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Swan Meat B2Beats DJH: Melodies for Fallen Angels

Fierce club disruptions and raucous edits from two Cologne-based experimentalists operating under the alias House of Suns.

  • Swan Meat & DJH - Vespers

  • Scott Walker - Farmer In The City 

  • Tim Tama - A Faint Taste Of Blood In The Mouth

  • Ingrate - Hoax 

  • James Ruskin - Nocke

  • Metrist - VV Squi

  • House of Suns - Untender

  • LINKIN PARK - BLEED IT OUT (MURDER CLUB & djX BOOTLEG)

  • Imaabs & Lechuga Zafiro - Sofoca

  • KegOne - Run Wi D Riddim

  • M.E.S.H. - 10 Alam

  • Nídia - Nunun

  • Zaliva D - Groan 

  • Rogue Filter - ADSR

  • Schism - ID

  • Felix Lee - Civilian 

  • 7038634257 - Love Unbound (Underside)

  • DJ NJ Drone - 10 Cones

  • Ouxh - Coma Void

  • Sidelnikov - Deserted Factory 

  • Prayers ft Pictureplane - Trust Issues

  • Bjork - Bachelorette (Alec Empire "The Ice Princess and the Killer Whale" Remix)

  • Rapala700 & Nahshi - Hadze (Exploited Body Remix)

  • Kamixlo - Poison

  • AN-I + UNHUMAN - Entschuldigung

  • Mistress - Mjolnir

  • D’eon - Body of Christ, Save Me

If Swan Meat and DJH were to transmit a single message on their B2Beats mix, it might be to shake off the bad juju of this ghoulish year. The hard drums of Tim Tama’s “A Faint Taste Of Blood In The Mouth” crash into Scott Walker’s dramatic “Farmer in the City,” jumpstarting a raucous joyride, until Ingrate’s electro-tinged “Hoax” swerves left field into the disparate rhythms of progressive club producers like Metrist, Kamixlo, Imaabs, and Lechuga Zafiro. A cheeky Linkin Park edit and a new lead track from their collaborative House of Suns project, “Untender,”  tops off the hour, which altogether goes harder than a virtual drift race through cyberspace.

At its heart, though, is an ode to the pair’s four years of friendship, a 21st-century tale of cross-continental musical connections. Swan Meat (real name Reba Fay) and DJH (Philip Müller) were both featured on an AMEN compilation in 2016 and began communicating through Twitter DMs, exchanging production tips and bonding over a shared sense of aesthetics. Eventually, Müller flew out to visit Fay in Chicago, where she was living at the time.
That first night, “we got a bunch of candy, alcohol, and energy drinks and listened to Nightcore covers of My Chemical Romance all night,” Fay says, referring to the YouTube trend of high-pitched, sped up covers often accompanied by anime visuals. A mutual fascination with this kind of bizarro internet phenomena, as well as a shared sense of playfulness, was foundational in the deep friendship between them. On one of their first meetings, Fay recalls how she and Müller took a bus about three miles to they could go to the only gas station in her area that sold Faygo, a Midwestern soda brand. “Oh, and we did parkour all around downtown Chicago,” she adds.
DJH
In 2017, the two collaborated with Japanese experimental artist Yoshitaka Hikawa on the haunting Knife Splits EP while continuing to release records individually, such as Müller’s Sanguine EP under his DJH alias, and Fay’s Blood Echo/Wraith. They also played together for the first time at a party called Cameo in Los Angeles. It was Fay’s first-ever back-to-back, and at the time, she says, “[Müller] was so much of a better DJ than I was. We really just clicked.” Their B2Beats Mix, she notes, is an attempt to “at least capture the spirit of our back-to-backs, even though we’re locked in our dungeon.”
Three years ago, Fay relocated to Cologne, a move she describes as motivated by wanting a change of scenery and desiring to work more closely with Müller, who is from there. It’s nearly impossible to avoid some slight jabs at Berlin’s scene when speaking to two artists who have made a concerted effort to live outside of the German capital. Müller describes feeling overwhelmed with the hustle culture that permeates throughout the creative sector of Berlin. “There’s like this ambient air of real, cruel, competitiveness under the veneer of this sort of scene,” he observes, noting how “you can’t really be friends with someone on a pure level. There’s always some utilitarian aspect that doesn’t feel real.”
“I feel like we always meet someone who’s – I don’t know – somehow involved in the cultural sector [there],” he continues. “From the music industry, the German music industry, all the major labels are there. It’s so annoying to always have to be surrounded by people who are in the cultural sphere. Everyone has their own weird hustle and tries to somehow take advantage of something that you have. In Cologne, it’s just a bunch of people who don’t care what you do, and I think that’s really nice.”

In Cologne, it's just like a bunch of people who don't care what you do, and I think that's really nice.

Swan Meat. Photo by ©Frederike Wetzels

Müller and Fay note how both of them have always valued the detached approach of collaborating online and connecting with like-minded crews from across the globe like Genome 6.66Mbp and Bala Club. “That very literal physical distance between you and the other person when you’re collaborating digitally [doesn’t allow] space for someone’s ego to come in,” she says, noting how their joint project, House of Suns, is a balancing act of both of their aesthetics. “When we reflect on House of Suns, [we’ve made] this Rococo, Baroque-like, over-the-top [functional club] music.” Müller, whose face remains mostly hidden behind a curtain of curly bangs throughout our conversation adds, “we were almost a bit scared that these tracks were too dumbed down, too four to the floor—especially for the current moment without [a club space in which to play them].” But it becomes clear that their approach to releasing music also comes from a certain sense of flippant irony. “I feel that was just a funny gesture when everyone is like, ‘We have to release an introspective ambient album to reflect the current—” Fay jumps in, “—social atomization of a pandemic time.”

Whereas before, Fay’s body of work could be tucked under the clumsily titled “deconstructed club” umbrella, her recent releases, such as her Fleshworld EP and recent self-released tracks like JEALOUS and SWAN’S LAMENT tap into the raw energy of techno and even hardstyle.

Not having a place to play makes me want to make four to the floor, just straight-up hard techno because I can sort of visualize the imaginary club space in my mind.

Although it may seem paradoxical to venture further into “four to the floor, just straight up hard techno music,” Fay sees this as a channel to release “some sort of pent-up energy brewing inside of me.” She explains that not having a physical space to play out has allowed her to “visualize the imaginary club space in my mind”, and blast bangers out regardless.
In a recent blog post, Fay cited an interview Burial gave with the late Mark Fisher about his vision of angels as her guiding light in a global pandemic. This year of uncertainty, she candidly reveals, has thrown into question her career as an independent artist. “In the interview, Burial doesn’t talk about angels like this terrifying orphan-like beings, nor are they these perfect cherubs who we see on tissue [boxes] and paintings,” she says. “Angels are other people, especially those people that you don’t see. You see them passing you on the street, or you see them in McDonald’s, or you hear their voices sort of calling out.”
She pauses, turning to Müller. “I remember recently, we were hanging out here together and we heard some people down the street having kind of a Secret Corona Rave, and they were listening to like, ‘Strong Enough’ by Cher and Black Eyed Peas, Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ and screaming,” she recalls. Her curiosity about who these people were felt inspiring to her. “Those aren’t people, they’re angels, right? I don’t know them. But I want to make music for them. If I can make music for them or about them, I can know them in some way.”

Untender is out on House of Sun’s Bandcamp.

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

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Published November 18, 2020. Words by Caroline Whiteley.