Popperola and Ampere Present: TEEN, 27 February 2016, with Pirrès (B.), Raoul Belmans (B.), Luke Solomon (UK) and Brett Johnson (US).

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The ideal birthday should be a  joyous communal celebration of the fact that you’re fully alive.
But what if you were born on a day that doesn’t happen on a yearly basis, but only every four years? Well, that just means you have to party super hard – an extra 150 percent at least!

Dr. Poppers ( Tom Nys), curator and writer about dance music and contemporary art, happens to have his birthday on that notorious leap day 29 February. This year he turns forty, which in leap years means he turns ten, effectively becoming a teenager!
For this momentous occasion, Poppers teamed up with Ampere, a relatively new club in Antwerp already voted second in Red Bull Electropedia’s Music Awards for the category “Best Club”in its first year of existence . Together they plan to put on a most memorable tenth birthday party – and everybody’s invited to join the festivities.

Poppers is certainly no stranger to the Belgian party scene. He was a member of the infamous Oase de Pleasure collective in his hometown Leuven who programmed djs such as Koenie, Smos & Baby Bee, Aphrodite Terra (FR), Timmy Richardson (US), Elliot Eastwick (UK) and Keb Darge (UK). Later he organised his own Popperola parties featuring the likes of Crispin J. Glover (UK) and Stefan Goldmann (DL). All of the artists mentioned above deal in the deep and funky house which holds a special place in Poppers’ heart, and this is exactly the music that will fuel TEEN – along with that sweet house party vibe to match.

The evening will kick off with Ampère resident Pirrès, a sure bet to get the  partygoers started on the dance floor.

Next up is Raoul Belmans; a long-time friend (and neighbor) of Dr. Poppers. Raoul is also a highly respected veteran of the Belgian funky house scene with considerable international renown. He was a resident at the legendary Food club nights, label owner of the seminal house label Aroma, former dj at Belgian national radio Studio Brussel and one half of the producers duo Swirl People. This is most definitely the man to bring the party to the next level!

We should have a good vibe going by the time Londoner Luke Solomon dives in. Luke is another longtime deep house mainstay: resident at Bar Rumba in London, co-founder of Classic Music (truly a well deserved name) along with Derrick Carter. and Music For Freaks with Justin Harris. Justin and Luke also formed the core of the musical project Freaks, whose “Where Were You When The Lights Went Out” became a dancefloor hit. Recently Luke is also involved in Powerdance, a new live project featuring several interesting figures in today’s dance scene.

Last but not least we present Brett Johnson, who has his roots in the lone star state Texas but now lives in the German capital. His quirky and boompty productions were rapidly picked up by Classic Music. His own label Easoteric built up a respectable catalogue, and presently Brett has regular releases on high-profile labels such as Cynosure, Visionquest, Get PhysicalLegwork and Bang The Box (the imprint he ran with Lance De Sardi). Apart from all that, Brett is an excellent and highly skilled dj as well as an extremely lovable guy.

Club Ampere is guaranteed to be the ideal club for this stellar line-up, offering a superb sound system, great facilities and a top-notch staff. It should be clear that TEEN will make a legendary night out, as well as a birthday well celebrated!

27 February 2016; doors 23h00
Ampere, Simonsstraat 21, 2018 Antwerp (B.)
Presale tickets €12.00
www.ampere-antwerp.be
RSVP https://www.facebook.com/events/1669794879946863
All artwork by Uber and Kosher (www.uberandkosher.com)

 

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Review: Slam – “Rotary/ Catacoustics”; Funk D’Void & Dave Tarrida – “Data Reader EP”; Erdbeerschnitzel – “The Ample Waters”; Frits Wentink – “Family Dinner EP; Local Suicide – “We Can Go Everywhere”

SOMA400_Slam_RotaryCatacoustics_CoverArtworkWebSince the early 1990s, a steady stream of select house and techno wells out of the Scottish city of Glasgow. The most substantial fountainhead has been Soma Quality Recordings, co-founded by techno household name Slam. Recently Soma presented its 400th release, which was reserved for the duo that established the label. The ep consists of two solid tracks, both clearly illustrating techno’s implied functionality. The steady pounding in “Rotary” is wrapped up in a menacing analogue synthesizer sound supplemented with hi-hats and sweeps while “Catacoustics” is much deeper, using bells, rattles and low bass to an entrancing effect. As this momentous release is a prelude to a new album by Slam, scheduled for October, we can rest assured Soma will continue to play their authoritative role in the scene.

DruckA producer closely associated with Soma and originally hailing from Glasgow as well is Funk D’Void. A while ago, he has teamed up again with Dave Tarrida, yet another Scotsman with years of experience producing music, for a release on the latter’s fresh label Autofake. The fun they had while working on this “Data Reader EP” is apparent and the result is a set of three coarse, raw, flipping acid tracks. Take for instance “Glow Blob”: a little mean dance machine that shoots off noises and samples in all directions while rolling firmly forward. The title track in turn, can easily be described as timeless, prototypical acid techno. Lastly, the raucous, over-the-top stomper “Discontinue” gets a rework by upcoming Spanish producer Miki Craven, who transforms it into an atmospheric cut not unlike most of Funk D’Void’s solo work.

dsr-h8-AAfter Dutch imprint Delsin went for a more house-orientated series of eps last year and brought out the superb “Cushion” by Erdbeerschnitzel, they are now pushing an equally exciting follow-up. It contains all the necessary ingredients for an Erdbeerschnitzel taste: intricately woven layers of sound, samples and instrumentation, an over-all slow tempo, an organic feel despite the use of software, several catchy melodies and a decent funk groove. These are true summer tunes; listening to the title track “In Ample Waters” will induce every house aficionado a similar feeling as a kid getting an ice cream on a hot day in June. The beauty of “Never Tilt” is in its artisanship of melodic structuring, a characteristic which is also present in the soft-paced and soulful “Yet Unfulfilled”, the only track on the record that includes vocals. The German once again delivers a work of real flair that’ll be on my playlist for the warm months to come.

HEIST005-1440Like Delsin, Heist Recordings is proudly based in Amsterdam. It is, of course, a much younger label run by the house outfit Detroit Swindle, but Heist has already got a fair share of attention with a few exceptionally strong releases. Its fifth ep is by fellow townsman Frits Wentink (actually Steve Mensink), a newcomer who holds a degree in Audio Design and who  is gaining status rapidly thanks to some decent production work on labels suchs as Triphouse, Shipwrec and Darko Esser’s Wolfskuil as well as to many club performances. This “Family Dinner EP” is in fact typical Frits Wentink material. Case in point is “Ligament” which has a heavy-thumping beat as a basis and gets its groove from a recurring filtered sample with a jazzy feel as well as a soulful vocal cut. “IF I Was To Gravy You’ is composed of similar elements and “Shrewd”, in turn, is an awesome garage house track, characterized by an even more efficient groove, very catchy synth lines and a cut-up vocal sample. Dutch singer Loes Jongerling, with whom the producer has worked before, contributes to “Sauce”. The piece has been built up around her voice, heavy percussive beats and some warm synth touches. All in all, Frits Wentink indeed confirms the buzz and Heist was right to sign him to their roster.

BAP032_Local_Suicide_-_We_Can_Go_Everywhere_CoverArtLastly, a promising debut comes from the Berlin-based German-Greek duo Local Suicide (Brax Moody and Vamparella) on the stylish label Bordello A Parigi, an enterprise from Rotterdam that specializes in vintage music as well as cinema and fashion. Both members of Local Suicide are very active in the music scene and have already established quite a reputation so this ep was long due. You’ll get the original version of “We Can Go Everywhere”, a catchy and poppy tune with clear influences form Italo disco and Balearic house that locks into your head right away, as well as three remixes. The Swiss from In Flagranti give it a live sounding esthetics by means of a funky bass line and some drums, while Mexican dandy Iñigo Vontier chooses an electroclash roll to emphasize the potential the track has for peak time use. Finally, Richard Rossa’s version is more of an electro disco dub that works perfectly. And now please excuse me because I have to get into these high-heeled dancing boots!

Slam – “Rotary/ Catacoustics” is out on Soma Quality Recordings since June 9th

Track list:
1. Rotary
2. Catacoustics

Funk D’Void & Dave Tarrida – “Data Reader EP” is out on Autofake since May 30th

Track list:
1. Data Reader
2. Glow Blob
3. Discontinue
4. Discontinue (Miki Craven Remix)

Erdbeerschnitzel – “The Ample Waters” will be out on Delsin on July 7th

Track list:
1. The Ample Waters
2. Never Tilt
3. With Level Hopes
4. Yet Unfulfilled

Frits Wentink – “Family Dinner EP” will be out on Heist Recordings on July 7th

Track list:
1. Schrewd
2. Ligament
3. Sauce feat. Loes Jongerling
4. If I Was To Gravy You

Local Suicide – “We Can Go Everywhere” will be out on Bordello A Parigi on June 24th

Track list:
1. We Can Go Everywhere
2. We Can Go Everywhere (In Flagranti Remix)
3. We Can Go Everywhere (
Iñigo Vontier Remix)
4. We Can Go Everywhere (Richard Rossa Remix)

Review: Patrik Skoog – “Exit Earth”; Snuff Crew – “Behind The Masks”; Mendo – “Avalon”; Conforce – “Kinetic Image”

There was a time when dance music albums were simply a collection of four-to-the-floor tracks without much coherence, like two or three 12inches released in one package. However, for quite some time now a large amount of artists in the genre have crafted albums that are a consistent set of pieces, often with a thematic or at least a musical consistency and that are listenable in other places than a club too.

These days, mainly due to the emergence of the digital market and a change in the ways of music consumption, the album format has generally lost its importance to the single. One could easily expect dance music producers leaving the effort of creating an album and concentrate on a condensed output format. But this isn’t the case at all and the release of several interesting albums during these weeks confirms this point in a way.

PATRIK SKOOG EXIT EARTH draftSwedish producer living in Berlin Patrik Skoog just brought out his first album under his own name on Third Ear Recordings. The man’s long discography, starting at the end of the previous century, is a proof of his diligence and experience but until now, “Who Made Up The Rules” on Josh Wink’s Ovum Records (2011) was the only album on that list. It was released under his alias Agaric which he has been using most during the last years of his career so the fact that “Exit Earth” was done using his proper name is noteworthy.

Skoog now made use of a thematic approach: not only all track titles but also his sound palette reflect the topic of NASA’s two Voyager space travel projects in the 1970s. Of course the exploration of the cosmos is a classic techno idiom and possibly “Exit Earth” could have done without all this. On the other hand it neatly ties everything together conceptually.

The album contains slower, dreamlike tracks like “Inside Jupiter’s Eye” and the beautiful “Cluster 34”, dance floor material such as “Cygnus A” as well as some experimental parts as for instance “Voyager 1” or the closing “Radio Emissions”. Yet it never loses touch of its self-imposed running thread. Furthermore two specific characteristics stand out: firstly, the inherent emotive force of all tracks and secondly Skoog’s meticulous production technique and finishing which make “Exit Earth” a powerful whole.

Snuff Crew Behind The MasksIn lots of ways the German duo Snuff Crew stands for (a certain) tradition and the continuation of it. Having always stressed the heavy impact and influence which 1980s Chicago house, acid house and early techno had on them, their output – be it as producers or as a live act – has continuously been an emulation of those genres. The fact that they keep their identity hidden is in this respect in line with a certain custom in the scene and the title they chose for their third album, released by BPitch Control, refers to this.

However, “Behind The Masks” is not a true revelatory affair per se. The real names of the creators aren’t mentioned in the sleeve notes and that these personas stand for a flaming passion for old school house and techno had already been made clear. However new is for instance an abundant use of piano parts and, more generally, a recurring song-based structure. Take for instance “New Life” which is an utterly sweet Balearic tune, poppy even, featuring a good vocal by Rachel Low and totally having the feel of early 1990s Ibiza hit material.

The appearance of several top contributors is another remarkable feat. Kim Ann Foxman stars in “Tearing Me Away” while Chicago house legend Tyree Cooper completely gets down on the hip house party blaster “Work It Out”. Last but not least, Venetian male diva Hard Ton demonstrates on the catchy “Let Me Be the One” that he is most certainly one of the best house vocalists of today’s scene. Apart from these tracks, Snuff Crew also included decent stylistic exercises in acid – “Bass!” – as well as in electro – “What Is Electro?”.

But while the twosome’s production resulted in an album that, all its imperfections aside, has a very polished sound it is exactly this cleanliness that can be bothersome. As Snuff Crew proclaims to search for the perfect jack and appraises rawness, it is a pity this isn’t expressed more on a recorded album like they seem to manage perfectly while playing live. Also, their quest sometimes brings into being a fairly generic type of house; it works but may lack a face. Masks or not.

CR036_Mendo_Avalon_CoverArtworkWebGeneva-based David Mendo might not be a top name in house (yet), nonetheless he is a exceptionally skilled dj who has released a long list of 12inches, some on big labels such as Groove, Defected, Get Physical, Cadenza and Rekids. Now he presents his debut album entitled “Avalon” on his own Clarisse imprint. As Mendo is of Spanish descent, quite some of his influences, samples and rhythms are derived from Latin music. The combination with house has been tried and tested many times in the past and Mendo doesn’t really present us something radically new, yet the examples on this record testify that the concept still works, given that production is done properly.

Mendo shows he can take care of that. A piece like “Abstract” is a case in point: here, a good groove is accompanied by the melancholic Spanish vocals of Carla Krevey, an intense piano part, a well-placed guitar sample and some percussive sounds, creating a warm atmosphere. The mastery is definitely in the timing and in the auditory details which are a constant throughout the record. Some tracks give the impression of simplicity but after listening more often and/ or more closely their refinement becomes apparent.

Certainly, “Avalon” includes a few outstanding, restrained and balanced pieces such as “Libellule” and “Waterborne” but the Swiss also put in some floor bombs: “La Krika” and “Les Clochers de Belarus” are packaged as late-1990s deep house anthems and “Fever” is based on soulful but grooving disco. It is without doubt “Everybody Love” though that has the most explosive potential with its pure peak-time power and precision. But “Avalon” is all together a quality album which I certainly recommend.

Kinetic Image-FrontSomething quite different is the work of Boris Bunnik, known for his deep alternative techno as Conforce but also for his unremitting work ethic – which I don’t believe is because he’s from the northern Netherlands but more because he’s really passionate about producing. With “Kinetic Image”, his third album, he steers away from beat-driven and dance-inducing music and explores a domain of his musical realm that is darker and more subdued.

As Bunnik uses several artist names to distinguish between the different facets of his music, it is significant that he chose his Conforce moniker for this release on Delsin Records, perhaps indicating that he will take this part of his oeuvre into a new direction. Indeed, “Kinetic Image” isn’t a record you skip through, it demands complete immersion. Yes, it’s best to make time for it; most of us create a right setting and make accommodations for watching a movie so why not do something similar for certain music? I bet some people occasionally do and Conforce’s latest certainly asks for it.

During the trip he is offering, sounds are sparsely distributed along subterranean passageways. Once in a while wobbly and dubby patterns appear while high pitched bleeps are omnipresent. However sober the arrangement, it manages to evoke a thick cover; eccentric yet comforting. Conforce has created an all-encompassing experience in the form of a music album. It’s not fast and flashy, superfluous nor flimsy but it surely presents a treat for the mind.

 

Patrick Skoog – “Exit Earth” is out since October 25th

Track list:
1. Cluster 34
2. Saturnian Acid
3. Stereo/ Waves
4. Voyager 1
5. Voyager 2 (digital only)
6. Inside Jupiter’s Eye
7. Stay In Orbit
8. Time Won’t Come
9. Cygnus A (digital only)
10. Death Of A Pulsar
11. Radio Emissions

Snuff Crew – “Behind The Masks” is out since October 25th

Track list:
01. Lights
02. New Life feat. Rachel Row
03. Move Me
04. Let Me Be The One feat. Hard Ton
05. Jack My Heart
06. Tearing Me Away feat. Kim Ann Foxman
07. Work It Out feat. Tyree Cooper
08. What Is Electro?
09. Bass!
10. Joy Of Jealousy

Mendo – “Avalon” is out since November 4th

Track list:
1. Mintro
2. Abstract feat. Carla Krevey
3. Clavelito
4. Everybody Love
5. Waterborne
6. Fever
7. Samba
8. Interlude
9. La Krika
10. Avalon
11. Rising Sun
12. Les Clochers de Belarus
13. Amazon
14. Libellule

Conforce – “Kinetic Image” will be out on November 18th

Track list:
1. Excess Mortality
2. Spatiotemporal
3. Temporary Reversals
4. Semantic Field
5. Scientific Trajectory
6. Underwater Settlers
7. Formerly Programmed Decisions
8. Abundance Of Selves
9. Optimum Pace
10. Anti-adaptive State

Review: Ackin’ feat. M.Akamatsu – “Tembezi”; Bell Towers – “Tonight I’m Flying”; Lionne – “Composure”

CS482284-01B-BIGInternasjonal, one of the labels spearheaded by Prins Thomas, aims at quality house and has recently hit the target twice with splendid releases. First there’s “Tembezi” by Ackin’ featuring M. Akamatsu. I must admit I don’t know a thing about the artists but the original track is simply gorgeous. It’s a deep house tune with a typical afro house beat, warm layers of sound, an African chant and lovely, elaborated pieces of jazz piano on top. Upon hearing it the first time, I was glad this kind of very musical house is still being made with conviction.

The Norwegian disco prince himself made a remix that is slower and more dreamlike. While he kept the piano parts he also added a live guitar and live bass. As a side note, a few weeks ago an odd Norwegian national obsession got media coverage all over the world: the ‘National Firewood Night’ celebrated the art of making a fire with wood with a twelve-hour long theme night on television. No less than twenty percent of the population watched it. Only, the show brought forth a discussion about whether barks should be placed face-up or face-down and because it truly is an important matter to most Norwegians, it kind of divided the country. Whatever the nature of that debate, I can perfectly imagine sitting with a group of friends around a fireplace in a cosy setting while communally enjoying this version of Prins Thomas. Marcellus Pittman on the other hand puts in some of his trademark impassionate synth drones and makes “Tembezi” sound deeper than Sognefjord.

CS483494-01B-BIGThis cherishable record was followed by an ep by the Australian duo Bell Towers, on which you’ll find two original songs as well as remixes by Idjut Boys of the title track “Tonight I’m Flying”. The latter has some good elements such as the wobbly disco slabs and the overall space disco mood but lacks a good structure that keeps one’s attention all the way.  The London-based, famed freak disco dons Idjut Boys do what they do best: their “Bell End Dub” is a slow-paced trip, induced with auditory hallucinogens while the “Idjut Boys Seepage” is another kind of a dub where parts of the original ooze through to form a most ecstatic listening experience – brilliant!

Further, I’d like to dwell on a current evolution in electronic dance music. That is, for some people house music – and especially its deepest variant – has returned in full glory though others will claim that it never vanished. One can anyway argue that a younger generation has learned to love it and started producing top house tracks at that. Some do this in a manner that adds a few interesting elements to the already existing basics while there are also producers that seem to go for an identical duplication of earlier house styles.

The fact is that this is actually neither new nor limited to dance music. For instance there are at this moment quite a few rock bands that reproduce the late 1960s, early 1970s hard rock and doom genres. There’s a slight difference in production and the same mainly goes for all electronic ‘retro’ waves. Here, it is substantially a rather important distinction since software emulates the hardware from around the beginning of the 1990s so that it is relatively easy to produce the same kind of house from that period.

Personally I never held much to the idea of newness in contemporary arts. Not that I’m utterly pessimistic about culture in our day and age but since the first decades of the twentieth century, with the introduction of the ready-made and found sounds, everything goes and up to this point almost everything has been used in creative processes. In my opinion, this doesn’t mean that artists cannot use the same building elements in a creatively fresh way. But somehow I think one can always make references to older forms when considering present-day cultural expressions.

As for these retro sounds, I reckon they come into existence because of multiple reasons. For example, a young artist may discover an old genre, takes a liking to it and will try to copy it – which is a valid part of an artistic learning process. Or it might be that someone feels a certain genre has been forgotten for too long which as such is a basically nostalgic move.

It may even be that a younger artist is partly or more or less oblivious to previous sounds that resemble their own; I recall an interview with twenty-something dj and producer Maya Jane Coles in relation to her podcast for the website Resident Advisor, where she is asked about a possible influence by MK and the early 1990s house sound and where she states: “To be honest I wouldn’t say MK was a specific influence as I was only familiar with a couple of tracks of his [..]. Obviously after the comments I checked out more of his stuff I can see why people would make the link. I respect his work a lot and can see that he’s definitely carved a strong sound in early house. […] Even though I’ve never been a hardcore follower of ’90s house music, (mainly because it was just a little before my time) I’ve always liked and respected the early sounds of house. I appreciate the simplicity yet effectiveness of early dance music […]”. Negatively, copying previous work or genres can simply stem from a lack of inspiration.

In any case it is quite hard to evaluate such exploits without knowing the motivation of the artist but I do not deem them less valuable per se. And to make this debate concrete I’d like to put forward a release by a young producer from Munich called Lionne. His latest ep “Composure” on Filigran Records features music that is clearly inspired by and copied from the New Jersey house sound of for instance David Camacho, 95 North and Mood II Swing. Coincidentally Lionne is a drummer just like John Ciafone, whi1894-111079_600ch is obvious from his beat patterns and rhythmic approach. His music is a flourishing, warm variant of garage.

But apart from that, there’s a more pertinent reference to New Jersey house. That is, the track “In And Out Of My Life” includes a vocal line of the same-titled track by Adeva from 1988, which is a true classic. As a consequence the sample is immediately recognisable but of course that’s not problematic at all; it has been used in several other songs as well, for instance one by Eric Prydz. Unfortunately I can’t help hearing the line going out of sync a bit after a short time, which spoils an otherwise fine track. In “Composure” Adeva’s voice appears again but cut in a different manner and integrated better. Turkish producer Ave Astra reworked this piece of full-on party garage into a deep dub wherein the use of the vocal is sparser. “Anytime” is Lionne’s best effort in my ears. It has a very catchy cadence and is better balanced production-wise. The whole ep is a good take on the said genre and proves that Lionne has potential but I only hope he’ll continue working on his own mode.

Ackin’ feat. M.Akamatsu – “Tembezi” is out since March 4th

Track list:
1. Tembezi
2. Tembezi (Prins Thomas Version)
3. Tembezi (Marcellus Pittman Remix)

Bell Towers – “Tonight I’m Flying” is out since March 18th

Track list:
1. Tonight I’m Flying (Original Mix)
2. Theme From Bamboo Musik (Original Mix)
3. Tonight I’m Flying (Idjut Boys Seepage)
4. Tonight I’m Flying (Idjut Boys Bell End Dub)

Lionne – “Composure” will be out on March 29th

Track list:
1. Composure (Original Mix)
2. Composure (Ave Astra Remix)
3. In And Out Of My Life (Original Mix)
4. Anytime (Original Mix)

Popperola Presents: Dr. Poppers’ 9th Birthday Party. Stefan Goldmann (DL.) interview

After having interviewed Raoul Belmans, guest of the Popperola Party this Wednesday, I also wanted to hear out the other dj of that particular night. That is, as you know by now, Stefan Goldmann! Here’s the result…

Okay Stefan, 2011 seemed to be a busy and decisive year for you. You played more often, did a performance at the German Time Warp festival and played in Ibiza for the first time. Moreover, your output of last year already proved its importance. Lastly, the label Macro that you’re running with Finn Johannsen turned five; it released several very interesting records and found its place on the map of the industry and in the hearts of the fans. Now, I know you’ve always tried to manage your agenda, schedule and so on very conscientiously, so was this change of pace intended?

Stefan Goldmann: “Last year brought some quite exciting DJ gigs, which I’m really happy about. Besides that I changed a lot of things in terms of how I work. 2011 was the first year I didn’t want to release another single, but focus on new ideas and concepts instead. What seems to make sense now for my own music as well as for Macro is that we try to cut the time span between idea and implementation to the shortest possible. You know, in the past I’d often hesitate, like anyone probably, and be like “I’ll never get away with this” or “I’ll have to figure this out for a longer time”. Now it’s really just doing it. Some ideas seem so clear and simple when they come to mind that I’m astonished no one has implemented them so far. Sometimes it’s ‘in the air’ and you just have to do it and release it before others do, like planting a flag on a little South Pole. Being first is important and part of the fun in a way. I’ve tried to do this constantly and there’s a dynamic going with it that also brings up really interesting opportunities.”

An important event in 2011 was the release on Macro Recordings of unpublished work by your father Friedrich Goldmann, who was a composer of contemporary classical music. I thought of this as a courageous and difficult enterprise. I’m interested firstly in the preparatory stage: how did the idea evolve and how hard was the selection process? Did you for instance need to build in a certain distance because of the aspect that it was your dad’s music you were working with? And can you explain your choice to put the result out on Macro – because it is indeed partly your own label, but it doesn’t seem an obvious decision?

SG: “For me music is a fairly subjective thing anyway. I’m as biased towards Elektro Guzzi’s as to Friedrich’s music. Then, the selection of works was fairly easy – Friedrich himself felt that the compositions he wrote in the last couple of years opened a new chapter and were strongly going to areas that the usual avant-garde contemporary stuff simply doesn’t cover. I too felt it is really important music that just wasn’t documented on any of the releases he had. Since one of the key problems of this kind of music is reaching people outside their core audience (and trust me, I know the CD sales numbers of some of the most sought-after and most often performed composers), releasing with a New Music label was not an option for these works. It would have stayed within professional circles and the outside world wouldn’t have noticed much.”

“With Macro and especially the distribution of this CD as a subscribers’ special for The Wire magazine we reached a wider, more diversified and yet, as it turned out, pretty interested audience. You also don’t just get the usual musicologist’s feedback in the vein of “the pizzicati add up really nicely around bar 72”, but anything from drug associations to synaesthetic descriptions to whatever really. It was good to see this music is not just for analytics. Ex post it looks like a quite obvious decision to me. I’m quite happy how this one worked out.”

Also last year, you profiled yourself as a sharp music sociologist with several remarkable writings about the current state of affairs in the dance music scene. In some of your music there is a conceptual element in play where you also seem to tackle some of the typical tropes in dance, like for instance edits or beat patterns. This type of ‘institutional critique’ was and still is quite common in the field of visual arts but is rarer in music, though it exists – like in punk, most obviously. In effect, you are able to make a good dance track while bringing across meaning on a higher level, a remarkable quality. But tell me, what is the bigger idea or purpose of all this; can you elaborate a bit on that? And do you feel that your message is coming across so far?

SG: “The writing was aimed at addressing a few assumptions on how music works socially, how it gets noticed and what economy stands behind it. There is so much fog around this and it needed a voice saying something different from “spam as many mp3s as possible around and you will succeed”. Because people do just that and it never worked or it worked out differently from what they expected. I guess most musicians feel like being in a Kafka novel where things happen and you just can’t figure out why and how. That is a pretty intriguing situation that has not been discussed much in the context of music, so I wanted to investigate this a bit. Is that in the tradition of ‘institutional critique’? I never thought of anyone’s behavioural patterns as institutions, because it’s really just the sum of individual human reactions affecting a certain result. But certainly these adopt functions that institutions fulfil elsewhere.”

“Then again, the conceptual element seems like an anchor to me in an ocean of endless abundance of music. It adds a seemingly objective side to it, like adding some new coastline to the map. If I can’t show the difference of one piece of music over what we already have, I’d better scrap it because otherwise it’s just redundant. If there’s a conceptual difference on the other hand, that’s exciting – it shines. It radiates that energy you don’t get out of just another beat. Spotting a good concept is like finding that one gem in the middle of an enormous waste disposal site. With dance tracks, what I’d ideally like to hear is stuff that anyone in the room notices as being different, almost with an alien side to it – you and I don’t need to like it, just feel something is there.

As said, Macro Recordings celebrated its fifth birthday a while ago. To put one of its basic premises simply: it is about quality over quantity. The output has always been deliberately modest. But as five years have culminated in a double mix compilation (“Macrospective”) and as some of your artists have grown during that period along with the label, most notably Elektro Guzzi, is that moderateness at this point still a sustainable strategy? In what direction do you and Finn want the label to go in the future?

SG: “To be honest, we wouldn’t be able to handle more output. It is really a matter of time, and quantity just costs time without adding anything significant. Of course we try to do what is right for the artists we work with and there is not really a time limit in this regard. Some labels plan their schedule in a way where they allocate certain months to certain artists. Like: “now it’s time for a new single by dj A”. We don’t do that. If one of our artists comes up with a project, we try to release it for the shortest time possible and in the moment when it makes most sense, not when it keeps the label catalogue looking smooth. Therefore we try to avoid planning ahead too much or cluttering our schedule with too many releases. Circumstances, artists, everything is changing – too much strategy doesn’t really help there.”

To finish: at this moment you are preparing a new album which will be the follow-up of your debut “The Transitory State/ Voices Of The Dead” (2008). How is that going so far? Since you received a lot of positive reviews and appreciation for that double debut, where have you put your standards now?

SG: “It is almost ready. Since it won’t be much like “The Transitory State”, it is hard to compare. It sounds different, and it comes with an idea, a limitation even, that bonds all the tracks together in it. The obvious thing is that the first one was kind of a compilation since all tracks on “The Transitory State” were also out as vinyl singles and EPs. So this is the first real dance and club album I’m doing.”

Thanks a lot, Stefan!

Popperola Presents: Dr. Poppers’ 9th Birthday Party. Raoul Belmans (B.) interview

Can you feel it? It’s the anticipation rising!

Only three weeks until Popperola presents a birthday party in Leuven. On February 29th, Stefan Goldmann from Berlin will play with Raoul Belmans – I dare say a local as well as personal hero. Belmans has been around for more than twenty years now and may be called one of the spearheads of Belgium’s house scene. We asked him a few questions, to learn what he has been up to lately…

Raoul, recently in some bar we were discussing the fact that several of the people at parties that you play might be exactly half your age. Last year you also celebrated the twentieth anniversary of your dj career. Evidently the scene has changed (as well as the industry, which isn’t always the same). So what about the audience, specifically? In what ways has the public changed compared to ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago – for better or for worse?

Raoul Belmans: “The public has changed significantly during the last decade(s). First, the older generation is split up in two camps: you have the ones that used to go out a lot but now only go out once in a while, when their partners allow them to step out of the door so to speak. On the other hand there are those that still go out almost every week(end). I get a lot of people nagging to me that it used to be better back in the days and I don’t blame them. In general, there are less parties and tons of music is inferior in quality.”

“Still, the people that go out more are apparently really up-to-date and they appreciate newer sounds. They appreciate it even more that you mix that up with stuff from previous decades. They are well aware that there is good music around now and there was good music around back then.”

“The new generation is split up into youngsters on the one hand who don’t have a fucking clue what I am doing or have done already… And they usually don’t care either; ask me to play dubstep and such. But to my joy there’s also a part of this generation that is very open-minded and embraces all things new and old with a passion that I recognise from the beginning days of my career… And frankly, that gives me tons of energy and hope. House music is here to stay after twenty years, there’s no doubt about that.”

In general, what did house music do for you? What place does it take in your personal history?

RB: “House music has always been a big part of my life. I’m passionate about doing the job I do and it already took me all over the world spreading the vibe. I feel blessed that I was able to do this and it made me realise that you have to chase your dreams in life – no matter what. Life is too short.”

A few years ago, you adopted the alias Raoul Lambert. Could you explain shortly how that persona differs from Raoul Belmans? And suppose you’re playing as Raoul Belmans, does this Lambert character often whisper suggestions in your ear and vice versa? Do you tend to follow those?

RB: “The Raoul Lambert alter ego surfaced around 2002 because I had the urge to play long nights where I’d be able to go much broader than the house music territory usually allowed at parties. It was my mission to explore the roots of house music and pass this on to the crowd. At the same time, I wanted to put a big ‘fun-factor’ into the game as well as a personal challenge. After a few years a lot of the disco-heads now are turning back to house – mostly old school sounding so in a way both my alter egos fuel each other a little now, I must admit. But I love it when these boundaries dissolve.”

During the last few years you have mainly been producing solo. How is that working out for you? How do you yourself evaluate your newer productions?

RB: “The adventure of going solo is one I had to take on in order to develop myself as a producer. Of course it’s different than when I was spending time daily in the Swirl People studio. In a way, it’s harder but I’ve learned a lot in that short period of time. The only disadvantage is that I work much longer on a project because no is around to tell me when a track is finished and to tell me whether it’s good or not. I’ve got to work on that part a little more.”

Lastly, you played at my birthday already in 2000 – that was my sixth. I recall you put down a long deep house set. What are your own memories about that one party, as far as you can remember it?

RB: “I remember it being a hell of a party in the middle of the week with all people into what I was playing, an amazing underground vibe that I haven’t felt so much yet in my life (this was in a small squatted garage annex storage depot in Leuven, as an edition of a series of parties called Oase de Pleasure, organised between 1997 and 2002 by a group of freaks including myself, ed.). We should do this again on the coming 29th!”

Happy birthday Dr. Poppers!

Thanks man!

Popperola Presents: Dr. Poppers’ 9th Birthday Party with Raoul Belmans (B.) and Stefan Goldmann (DL.)

Word is out!

Two djs will comprise the line-up of the coming Popperola Party, which will be held to celebrate my first, true rebellious – as well as arrogant – gesture in life, namely waiting until leap day 1976 to pop into this world. These two admirable persons are Raoul Belmans and Stefan Goldmann. The venue is Club Montreal in Leuven, Belgium.

If you’d like to attend or inform your friends, you’ll find an event page on Facebook and Resident Advisor:
www.facebook.com/events/273112082752445
www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?328904

Popperola Presents: Dr. Poppers’ 9th Birthday Party

Admission: 5,00 EUR or free for those celebrating their birthday on Feb. 29th (ID card as proof)
Start: 23h00
Venue: Club Montreal, Naamsestraat 34, 3000 Leuven (B.)
Parking: Hogeschoolplein or subterranean parking H. Hart (Naamsestraat 101-109)
Camping: Oude Markt, Leuven (just kidding!)

Raoul Belmans is without doubt a familiar name to house aficionados. After all, his career as a disc jockey, producer and label owner goes back more than two decades. He earned his name as a resident of the influential Belgian party provider Food, as a part of the producer’s duo Swirl People and as head of the label Aroma Records. He has released numerous 12inches and albums on labels such as Wally’s Groove World, Sole Music, Panhandle, Seasons, Music For Freaks, Lowdown Music, Oomph, Amenti, Odds & Ends and We Play House. Nowadays, Raoul is also running his own digital imprint Swirled Music. Regularly he travels to parties worldwide to enthuse people with his impeccable technique and his funky, deep but also broad selection of music. Lovable, warm-hearted, open-minded and witty: that’s Raoul Belmans, like that is his music.

From Berlin, Stefan Goldmann will give his first Belgian performance on this extraordinary occasion. Stefan is a prolific producer, who has pleasured us with a rather unusual kind of house music such as the tracks ‘Lunatic Fringe’, ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘The Maze’. It appeared on labels such as Classic Music Company, Perlon, Victoriaville, Cocoon, Mule and of course Macro Records which he runs together with Finn Johannsen. Macro is a label with a well-defined identity and was responsible for important releases by Raudive, Elektro Guzzi, Peter Kruder and Namlook. It has its own monthly Friday night at Berlin’s Panorama Bar. As Goldmann has a strong musical background, his material is often highly conceptual and thought-provoking but he invariably succeeds in making it sound as simply good music. Last year, the man did not go unnoticed at the German Time Warp festival and even in Ibiza, he produced groundbreaking work such as the double 12inch ‘The Grand Hemiola’, he mixed a compilation for Macro, he wrote texts on music sociology for Little White Earbuds as well as for the flyers of the club Berghain and he offered the world unreleased music by his late dad, a composer of contemporary classical music. At this moment, Stefan is preparing a new album.

More info:

www.raoulbelmans.com
www.facebook.com/djraoulbelmans
www.twitter.com/raoulbelmans
www.residentadvisor.net/dj/raoulbelmans
www.swirlpeople.com

www.stefangoldmann.com
www.macro-rec.com
www.backroom-entertainment.de/artist/stefan-goldmann
www.facebook.com/stgmn
www.residentadvisor.net/dj/stefangoldmann

www.clubmontreal.be

In the next weeks I’ll supply you with additional info, words and other stuff about the Popperola party. And of course I hope to see you there!