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Making it Minimal
It’s Over Now
by craig burton & sam butler
This is the first in a series of articles covering London’s burgeoning minimal techno community. With its origins principally in Detroit and Berlin, minimal techno takes some of the best elements of house and techno, creating tight, snapping rhythms and spaced-out vibes. The genre is breathing new life into London’s tired dance scene. The articles, written from the perspective of two of Shoreditch’s party regulars “lucky” enough to live above one of Brick Lane’s infamous curry houses, are a round-up of exciting new releases, parties and general shenanigans of the minimal techno community in the great metropolis that is London.
I always look forward to summer. Sun, blue skies, chirping birds, foreign girls in dresses and best of all, great parties. The season of summer rarely lets me down. Everyone has either just returned or is moments away from leaving to soak up some European culture and work on their cancer; smiles are inevitable. I’ve been doing the same, but without taking gas-guzzling Ryan Air flights to unheard of airports or falling in love with depressed western European girls (ahem). I’ve found that summer and Europe can be easily accessed and enjoyed from the comfort of a good set of earphones and a few imported records. This summer has been no exception, as East London’s streets pulse with clicks, clacks, taps and bumps. In a city of endless routines, minimal techno is a friendly soundtrack for not only those of the trendy East End, but to the greater electronic music community.
The first party of the summer was in Hoxton’s snug Troy Bar, a stunning return to form for the Sud label crew after a brief spring spent touring. Along with Run they’ve been throwing some of the most exciting underground parties in London’s East End. Kicking off at around 1:00 am and finishing at some point the following afternoon, there are a number of elements that make these parties special. At locations you’ll only reach after struggling with a map book and a network of London city buses, you’ll find a disparate collection of geeky indie-kids, unimpressed looking Detroit headz and insanely-sexy swaying Spanish girls, all in pairs. Sure, it’s an odd bunch, but it’s a friendly one, brought together by a desire to be prodded into the next day by the effervescent noises of Matthew Dear, Jay Haze, Mathew Jonson, Lawrence, Luciano and the like.
The past month has seen an incredible stream of releases, including Haze’s funky Berlin Pimpin’ EP on Muzik Krause (which is distrubted by Kompakt). Haze, a perpetual nomad from Philadelphia, has battled with respiratory disease, drug addiction and life on the streets, but after a brief spell in Amsterdam, he found himself in the heart of Berlin’s thriving minimal techno scene. He records tracks with the Chilean-German wackjob Ricardo Villalobos, who’s better known to his German fans as “Retardo” for his incredible train wreck-smattered DJ marathons. You just need to listen to his latest LP The Au Harem d’Archimedes to get an idea of what frame of mind Villalobos is in. Check the Pink Floyd influences particularly on the title track. Meanwhile, Peter M Kersten, under his Lawrence moniker, takes a different route with his latest LP, The Night Will Last Forever, creating an entire world for the appreciative ear to wallow in; you’d be justified in drawing comparisons with other microhouse producers such as Matthew Dear [Ghostly International] and Matthew Herbert [Accidental]. With his piano chords and strings, he constructs a vista of long shadows, suspense, and great beauty. It’s hard not to imagine members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor sitting in the dark with laptops. If they had the machines to make techno in the ruins of post-war Europe, this is what it would sound like.
By the end of July, I could no longer stand the solitude my earphones were affording me and decided it was time to travel to the source. I yearned to share the beauty of it all with my peers. Flying to Geneva, then traveling 1000 metres above sea level, found me at the top of a mountain with 500 Swiss haircuts under the stars. In the fine company of Minus label stalwarts Magda and Troy Pierce, the stage was set for an amazing continental minimal experience. The Imploz Open Air Festival gave the typical Swiss electronic music fan an incredible selection of minimal, acid and techno along with Sten, Peter Kersten’s minimal techno persona, providing the highlight of the 24 hour party with an incredible 10am DJ set. Leaving The Frantic, a compilation of his 12” output is available in CD format now.
Back in London it’s Secretsundaze’ final outing of the summer with a shameful corporate-feel rooftop affair, attended by a disheartening array of Nathan Barley-types and their sunglasses. Thankfully, there’s a smattering of fans that have turned up to catch Villalobos spin. Cell phone communiqué from those who’ve already made it onto the roof are encouraging, and you can hear the chugging bass-lines from the queue back on the ground. After at least two hours of queuing, us plebs finally got inside to find a closed rooftop and an overcrowded basement. Disheartened and getting ready to leave, I was lucky enough to catch Ricardo himself making a camp dash for the exit. “The party’s over,” he says with an unknowing grin. Asked if he’ll be making any further appearances he suggests, smiling, “maybe Public Life, 2 o’clock or so…yeah, 2 o’clock,” before mincing off with his entourage. Later on I find out the after-party is indeed scheduled to be in a former public toilet, and my hopes remain high as I head over to the venue. Unfortunately, a quick word with the warm-up DJ at the entrance to the club dashes my hopes. “Yer, I spoke to him on the phone earlier on…he couldn’t really talk,” he said. I ask him why – was he busy or just wasted? He chuckles, “ah, yeah, yeah, I think he’s…I don’t think he’s coming out.” So, Ricardo was right – the party’s over. Well, for him it at was. It later was revealed he played records at a flat off of Kingsland road till early the next day, sitting down.
For the rest of us, the party in London’s inner confines continues with more intimate electronic gatherings hosted by Sud, Run, Sprawl and more. London kids can expect to catch South Africa native Alan Abrahams showcasing his exciting new dance-floor orientated material on Ghostly International under the clever moniker – Bodycode.
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