Tag Archives: house

NYC house & techno legend Levon Vincent makes his Bongo debut for Substance, Sat 27th April

24 April 2019 -

We couldn’t be more excited to be welcoming Levon Vincent to the Bongo for the first time, courtesy of the evergreen Substance crew.  This recent interview with him by XLR8R gives an insight into why he’s such a talented and successful producer…

Levon Vincent has been producing records for nearly two decades, starting in Manhattan, New York. His music taste and processes were shaped by early ’90s house music and the energy that surrounded him in places like the Lower East side and Alphabet city. The explosion of music sampling in the ’80s informed his processes and, influenced by the elder producers in his orbit, he began his own experiments using an Ensoniq EPS-1, one of the first few affordable samplers on the market. He released his debut EP, No More Heros, in 2002 via his own More Music NY.  “I have quite a lot of experience as a student,” he explains. “I’ve never shied away from tracking down a producer or engineer to ask them 100 questions.”

Vincent’s ensuing releases landed with regularity: Complicated People and The Thrill Of Love came next, with a slick, warm house sound, before 2005’s Love Technique saw Vincent present a harder acid-infused techno aesthetic. This evolution continued as his signature became dark, chunky, and raw but groovy, psychedelic, and, well, sexy—at once driving and meaningful. “It can make you dance and it can make you contemplate,” says one enthusiastic Discogs user. (Case in point: “Double Jointed Sex Freak.”)

The culmination of this came with 2015’s self-titled album debut, a release—offered as a free download as a stand against the corporate machine—that exceeded even the huge expectations that surrounded it. It spanned atmospheric dub techno, lush deep house, and explorations into the darker realms, cementing Vincent’s reputation as one of the most original producers in contemporary techno. Often it takes two or three listens to properly understand his message; to really appreciate how he says so much with so little.

Vincent has been hard at work recently, preparing a series of EPs that’ll drop this year, expected to be one of his busiest yet—his first release of the year was “Dance With Me,” an old-school house cut on the January edition of XLR8R+. After some informal exchanges, he invited XLR8R into his studio, located in the spare room of his spacious Berlin apartment. He’s always been a bedroom producer, so this is where he feels most comfortable. Although distanced somewhat from the analog heavy lairs that we see so often in contemporary production, there is some seriously heavy duty equipment. “I am proud to be a bedroom producer and not too flashy,” he says. “This is independent music and should be in the hands of anyone who wants to make it.” To learn more, we sat down for a lengthy and candid discussion with Vincent, and below you’ll find a (slightly) shortened version of what was said.

To start, can you describe your current studio setup?

Today I am working with a few Roland synths and a Jomox drum module. For tracking, I use a combination of Aurora and Great River pre-amps and UAD conversion. For mixing down, I use JCF conversion, an SSL G-series compressor clone, and I sum through the Chandler mixer. I am a fan of the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) format and I use Korg and Tascam recorders. I own a pair of trusty US$30 Logitech multimedia speakers, as well as a monster pair of Barefoot monitors for reference purposes, and some other goodies.

I’ve put any profits over the years into recording gear so I’ve really cherry-picked the exact items I need. I went through a lot of extra items while figuring it out and now I am down to just what I need, so if there is a piece of gear in my studio nowadays, I use it. I don’t have a synth museum or anything; those setups come and go for me, depending on my disposable income at the time. I also use a Yamaha digital piano, and while it’s nice, I left a Kawai MP7SE stage piano in New York when I moved to Germany, and I miss that one a lot.

Has your setup changed considerably over time?

My setup is constantly changing. Not the recording gear—it’s too important—but the instruments always change. I usually buy a few synths, make a record or two, then sell them on Craigslist and repeat. Overall, there is less equipment now; I choose not to have an exorbitant amount of sonic “toys” at the moment. I will start buying again soon, just a couple things here and there. I am holding out for Behringer to announce a Jupiter 8 clone.

Why do you feel the need to constantly change the gear?

Hmm, good question. I like that first feeling you get when you put a couple of synths together and you learn what type of personality they have. That comes from reading about Miles Davis, how he was so widely recognized as having a knack for putting band members together. I always liked that concept, so I enjoy the skill of combining different synths and drum machines. So a Walforf Pulse might have a very muscular character. That would be a nice compliment to a Juno, which has a more buttery sound. Mixing and matching the different instruments is akin to orchestration.

“..an artist must believe in what they are doing because there is a great sacrifice involved in dedicating your life to music or the arts.”

You spoke earlier about how you learned a lot from apprenticeships in New York. What are the most important lessons that you reflect upon?

This might sound like a negative but it actually was a positive for me: one lesson I will always remember was when working for the engineer on Steve Reich’s Violin Phaserecording for Nonesuch. And I had spent several months with him but he had never heard my music. Finally, the day came and I played him my CD. He listened, and I asked him what he thought, and he said, “If you weren’t in the room, I would throw this disc in the garbage.” Sounds like a tough one, right? But it gave me a thick skin—it was better than being coddled and that experience forced me to evaluate what I was doing. I do believe it was good music, and I did release some of it on Novel Sound to great success. So, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. But I had to go back to make sure I really believed in what I was doing, and I learned pretty quickly that you have to take things with a pinch of salt if you are going to succeed; an artist must always believe in what they are doing because there is a great sacrifice involved in dedicating your life to music or the arts. It can be a frightful leap to take because you never know if you will always be able to eat properly, or sleep in your own place, or have health insurance, etc.

It’s interesting that your studio is still in your bedroom. Do you want an external studio?

That has never appealed to me. My space is very personal and it is a very important part of my work process. I like smoking weed and working, getting all dubby—and I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that outside of my house. Also, I often wake up in the night with an idea and go immediately to the piano. That happens every couple of weeks, where I have a good idea in the night, and just jump out of bed and go immediately to working on it. I have written every song I have ever released in my bedroom. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. Well, now I use an office room in my flat and not my actual bedroom, but you get my point.

If I can’t make music with just 18 simultaneous preamps then something is wrong with my approach.

It doesn’t look like the most organized of spaces.

Yes, I do have a bit of a sloppiness problem with my work area. Not dirty, just messy. Truthfully, the messiness is a habit I developed from collecting records—just having too many records, the hoarding aspect. At one point I had 17,000 records. I didn’t even know what a few crates were. I also collected comic books and graphic novels when I was younger. I like collecting things, as long as it doesn’t disrupt my life. The way I learned to conquer the vinyl addiction and manage the hoarding is by first getting rid of that entire collection. It was difficult but a very healthy thing for me to do. And now every few years I give away several crates of records. I’ve passed out gear too. It frees you up. Regarding the equipment, I have always been buying and trading gear. The 1990s were worse because I worked for a music instrument shop and was able to buy things at cost. That got out of hand. For the past 15 years or so I have had a “no patch bays” rule: I have 18 inputs on my preamps, and that’s it. If I can’t make music with just 18 simultaneous preamps then something is wrong with my approach.

Why do you think you’re more drawn to recording and processing equipment more than instruments?

Well, I was born in the ‘70s, and I came up in the ‘80s, and the era was dominated by sampling technology. It was a revolution. Synths are cool too, they are the instruments that belong in the studio. I love it all. I love a good machine—I always have time to appreciate a piece of gear that is designed and assembled well. I realize that I like machines that do one thing really well. I’d choose an MPC if I could only have one piece of gear. That’s a New York thing. Although I moved to Germany 10 years ago and haven’t looked back, some things stay with you throughout your life. I will always have a fondness for recording gear and old samplers.

Are you still sampling a lot nowadays?

Nope. December would be the last time I sampled my synths or drum machine. I sampled my Moog Source most recently, three octaves worth, and layered it with noise from the Anamod ATS-1. The result was a really fat sounding disco bass patch. It sounds like the octave bass from “Blue Monday.”

Why do you think your practices have changed?

It’s because my library is so big now. It’s more important for me that I update what I have and bring it into the present time. Like my FZ-1 diskettes, I need to update those, and I have a bunch of zip disks to deal with, etc. I have an enormous library of 12-bit drum samples that I could use to make some really cool personalized drum machines. That’s something I really love doing—making my own drum kits, and then thinking of and treating them as if they are a rare drum machine, one that only I have. Then, I will spend a month making beats with it and really getting to know the sounds and how they work. I also like to pilfer the Jomox module, which is really punchy, and combine it with bits from my older kits. I sampled the hell out of my long-gone Linn Drum, for example. So I might take a shaker or a Tambo from that archive. Something I go back to a lot is a DAT of a Roland TM-404 drum machine that someone gave me in the ’90s, which was a prototype model that never came out commercially, and I sometimes mix a few sounds from that machine too. In the end, you have this really unique drum kit, which is like your own personal beat machine, and it’s cool to assemble your own drum kit because there’s only one “drum machine” made, so it’s like having serial number #001.

Do you think what you’re looking for with your setup has changed considerably since your New York days?

Yes, because I have grown a lot since my early days with production. It’s been a great journey. These days I have a higher success rate when working and I know what tone I like. An artist’s approach to their tone is one of those areas of audio that is regarded as esoteric since a lot of the boutique audio gear is subjective in its fan base and their opinions. So much of what makes a good record for me is in the areas of tone and timbre, but trying to explain what makes my clocking system so important is not always as readily agreeable as say, mentioning a Prophet V, which is a universally recognized work of art. I also reference my VU meters these days, which is something I ignored for a lot of years and regarded as a rock approach, where you are mixing live drums etc., but it’s an equally pleasant approach for dance music, making sure those meters are gently riding rather than jumping all over the place.

Are you currently using any in-the-box instruments?

I am a big fan of Native Instruments’ Kontakt. I have 25 years worth of my own samples stored on about 300 floppy disks, which I need to convert to Kontakt since I sold my Akai S6000 recently. I am already thinking about just buying another S6000 though. Otherwise, I will take the plunge and buy a copy of Chicken-Sys Translator. Then I can convert all my Ensoniq and Casio floppies too, so even though it might take a week or two of studio time, I would only have to do it once to be future-proof. The main thing is finding a way to preserve my aging library because I have put so many years of work into it.

Software-based instruments are awesome but can also be a point of contention for me due to struggles with timing issues. There is a competitive race to create the most extravagant, over-the-top-sounding beast of a synthesizer plugin but these instruments require buffer sizes of 256 Kbps or higher. This is unacceptable. If I can’t run my sequencer at 64 kbps, or maximum 128, then I will use a hardware sequencer instead. I can make music more reliably, whether it be with hardware or software, when working with small buffer sizes because I like to play instruments in real time—that’s why I like hardware samplers. I also like getting piano sounds or Rhodes sounds from my Korg TR-Rack, for example. Those are ROM-based machines. There are all kinds of sound generators. Analog synths are cool and fun but I generally don’t use more than four simultaneously. They are always necessary for funky and nasty bass lines, however, that’s a department where I really feel they shine.

It’s funny because I have made some of my personal favorite songs with delay compensation completely off, and a buffer size of 64. I like to work without delay compensation engaged because what you hear is what you get. I don’t like to disrupt the timing because I like to play my instruments and I want that snappy feeling. I hope that with the advent of the ELK system we are going to be able to use software instruments from within a Eurorack at extremely low latencies. That is tech worth paying attention to as it develops. That could really be big.

Is there any particular piece of gear that you feel like you’re missing?

I really like the Deckard’s Dream synth. A number of notable producers have expressed their happiness with that synth, Ellen Allien, for example. One of my “grail” synths would be an Ensoniq Fizmo in a rack. Also, Armen NYC refurbishes Akai MPC60s with hugely upgraded RAM and storage, new buttons and everything mint. That would be ace. I mostly would be happiest this year with a pair of racked Behringer Jupiter 8s. Dare to dream, right?

You’re rolling out EPs pretty quickly at the moment. Is this a good time for you?

Yep, I am in a good place. 2019 is off to a great start with regard to Novel Sound. It’s a dream come true to release music professionally. I always tell up-and-comers it is completely worth all the work to become a producer and touring DJ.  Music has so much to give, and there is always something new to learn. On top of that, we are in the midst of a technological revolution. If you survey the history of music, we are in one of the most innovative eras ever.

“I have made plenty of sacrifices in life over the years, worked shitty restaurant jobs to get by when I really should have been doing music, etc. But with my music, I have a clean history.”

How do you maintain quality when you’re releasing so frequently?

I have a rule not to take any short-cuts, musically speaking. I put everything where I think it should be, and I won’t accept lazy decisions from myself during the process. There are, of course, mistakes, but I have managed to adhere to a strict rule: never compromise with making music. I have made plenty of sacrifices in life over the years, worked shitty restaurant jobs to get by when I really should have been doing music, etc. But with my music, I have a clean history.

Do you perceive this to be a purple patch when it comes to music making?

Not really, because I have never had to deal with writer’s block. There is always something for me to do, even if it’s just cutting up recordings of previous sessions. I truly enjoy all of it. If I were to describe my own catalog as I have experienced writing it over the years, I would call it a steady trajectory rather than ups and downs. I am dedicated to music, and each time I work I get a little better. There is so much to learn. You get out of music exactly as much as you dedicate and the coolest part is sometimes you can sit down and listen back to your catalog and it’s like a type of journal. You can hear where you were in life, or maybe one song will remind you of someone you loved, or writing a song in a flat you really enjoyed, etc. And that’s so cool because it’s such a bonus.

What does “Anti-Corporate Music” take you back to, and even that whole album?

It was really just about enjoying life, my enjoyment of life and the joy that DJing and music have given me. The song title, of course, is more serious but the music and the LP was an expression of a joyous life. Actually, when reviewing life and my catalog, I can give that same answer for pretty much any release! Did I mention I enjoy making music?

Do you remember the processes behind this particular track?

That’s an example of a track where I wrote the beats first, and then I became obsessed with making effects stand as a valuable musical element. I had this idea at that time about building an effects chain that you wouldn’t want to change for months, like one delay so elaborate and that would give such a rich tone that the effects in itself would be a type of composition. It was like a Rube Goldberg of reverbs, flangers, and other pedals, all for this one dedicated effect. When I look back, I always like those effects and how thick they are. I still use that approach today some times, where I put everything I have into one effects chain and then write around that.

Did you expect it to be such a success?

I had no idea. The actual reason I gave that tune away as a promo before the LP release was because the digital was a different version than what was released on vinyl and I wanted them both to make it to the listener. Honestly, I still get quite surprised by which tracks find success. The first track on my latest release on Novel Sound #26, the Dance Music EP— that record sold out faster than anything I have done in years, and I almost did not include the tune that people are playing right now. You really never know what will happen. That’s always so exciting about watching a record release.

I always notice that your tracks are filled with all sorts of inspired melodies—warped, melancholic, tense, foreboding etc. Are you playing these separately live? Or sequencing and tracking them along with the drum-machines?

I work alongside drums most of the time, especially for improvising. Lately, however, I have been writing the melodies first at the piano before I turn any other gear on. When you write the melody first, the result will be more songwriter style because you can do the harmonizations and other things like tuning your drums all in support of the melody. The result is, therefore, a melody-driven tune. For other tracks, more grooving and in the pocket tracks, you can make the drums first and then play alongside them as they loop around. One approach is not better than another. You can also let chance take part. For example. John Cage used a pair of dice with his notes assigned to a corresponding number on the dice, then he would roll and let them “write” the melody for him. That approach can be used not only for melody, but you can make the kick #1 on the dice, the snare #2, open hat #3, etc.

“I’d say a lot of my songs—most of them, actually—are the result of experimentation, I really like to answer the question ‘what if?'”

You’re clearly open-minded when it comes to production.

I need to be. There’s no one way to approach music: you get different results from different processes so I orbit different modes of working and I enjoy the variety. Sometimes you sit down and write a tune, or other times you just jam. Occasionally you enter with prepared ideas. Ideally, you are just sitting there and something comes over you. Those are the best moments in music, when you seem to be channeling something bigger than you. I’d say a lot of my songs—most of them, actually—are the result of experimentation. I really like to answer the question “what if?” So, “What would it sound like if I did this?” Then I can go into my room and work to find an answer. I am productive when driven by curiosity.

So how much is jamming and how much is actual writing songs, from left to right?

I bounce between the two. Sometimes I will write melodies on paper, other moments I play them out by ear. Arrangements can be done on paper, too—I like doing it that way because you can map out Phi points and use them to accentuate parts of a song. You can easily sit down with a pen and paper, and work out the Golden Mean, the Fibonacci sequence, or Harmonic series, then use it in your music. There are a number of patterns in the big Euclid book, or from visual art textbooks, etc., all of which can be applied to pitch, loudness, timbre, or duration. I actually made a frequency chart, which I rely on heavily for all things equal-temperament. I have a giant one on the wall in my house.

Can you explain more about how you incorporate these visual art elements or non-direct musical theories into your work?

I like abstraction methods and impressionism and I use those techniques in my music. For example, recording sounds in nature or city areas, then using those recordings as templates for sonic events. Or, if you think of “La Mer” by Claude Debussy, how he created the sound of waves crashing by playing on the piano—that’s musical impressionism. You can take that further using today’s technology, and make literal abstractions of recorded sound effects and environments. So, if he was writing “La Mer” today, he might have first recorded real waves, then used them as a template for his sound. It’s taking the feeling of inspiration from his great work and thinking about how to update that concept using software like Logic or Tracktion.

How would a producer incorporate this chart into their practice?

The Novel Sound reference chart lists the note and corresponding frequency. So, for example, if your bass line has an Eb which is too prominent and needs to be tamed, you can look quickly to the chart to know which frequency to dial up and attenuate. Or, if you want to make that note warmer, you can refer to the chart for the fundamental, and then either boost some even numbered partials or reduce some prime-numbered ones. Even-numbered partials are where the warmth resides, and prime-numbered partials give you “edge.” It’s also interesting to look at what frequency resonates with you sometimes. I find that it helps you to get to know equal-temperament intimately, since it makes up so much of Western music, for so many centuries. If you strike a note and it moves you, look at what frequency you just played, and think of how it makes you feel. Eventually, you know what you like or dislike with a broad range of notes of combination therein.

Can you give an example?

Here is a 232 bar song arrangement (See screenshot below.) By determining where the PHI points lie, you can use these moments to illustrate climactic or memorable parts in a song. You do this by multiplying a given amount by .618, and this will give you the next point. The first line is the whole, or 1/1.

The second line demonstrates the primary point of interest, at 144 bars. I multiplied 232 by .618 and rounded to the nearest logical measure. This marks where the beat comes back in after a long breakdown in many songs, although you don’t have to do the most obvious event there.

Next line, you have the PHI point of the main PHI point so something musical can happen here at 89 bars which will point to the main event. By repeating this process of determining Phi points and their PHI points, you come up with more PHI points, such as 55, 34 and 21 bars. These are building blocks—places where events can happen that accentuate a groove, perhaps where cymbal crashes occur. All these blocks have a forward and inverted position in the timeline, and there is a vortex that exists between them. So, for example, from 89 measures to 110, that’s where something very attention-grabbing could happen. It all comes down to observing one main ratio: .618.

This is the same ratio found in all aspects of life, just like a nautilus. So, by observing these ratios, you are working with nature and people can often feel it, though they may not be able to turn around and explain why everything happens at “just the right time.” You can also break these rules and that will give you something that goes against nature—which is another type of tension in itself. You can ignore it completely too, but by using established forms like this, you can create tensions, releases, or romanticism etc…with consistent intentions.

Basically, the blocks are laid out in this arrangement, and if you have events happening at these points in your song, it will be perceived as being “logical” by the listener. You can continue to find the PHI points of the PHI points, right down to the smallest rhythmic increment if you choose, and by doing this you are creating a conceptual model of some of the most dominant patterns that exist in life and creation. Or, by going against this form, you can really freak people out! Your call.

What percentage of tracks do you release?

It may surprise you to read this, but the answer is almost all of them. I’m not a producer who is sitting on a giant surplus of material. If I see a project through to the end, I release it. I mean, it’s a bit of a fluke that I had the track available for XLR8R+. I had been sitting on the multis for it for so long because I just knew there would be a time and place for it, simply because I liked the song.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I don’t mean this sarcastically, but basically, when you press stop on the recorder. You know while it is recording that you have captured a good take because you feel it.

Looking back at your biggest records, “Man or Mistress,” “Woman is an Angel,” were these different to the rest of your catalog?

You know you are on to something special when you are making the tunes but nobody can guarantee a hit record. I don’t see them being different to other songs though, they are all part of my catalog. It would be boring if I only made hits.

The benefit of being a bedroom producer and keeping in that mindset is that you can easily just make something you enjoy, then think about the other stuff later. I had an interesting experience lately because I am working on an LP right now. And I was driven to make something as advanced as I could, trying to push my own limits and musical technique, etc. But alongside this I have been making some other tunes, a bit more simple, just having fun and blowing off steam with them. And it dawned on me only this week that the tunes I have been noodling around with for fun are the ones that will make up the LP! I was blindsided with this notion. That’s a great benefit to being an independent label owner and artist, because I can just do a total 180 if I want to.

What determines whether a track will be released?

Honestly, it’s a tough question to answer definitively because there is no right way to do things, and there isn’t just one direction either. I make music all the time—I am a music addict. I make music for peace of mind, I do it for joy. I suppose I could say the songs that are giving the most to me when working on them are the ones I release. It’s a gut feeling, if that makes sense.

Do you finish all the tracks you’re working on, or how do you know when to ditch a sketch?

Yes, for the most part. Ninety-nine percent of the time writing a tune I will see it through to the end.

Do you ever produce and keep specific tracks for your DJ sets?

I do. I play exclusively my own music and edits in DJ sets.

So do you have different processes: one for DJ-friendly tracks and the other for tracks that you wish to release?

Yes, exactly. Although, I use different classification. I might think: This is gonna sound really cool! or, I wonder what would happen if I combined this and that, or even, how can I make people feel this certain emotion while on the dance floor?

At what point does it become clear that you’re producing for a release or a DJ tool? And how does this influence your processes?

Just legal limitations, I observe copyright laws with Novel Sound releases but with edits or anything in-between, I play those without publishing limitations. It’s not illegal or even disrespectful to play things in your DJ sets which could not be officially released. For example, I made a track which samples George Kraanz “Din Dah-Dah.” I made this tune knowing I couldn’t release it but I always liked that record because I heard it when I was about 11 years old and it had a big affect on me. I could never get the sample cleared in order to release it, but that doesn’t matter. I do play it all the time and people love it. And I like having all those tunes that are unique to my sets, because it means I am offering something unique as a DJ.

Is music making an immersive process?

Yes. I do like to live inside a song as it unfolds. Some come easy, some take all your life force away. Neither are really better than the other, however they are entirely different beasts.

 

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Berlin techno legend DJ Boris (Berghain) makes his Edinburgh debut for Substance x Pulse, Fri 11th May ’18

02 May 2018 -

It’s another coup for the Substance crew, as they join forces with Pulse once again to welcome Berlin native Boris Dolinski to our stage. He’s been resident at Berghain since Day One, having been involved with the original OstGut club & Panorama bar (from ’98 & ’00) before it opened. 

But his heritage runs even deeper than that, as he also lived in New York in the mid-Eighties and was a regular at the legendary Paradise Garage and Loft parties when both were going strong, taking early DJ cues from Larry Levan and David Mancuso.  How many DJs still active in the world today can lay claim to an involvement with such towering temples of dance music history? 

This audio interview he gave to Resident Advisor, where he talks about his early clubbing experiences in Berlin and at the Garage and then becoming a DJ himself (‘all i want to do is create memorable experiences’), is worth a listen.

BIO

DJ Boris is kind of a charismatic, multifunctional weapon in the Berlin club life. His musical roots reach back to the mid 80s, when he lived in New York for four years where he absorbed the unique spirit of the seminal club Paradise Garage weekend after weekend. From the Club’s mentor Larry Levan Boris learned to believe in his musical intuition as well as a broad musical spectrum, which nowadays ranges from Disco, Hi-NRG, Post-Punk and (Kraut-) Rock to House and Neotrance, all of which Boris loves to throw into one set. 

‘Music was most important for Levan. He was uncompromising and he knew how to convey it. That’s what I’m trying to achieve, too, when I’m djing.’  Many years later, Boris became a resident at Panorama Bar’s first incarnation in Berlin, where he was able to build a loyal following by playing long sets lasting until noon. ‘The crowd is always a lot more receptive for music at the end than at the beginning. That’s when I rather have the opportunity to present unusual stuff and that’s when I’m able to let my feelings run freely.’ 

After the old OstGut/Panorama Bar closed, Boris played in almost every club in Berlin, but when the follow up club Berghain opened its doors in 2004, he quickly focused on playing out here again. Since 2005 he has got another musical platform, as he is taking care of the label Careless Records as an A&R. Both as a dj and as an A&R, he is not exactly keen on refining a certain genre, but rather to push music with a certain twist.

TICKETS

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Acclaimed American DJ Avalon Emerson makes her Bongo debut for Substance, Fri 16th Feb

04 January 2018 -

Sub_AvalonEmerson_FB

Riding high on the success of her remix of Octo Octa’s ‘Adrift’ (one of last year’s best releases for many DJs), a busy international DJ schedule (not least her much discussed B2B set with Copnehagen’s ace DJ Courtesy at the mighty Sonar festival in Barcelona) and a slew of fine releases prior to that, Avalon Emerson makes her Bongo debut for Substance on Friday 16th Feb.   To say we’re looking forward to welcoming her to the Bongo is a bit of an understatement…  TICKETS



Here’s a transcript of Will Lynch’s great Resident Advisor piece (from November 2016), plus video clips of some of her previous stand-out releases:

Last week, Avalon Emerson released a video for “Natural Impasse,” a track from her new record on Spectral Sound, Narcissus In Retrograde. She made the whole thing herself using emojis and clips from her phone, a process she explained on her YouTube channel.

“I trimmed each video, turned them into gifs, and processed them into various emojisaic gifs using a ruby script created by my friend Lucas Mathis (github: @lilkraftwerk), then edited them all together using Adobe Premiere, a process that took me about two months.”

Those three things—the gnarled club track, the homemade video, the scrappy method behind it—tell you a lot about Emerson as an artist and a person. For as long as she can remember, she’s found a creative outlet in music and technology, and has pursued both with relentless energy and resourcefulness, teaching herself to code, to make tracks and many other things besides. This self-efficacy helped propel her to where she is today—28, an ex-software developer, full-time DJ and producer. But there’s something else, also present in that clip, that makes her so compelling as an artist. For Emerson, this music is a rawer form of self-expression than it is for many of her peers. With all of her output, including her DJ sets and club tracks, she offers a window into herself, however oblique it may be.

Take Narcissus In Retrograde. For a bundle of club tracks, this record has an unusually deep personal dimension. The music is rooted in a period of change in Emerson’s life—the same stretch of time captured in the video. “It’s been a tumultuous year,” she told me. “A good year, but difficult. Quitting my job. Going through some intense relationship events with my family. Falling in love, and finally being in a relationship with a woman. On a micro level, it was fantastic. On a macro level, though, it’s seemed like the world was crumbling, especially with every piece of news from America. Another young black boy gunned down by police, a shooting at a Planned Parenthood, us electing this orange shit-mound for the highest possible office. There’s a strange tension there.”

We were sitting in the living room of her apartment in Neukölln, a bright attic space with wood floors and angled walls. She just moved in a few weeks ago—that’s her at 5:30 in the video, opening a box of sound treatment foam for her studio. When we first spoke, some three weeks earlier, she’d been warm but guarded, at times playfully sardonic (she raised an eyebrow at one of my questions and said, “So in other words, ‘What’s it like to be a woman DJ?'”). Things had changed since then. Trump had been elected president days earlier, an event so ominous it made it hard to talk about her music and her life as an artist.

Her recent set at Panorama Bar was a welcome diversion. She’d gone back-to-back with Courtesy for the final stretch of Leisure System, and was still glowing from the experience. Courtesy’s selections skewed dark and heady—I recognized only Karl Lukas Pettersson’s “Paradise Island” on Acido. Emerson was more flamboyant. “I’m like the colour commentator in the NBA—’Whoa! Boom! There it goes!‘”

By which she meant she played a lot of curveballs: The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” Nine Inch Nails’ “Ringfinger,” Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Rain,” Joe Claussell’s remix of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place,” and my personal favorite, an acapella of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody” layered over the opening bars of Gesloten Cirkel’s “Submit X.” In each of these selections, there was an element of autobiography. The Knife was one of Emerson’s early influences, and “Ringfinger” was on Pretty Hate Machine, an album her mother “played the shit out of” when she was growing up. Ryuichi Sakamoto is another old favorite—she’d made the edit of “Rain” minutes before leaving for the club.

“A lot of my favorite edits come to me right before I play Panorama Bar,” she said. “It’s like clockwork. I did ‘Rain’ literally 20 minutes before the cab came, and I exported it wrong somehow so it was only one break. I played the original and then mixed in my break, basically doing a live Cybernedit.” (Cybernedits being her ongoing series of free club edits.) “It’s so easy to understand what is and isn’t tasteful or cool in a certain genre and play it off your USB,” she said. “Surprise and re-contextualization of familiar morsels—that’s what I like most about playing places like Panorama Bar and De School.”

Gigs at leading clubs like those are a regular thing for Emerson these days. Something she hadn’t mentioned about 2016 was that, amidst all that upheaval, she’d had an incredible year as an artist. Her reputation as a DJ boomed, and for the first time she spent most weekends traveling for gigs. This breakthrough had been a long time coming, but there was a needle that broke the camel’s back: her EP on Whities.

“People loved that one,” she said. “That pushed things over the edge, I started getting a shit-ton more gigs and the decision to quit my job was kind of made for me.”

It’s not surprising that particular EP had such an impact. Whities 006 is an ecstatic techno record, at once rowdy and euphoric. The atmosphere is bright and windswept, the rhythms soar as if carried by gusts of wind. DJ-friendly as they are, its tracks—”2000 Species Of Cacti,” “The Frontier” and “The Frontier (High Desert Synthapella)”—brim with a heart-clenching emotion fitting to the topic that inspired them: Arizona, the place where Emerson grew up.

“Try as we might,” she recently told CRACK, “we can’t escape where we came from. You hold a fondness for the place you started out in, even if you wanted nothing more when you were 16 than to leave that fucking place.”

Emerson was born in San Francisco but spent most of her young life in Gilbert, Arizona, where she never felt like she belonged. Her household was an exception. Both parents were into music. Along with Nine Inch Nails, her mother played a lot of synth pop in the house—”Propaganda, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Depeche Mode”—and also got her into astrology, which, as her track titles suggest, still inspires her today (when I asked about the phrase “triple scorpio supernova” on her RA artist page, she replied with this screen-grab). Her dad was into guitar, and the two of them would record themselves playing together using a program called Cakewalk, which sparked her interest in music production software.

From a young age Emerson was creative and resourceful. “That was kind of out of necessity,” she said. “Building my own computers and figuring out how things work. Not being able to afford software and figuring out how to download and crack stuff. Computer-based music creation was always super fascinating for me. I mean, even when I was super young, maybe like 11 or 12, me and my little sister would record songs on Cakewalk.”

Beyond the bubble of her friends and family, though, was a conservative stretch of America that Emerson knew she’d leave one day. She graduated high school with a full scholarship to Arizona State, where she studied journalism, but her time there only made her more determined to get away. At 19, she took an internship in San Francisco. The idea was to come back and finish her degree at ASU, but when the time came, she couldn’t do it. “I was ready to be an adult instead of staying in this stunted state of maturity you get in college,” she said. “So I dropped out.”

Emerson landed on her feet in San Francisco. She found work easily, first interning at tech startups and, later, XLR8R. Having taught herself to write code, she managed a web-store for a family of San Francisco boutiques, then got various jobs developing software for Bay Area tech companies. Armed with a fake ID, she explored the city’s underground scene. “There was this whole world of music I hadn’t had any exposure to,” she said. “Going to my first Honey Soundsystem and other queer parties, I’d never seen anything like that. I was into Pitchfork-y things like Crystal Castles or whatever. Then hearing, like, Argentinian cumbia, it’s like, ‘Whoa, what the fuck is this? This is tight!'”

That last one was presumably at Tormenta Tropical, a party cofounded by Shawn Reynaldo (then known as Disco Shawn) with whom Emerson had worked at XLR8R. “The party was in the Elbo Room, in the middle of The Mission,” she said. “This little upstairs place with low ceilings, kind of dank, with carpet and coloured Christmas lights, and these technicolor kaleidoscope Virgin Mary things, lit from behind. You could get a Tecate for a few dollars with a little lime in it. There were a lot of small little parties like that. It was a lively scene when I was there.”

But as musical influences go, nothing could touch Emerson’s second Bay Area residence: a 12-room warehouse in the SoMa neighborhood she’d found on Craigslist. The place was massive, home to 14 young creative types from around the world. It was also, occasionally, an illegal party spot called Club 380, where Emerson became a de facto resident DJ.

“There was this guy there named Matt, he was a couple years older than me and a really good DJ technically. His taste was different from what was popular at the time—more of a ravey sound instead of the DFA, nu-disco thing you always heard back then. When we threw parties, Matt and I would DJ all night. That was the first taste of real DJing I had.”

It was because of those parties that Emerson started making edits. At first she’d use Ableton to make small changes—extending intros, cutting out parts she didn’t like. Over time she got more creative, and soon she was making original productions. Thanks to a rigorous, self-imposed work schedule, she quickly honed her skills.

“I liked it, and I wanted to be good at it, so I made up my mind that I would make one track every month. I also decided to be my own PR agency. I made this massive rolodex of blogs and music media outlets, everything from small WordPress blogger sites to things like XLR8R and Mixmag. I would collect the contact information, and every time I created a track, I would write 100 personal emails to all these people. Some people picked it up and put it on their blogs. It was pretty addictive. If you release something and five pretty decently-sized blogs cover it, and it gets 10,000 plays and all these comments of like, ‘This is great!!,’ you get energized to make the next song and develop your skills.”

The once a month thing was key. “I know a lot of producers and writers and people in a lot of creative passions, professions, that will just continually work on something to no end, in private. You see yourself as your only gatekeeper, and maybe you don’t progress as fast as you want. Or at least as fast as I would want.”

Music became a vital mode of self-expression for Emerson, something she had to do “in order to stay sane.” The same is true today. “I would make music if no one heard it. But I’m not sure I’d DJ if there was no one there to dance.”

By 2014, someone showed one of Emerson’s tracks to her old friend Shawn Reynaldo, who was by then running the party and record label ICEE HOT. He decided to put out her first record, Pressure / Quoi, at the beginning of 2014, with remixes from Tuff City Kids.

The next one came a couple months later: Church Of SoMa, an ode to Club 380, was the first 12-inch on Spring Theory, a label run by one of the warehouse’s other residents, Guillaume Galuz. That fall, Spring Theory released her third one, Let Me Love And Steal.

These records chart the rapid evolution of Emerson’s sound. With their sampled vocal hooks, “Pressure” and “Quoi” had more of a straight-up house vibe than what would come later, but the urgency of the rhythms and the weight of the drums already showed a keen sense of club impact.

By Let Me Love And Steal, those house tropes had given way to something bolder and heavier, especially on the lurching “Triple Scorpio Mix.” The singular sound she has today—smooth but raucous, bright but heavy—was beginning to take shape.

Meanwhile, change was afoot at the warehouse. Emerson had moved out after a year or so but kept returning to play the parties. Others began leaving. An era was ending. “It was a very special thing, and everybody was kind of very depressed when it was over. But these things naturally ebb and flow. People move away, the French exchange students have to go home, things just change.”

By then Emerson was getting deeper into the tech world, at one point working at what she called a “stereotypical Y Combinator startup”—referring to the elite seed accelerator. At a glance, she had it pretty good. She’d made it in a city she loved, plying a trade she’d taught herself. She made tracks, she played gigs, she rode around San Francisco on a Vespa (“a 1980 P200E—really nice”).

But it wasn’t going to last. Emerson was working 60 hours a week, and falling into a career path she didn’t like, while San Francisco—”small, delicate, beautiful San Francisco”—was succumbing to a “monoculture of moneymaking,” which she couldn’t see herself in. Meanwhile, the music thing was looking better and better—her records were getting attention and she’d joined a booking agency. Some friends from the warehouse had moved to Berlin. “I’d just gotten a really big tax return, so I said, ‘Fuck it, let’s try this new thing.'”

Emerson hit the ground running in Berlin much as she had in San Francisco. She turned up with no prospects but found freelance work writing code, and eventually landed a job as a software developer. She continued making strides as an artist. In 2015 she released an EP on Shtum, a techno sub-label of Uncanny Valley, and played Panorama Bar for the first time. By the end of that year she was playing a few gigs a month. The prospect of becoming a full-time artist hovered into view. In May of this year, she went for it.

“It was kind of an economically-driven decision,” she said. “The money I made as a musician was approaching what I made as a software engineer, and finally those two things converged. But also, it was getting hard to manage. Playing two, sometimes three shows a weekend then coming in on Monday… I was becoming a little bit of a crazy person at the end. And I knew I couldn’t fully devote my brain to production and DJing until I quit my job. You have to close one door to really propel as an artist, I think.”

Things are different now than when Emerson made Narcissus In Retrograde. How this will affect her music remains to be seen. “There are things that have been so powerful and intense for me lately, and I’ve just barely been able to put them into this abstract musical form,” she said. “I’ve been doing kind of, I don’t want to say ‘experimental pop,’ but more lyrics-driven stuff not really made for the club. I’d really like to make an album.”

You get the sense that what’s come so far is just the beginning for Emerson. From the moment she quit school to stay in San Francisco, she improvised a path toward self-realization that’s just now come to a kind of landing point. “I’m really hitting my return of Saturn,” she said. “Have you heard that term? It takes 27 years for Saturn to go around the sun. When you’re about 27 it comes back to where it was when you were born. I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I’ve ever been.”

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Only 50 tickets left for Headset’s Hogmanay event! Don’t sleep!!

29 December 2017 -

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Headset tickets have been flying out the door since the event was announced in November and there are only fifty remaining tickets to be had now (4.30pm, 29.12.17), so don’t hang around if you’re keen to come to the Bongo for NYE.

The event features headliner Hodge (from Bristol) plus local star Telfort, with a veritable smorgasbord of local DJ support.

In short, this will be another great Hogmanay party at the Bongo, with everyone welcome!

THE LAST 50 TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE HERE

Room 1 (Garage / Techno / House):
Hodge
Telfort
Ariose (Traum)
Ami K (Hi & Saberhägen)
Shapework DJs
Skillis (Headset)

Room 2 (Hip Hop / Funk / Reggae / RnB):
Soul Jam (Sneaky Pete’s)
Brother Most Righteous
DJ Jonny Cashback
Skanky B & Drowzee (Electrikal)

 

• D&B Sub Sound System
• Licensed Beer / Smoking Garden
• Sofa Room Upstairs

Past guests at Headset: DVS1, Paleman, Hodge, Kowton, Peverelist, Beneath, Sticky, El-B, Groove Chronicles, Scott Garcia, Champion, Parris, Facta, K-Lone, Chris Farrell, Danielle NTS, Murder He Wrote

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Heidelberg’s finest, Move D, headlines Lionoil’s 3rd Birthday B2B with Telfort this Fri 8th Dec

07 December 2017 -

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We’re very excited to be welcoming Move D to the Bongo.  Alias David Moufang, he’s one of Germany’s most successful DJ/producers and a man who’s been around the block more times than most in the contemporary scene, having first got involved as a DJ in the late Eighties, releasing his debut productions in the early Nineties.

Making his Bongo debut, Moufang plays this special date for local label Lionoil, as they celebrate three years of throwing parties in the capital, inviting him to go back-to-back with their pal (and something of a local hero just now), Telfort, whose records Moufang has been championing from the start.  It’s not often that you can catch a B2B set from Move D, as there are apparently only a few people in the scene with whom he’s happy to do this.  When asked ‘do you enjoy [b2b] as much when you get the opportunity?’  Moufang replied, ‘No, I don’t, and it’s only a handful of people I’d enjoy doing that together with. So that would be Gerd Janson, Jus Ed, and Axel Boman, actually. So I have to really like the person as well as their taste in music… It’s quite an intimate, personal thing.’  So, high praise indeed for the man like Telfort!

With fellow Lionoiler Philip Budny in support, in short, we’re sure this will be another special night, much like Lionoil’s last ace event here with Soichi Terada (live) and Jonnie Wilkes (in May).

For TICKETS and MIXES check the EVENT PAGE.

MORE INFO (MOVE D BIO, courtesy of RA):

If talent converted into record sales, David Moufang would be a very rich man. His records with partner Jonas Grossmann as Deep Space Network and his own solo releases as Move D are among the furthest outreaches of techno’s push towards the stars. Moufang grew up in Heidelberg listening to his parents’ collection of early Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk records but the most overwhelming influence on his childhood was outer space, the result of a trip to the cinema with his father to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. “I was space crazy as a child,” Moufang told journalist Tony Marcus in 1995, “when the other kids were riding around in their little cars I’d be building my own spacecraft. I’d put in a small engine, put rubber on the wheels so it made some noise and stand there with a walkie-talkie and my headphones on. It was very techno…”

Moufang’s grandmothers were both classical concert pianists. He can still remember favourite childhood moments, sitting under the piano as they played, surrounded and lost in sound. By the age of 12, he taken up drums (he eventually went on to study classical percussion) and took up the guitar a few years later, this time taking lessons from two separate jazz guitar teachers. He played guitar in a band called Rivers & Trains well into the ’90s. Occasionally he even plied his trade as a DJ, spinning electro, funk and jazz. It wasn’t until 1989 that he discovered techno when a friend of his, D-Man, invited him to a club he was running in the industrial suburb of Mannheim. When Moufang walked into the Milk! Club that night – like so many others before and after him – he discovered a scene that changed his life. Discovering Detroit, 808 State, Nexus 21 and the first stirrings of ambient techno, Moufang became a committed clubber. Through D-Man, he met Redagain P who converted Moufang’s nickname “Mufti” into the more kinetic Move D.

Moufang’s first records were made with Grossmann as Deep Space Network. Their first two albums, EARTH TO INFINITY (1992) and BIG ROOMS (1993) suggested a significant, unpredictable and innovative talent which was confirmed by the release of HOMEWORKS (1993), a Source Records compilation that included solo tracks such as “Pulsar” and “I’ve Been On Drugs” alongside collaborations with D-Man. Ranging from subtle, Detroit-inflected grooves to wired electronic jazz, Moufang’s music seemed to operate on ambience, slow motion and subdued rhythm, a sound that was rooted, as Tony Marcus later pointed out, “in the jazzy, laid-back but still hip-tugging tradition of Larry Heard, Carl Craig’s “Microlovr” or “The Wonders Of Wishing” and New York’s Burrell Brothers… listening to [Moufang’s records] is like a sweet and lazy adventure into sound, a space where time and stress are suspended.”

REAGENZ (1994), a collaboration with SpaceTime Continuum’s Jonah Sharp, was an astonishing fusion of beautiful, experimental electronics that reached out to a point that even Detroit’s most visionary producers hadn’t yet achieved. Recorded between Heidelberg and San Francisco, it sounded like pianist Bill Evans might have if he’d grown up surrounded by Star Trek instead of modal jazz.

Moufang’s debut album, KUNSTSTOFF (1995), was equally remarkable. Tracks such as “Soap Bubbles” and “In/Out” oscillated between soft, dreamlike textures and the spiked electronics that Detroit was beginning to explore. The glittering production surfaces were a legacy of Moufang’s days as a student at the School of Audio Engineering, but the music they encompassed was equally compelling. It was an album full of contrasts – between the jagged drugfloor grooves of, say, “Nimm 2” and the gentle, synthetic lullaby of “Beyond The Machine” or between the pristine sounds Moufang conjured with and the haloes of analogue noise which surrounded others. Amazingly pretty and wildly innovative, KUNSTSTOFF remains one of the most accomplished techno albums to emerge from Europe so far.

The collaborative ventures that followed – including EXPLORING THE PSYCHEDELIC LANDSCAPE (1996) and A DAY IN THE LIVE (1997) with Pete Namlook – preceded an experimental single for Sheffield’s Warp label. Moufang had been a big fan of the label’s “bleep techno” output in the early ’90s and “Cymbelin” was, in some ways, a homage to that sound, twisting beats and synths into a bass heavy groove. But the producer’s ability to soften almost any structure with aching prettiness transformed the record into a unique fusion.


Another unique fusion was suggested by the release of CONJOINT (1997). A collaboration between Moufang, jazz veteran Karl Berger, Jamie Hodge (of Born Under A Rhyming Planet) and Gunter “Ruit” Kraus, it was Moufang’s most overtly jazzed outing so far, but provided spectacular evidence of his growing abilities as a producer and composer. Currently working on a number of new projects – including a new Deep Space Network album and a second Conjoint album – Moufang continues to explore the boundaries of electronic music.

For TICKETS and MIXES check the EVENT PAGE.

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Japanese house genius Soichi Terada makes his Edinburgh debut at the Bongo for Lionoil, Fri 26th May ’17

23 May 2017 -

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We’re immensely excited here at the Bongo to be welcoming a DJ from the Far East to our stage.  This doesn’t happen very often (we can’t actually remember when it last happened) and we’re especially pleased for it to be an artist with such a long and rich history in terms of Japanese house and electronic music and since he will be bringing a live set of his own productions to our stage.  More info on the event, including tickets, here.

Here’s an old favourite by Soichi Terada and Japanese pop star Nami Shimada, remixed by the late great Larry Levan, no less.

Here’s the transcript of Brian Durr’s incisive recent article on Soichi Terada and his original label colleague and partner Shinichiro Yokoto (first published by the excellent FACT Magazine), for a better idea of Terada’s influence on today’s global house scene.

Shinichiro Yokota and Soichi Terada have been offering a Japanese take on house music since Terada established his Far East Recording label in 1988. In 2015, the Sounds From the Far East compilation introduced the rest of the world to two of Japan’s greatest house producers, and now they’re finally getting the attention they’ve long deserved. Diskotopia boss Brian Durr meets them in Tokyo where they tell their shared story for the first time, shining a light on Tokyo’s under-documented house scene.

Meeting Shinichiro Yokota and Soichi Terada for the first time is like reuniting with long-lost friends you never knew you had. The camaraderie between the two is contagious, and it’s easy to see how these long-standing legends of Japan’s underground house scene have been collaborators for nearly three decades. Yokota has an unassuming yet effusive demeanor; someone who, once opened up, will talk for hours from the heart, reflecting his soulfully melodic compositions. Terada is more forthcoming, with a wide smile and a knack for inciting conversation that has helped him win the hearts of house music fans across continents.

When we meet in a bustling southeastern suburb of Tokyo and head to a relaxed cafe for curry, I learn that this is the first time both of them have sat down together to discuss their musical history. Several anecdotes during the conversation are met with surprise and bemusement by the near life-long friends, which adds to the already genial atmosphere they exude between them.

Terada launched Far East Recording in 1988, where he began developing a strand of Japanese house that up until recently was only championed within select circles. The sounds of the label – an outlet for Terada and Yokota’s own productions, largely – have a glossy sheen; light-hearted and fun but distinctly soulful, expertly produced and absolutely incendiary on the right kind of dancefloor. There’s a nuanced swing to the productions, as heard to full effect on Terada’s burning ‘Saturday Love Sunday’, for example.

Far East Recording evolved into a beacon of essential Japanese house music in the ‘90s, but it wasn’t until Rush Hour DJ and producer Hunee got in touch a few years ago with the idea of putting out a compilation that the world at large was finally exposed to the Far East catalog. The response to 2015’s Sounds from the Far East was a worldwide awakening to the label’s aesthetic, bringing Terada and Yokota droves of new converts from various corners of electronic music. Suddenly they were both being asked to perform the music they’d made some two decades ago.

“WE TRIED HARD TO MAKE MUSIC CLOSE TO THE U.S. OR EUROPEAN HOUSE SOUND, BUT WE COULDN’T DO IT”Soichi Terada

Their music wasn’t exactly intended to sound so singular when they started out. “In those days we tried hard to make music close to the US or European house sound, but we couldn’t do it,” say Terada. “But an accent may [have helped make our music] sound like something fresh – an Asian accent sound.” That accent isn’t as obvious as a koto synthesizer patch or taiko drum sample, however. Instead, tracks like Yokota’s ‘Do It Again’ evoke images of a night drive through neon-lit Shinjuku, with its glistening synth flourishes and neatly-tucked percussion; the tinny clang of Terada’s ‘Hohai Beats’ feels custom-built for the sweaty, smoke-filled basement clubs of Shibuya.

As a student at Chidori Elementary School in south Tokyo during the early ‘80s, Yokota credits hearing Yellow Magic Orchestra as a formative musical moment. “There were many fake Japanese Beatles bands that I was listening to, then YMO came out with cool synthesizers,” he remembers. “They were the first group that really impressed me musically – there wasn’t anything else like it before. They had the strongest influence on my musical taste.”

Soon after his synthesizer revelation, Yokota quit playing baseball and started taking classical piano lessons across the street from his house. He studied for two years before using his otoshidama, money that Japanese children receive as a New Year’s gift, to buy his first synthesizer in Akihabara, the Tokyo district famous for its electronics stores. “The first keyboard I bought was a Casio MT-40, which was polyphonic but I just couldn’t make it sound like a synthesizer,” Yokota recalls. “A lot of reggae producers were using it and it had a wide vintage feel to it. It was the only keyboard I could afford with the money I had at the time. After a year or two I was able to get a Korg Poly-800 and later a cassette recorder.”

Although originally from Tokyo, Terada grew up in the adjacent suburbs of Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures. As a child he enjoyed activities like football and swimming, but he also harnessed his creativity through his father’s electric organ, a fixture of his childhood home. He echoes Yokota’s claim about the importance of Yellow Magic Orchestra, but his own impressions of the ‘80s electronic revolution were especially furthered by his love of Tomita Isao’s Planets, a synthesized reimagining of composer Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite which made heavy use of Moog equipment and a Roland System 700 modular system.

“A LOT OF THE MUSIC WE MADE WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE [WITHOUT] WHAT HAPPENED WITH JAPAN’S BUBBLE ECONOMY”Shinichiro Yokota

As the decade progressed, hip-hop started seeping into their music collections and eventually helped bring the pair together. “After YMO broke up in 1984, hip-hop from America took over,” says Yokota. “I saw [classic 1983 hip-hop movie] Wild Style and stopped doing synthesizer music to focus more on turntablism. Japanese radio was really pushing hip-hop and my friends were into all of it – rapping, breaking, DJing, all aspects of the culture.” Both Yokota and Terada took part in the DJ battles that swept Tokyo as hip-hop entered its golden age; Yokota scratched over raw TR-606 drum tracks as MCs rapped over the beat, while Terada did live performances with an Akai S-900 sampler and computer. “I preferred using a sampler and computer than focusing on DJing with records,” adds Terada. “I was going to DJ competitions to perform and a mutual friend introduced me to Yokota and we got to know each other.”

Terada’s subsequent exposure to house music came through his friend and local promoter Connie E, who was running a weekly house party above a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo in 1988. After hearing the latest records from the US, Terada would try to distil what he was hearing into his own early productions. “I had no idea who was making these songs, but in those days I [was paying back a loan] to buy my sampler and computer so I couldn’t buy many records. I’d listen to what the DJs were playing and when I got an idea to make a song I would suddenly leave the party and go back to my house to start programming. And later on I’d play what I made to Yokota and other friends.”

Up and running in their respective home studios, Terada and Yokota began navigating the world of music production together. “We’d exchange floppy disks with sound files and sessions that we made,” says Terada. “In those days there was no internet so I remember making phone calls to listen to each others’ music or meeting up to share what we made.” While Terada paints a picture of an even exchange, Yokota adds playfully: “I was watching what Terada was doing and went home by motorbike to try it out before I forgot. I stole his techniques!”

“I WAS ADDICTED TO DRUM AND BASS”Soichi Terada

From 1986 to 1991, Japan was in a “bubble era” thanks to the inflation of the stock market and real estate prices. Much of the country enjoyed the lifestyle spoils of a prosperous economy, and the entertainment industry in particular was booming. Yokota thinks its eventual collapse in 1992 was a blessing in disguise. “After the bubble era, the price of equipment went down and we were able to get expensive gear that we couldn’t before,” he says. “Even the unusable equipment that came out was available in large quantities. These days we search for vintage equipment, but back then we never thought about buying old stuff. A lot of the music we made wouldn’t have been possible [without] what happened with the bubble economy and inexpensive digital technology.”

Though there were were other Tokyo producers in Yokota and Terada’s circle, such as Hiroshi Matsui, Manabu Nagayama and Takashi Sekiguchi, Far East Recording operated much as it does now, as a distinct and singular entity. During the ‘90s, even with a busy release schedule, live performances and DJ gigs were rare, with Terada preferring to hone his craft in the studio rather than go record-digging for DJ sets. “We just had one party that we did ourselves when released the first Far East Recording album,” he remembers. “Yokota did a DJ set as well as a live performance, and I also performed live. I sometimes played in clubs with my sampler and computer – but it was hard to get the same sound as in the studio, so there were very few opportunities.”

In the mid-90s, a massive influx of drum and bass caused house music to fall by the wayside in Tokyo. Terada was enamoured by the excitement and sub-bass pressure of jungle. “I was addicted to drum and bass [from] 1995,” he says. “It was so fun to experience the sub-bass sound in a club. I loved to go the drum and bass parties much more than the house events – in the late ‘90s I had a drum and bass disease, personally.” He went on to produce what he calls “sumo jungle”; sampling sumo fights from TV and utilizing the huffs, smacks, gongs and chants into his own strain of drum and bass, as heard on 1996’s Sumo Jungle LP.

“IT’S IMPORTANT TO KEEP A HOMEGROWN ELEMENT IN HOUSE MUSIC TO KEEP IT AUTHENTIC”Shinichiro Yokota

While Terada has been producing and releasing music since 1988 without pause, the cusp of the millennium found Yokota in a less invigorated state. He puts his subsequent absence from music down to the technological advances in home recording; paradoxically, the more options he had, the less creativity he could muster. “In the past, sampling time was limited so you had to be really creative when you had an idea. But with hard disk recording the possibilities were endless, and around 2000 I lost my motivation to make music.” During his musical downtime, he focused his energy into another of his passions, Night-Pager – a custom car parts company he had launched 1992.

Terada kept busy through to the mid-00s by taking on soundtrack work, composing music for video games such as the Ape Escape series, commercial jingles for the Japanese convenience store Circle K Sunkus, and TV themes for projects including Cartoon Network’s Samurai Jack. When he got the email from Hunee in the summer of 2014, the two-decade-old Far East Recording was ready to be introduced to a new generation. As Terada recalls, their exchange was simple: Hunee proposed to reissue the Far East Recording back catalog via Rush Hour’s international distribution, with Hunee selecting tracks for the Sounds from the Far East compilation. The rest is history.

Thinking about the strangely future-proofed sound of “ancient” Far East Recording tracks, as they refer to them, Terada and Yokota are intrigued by their newfound global recognition. “I found it curious in a good way,” Yokota says. “Terada and I spoke about it before and we don’t really know why [the reissued material] struck such a nerve. I was surprised and overwhelmed at all the support from around the world after the reissue release.”

“HOUSE IS A SIMPLE LANGUAGE: DRUM, BASS, CHORDS AND SOME EFFECTS COULD BE OK FOR A TRACK”Shinichiro Yokota

“At first I was just surprised,” adds Terada. “And then I felt so happy to play those songs that I couldn’t play much 25 years ago. [It] makes me a joyful old man.” Yokota concurs that the reissue has been a blessing. “I am very glad that [our] music has spread and it is an honour to be played in clubs and radio all over the world,” he says. “There have been many requests [to perform again], so my lifestyle has changed drastically.”

Both believe in the age-old mantra that less can be so much more. Yokota’s personal hopes for the future of house music come down to a simple sophistication in songwriting and production. “Technology made it possible for anyone to make music. House is a simple language: drum, bass, chords and some effects could be OK for a track. Adding too much can weigh it down. New software and equipment with unlimited tracks can be too complicated, but I think even with four tracks you can make sophisticated music. Simple but well-produced music I think will become more commonplace. I’m excited for music that sounds simple but make me wonder, ‘How did they do that?’ like Lil’ Louis’ music. House will be sophisticated like a three-piece jazz trio, not like big band music.”

Yokota’s latest release, Do It Again and Again, comprises unreleased tracks from the ‘90s as well as newly recorded material, with the liner notes declaring that the music is inspired by his “synthesizers, cars and ways to survive in South Tokyo.” Meanwhile, Terada is currently working on new solo material to be released by Rush Hour and he also has a separate house project to be unveiled later this year. He’s optimistic about future innovation in house music as producers become more mindful of their own surroundings and influences when contributing to the global dialogue of such a deep-rooted culture. “Making music with the least amount of elements is really interesting. To express something with a limited vocabulary is interesting. [Going forward] it would be nice to hear those different cultures’ domestic elements in the music,” he confirms. “It’s important to keep a homegrown element in house music to keep it authentic and push things forward.”

Brian Durr is on Twitter

Listen to Shinichiro Yokota’s FACT mix.

 

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DUNT X body welcome Copenhagen’s DJ Courtesy to The Bongo Club, Thursday 25th May

14 May 2017 -

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In Dunt’s own words:

OH BABY WE’RE BACK,

After two smashing resident parties at everyone’s favourite red bar, Dunt Club is back for its third instalment at a new stomping ground – The Bongo Club – to reel in the end of term. For the hallowed event we’ve teamed up with our older brother – body – to present the one and only Courtesy for her Scottish Debut.

For those who aren’t familiar, Najaaraq Vestbirk (Courtesy) is a DJ, journalist and the co-label owner of Copenhagen’s Ectotherm imprint. Hailing from Greenland and residing in Copenhagen, Najaaraq was previously one half of Ung Flugt (translation: Young Escape), a youthful, party-oriented duo whose rapid rise was paralleled only by the project’s quick dissolution. A few years later, Vestbirk re-emerged as Courtesy, taking a more refined approach and also serving as part of the all-female Apeiron Crew.

Since breaking away from Apeiron Crew, Courtesy has established herself as a formidable solo artist and launched Ectotherm with her former Apeiron cohort Mama Snake, which holds a monthly residency on London’s NTS Radio. Her lauded Crack Magazine and FACT mixes in 2016 attest to her penchant for blending styles that push the boundaries of dance music: fuzzier textures meet polished productions, silky electro and rave-influenced breaks. 2017 has brought more acclaim to her deft mixing abilities with her recent boiler-room debut and mix on Rinse’s Hessle Audio show which featured in Pitchfork’s top mixes for April.

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When Courtesy’s not working on mixes, writing or digging for overlooked break-beats she’s taking major slots at clubs all across the world at the likes of Concrete, De School and Berghain. She’s also just completed a tour across Asia with Avalon Emerson – who’s set at Sneaky Pete’s for Juice will go down as one of the best we’ve seen in the capital.

///Bring your space goggles; we’re going into outer orbit///

Lineup:
-Dunt and Body Residents: 11-1
-Courtesy: 1-3

LIMITED EARLY BIRD TICKETS: £5
ADVANCE TICKETS: £7

TICKETS: RESIDENT ADVISOR 
TICKETS: PARTY FOR THE PEOPLE

MIXES

 


NTS: http://www.nts.live/shows/ectotherm

Links:

RA: https://m.residentadvisor.net/dj/courtesy
Pitchfork: http://pitchfork.com/…/1499-the-10-best-dj-mixes-of-april-…/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CourtesyDK
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/courtesy707

Artwork Credits: Andrew Ioannou

YET MORE INFO

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London techno legend Jerome Hill returns to Substance and the Bongo, Fri 12th May ’17

11 May 2017 -

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We’re proper excited to be welcoming Jerome Hill to the Bongo this weekend, not least given his links to Edinburgh’s own ‘wonky techno’ crew back in ze day (see below). Is Edinburgh actually a home from home for Jerome?!  Perhaps… 😉

In the promoter’s own words, ‘We’ve had him at Henry’s and then at the Bongo in June 2012 as part of a free summer rave… think it went Jeff Mills, Rephlex then Jerome.*  He’s so good if you’ve never caught him.’ [*What a sequence! ]

There was a cracking piece (published early 2015) by the Electronic Explorations blog on why Jerome Hill is still such an essential DJ, which is copied below for your convenience.  It also includes a BANGING mix which he describes as follows:

“Just a load of tunes that I love and regularly play out… Old and new… No theme except that the tracks are hopefully memorable in varying ways.. Techno, Acid and Electro, all embracing their individuality and not creeping around trying to ‘fit in’.  Oh, and mixed on vinyl, a couple of CDs when necessary and no tractors or sinks”

Jerome Hill runs a weekly radio show  on Kool 94.6FM (London) – koollondon.com – every Wednesday 11.00-13.00.. “The Roots Of Rave”

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If there’s one man who embodies rave spirit in modern dance music it’s Jerome Hill – FACT Mag (via Joe Muggs)

DJ since 1990, beginning with Hip Hop, Acid House, UK Bleep, Breakbeat and Techno, a residency throughout the mid to late 90′s on infamous London sound system “JIBA”among others, manager and music buyer for 2 record shops Trackheads & Dragon Discs in Camden, London, (1997-2004) during which time an international DJ schedule opened out, Jerome has been a permanent fixture on the London scene and pretty much lives and breathes the music, his sets being educational and hedonistic in equal measures..

Founder of Don’t Recordings (which celebrates it’s 15th birthday this year) & Fat Hop records (for fans of Old Skool Hip Hop/B-Boy Breaks) , and more recently two new labels; the booming acid house of “Super Rhythm Trax” and the 1992 rave themed “Hornsey Hardcore” His bi-monthly ‘Don’t’ club night in Dalston is entering it’s 3rd year and has built a strong following amongst true Techno lovers, with Jerome as its resident and amazing and well respected guests passing through every time.

‘Jerome is best known for his involvement in the “wonky techno” scene (indeed he coined the term for a section in the Dragon Discs record shop where he worked in the mid-90s) – the punky but secretly rather sophisticated warehouse sound of people like Neil Landstrumm, Dave Tarrida, Cristian Vogel and co’ – FACT

Between putting out records on the labels and the release of his and Mark Archer’s (Altern8/Nexus 21) double mix CD, 2014 saw a hectic DJ schedule, playing slots at Bestival, Glastonbury (alongside Aphex Twin), XOYO (London), House Of God (Birmingham) and up and down the UK plus Australia, Japan, Finland, Belgium, Germany, Prague, Poland, Spain, France and Ireland all featuring in the international calendar. 2015 is set to be busy too, with releases about to drop on I Love Acid, Power Vacuum, Super Rhythm Trax, Don’t and Mindcut and the calendar beginning to fill out.   You can also catch Jerome on London’s Kool FM / www.Koollondon.com, The Roots of Rave show every wednesday 11.00-13.00 GMT   Be it a Techno dancefloor, an Old Skool Rave or a Hip Hop jam, Jerome is at home and relishes bringing something new to the party with surprises around every corner.

Hill has always flown the flag for other rough and rugged UK underground sounds, notably UK hip hop, breakbeat rave and old school Yorkshire-style bleep’n’bass – and he continues to represent all of these in his sets, promotions, releases on his labels and the ‘Roots of Rave’ show on Kool FM – FACT

Tracklist

Warehouse Sessions – 011 – Jerome Hill

  1. 01. Bintus “Cylinder Bop” (Power Vacuum)
  2. 02. Wevie De Crepon “Ton Wah” (Sonig)
  3. 03. Herbert “My DJ” (Accidental)
  4. 04. Jerome Hill “Work That Shit” (Don’t)
  5. 05. Teknocracy “Shrapnel Valley” (Pie Factory)
  6. 06. Vernon “Awakening In Antwerp” (Dixon Avenue Basement Jams)
  7. 07. Green Velvet & Gary Beck “Stronger” (Relief)
  8. 08. UVB “Anxiety” (Mord)
  9. 09. Pump Panel “To The Sky” (Missile)
  10. 10. Gutts “Gabos” (Horror Boogie)
  11. 11. Rei Elbaz & Anna Haleta “Don’t Stop” (Pacotec)
  12. 12. Fear of Music !
  13. 13. LFO “Mummy I’ve Had An Accident” (Warp)
  14. 14. DJ Rafael “Meltdown” (On The Prowl)
  15. 15. Patric Sjeren “Heart Condition” (Virgo Rising)
  16. 16. Neil Landstrumm “Diamond Taxation” (Sativae)
  17. 17. Tessela “Nancy’s Pantry” (R&S)
  18. 18. Frankie “Scarp” (Faste)
  19. 19. JoeFarr “Gabba Problems” (Don’t)
  20. 20. Jerome Hill “Frogmarch” (Mindcut)
  21. 21. Lenk “Untitled” (Blank Ltd)
  22. 22. CEO “Screeching” (WNCL)
  23. 23. Jerome Hill “Paper Bag Acid” (Super Rhythm Trax)
  24. 24. G-23 “Kidding Kids” (Super Rhythm Trax)
  25. 25. Jamie Lidell “Sonelysome(o)ney” (Sativae)
  26. 26. Shit n Shine “Shower Curtain” (Diogonal)
  27. Lupine Outro

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Catch the man himself at Substance this Friday, 12th May!

Recognised by the authoritative Resident Advisor to be “one of Edinburgh’s most important outposts for house, techno and bass”, Substance brings a wide ranging collage of classic and cutting edge underground electronic music to the Bongo.

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Hogmanay ’16 with Mumbo Jumbo & Four Corners

22 December 2016 -

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After a sell out Hogmanay party at the Bongo last year, Mumbo Jumbo is BACK for Mumbo Jumbo NYE 2016.  Welcome in 2017 with resident DJs Trendy Wendy & Steve Austin for the very best Mumbo Jumbo classics on the main floor: expect disco, house, electro, mashups, remixes and more – the perfect ingredients for the best party soundtrack, all accompanied by Bongo Dave on live congas and percussion.

Mumbo Jumbo is the brainchild of Trendy Wendy, originally behind the much-loved Tackno nights, more recently behind the Playgirl Mansions parties and also the owner of The Street bar at the top of Broughton Street, and Steve Austin, who ran the hugely successful Headspin parties for over a decade at the Bongo.  With some forty years of DJing experience between, you could say they know what they’re doing behind a set of decks.

Meanwhile, upstairs will feature the very best in deep funk, jazzy breaks, afro-latin and dub reggae from Four Corners DJs Simon Hodge and Johnny Cashback, similarly seasoned veterans of the Edinburgh scene.  Simon ran the acclaimed Big Beat nights for a decade, originally at the much-missed Cafe Graffiti and then at Cabaret Voltaire, before launching Four Corners at the Bongo.  Having celebrated its eleventh birthday at the start of the year, Four Corners is still going well and the two DJs are equally well-versed in heating up a dancefloor.

Tickets:  £15 (otd) / £12 (adv)

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SUBSTANCE presents Head High (Power House, Berlin): Fri 16th May

13 May 2014 -

 

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We’re massively looking forward to Substance‘s party this Friday, as they welcome Berlin house/techno player, Head High!  Here’s what they have to say about it:

63 parties in and, at last, our man as Rene Pawlowitz – better known to most as Shed – travels in from Berlin for (unbelievably) his Edinburgh debut with a rare performance as Head High, one of his most loved aliases. Expect the visceral, honest, emotive Power House classics alongside choice Pawlowitz cuts as the likes of ShedThe TravellerCraftWaxEQD and Evil Fred, the forthcoming Head High material and loads more. See you down the front.

Recognised by the authoritative Resident Advisor to be “one of Edinburgh’s most important outposts for house, techno and bass”,Substance opens its doors to all for a wide ranging night of classic and cutting edge music.

Check out the Facebook event for more info / audio links etc.  Book tickets here.

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