Senior Staff Writer Derek Staples returns to discuss the ever-evolving market and culture behind EDM. This time around, however, he’s gone ahead and expanded his column to be something akin to an online zine, featuring op-editorials, investigative reporting, guides, track selections/reviews, and interviews. Don’t wait for it, read ahead now: The Drop.
The joy and horror of music discovery is that no matter how far you dig, there is always more to uncover. With almost zero barrier to entry and endless sonic possibilities, any given day in the electronic music realm offers up unimaginable numbers of tracks to score one’s own existence. From the moody and melodramatic to mindlessly uplifting, there are nearly as many genres as there are reasons to need them.
The following begins to examine that range, including a look at Chicago’s newest underground dance music event, an enlightening dialogue with the man behind the often-jarring artistry of patten, and a collaborative look at what has kept bodies moving during the first half of 2014. But think of this more as a discussion about what drives this amorphous community, so we encourage everyone to share their current faves, personal mixes, what has yet to be unearthed, and the live sets that we just can’t miss.
Breaking the Seal on Riverwest Music Festival
As Perry’s stage has grown at Chicago’s Lollapalooza, so has the city’s dance music scene. The birthplace of house music, countless weeklies, and home to an ever-rotating cast of college students and young professions, the 312 has once again established itself as a mecca of dance music. Capitalizing on this continued surge, beats can now be heard nearly every weekend emanating from the city’s many block parties and escalating number of electronic-focused music festivals.
With the Fourth of July weekend now unoccupied (due to the recent postponement of the third annual Wavefront) Midwest house-heads have been introduced to another three-day groove celebration, Riverwest Music Festival. Right from year one, the team behind Riverwest have avoided the trappings of EDM’s massive names and went deep to attract revelers from the Midwest’s fervent underground.
“We really want people to listen with an open mind and try to enjoy something outside of their comfort zone,” affirms Riverwest’s Joe Calderone. “If you’re showing up for Excision, perhaps stop to groove to Jamie Jones, If you’re waiting for Loco Dice to take over, Bob Moses with some live instrumentation is the perfect way to pass the time. There’s a method to our madness and we’re confident it’ll pay off for the attendees.”
While much of the lineup resonates with the four-to-the-floor of the city’s dance music infancy, Riverwest’s curators have made it a point of pride to educate the new EDM masses on under-represented talent — the producers not normally scheduled across the numerous Insomniac events or the city’s own North Coast and Spring Awakening. “If it wasn’t for the Chicago house movement no electronic music would be where it’s at today,” quips Calderone. “Our lineup is curated in a way that we think is a bit under-represented at festivals and other events so the younger generations haven’t even been exposed to much of it yet. We’re hoping everyone comes in with an open mind and finds something new to enjoy— both the older house heads and the new EDM crowd.”
In this spirit, we have taken the time to scour the event’s 43 hand-plucked producers/DJs to suggest a few artists that deserve your attention, and rotation in that sultry summer mixtape.
Comprised of Toronto-born, New York-bonded producers Jimmy Vallance and Tom Howie, Bob Moses bring the soul and energy of a live show to the club setting. On darker, more brooding side of house music, the lingering melodies offer contrast to the weekend’s rump shaking cuts. Intermittently utilizing live guitars, their blues-y side is nearly fit for a set at Buddy Guy’s.
Hailing from Berlin, but regularly spinning at Toronto-based No. 19’s Social Experiments, Eric Volta explores the more tranquil, often wonky, aspects of underground techno music. His sets are not of the build-drop-repeat variety, slowing pulling an audience into an intricate web of deep basslines, shimmy hi-hats and often stripped bare melodies that creep into the furthest depths of his crowd’s soul.
Hot Since 82
Dubbed by many across the pond as “UK’s next house megastar”, Hot Since 82 is quickly climbing the international DJ ranks. The Leeds-native hasn’t made the move by playing by the normal rules; consistently taking risks with his remixes and extended sets. Not many of his peers would dare edit David Lynch for the dancefloor.
Although working on the upper echelons of techno and house for the last 20 years, San Francisco’s Nikola Baytala has remained largely off the radar. Akin to Richie Hawtin, Baytala is a master of the layered mix — slowing removing and adding subtle characteristics to his sets until the one-of-blips disappear from the club only to reappear as a tingle from the nape to the tailbone. Grab some shades, because this is best in the dark!
First breaking onto the scene in 1988, DJ Koze has been in the industry longer than most EDM-standouts have been alive. Initially a revered turntablist in the 1990’s, all the time at the decks has earned Koze an encylopedic knowledge of all things hip-hop, soul, and minimal. He might even cut a string arrangement and dub bass roll into the mix simultaneously. If he doesn’t get your booty moving, your booty must be dead.
When you can count both Jamie Jones and Seth Troxler as part of your onstage entourage, you know you are doing something right. This trio of Parisians aren’t just hovering around the same laptop, Apollonia is all about friendly competition behind the decks, each man inciting a collective dancefloor groove sweatier than the next. The dudes to listen to for what’s next in the tech-house realm — and at the moment that are keeping it pretty psychedelic.
To pull from Henrix’s own recent recent single “Acid, Rave, Sex”:
“But know that while you may shut down any given party, on any given night, in any given city, in any given country or continent on this beautiful planet, you can never shut down the entire party. NO matter what you may think. The music will never stop. The heartbeat will never fade. The party will never end. I am a raver, and this is my manifesto..” Truth!
The big room sound is barely a presence at Riverwest, but they made an exception for Chicago-transplant Yoni. The recent University of Chicago graduate (yes, educated college graduate for all the EDM haters out there) already has one festival trap anthem under his belt, and with an album in the works, expect for a stream of new tracks to be landing in the next few weeks. The bros will be inevitable at this show, so we just advice you take in the drops from the rear of the crowd.
Along with his Smog labelmates, Vaski is breathing new life in dubstep and all things bass. Producing in both half-time and four-to-the-floor, expect Vaski’s set to be one of the most exploratory of the extended holiday weekend. One of only three “hyper” bass DJs at the festival (Excision and Rusko being the others) the time slot could ultimately design the balance of brutal dubstep versus his soaring progessive-house.
Established as a duo for less than three years, and Berlin’s Mind Against are already producing some of the most pristine, bassline driven techno to hit the festival scene. Though their productions rest on the more minimal side of the genre, their sets are as eclectic as the Windy City, spanning from indie dance to groovy beats and experimental sound collages. One of only two US dates this summer.
He might be from the Netherlands, but don’t confuse Matthew Dekay with the over-the-top perveyours of the Dutch House sound. The emotional work of Dekay couldn’t be much further removed from the work of producers like Afrojack and Chuckie; trading instantaneous gratification for the romantic inclinations that only arrive after an extended introduction. Even when in deep concentration, its hard to catch Dekay without a broad smile; that’s just the vibes he brings.
For just a few moments, try to image the Beach Boys carefully pulled through a Plastikman filter. That impossible pairing is the work of DJ Tennis. A musician first, this globetrotter was pursuing his passions for guitar and singing before turning to club nights in the late 1980s. From event organizing, he turned to producing scores and music for films and television, which helped solidify his wistful presence behind the decks. Ambient, yet distorted, the beauty is revealed to those who truly listen.
Catch the above this weekend, plus the the likes of Loco Dice, Art Department, Deep Dish, Morgan Page and Matador along the Chicago River. Tickets remain available. Check here for more information on after parties and local artists.
Now, click ahead for an insightful interview with Warp Records’s patten, the biggest bangers of the 2014 festival season, and info on DanceSafe.
Q&A with patten of Warp Records
You might go into a chat with “D,” the enigmatic producer behind London’s patten, hoping to uncover more about the enigmatic electronic project, but it’s hard to turn the dialogue away from conversations that reach far outside the confines of a dark theater. An up-and-comer within the experimental Warp roster, D has guided the project a similar route as IDM stalwarts like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin. D, however, isn’t simply satisfied with making his audience reexamine the concept of music. He hopes to create an environment where audiences can question everything. Although both candid pictures and his real name are strictly off-guards, very few artists can say so much while revealing so little.
In an electronic music environment where much of the creativity is being replaced by copy-and-paste beat templates, D and the rest of the veiled patten project are organically breaking down the false barriers that have been established between music and art (not to mention art and the rest of our daily lives). Oftentimes, he might just be a man with a computer and controller, but even then he is establishing an environment where listeners can return back to that adolescent sense of wonder and amazement.
30 minutes with D had me questioning my own devout beliefs about music and art. Although he isn’t concerned with the future, D remains at the forefront of it.
Since I have been coming to Moog over the last few years, The Diana Wortham Theater, where you performed during Moogfest 2014, was reserved almost exclusively for very minimal, almost drone, electronic music. So, when you started your set with that heavy wall of dissonance, I could really feel it pin me against the theater chair.
Were you surprised by the live set? Did it come across the way you expected?
Having intentionally avoided watching clips before seeing you, that’s hard to answer. So much of what I appreciate about your music are the textures, dissonance, and intricate sampling, none of which I really knew how you executed in the live setting. When trying to convince some of my friends to come to your set, I found it so hard to describe the patten vibe; now after seeing you live, it’s really something that has to be experienced in an intimate setting. I was initially shocked how quickly you jumped into the entire performance. I was also unaware that you brought a guitar into the live setup, and how you really use that throughout the set to build a heavy, almost post-rock drone to subsequently produce over. I also really felt that the visuals were a major component, really supporting a more visceral connection with me personally and the rest of the audience. Really puts you in that moment of “now.” What about you, did you have the opportunity to catch any sets between your performances?
I did stick around to watch Darkstar and Clark, [who were] both really excellent. I hadn’t seen Clark play for a while and it is really interesting to see that both are adapting their live performances. I feel they both did really interesting, really specific things, to match their own things.
You have played in several different types of settings, and I have read that you are now touring more frequently.
Actually, playing live has been part of this project for a long time. In fact, live performance and recording have very much been intertwined for the whole life of the patten project really. But of course, the frequency of live shows has been accelerating over the last few years.
It has been the patten LPs over the last couple years through Warp that have led to this acceleration of touring, which has brought you to festivals as well as art exhibits. Do you go into these varying venues with a varying performance mindset? For example, some people were weary about Moderat in a seated venue during Moogfest.
Personally, my live set at the moment is really a visual thing — performing music that I have composed. I have also been doing these DJ re-edit sets that come from open improvisations. When I am invited to play a DJ set, I have hundreds of source materials that I have collected together and manipulated so that they will melodically fit with each other. And then I am in a space where I can freely look at the relationships between these elements as I desire live, producing a sound that unfolds in real-time. So I’ll be doing one-thing and then go back and try like a discreet experiment that has a temporarily solid form and release. With those DJ re-edit sets, they are really open things. I know how I will start, but have no idea where I will go, just exploring where the boundaries are. Occasionally, I will find myself in an environment where I will be playing other people’s music in a more traditional way. I like the aspect of being able to introduce people to different kinds of music.
That is actually really interesting; how an environment can have such a huge effect on how someone receives and then responds to the music. You are right, if it is a seated venue, there are different expectations and behaviors that go along with it. I have seen shows and often wondered what it would be like in a different room; like standing in a crowded hall and thinking what it would be like in a seated theater setting. There are all sorts of behaviors that go along with different spaces that are interesting to look at as another material to work with as an artist. So, the way that I try to construct my live setups, the way that I interact with these different environments, is always to be quite conscious of what they are and the behaviors that go along with these specific spaces. I think part of what I look at in the project is really trying not to waste any of these materials that are out there as potential spaces to extend, and develop what the project is.
So, if you come to a show, you are inside of something that reaches out past that particular show, and is part of a much bigger project. You become a type of contributor to that with your interaction with the space, your interaction with the other people there, and your interaction with the work itself. You were telling me before about how you were trying to describe the project to some friends of yours, and that activity itself very much becomes a part of this whole thing. It’s also interesting because there are all these activities going on, that I will never be aware off, that are all extensions of what patten is. That is fascinating.
As audiences become so connected with the outside world, do you consciously think about how people are sharing that live experience through social networks like Instagram?
I don’t really think about it like that. I am thinking more about the experience at that space in that time. I think there is a lot of possibility in those spaces where control is lost and there is interaction between what is organic and preconceived and that which is unpredictable and chaotic. There is a huge amount of potential in those supposed polarities.
That notion of evolving the live experience was discussed greatly during Moogfest. A team from MIT had a series about augmenting the venue with responsive speaker systems and real-time fan engagement, all of which is only achievable with large production budgets. Even in these intimate settings, you are creating another emotive element through the custom patten visuals. You create another dimension for attentions to grab onto and deepen the relationship with the music.
All of the visual work is actually created in close collaboration with the aural work by an artist called Jane Eastlight. She designs all of the sleeve work, T-shirts, and she is London-based as well but does move around quite a lot. Basically, it is very much tied together, because it does happen that I complete a piece of work and then pass it to her for a video or images. All throughout the process of the big investigations of the sonic aspects, that is happening, we are having a dialogue about how that might manifest in other kinds of textures: visual elements, spacial organization, and certain meetings of disparate elements.
There is a discussion going on the entire time, so it is something that evolves in a boundless space in different directions. As the music takes shape, there are other dimensions that are simultaneously being cultivated. I think that is something that is noticeable when you come to a show like this or you find yourself looking at the record sleeve or watching the music videos. There is a clear integration between all of these elements. Nothing seems tacked on because it was all constructed together, and is one object in a sense.
Most events celebrate musicians. Moogfest and other events that you perform are more a celebration of electronic, technological, and multi-disciplinary artistry. Do you view yourself as a musician or an artist? Does a separation even exist between the two?
That is an interesting question on how we define behaviors. I think what is interesting is that when you look at young kids, the way that they exist, they build things, they’re engineers. They dance, they’re choreographers. They sing, they’re singers. They draw, they’re draftspeople. They are creating a world from our reality. They are manipulating reality to be something else, just as architects. They are really in touch with all these things that it means to be human.
Yes, society still hasn’t dictated to them to choose a path.
But also, these activities don’t have to be divided into different categories, they are just ways of being. When you eat breakfast or you write a letter, you are not a different “thing,” you are maybe using different parts of your mind, but you are still you. As we move through the days, we are not splicing up who we are — so it is the same for creative activities as well.
Sometimes, those categories are stifling to creativity. When you know the boundaries of something, you avoid them. It is precisely those edges where we don’t know exactly what we are doing that we can find things. We can find that which we were not aware of existing, and that is again where the key to this project is all about.
You continue to refer to patten as a project. Often, there is so much stress of going the artistic route. Can you remember when you first made the commitment?
More than anything, people generally stop being artists, they don’t start. So I just think that I didn’t stop.
Former Warp artists like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin also made anonymity important elements of their aesthetics. In a new era of dance music when dudes like Steve Aoki and Diplo are all about the celebrity, are you attempting to keep the audience focused on the sights and sounds of the broader project?
There are all different ways of operating, and they are all as valid as each other. These activities just have different focuses. With this project, I am really attempting to put things out there that are genuinely provided for a reason. I am really conscious about not wanting to waste anyone’s time. I don’t want to put anything into the world that doesn’t feel like it needs to be there.
Our lives are scarily short when you really begin to realize it, and so I don’t want to waste any moments of life at all. If I can reduce what is out there to what is really crucial, and really adds to the project, that is what I am more comfortable with.
The patten project balances on a fine line between experimental, highly textured electronic music and noise. In the studio, do you ever find yourself pulling back? Or, these are your ideas, and whatever your ideas might be, you go with it?
I think the idea of noise is really fascinating. Noise is, I guess, disorganized information. It is a chaotic collection of information. And I think that if you, for example, are in a country where you didn’t know the language, and then you heard people talking, you would be hearing noise. Because, to you, you are hearing disorganized information with no real structure to make it make sense. So I think a lot of the concept of defining a sonic or image object as noise is just based on the individual perception of that object. Of course, you then realize that it is a flexible category. Something categorized as “noise” is based on that person’s perception.
Again, what I hope is that the materials that I produce have that space for a number of different kinds of interactions from different people. Some may hear things in a very different way than others, and that is when things tend to get really interesting. The listener is not forced to listen in a certain way, but they are provided ideally with a space that is open to their own creativity activity in listening. And that is really an important thing for all of us working on the project; to produce these kinds of communal spaces that are really for other people’s creative activities to thrive.
How do you judge the success of the project?
I actually don’t think about success. It doesn’t come into it at all. I don’t know how to think about that because it is not a type of emotion that really enters into the way that I organize my life. It’s really looked at in kind of a much more open way I hope, rather than being a quantifying activity. I’m interested in always finding ways to continue pushing these ideas in new directions, and it’s really exciting at the moment where we have gone and where we are going. There are lots of really interesting things kind of planned for the next half year and even further on. From the idea that this project is borderless, there are a lot of activities that have been taking place that haven’t been put in the public realm yet that will become opened up as time moves on.
I’ve read that you prefer to construct a lot of this material just before bed — like in the twilight of wakefulness.
I really prefer to work in all sorts of mental states. Sometimes I like to work when most tired and other times when I feel I am really, really sharp. My whole aim really is to find a place to think without restrictions at all. Even restrictions including one’s own tastes and value systems: What is right and wrong, worthwhile and wasteful. To try and move in an environment of thinking that is free from those boundaries in order to really reach elsewhere. The idea of working in those various states is related to that concept.
A lot of this experimentation gets released via cassette through your own label, Kaleidoscope.
Not really, we do very limited edition cassettes and downloads. Each cassette is an original recording of a performance. That why the editions of the cassettes are so small. I think the largest edition was only 23. Every one of those tapes is a performance recorded directly to tape, so each is a unique sonic object. The whole idea of using cassettes is to look at the idea of what it could be to use a medium which is designed for mass production, for duplication of the same, to produce unique sonic objects whatever that may be. So that has driven what the investigation of what a cassette can be.
It is completely open of what the formats might be. Although, the series that has been running most recently is the LIMITED DUBS series with cassettes and downloads as well.
With music now being so easy to consume, is there less of an incentive as an artist to really take the time to explore one’s craft and push these boundaries you mention?
Balance is always interesting, so I wouldn’t say that the current situation with recorded music is negative or anything. I think the speed is fascinating that it is moving at, and it’s creating an environment where incredible work is being produced. So that is positive. It is also great that there are other ways of working and alternatives to the status quo.
I would ask more about upcoming plans, but I know you are all about living in the now.
Definitely. Thanks so much!
To discover more about patten, listen to Vol. 17 from the Re-Edit series below.