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Jamira Estrada B2Beats Dominik André: Murky Rhythms Collide

The Club Zukunft residents craft a driving hour of EBM and wave, capturing their effortless flow behind the decks.

Club Zukunft is a special spot. Wedged between Zurich’s lively Langstrasse, a neighborhood notorious for its nightlife in one of Europe’s banking capitals, the casual passerby might not pick up on it straightaway. Arriving from the unobtrusive side entrance, the dim staircase past an oddly-placed gorilla statue leads down to the club’s large open dancefloor, where countless disco balls decorate the bar and ceiling. This is where Jamira Estrada and Dominik André first met, roughly two years ago, at a night showcasing members of the scene’s “exciting new generation of young DJs.”  

The description certainly rings true: Though neither are particularly tied to a specific genre, their expertise lies in creating a specific vibe—as exemplified by the force on display in their B2Beats mix. Ominous but straightforward industrial, wave, and synth-led tracks around the 100 BPM range are woven together seamlessly for a consistent groove that keeps heads and shoulders bopping. It’s an almost theatrical mix, with sudden breakdowns and dramaturgical sounds like engine combustion and scenes from old films strategically placed to surprise the unsuspecting listener. It doesn’t shy away from goofy, playful moments either, with elements like the maniacal giggles on Menko’s “She’s Called Bill” (a contemporary release from Barcelona label Domestica) blending into late ‘80s New Beat, such as Negrosex’s “Na Possa Solem.” 

  • Doubting Thomas - Clocks [Third Mind Records]

  • Alexander Arpeggio - Du Hast Kein Gesicht [Neubau]

  • Konsnix - 70A-1 [Macadam Mambo]

  • Adrian Bergmann - Final Destination [Unreleased - forthcoming Subject To Restrictions]

  • Beesmunt Soundsystem - Hypno [Hivern Discs]

  • Gamma Intel - Beyond Doubt [Pinkman]

  • Marlene Stark - Langguage Of Old Woman [Lustpoderosa]

  • Tolouse Low Trax - Jumping Dead Leafs [Bureau B]

  • Lastrack - Commandant Fried Chicken [Bamboo Shows]

  • Sinusoidal - Iwato Deviation [Pinkman]

  • Neu Verboten & Luigi Di Venere - The Struggle [Unreleased]

  • Debmaster Vs. Coco Lowres -Dönerboxing [Karl Marx Land]

  • Negrosex - Na Possa Solem [Bit Bites Brain]

  • Menko - She's Called Bill [Domestica]

  • Yan Kruau & Michele Ottini - Memorie Cannibali [Unreleased - forthcoming Subject To Restrictions]

The mix also includes several unreleased tracks from Subject to Restrictions, the skillfully-curated label André founded in 2019 to highlight emerging talents alongside veterans from the Swiss scene, focusing specifically on versatile electronic music “that can wear different hats.”  One example is the freshly-released By Night EP by enigmatic producer Ethimm, a pop-disco-house trifecta you might imagine in the record bag of someone like Gerd Janson. In only a year and a half, the label has put out five vinyl releases as well as a digital compilation, and two more releases on wax are planned for this year. When asked for any advice he’d give to someone starting a label, he stresses that running a label is more than just making music publicly available: “It’s about supporting an artist on his or her musical journey. It’s about finding strategies to create a context for the music together with the artist.” Much like his and Jamira’s philosophy in mixing, “it’s about telling a story.” 

When asked how the mix came together, André explains how the two had planned to meet for lunch and Jamira immediately launched into her ideas for how the mix should sound. “She was very clear about her idea on how the vibe should be,” he says. “This also sums up what I like about playing with Jamira.” He describes how when playing together, there’s a consistent balance between one person taking the lead in the track selection and the other person following along.  All of a sudden, “we switch, and she follows my idea. That way we kind of create our own, new idea. We don’t discuss this before we start playing or during the set. This communication happens on a meta level.”  

With their fresh take on leftfield electronics that span the gamut of house, wave, industrial, and breakbeat (a sound that, until recently, still raised one or two eyebrows among Zurich’s sometimes conservative crowds), Estrada and André have both become trusted residents at Zukunft, where André has also worked in a variety of roles—including driving artists to and from the airport to the club, becoming the club’s in-house press officer, editing and contributing to its zine (a treasure trove of artist interviews and scene features in German and English), as well as hosting the “Cosmic Livingroom” night with long-time friend and DJ partner Steve Marvin. 

While André hails from the suburbs of Zurich, Estrada grew up in the picturesque town of Chur, located by the border of Liechtenstein. It’s at the progressive art space Cuadro22, where Estrada’s parents work as curators, that she first learned how to spin and later began curating nights. “I grew up in a rather unusual household where the focus [was placed] on creative practices,” she admits. “With [Cuadro22] I was given a beautiful, exotic platform that had no relation to a certain scene back then.“ The possibility of having this kind of playground in Chur and “being able to invite DJs and musicians myself made it relatively easy for me to get involved and connected in Zurich’s music scene,” she says.   

The last few years in particular have been transformative for the scene, André notes. “A lot of young crews [like Somatic Rituals] entered the field,” meanwhile “bigger crews like [creative studio and label] Ozelot, Akoya Circles, and Les Points joined forces and started doing parties together or collaborating musically.” This effort was also supported by a new record store: Sihl Records, which established itself as the go-to place for all of the converging scenes in the field of electronic music. The friendly and unpretentious atmosphere in the shop and café has provided a casual space for people in the community to get to know each other outside of the club. Still, André says, the Swiss clubbing scene has work to do: “Old institutions claim the sovereignty of interpretation about how clubbing should be and who can participate. It’s time for a change.” 

Clubnights like CARA, hosted by Zukunft’s programmer Jenny Kamer, directly address the issues of gender diversity in lineups, while Somatic Rituals in Basel (the label home to Mafou, Kombé and Mukuna, who have each contributed to our FWD Transmissions series) is carving out its own space in Switzerland’s predominantly white electronic music scene. Estrada, who at that point had already relocated to study composition at the Zurich University of the Arts, agrees with André’s positive outlook on the growing space for diversity in Switzerland’s club scene. “It’s really amazing for me to see more and more women getting actively involved in the scene,” she says, cheekily adding how, one step at a time, “the young generation is trying to smash the patriarchy.”   

From an outside perspective, it seems that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Switzerland and its club scene was less affected, relatively speaking, though speaking to Estrada and André, this doesn’t equate to anything near a “healthy club scene.” While clubs were legally able to re-open this summer, according to an interview with Kamer in the local newspaper NZZ, this is less due to a low number of COVID-19 cases but more to a lack of support from the government, which ended its furlough schemes while clubs remained shut. Zukunft voluntarily decided to remain closed, taking a financial hit in doing so.

Meanwhile, in the club scene overall, some of the progressive strides made gave way for more traditional, ticket-sale-focused bookings. “In the beginning of the shutdown I had hope that people in strong positions [mainly owners of larger venues] would use their power to make significant changes,” he says. After the clubs opened back up after lockdown, he says, “almost every line-up was male-only.” To add insult to injury, “DJs from all over the world were booked, which means a lot of flights and CO2 emissions.” Having already established themselves as central figures in the region, Estrada and André were in the privileged position to keep a small touring schedule, compared to other DJs in the European circuit. However, “the so-called local scene,” he says, “was largely ignored by many clubs, although everyone was showing solidarity on social media during lockdown.”  

Estrada says it’s hard to sense a feeling of freedom celebrating in institutionalized forms right now, noting instead how raves and smaller, autonomous spaces are the best opportunity to present interesting and evolved electronic music.  She describes how playing under the plain moon, in a castle in the mountains, under a bridge or just somewhere out in nature, celebrating with only a handful of people, have been the best experiences for her this summer. “These experiences in times of isolation bring back the collectivity and bring us back to realize that music stands above everything.” 

Caroline Whiteley is an editor at Electronic Beats. Find her on Instagram.

Artwork by Sofia Apunnikova.

Published September 30, 2020. Words by Caroline Whiteley.