Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ssg special - Antonio Giova (natural/electronic.system.)

While operating broadly within the world of deep, hypnotic techno, natural/electronic.system. present their own distinctive take on the sound.  Antonio and Valerio have a special ability for building: allowing the music to breathe and slowly develop. There is a real beauty in the pace and manner in which natural/electronic.system. construct their DJ sets. This is what distinguishes their approach. You will have heard this in the other mixes they’ve done for us (mx23 and mx49), and this time you will hear it in a slightly different context, with the two each doing a separate mix. This week we have one from Antonio, and next week it will be Valerio’s turn.

Antonio wrote these words about his contribution: 

This mix does not follow the classical natural/electronic.system. line. I like to think of it as a stream of consciousness, because that's essentially what it is; it reflects the sense in which it was built. The sequence was developed on different days, each track reflecting my mood at that moment on that day, so there is no one real common thread in the mix. After I listened back to it, I felt that somehow the mix reflects me over the past six months, a continuous succession of positive and negative emotions

Good listening,  Antonio 

Actually I don't completely agree with Antonio’s description. For me, it feels very cohesive, especially in its spirit. You can listen to the mix and make your own mind up. I have a feeling you are going to enjoy it. This beauty has been keeping me company over my travels the last few weeks, and I expect it to stay on my mp3 player for a long time to come. This one is definitely a keeper…

Thanks to Antonio for the mix. We now have a tracklist for it, which will be posted after the accompanying mix next week from the other half of natural/electronic.system., Valerio. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Purple rain, purple rain: PC exits the Labyrinth

Chris and I had spoken about not doing a Lab post this year; while in transit I really struggled with all the feelings I was having, and knew I needed to get this all off my chest. So: apologies for the mixed messages, but here it is, from the PC perspective.

In one sense, to get on a plane in 2011 is nothing. It’s what 'we' do: when our friends decide to get married in India; when our lovers beckon us from Buenos Aires; when our colleagues intimate our attendance is required at conferences in Helsinki; or when we just want to go shopping in New York. Sometimes we think nothing of it.

In another sense, this is extraordinary, and 'we' forget how much so (but let's not forget the we that can get on the plane, the we that can forget). How few of us look out the windows of the planes we fly on, and consider the miracle of modernity, one of the only modernities that unambiguously works - accidents are anomalies. When I think of civil aviation, and how it works, and how well it works, and how extraordinary it is to fly across the world and look at the window at clouds over Siberia, or sunrise over the Pacific Ocean, and come in over Sydney or Tokyo, I think of everything we might actually be capable of, and a future that my grandfather, who was an electrical engineer who worked on the Lancaster bomber, the Concorde, and then for Qantas, would have wanted for me. He even would have wanted those strange breakfast sausages for me. He would have wanted me to be proud of them, that they came hot to my tray table at 35,000 feet, and were actually quite tasty, whatever is actually in them. As part of the future.

I went to Japan for the future in 2002, because Tokyo was the future, because techno was the future. I wanted to fall in love with the future, like the romantic modernist I remain. I wrote about how that worked out last year. This year, returning to the labyrinth provoked some very fucking heavy feelings in me, full spectrum. I want to tell you all about some of them, those that I can – I hope without boring you or being self indulgent. I have to write this post very quickly, before I lose the courage and momentum to say what I feel as well as I can.

Lab provokes. For me this fundamentally is what ‘the labyrinth’ has done, which is what labyrinths tend do to. I don’t mean to say by this that ‘the labyrinth’ is ‘for me’, or that I had some kind of stupid hippy experience by which I found ‘the real me’ while off my tits up a mountain. The whiskey tends to do that, but it passes - thankfully. I just mean that it makes you want to get to the centre of it, however confusing that is, whatever monsters might be there. But we’ll get to the monster later. First things first.

PC & Lab

I said it and I mean it: to get on a plane is nothing; to get on a plane is everything. You go somewhere and nothing happens, or something happens and nothing will ever be the same, quite the same. Last year I said how it started in 2005, my first lab, at the bottom of things. As I wrote: ‘penniless, rudderless, emptied out, sobered up, but well aware of where I actually was.’ This year I was ‘full’, but the fullness was also a realization of how thoroughly all that had passed into the past tense. My name wasn’t on the list at the door, I was like a ghost. Bucketing rain down, nobody recognizing me. It was a careless mistake; it was totally apt. Then Chris came along and rescued me from non recognition, I paid my money, and went in.

PC @ Lab

The sound system was just as magnificent. The drinks were poured just as strong. The rain poured much harder. My raincoat and gore tex hat and approach shoes, they worked for a while. After that it was just wet, and I and everyone else outside the artists’ tent was wet. There was something so glorious about standing in the rain half way up a mountain, with the purple lights facing the Funktion 1s. You can stare at them until they look like Polynesian masks. And stare I did. On the second day the sun came out. Then on the third day the rain returned, and it rained so hard we got skin soaked. We punched the air in time with the kick drum. I was shivering cold, whiskey hot; I got fall down drunk in the afternoon, quite shamefully. I think JP was in worse condition (sorry, JP, mea culpa). The rain seemed there to teach us all a lesson. I breathed easier thinking it was rain coming from the south, not the north.

Lab as Lab

Lab these days means so much to so many people. Perhaps too much. Perhaps it’s overdetermined now. As I see it, the first risk would be asking too much of something that has already given so much. The second would be to tweak formulas, to try to eek perfection out of something through a subtle number of small adjustments. The worst risk would be to just keep going, to pretend that time wasn’t passing and that things hadn’t changed. Time is passing and things have changed. Probably Labyrinth should just disband now while things are still so good. Probably Labyrinth could keep going for another decade without altering the formula much, and it would still be amazing, especially for the first timers. That might be a mistake, but what would I know? It’s not up to me to say. That’s a question for the people who are involved in the future of labyrinth, and I am not one of them. I met a guy from Fukushima there, who’d still made it down for the party, in spite of everything. We shared a guilty cigarette and joked a little about risk, as we were smoking, right to the limits of my Japanese. Which only took ten minutes. An improvement on last year of three minutes.

Lab & Japan

People bring their babies and kids to Labyrinth, which I think is wonderful and totally appropriate – except for that one girl who took her two year old to the bassbin, that's irresponsible. Kids love techno. Fact. You should see ‘em dance. They fucking love it. Dance, magic, dance... But it was impossible for me to look at all the kids around me at Labyrinth this year and not think. All this on the dance floor:

Japan took modernity at its word and built the future. They fucking did it. Biosphere’s album from this year is actually very boring, but the concept behind it nails the tragedy of our audacity when it is placed in the hands of corrupt old men. We set up this extraordinarily powerful thing, and leave it for our children and grandchildren as a toxic legacy. We can’t handle the truth. Or if we do, we die. All the sets I heard at labyrinth were delivered to us via electricity, the extraordinary along with the ordinary, the ambitious, the pretentious, the dull, and the damned fucking perfect (you’d know which was which if you were there, and if you weren’t, some guy from the usual suspects will tell you what opinion to have – Dirty Harry was right, opinions are like assholes). Was that electricity nuclear? So many people heard the sets; so many of you I talked to differed in your opinions about those sets. How many of you paused and considered where that electricity came from, and what the consequences of that are? Maybe it’s coal or gas or oil in Niigata, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don't know. None of us know, not enough, not enough to make informed decisions. This is part of the problem.

Don’t just think this is ‘Japan’ I’m talking about. I’m talking about you. I do know: the consequences of our shared technofuture are utterly frightening; we are utterly unprepared and don’t know what to do; and life goes on regardless. It has to. Lab really taught me this, this year. I hope we have the courage for this century. We are going to need it. People bring their babies to Labyrinth. And will continue to do so. This is cause for both despair and great hope. Mostly hope, actually. This is my intuition.

Japan and the Technofuture

When I first moved to Japan, I lived very close to the ward’s rubbish incinerator. Probably too close. I knew about the dioxin levels in the breastmilk in Saitama. Still I dutifully separated the ‘moeru gomi’ from the ‘moenai gomi’, for three years of my life. I trusted, in spite of some niggling good sense, that ‘they’ were likewise dutiful in their concern, and that ‘they’ took care to only burn those things which, when burnt, contain toxins. Toxins that poison the future. It was only when I returned from Lab this year, in Tokyo, that my friend told me: they were always burning the rubbish. All the rubbish. They staggered the announcements across Tokyo’s wards, in order to avert civil unrest. In spite of my cynicism, this struck me. I felt totally betrayed, duped. And remembered: there is no 'them'. But I knew that already, after Marysville. But I had forgotten. We forget. But don't forget. Don't forget three things: 1) 'they' lie. 2) 'they' don't exist. 3) There is only 'us'.

Theseus (aka PC) v. Minotaur (aka PC), 2011. Final score: love all

Lab is one of the greatest things we are capable of. Lab gathers elements from around the world, relying on civil aviation, electricity, human creativity and sociability, and that peculiar proclivity that we share: we understand the groove. And we love it. And I am very proud of it, proud of everyone for making it so good. I love it. I want it. Think of my grandfather the engineer, who dutifully and carefully contributed to the manufacture of aircraft. He did his job well, and because he was an engineer (and not a politician or a bureaucrat or any of the corrupt old men) the things he built actually worked. Planes fly. During the war, he contributed to the building of planes intended to annihilate an enemy. He kept the bomb release unit from one of the Lancasters involved in the bombing of Germany under the house, and was proud of it. He helped make the bomb release. As a child I was proud of his pride; it was only later I realised what he had done. Too late, then, and gone. And over. Then, after the war he contributed to the manufacturing of planes that made the world in which we live, mostly for the better. Aviation that was and is civil. Like him, we are capable of being involved in both these makings; what we involve ourself in, it matters. It has mass. And inertia. We have the makings of gods and of monsters.

At the centre of every labyrinth is a monster. To every year its labyrinth, to every labyrinth its monster. But a monster is nothing to be frightened of. When we have the courage to stare it in the eye, we see it for what it is: just a distorted version of ourselves. There is only us, after all. 1+2 = ‘They’ don’t exist, there is no ‘them’. Either we’re flying this plane, or no one is. It’s our future to make. I confess I find this extraordinarily daunting to admit. It does frighten me. I am not sure I have the strength to take responsibility for what I admit to be the truth about the twenty first century in which we actually live. But then: I took a tiny risk and got on a plane. But then I got on another plane, so - easy for me to say. My heart goes out to my friends in Japan, the country that I love, and to the future that I want to make together, still, in spite of everything. Thank you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Labyrinth 2011

There will be no big MNML SSGS report on Labyrinth this year. I do not feel I have much of a story left to tell. I have said it before: in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Of course there were some differences this year that I could discuss (including some changes that were not for the best, I would add), but the overarching narrative and structure was basically the same as previous years. It was another fantastic couple of days. The music was sublime: the best yet in terms of consistency and fit. The artists were all on top form, each performing to the occasion. The sound was pristine, as usual. The setting was beautiful, even if the first and last days were marred by plenty of rain. And if this year it was a different person closing the festival, the final moments were still very special. Quite simply, this was another Labyrinth and everything that entails.

I am not exaggerating when I say there was not a weak set across the festival, but I do want to highlight my three favourites. On the opening night, it was Kangding Ray’s masterful live performance, where he demonstrated how much contemporary techno could benefit from spending more time listening to Raster-Noton. On the second day, two techno jedis – Atom TM and Tobias – gave a masterclass in improvised analog techno. It was amazing how tight the performance was for something created in the moment. And on the final day, Peter Van Hoesen finished the festival with a truly inspired set that kept people dancing even as the rain poured down. PVH is not Dozzy and he did not try to be, he closed the festival in his own distinctive style, but with just as much passion and sincerity.

I would like to deeply thank Russ, Yasuyo, So, Steve, and all the artists and crew that contributed to making Labyrinth this year. I am incredibly grateful for all their hard work and dedication. Thanks, Labyrinth family.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

MNML SGGS at TodaysArt

Having barely survived the music and rain at Labyrinth, next stop is The Hague for the TodaysArt festival, which is happening this weekend! There really wasn't a bad set at Labyrinth, but two performances that really stood out were Kangding Ray and Peter Van Hoesen. And both will be playing at TodaysArt in the Hague (Kangding will also be in Brussels).

Plenty of time, thought and effort went into the programming for the MNML SSGS part of the club nights, which is in the 2nd room of Paard Van Troje. On Friday, it will begin slowly with the sounds of Nuel, before moving into the heavy beats of Raime. Next up with be the intense techno of Ancient Methods, with Delta Funktionen to finish off the night. On Saturday Ulf Eriksson will spin a few records to get the night going, before Senking goes deep bass diving. After that we've got the distinctive Oni Ayhun with visuals, followed by Ulf Eriksson playing some more, and last we have one of our favourites, Peter Van Hoesen, to close out the two nights. The timetables are:

23:00 - 00:30 Nuel
00:30 - 01:30 Raime (live)
01:30 - 02:30 Ancient Methods (live)
02:30 - 04:15 Delta Funktionen

23:00 - 23:30 Ulf Eriksson
23:30 - 00:30 Senking (live)
00:30 - 01:30 Oni Ayhun (live) + Mar Ritt (visuals)
01:30 - 02:30 Ulf Eriksson
02:30 - 04:30 Peter Van Hoesen

This is only a slice of what is on offer at TodaysArt. There really is an incredible amount going on, we'll try to catch as much as we can while still standing... Make sure to check the full timetables for Friday and Saturday. You can get tickets here, and for any other information look at the homepage.

We are really looking forward to this, hope to see some ssgs in The Hague!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My tones

For a while I've been wanting to put together a mixtape that was composed of new and recent music that I have been listening to and enjoying in 2011. And finally I have. In some ways this has parallels with the autumn 2010 mix I did, but the sounds and approach most definitely differ. While this is only a partial representation, it definitely shows a couple of significant sets of sounds and labels I have been exploring this year. There are quite a few tracks in there from Not Not Fun, the killer new Oni Ayhun remix, a track from one of my favourite labels of 2011, M=minimal, a whole bunch of different takes on synth music, plus some other random stuff. 

The title of the mix - "Dash forward, bravely!" - is a phrase that has stuck with me since first reading it in a very old Japanese book almost 10 years ago. I am very happy to have this mix over on Pontone, which has one of the most interesting and worthwhile mix series online, as far as the ssgs are concerned. It is a real pleasure to contribute to what they are doing. Much thanks to Pontone for having me.

Chris (MNML SSGS) presents “Dash forward, bravely!”

I hope you enjoy the mix. It is definitely much lighter than what you might normally expect from me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Peter Van Hoesen tracklist

We are still waiting on tracklists for the John Osborn and Keith Worthy mixes, and as soon as we get them, they will be posted. But we do have Peter's, so here it is:

Ssg special - Peter Van Hoesen

Lustmord: Fragmented - from Alan Lamb: Night Passage Demixed, Dorobo (1996)
Roll The Dice: Dark Thirty - from In Dust, Leaf (2011)
The Missing Ensemble: Zero-sum - from Zeropolis, Low Impedance Recordings (2007)
Sand Circles: Sun Circles - from Midnight Crimes, Not Not Fun Records (2011)
Ash Ra Tempel/Manuel Göttsching: Echo Waves - from Invention For Electric Guitar, Kosmische Musik (1975)
Rod Modell: Into Day - from Incense & Black Light, Plop (2007)
Rene Hell: Detuned Clarinet - from The Terminal Symphony, Type (2011)
Popol Vuh: Aguirre / Lacrima di Rei - from Revisited & Remixed 1970-1999, SPV Recordings (2011)
White Hills: Nothing Less / Don't Touch Me I'm Bleeding - from Stolen Stars Left For No One, Thrill Jockey (2010)
Outer Space: Deathless - from Outer Space, Arbor (2011)
Glen Branca: Augustus - from The Belly Of An Architect, Les Disques Du Crépuscule (1987)
Mountains: Live At The Triple Door - from Air Museum, Thrill Jockey (2011)
Bee Mask: Stop The Night -  from Elegy For Beach Friday, Spectrum Spools (2011)

Thanks again to Peter for the lovely trip. He's got a busy September, with the big 3 shows being Labyrinth in Japan, TodaysArt in The Hague, and a T2X night at Panorama Bar.

Very excited to see him back in Naeba next week. We are expecting something very special from PVH...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ssg special - Peter Van Hoesen

It is a genuine pleasure to have a new mix from a very good friend of the ssgs, Peter Van Hoesen. We've talked plenty about Peter on the blog, and we are biased as hell because we happen to like the guy a lot, so I'll just get straight to the mix. PVH and T2X may have become stamps for a distinctive brand of quality techno, but this has also meant that sometimes the breath of his musical palette has been obscured. While people have learned about his love for new beat, there has been less attention given to his interest in ambient, experimental and related sounds (beyond the obligatory nod to his previous production aliases). So we asked Peter if he'd like to contribute a mix in this vein, and here you have the results. Ambient wouldn't be quite correct, a more accurate - but also more awkward -  description might be non-dancefloor electronic music with a synth bent. Anyway, listen, relax, find out.

Ssg special - Peter Van Hoesen

As usual, tracklist up next week. Peter has a very busy schedule in September, with some killer gigs coming up:
9 September 2011- The Star Festival, Namura Zousenzyo Atochi, Osaka
10 September 2011 - Smoke Machine, Taipei
17-19 September 2011 - The Labyrinth, Naeba
24 September 2011 - TodaysArt, Den Haag
30 September 30 - Time To Express label night with PVH, Donato Dozzy, Pendle Coven & Samuli Kemppi - Panorama Bar, Berlin

After destroying Tokyo back in May, we are incredibly excited for his set at Labyrinth, and we are also very proud and happy that he is playing in the MNML SSGS room at TodaysArt. For other events and info on Peter and T2X, make sure to check the T2X homepage. And, of course, keep an eye out for remaining copies of "The Labyrinth" EP (T2X17), which are disappearing quickly.

Big thanks to Peter for the mix and we look forward to seeing him very soon in J-land. Enjoy...