entirely in line with the third track of his Heatsick debut last year, "Tertiary," honing rhythmic patterns and melody progressions that seem as natural as bucking your knees in-time with a beat. There are traces of baile and cumbia, but not in a way that makes you point and say "Hey, I recognize that!" The beauty of Deviation lies in its producer's ability to create an environment where you don't think, but move. That's not to say this is purely a dancefloor record; I had plenty of fun vibing the fuck out in my own head on the Brooklyn-bound A train to "C'etait un rendez-vous" and "No Fixed Address." But in today's stuffy and over-wrought musical climate, teeming with 808s, pitched vocals, and the same recognizable tropes tune after tune...it is damn refreshing to hear someone making music that just feels so fun and loose.
Taprikk Sweezee is a name you might not be familiar with. Under that name, Nikolai von Sallwitz from Hamburg, Germany releases his R&B vocal hymns over glitchy hip-hop beats. Nikolai has also offered vocals on several collaborations, such as an album with Michael Fakesch, a few numbers with Towa Tei, numerous tracks with beat producers, plus several art installations with artists from around the world. Mostly associated now with the ever-blossoming Error Broadcast label/community, Taprikk Sweezee brings fresh sounds to what can sometimes be a repetitive and over-mined genre. Having released Repolyx, a remix album, late last year, we thought it would be nice to shed some light on this mysterious creature. Through dumb luck, Taprikk Sweezee happened to be spending a few days in the city. On a beautiful day in Soho, we talked about Germany, Japan, art, surfing, and the new generation of beat producers. Listen to Taprikk Sweezee’s exclusive Percussion Lab mix here.
Percussion Lab: Have you done many interviews? I looked online and I couldn't really find too much.
Taprikk Sweezee: Oh, not a lot actually. Back in 2007 or 2006, when I did the album with Michael Fakesch [known for being half of now-defunct IDM group, Funkstörung] called Dos on !K7, we were touring a lot. I did some interviews because the label was big. The smaller projects I've just done, like the Conversea EP and the Poly EP, and now the Repolyx album, were not as big. I released them on Musik aus Strom [the label of Michael Fakesch]. It went pretty well, but it's not so well known actually.
PL: Yeah, in doing research on you, there wasn't much other than the same quick, little blurb on every website. Do you feel that you haven't really been discovered by the electronic music scene yet?
TS: In a way. But, not so much because I'm not as well known as a producer, you know? Even though I produced all of the bigger stuff, like the album with Michael Fakesch, which we produced together. So I'm not really well known as a beat producer from this kind of scene. I'm more known for my vocal stuff. And the bigger projects, like I did for Towa Tei in Japan and stuff.
PL: Yeah, I was going to ask about that. How was it working with Towa Tei?
TS: Oh, it was great! Actually he was listening to the Dos album, I think, and then he just asked me via email if I was interested in doing a project with him. We just did this one track on an album from 2009 or something. It was more like really poppy-Japan sounding. Like more the Towa Tei sound, which is not so much beat music. But, yeah, I was really into that. And he's a really cool guy. I think now we've done three singles or something? I was on his next album as well, and then we did a project together which was a cover song. It's funny, now there's some kind of Japan connection going on. I've just finished two tracks with this guy called Yoshito Tanaka. He's a guitar player, and bringing out his first real album. We've been working on two songs now, and I did all of the vocal arrangements for that. Hopefully next year I'm going to be in Japan. But yeah, working with Towa Tei was really cool. It's really straight-forward working because Germany and Japan--it's like when he sleeps I can work, when I sleep he can work, so it's like really fast-forward production. It's cool. And he's a very professional guy as well. It was a fun and a really polite way of communicating just by email, because we never met. I really like it because I can push out some stems, and he sends them back, and it's nice to see what comes out. And then just talking, Okay, is this part cool? Or should we do some B or C parts? It's pretty nice working that way.
PL: You said that you're mostly known for your vocal arrangements, but you do your own production for your solo stuff.
TS: I do. Like on the Poly EP, and the Conversea EP, I was involved in all of the productions. On the Poly EP there's one track that's just my own, and the rest are collaborations. With HBO from France; a good friend of mine named Chris, he kind of gave up his project called E.A.R.L., but there were some promising sounds. We did this track together after meeting for the first time in Amsterdam. There's always some kind of split thing going on; mostly collaborations. There's a few tracks coming out on the next EP, probably next year. Right now I'm working on a lot of stuff for television and commercials. Because I'm also a sound designer and producer, making sounds for movies, and small scores for documentaries.
PL: Is that your day job?
TS: That's my day job, yeah. I've got my own business, and that's the way I'm getting my money. But that's pretty cool because there's a really broad range of sounds I can do, and that kind of opens up new themes for me. Music stuff that I've never done before. Like orchestral arrangements and stuff. I'm really getting into it, and liking what I do. There's stuff that I do on the radio as well, like jingles, and trailers and all that.
PL: Where did you learn to make electronic music? Is that something you studied somewhere?
TS: Actually, no. I learned media design. And it was a mixture of the usual graphic design stuff, and a little Internet design, IT stuff. But, also, music production a bit. Most of what I learned about beat producing and music producing was having a freelance job in studios, and just getting into it. But that's almost ten years ago. I've always been producing stuff on the radio. I've been doing that for six years or so. I was just getting more into commercial productions. But I was always doing my own projects. In the last couple of years it's kind of grown and started to expand more.
TS: It's just a really small label that I started quite some time ago. It was more of an online, fun thing for strange projects that I had in mind, and that I wanted to kind of get alive and be free, and not have to run around and ask labels just to do your own stuff. And it was actually pretty hard to start it all off, to get all of the distribution going on, and all of that. In the end it worked out pretty nicely. So all of the releases there are super small, but really hard and fun projects, and pretty strange projects as well. Because for me music is not just about focusing on one thing. It's more about focusing on developing music, growing personally, and just trying different sounds and styles. It's a really personal thing. Right now there's nothing going on with zoikmusic, actually. It's a lot of work. And besides all of the work that I do now, it just takes too much time. Yeah, maybe there will be a release in the next two years or so, but I'm not sure about that. For me, it's now much easier to release through other labels. Like in Hamburg, there's a really nice growing scene at the moment.
PL: In the sort of "refined" electronic genre?
TS: I mean there always was. Now it's being reborn in a way, so people are more into smaller things, underground stuff. That's pretty nice, pretty cool. Because the scene is so small everyone knows each other. There's more opportunity, like in Berlin, and the connection with Error Broadcast. So it's easier to bring something out somewhere else, and not have to bother spending money on it. But if there are any projects coming out that I think would be great to do for myself, and it's not the kind of thing that goes into this scene, then it's easier for me to drop that on zoikmusic.
PL: Would you like to talk about your relationship with Error Broadcast? How did they approach you? Is it more of a collective or a label?
TS: They are definitely a label, but it's kind of a small community of beat producers and musicians who are into this special sound. Like the Montgomery Clunk and DZA stuff. It's kind of a special part, I think, of beat music. Yeah, I think we're going to work again together. There's nothing planned yet, but they know my latest productions, which are not ready yet. They know what's going on, and they're interested. It’s really cool because one of the guys is in Berlin, and we chat a lot. It was nice working on the Repolyx EP because everything was really democratic. We talked about everything: how the tape should look, and I brought the designer in, and it was a really nice collaboration. But it's still pretty small, so there's no pressure. It's really free. I mean, they know what they want, definitely. There's not much room for your sound if you come up with something really strange, so they're not super wide open for everything. I think what they do is kind of hip-hop based every time, but has a different approach or something. It started all via Internet. We were just chatting and checking things out, and I said, Okay I have this thing, and I'd really like to make this Repolyx EP, and I had these guys that did the collaboration with kidkanevil...
PL: Yeah, that's blowing up. That's become really popular.
TS: Yeah, it did actually.
PL: It's now one of the more well known things you've done. At least based on a basic Internet search.
TS: Yeah. He's really well known, and he's a cool guy. The first thing that we did was on First Word Records, the Black Bug single, which was a really nice collaboration. We played in Berlin together, when Michael [Fakesch] and I played there. Then we just got in touch, and started working. I think because of guys like kidkanevil, Error Broadcast was pretty interested as well. They're not into vocal stuff very much, so for them it was the first thing that really vocaled up the kind of sound they had. Brought it to some different stage which wasn't there on Error Broadcast before, I think. It was pretty different. And the Repolyx album is pretty diverse. I think there are tracks that really fit that platform, and tracks which are really out there as well. And that's what I really like, and think is really cool about Error Broadcast, that they said, Okay, yeah yeah, let's do that, and they didn't argue about anything. It was just a really nice collaboration. Really cool.
PL: I think what really stands out about your music, what really stuck with me, what made me want to do this interview, and reach out to you, is that you're doing something that I don't think many people have heard before, this vocal mixture. Have you come across anything that's similar to your own sound?
TS: Yeah, there actually are similarities. People compare it to different sounds, and different vocalists, that are out there in a way. They say it sounds a bit like Prince, or it sounds a bit like that. So of course there are similarities. My approach is to come up with all of the stuff I've grown up with, like the soul stuff, the rock stuff, a lot of fusion and jazz that I was interested in. I never really only listened to beat music or electronic music. I was always into different stuff, like drone music, and stuff like that. Maybe that makes my sound a little different. My approach is to be like soulful, and sweet in a way, but poppy, and a bit strange on the other side. Kind of robotic. Whatever kind of future approach to that. I think the edgy part of the sound, which is definitely in there I guess, has really won it for me. I'm a big fan of people like Mike Patton, who were always playing with this super-pop kind of thing, and on the other side it was like death metal, drone, crazy stuff. Really twisted sounds. I think that the ups and downs of the sound he did, which is kind of different from what I do, to perform that thing live, with loops and electronic sounds, and also with sweetness and poppiness, that's what is really driving me I think.
PL: Where did you learn to sing? Self-taught?
TS: When I was young I was singing in a lot of rock bands, and fusion bands, like metal-crossover bands, and hardcore bands. In the beginning I was shouting and screaming and stuff like that, and then I really got into Prince. I came into a more soulful sound, and I thought the fusion of that was really cool. Not the typical crossover sound, but really soulful, and a kind of harsh/edgy sound. I thought that was cool. Then mixed, and brought together with loads of effects. It was more self-taught. I tried a few lessons, but it was usually the typical choir stuff. I couldn't really evolve there. Couldn't really teach myself to sing this way. So basically, it's just singing along, and then you know how to do it.
PL: How long have you been listening to or making electronic music?
TS: I think twelve years or something? There are a lot of small things that never came out. A lot of projects I did live. The first project I had, which was pretty soulful, was called Perpetuum Mobile. It sounded a bit like the Conversea EP--very slow, very deep, kind of hip-hop based. Then on the other hand, pretty tricky beats, tiny sculptures of sound within the sound. Textures and stuff. Lots of big vocal arrangements with loads of stems and tracks. That was with a friend in Hamburg. He was a good jazz drummer. We tried to develop a way of doing it live, maybe bring some guys who can play real piano. We had a TD-10 drumset, which is an electronic drumset, and wondered how we could bring up all of the crazy vocal effects live. He was playing real drums and electronic drums, and we had backing vocals on tape, from CD or MIDI disc or whatever. We triggered weird things for the drums on MIDI. All of the vocal stuff was through guitar petals. I had a full desk of loop pedals and different types of effects, just to create the sound live. Which was a pretty busy thing. Now you can work in Ableton, and you can switch stuff around. There's much more gear out there which is easier to use; which, with the way I sing, is cooler. When the Kaoss Pad came out it was really easy for me to decide how to bring out the vocals live, like it sounds recorded. The idea originally was to come up with this jazzy feel. Not playing songs that are the same at every show, but improvising a lot, making this live-set feel. Not that beat-per-minute based, always in the same vibe. There are stops, breaks, different beats-per-minute, and lots of improvising. Basically it's for myself, so I don't get bored at shows. New songs came out by playing live as well. Try to make yourself happy on stage because I think the worst thing for me is to become bored while playing my songs.
PL: What are you doing here in New York?
TS: First time in New York! I'm here with Michael Fakesch, actually. He's been here a couple of times, I think. My girlfriend, his girlfriend, and his son. We're close. He lives in the south of Munich, nine hundred kilometers away from Hamburg, but we see each other around four times a year. Just visiting, and hanging out. Two years ago we said we have to go to New York sometime. Yeah, just hanging out, having a good time.
PL: Are you going to any record shops? Doing any cool tourist stuff?
TS: Actually at the moment, not at all. Just forgetting all about music, running around, hanging out in Central Park. Taking a look at what's going on here.
PL: Beautiful weather.
TS: On the second day, Tuesday?, we went out to Rockaway Beach searching for a board rental. I'm surfing in Germany. Pretty good waves out there, also.
PL: You should try Fort Tilden. It's farther down, past Rockaway. It's sort of deserted. All of these huge dunes. It's cool.
TS: Someone told me about the Sandy Hook thing as well. I'm not a good, good surfer though. In Germany there's pretty bad surf. It looks like the same waves that you have here, which are surfable. That's good for me.
PL: Do you have any releases coming out soon?
TS: I'm planning this five- or six-track EP. I don't think it's going to happen this year. Probably next. It's not much of a vocal thing actually. The previous tracks I produced were more like beat-tracks, vocal samples, vocal fuck-ups, twisted things. I'm really into that right now. Next I'm working on stuff that's more vocal-y, has more broad vocal arrangements again. I'm kind of redefining my sound at the moment. Like the Poly EP but more chopped up. More dusty in a way? Hopefully early next year there's going to be a beat-thing EP. All the tracks are stuffed with miniatures, and beats. I'm really looking forward to that. But right now I'm so busy doing scores, and different commercial stuff. Cool art projects, where I do sound design, which I really love. It's different, and I'm learning a lot. That's probably why I'm not the really-go-for-it kind of guy for the style of music that I do. I'm interested in so much stuff, and I really want to test everything out. But yeah, the sound design stuff has influenced all of my music. There's going to be some interesting stuff. I did a project with this graffiti artist earlier this year, for the OFFF Conference in Barcelona. It's a big conference for motion graphers. Lots of sound designers were involved with our project. I did a track, which is hopefully going to be on the EP as well. We had to build sound based on this really cool picture, all motion design. It was a great approach and interesting to see the different approaches everyone else took for the same picture. I was the only one coming out with vocals. It worked out really well. That's what I want to do more of. I don't know if you watched the video from Paul Mumford? The kidkanevil one?
TS: I'm really into this kind of collaboration now. I mean, releases are good on labels, but it's not so important anymore in a way. I think it's more important to have really nice collaborations, with cool guys, which are more from the movie scene, or the motion graphers scene, or the design scene, that can bring out a new approach to your music. Because cover art is still cool, but it's getting smaller and smaller.
PL: They're just little thumbnails now.
TS: It’s a small scene of people who buy your cassettes and your vinyl. I think it's nice to have a chance to collaborate with people who can bring your music to a visual, new point of view. Bring something into your music or the other way around. Music, and then video; or first video, and then music. Making a new thing happen. For me it's just another stage. Like an album with cover art that looks like what’s in the music. I like it the other way around. You wouldn't suggest this kind of music just by looking at the cover. I like surprises. I think it's a good chance to work with something different: movies, music videos, installations. And having different people finding their way into your music, but finding their way into art, or music videos, or any multimedia content. I've recently been playing with Machinedrum in Germany. A good friend of mine, Michael, is doing all of the live visual stuff. They also do this party called Glitch Happens, in Augsburg, which is pretty well known for this scene in Germany. They have loads of guys from all over the planet playing there. They do this great live visual stuff. Really enhanced, really modern, but in close contact with the music. This concept is still growing. It's hard in Europe to find mid-range sized clubs where you can bring your visual artists onto the show, and have them paid well. There's still work to do to make it happen. To say, Hey guys, it's music, and that's cool, people like to party, but we want to make it more like art. Bring it to another level. More skills. Lots of motion graphers, lots of people who are into this music. They're the people who like this stuff, who are impressed and inspired by what we do.
PL: It is becoming much more of a sensory experience. Talking about the grand scale of things--Amon Tobin's ISAM, which really brought that new, otherworldly sensory experience to electronic music. I think that's the way electronic music is going to move forward. And your music video is a good example of that.
TS: Yeah, and that's just a tiny part of it. It can be something completely different. Like the artworks and art collaborations I do with people. There's this guy Andreas Nicolas Fischer from Berlin working on these wave sculptures-things. And the sound is completely different, because it's not about beats or anything. I really like these kinds of collaborations. People look at it and think, It's not a music video, there's nothing happening. You have to be aware of what's going on. You look closely and you can see there are tiny things changing. It's constantly in this random-move thing. It's not a music video. It's like an art installation. Really interesting. People really love the interaction between sound and what they're seeing.
PL: Are there any collaborations you would love to do?
TS: Yeah, there's lots of stuff I'd like to do. Lots of good designers, good motion graphers I've been working with already. But the problem is that if it's not a commercial thing, it can be difficult. Like if a big label is paying for a great music video, or a great installation or whatever, and there's money, then it's easy. I'd like to do something with this guy Sebastian Onufszak from Augsburg, Germany. I did a project earlier this year with him, and I'd like to do another short movie thing, like 3-4 minutes. Just have the whole mixture of sound design, beats, and this universe of what can be in sound, and what can change. The stuff that he does is really modern and special in a way. He designed the cover for the album which Michael [Fakesch] and I did. He took pictures and then drew the whole thing on the base of the pictures. He has an interesting way of working. I would also love to do some 3D mapping stuff with people. I'm having this work collaboration with Current Current, which brings together different artists who do 3D mapping, but also graffiti mapping stuff. They're based in Sweden, Berlin, Norway, like a network. But the problem with working together is that everyone's really busy with their day jobs. So you always have to find some space or gap for the both of you where it can work out. I want to do collaborations like that.
PL: Last question: who would you like to next see an interview or a mix from on Percussion Lab?
TS: My friend E.A.R.L, who has this design studio called Ugly Stupid Honest. He's a great music producer. He has a new label called Good Price Records. He's doing all the visuals, graphic design and motion stuff, and he's also doing the sounds. He's a really interesting person from Berlin. It's like a future mixture of the beat producer scene, and the visual/installation scene. It's an off-topic thing, but I really like that. I don't want to see anyone who's already known. I think it's great to have someone introduced to the world.
PL: You're right. It's nice to see someone that's not already big.
TS: The great thing is the mixture. It's crazy that all of the guys interested in this beat stuff are also usually interested in art, and good design. I think the next level guys are those like Chris [Hoffmann, aka E.A.R.L] who are doing it all together. There's no space between doing the different jobs. This is the new generation of guys who can do it all. For me, that's crazy. I do my own cover art sometimes, but I'm not a motion grapher. There seems to be a lot of people out there that are into both worlds. And it's not about both worlds anymore. It belongs together anyway. At least that's what I think.