An Insider’s Guide to Dekmantel’s Best Sets

First off, I’d like point out that, having programmed all of the nearly 150 confirmed acts at Dekmantel, it’s been a bit of burden having to select just a few for this feature. With this year’s addition of the opening day and night programs, there’s even more to choose from. In a perfect world I’d be able to catch all of them, but obviously that’s impossible. So without further ado, here’s just one selection of shows I’m hugely looking forward to.

Thursday, July 30 @ Muziekgebouw: Opening Day Party with Manuel Göttsching, Autechre + Roy Ayers Lecture

Muziekgebouw is an astonishingly beautiful venue, and I’m absolutely psyched that the two acts at the top of our wishlist both agreed to perform in this special setting. Autechre’s music has been fundamental to my musical upbringing, and it took me a long, long time to time to persuade Manuel Göttsching to play the E2-E4 piece, which is such an influential record. We’ve just announced that we’ll start the night with an RBMA lecture with none other than Roy Ayers. This should be an amazing kick-off with a wide variety of music.

Friday, July 31 @ Amsterdamse Bos: San Proper, Stones Throw artists, Carlos Souffront & Mike Servito, Squarepusher and Joy Orbison

What better way to kick off the daytime festivities than with Dutch hero San Proper? He was the guest artist at our first-ever party eight years ago, and he’s been a close Dekmantel family member ever since. Later that day a trio of Stones Throw-affiliated artists—Madlib, J-Rocc and James Pants—will perform at the RBMA stage. I reckon one might not directly associate their music with what we usually feature, so I’m all the more interested to see how this will go down.

Between 6 and 9 p.m., Carlos Souffront and Mike Servito are scheduled to play the Selectors stage. They might not be the most famous American DJs, but they’ve been steadily making waves in the country’s underground scene for over a decade, and it looks like Europe is finally catching up. I’ve been checking out their mixes religiously, and by now I’ve stolen many records from them. Highly reccommended!

For the closing hour, I’m looking forward to Squarepusher’s unique live show, which should be special both from a musical and visual perspective. Right before that, I’ll definitely head to the Selectors stage to see our good friend Joy Orbison man the decks. We’ve kind of pressured him into playing the main stage in the previous two years, but this year he wanted to do something slightly different. Lets see what he’ll present to us.

Friday, July 31 @ Melkweg: Omar S & Surgeon

Dekmantel’s first official night is a big one! There’s no way one can argue with Surgeon. Like Suffront and Servito, he’s a DJ whose mixes I have listened to—or you could even say studied—religiously. He’s one of the very few techno DJs out there who has an all-across-the-board eclectic music selection. He plays fast and with a dark undertone, but he’ll surely drop a few curveballs. He’s a pioneer and absolute master in his field. During last year’s festival, the 3 Chairs were one of the big highlights. None of ’em are playing this year, but Omar S may just make up for that. He’s a sick producer, and he’s become quite the DJ too. If he drops the recently-released jam “I Wanna Know,” all will be just fine.

Saturday, July 31 @ Amsterdamse Bos: Antal, Hunee & Floating Points, Jeff Mills, Tom Trago & Cinnaman

On Saturday, Antal, Hunee & Floating Points are playing a five-hour set at the Selectors stage, and everyone’s talking about it. Jazz-funk? Turkish psyche? Boogie? African or Brazilian tunes? Dub and reggae? You name it, they’ll certainly have it, and most likely they’ll play it. Jeff Mills’ closing set last year was probably the most mind-blowing one I have ever seen him play, and I have seen him play quite a lot. It may have been the rollercoaster of emotions (it was the festival’s closing set, after all), or it may have been the ridiculously beautiful accompanying visuals by Arnout Hulskamp on the big LED-wall—but whatever it was, I just couldn’t believe what was happening. I simply had to ask him to play a closing slot again. I’m already gearing up for a few hours of space travel. Alternatively, go check out our boys Tom Trago and Cinnaman at the RBMA stage towards the end of the day. They have late slots, and they very much deserve them, for they’re two of the staple figures of Amsterdam’s vibrant scene.

Saturday, July 31 @ Melkweg: DJ Harvey, Gesloten Cirkel & Traxx

The man. The legend. DJ Harvey. Period. I once spent an evening with him over drinks at a bar on the upper floor of a hotel in Amsterdam, and it was just one crazy story after another. He has lived quite the life, has been DJing since God knows when and has reached a level of experience few ever will. In the meantime, temperatures will probably rise to uncomfortable levels in the Oude Zaal when Gesloten Cirkel and Traxx play. Gesloten Cirkel single-handedly made I-F decide to bring his label Murder Capital back to life after an eight-year hiatus, which should say a bit about the level of quality on display. I’m not even going to try describing or predicting what Traxx will play. Just go out there and surrender! You will not regret it.

Sunday, August 2 @ Amsterdamse Bos: Fatima Yamaha live, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Solar, Siriusmodeselektor

We’ve just re-released Fatima Yamaha’s “What’s A Girl To Do” on our label, and I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s currently having some sort of resurgence, as I’ve heard it played out by pretty much everyone this summer. Bas Bron is what you could call a bona fide studio wizard, and he has tons of new Yamaha material ready, so be sure to drop by the Boiler Room stage, as some of them will be debuted there. Motor City Drum Ensemble has three hours all to himself on Sunday at the beloved and fairly intimate Selectors stage. Directly after that, San Fransisco’s Solar will take over. He’s worth sticking around for, as he’s one damn fine selector—a prime example of what you may call a “DJ’s DJ.” The final closing slot of the final day is reserved for Siriusmo and the guys of Modeselektor. I’ve been blown away by them a dozen times, but it took me ages to persuade them to finally play for us. Guys, if you’re reading this, you’d better live up to our expectations! 😉

Sunday, August 2 @ Melkweg: DJ Fett Burger, Joey Anderson, Prosumer & Tama Sumo, Derrick May

I’m totally confident that the closing night will go down as a treat with DJ sets from Fett Burger, Joey Anderson, Prosumer and Tama Sumo. House and techno enthusiasts will have a hard time making choices there. I’m especially looking forward to Derrick May. We’ve only had him play once, quite a while back in 2009, as part of ADE. He’s been at it for so long but when he hits it right, he hits it right. I’m slightly worried that, after over 60 hours of music, no one will still have the stamina to see me DJ as part of Dekmantel Soundsystem for the very last set of the festival. I’m hoping for the best there!

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Hedonistic Rapture and Corporate Esponiage: ADE 2014 Reviewed

The biggest club festival in the world, Amsterdam Dance Event, takes place every October in various venues around the city. Its central nervous system is concentrated along two blocks of the Keizersgracht canal in the city’s Grachtengordel neighborhood west of the Red Light District, with headquarters at the Dylan Hotel, K264, and the Felix Meritis building. So, for five days every year, the western side of Keizersgracht between Runstraat and Reestrat is clogged with industry representatives who nervously tug on badges that dangle from ADE lanyards around their necks or bark into cell phones while they try to spot other industry representatives with whom they have scheduled a business meeting.

ADE is a three-headed beast that encompasses all facets of the contemporary electronic music universe, from business to pleasure and from underground heroes to EDM superstars, with a conference, a “Playground” and a festival. The conference is, according to its website, “the ultimate annual business and inspiration platform in the field of electronic music,” and it inspires business people with a series of lectures, panels, and networking opportunities. The Playground consists of film screenings, art exhibits, pop-up performances, and tech showcases that take place throughout the city. The festival is the fun bit, the parties and club nights that occur after dark at local spots like Trouw, the Sugarfactory, and the North Sea Jazz Club. These three heads merge all aspects of club culture and the clubbing industry into one comprehensive electronic music fair.

The designated subject of this Electronic Beats article is the 19th annual ADE, 15-19 October 2014. Total attendance for the festival clocked in at 350,000, with 5,200 conference-goers, 15,000 Playgrounders, 125 participating venues, 400 events, and over 2,200 artists, according to statistics sent via email by the ADE press agent two days after it closed. Electronic Beats’ assigned correspondent, me, was one of 425 journalists and media representatives at the festival this year, and I absorbed as many of its charms as I could, but the sprawling layout was both exhausting and impossible to navigate to its fullest potential without a significant budget for taxi rides, or at least another person to split the fares.

Highlights included closing sets at Trouw on Thursday and Friday nights, first by the Hessle Audio crew and then by resident DJ Sandrien. The three Hessle honchos—Pangaea, Pearson Sound, and Ben UFO —banged out a massive and suitably eclectic back-to-back set that paid equal attention to slightly weird and salty techno jackers as it did to jewel-bright UK garage jams. After several thrilling hours, they were joined by some of the other artists who had been booked on the same bill, a roster that included the likes of Clone label boss Serge and Dutch stalwart Dexter.

The next night was more stylistically focused. The only break in a steady flow of techno came from Sandrien, who opened her set with an ambient track that went on for longer than any non-resident would have dared. From there, she delved into a few hours of heads-down techno tunes that she blended with an expert level of dexterity over the course of several minutes per transition, which made over-the-shoulder voyeurs astonished and envious.

But the lived experience of clubbing in Amsterdam contrasted sharply with the intellectual abstractions that took place at ADE’s industry panels. On Thursday, I hiked nine floors to attend a discussion titled “The Academisation of Nightlife,” which took place in conference room F10 of the Felix Meritis. The building is named after the Felix Meritis Foundation, the organization that opened the building in 1788 in order to provide Amsterdam with a cultural center for the arts and sciences that simultaneously promoted industry.

A few minutes into the introductions, I realized that I had been looking at the Friday program instead of Thursday’s, and had accidentally arrived at a panel called “The Future of Music Copyrights in the Digital World.” In retrospect, it seems ironic that I hadn’t planned to attend the discussion, as it revolved around several companies’ efforts to eliminate chance, happenstance, and mystery from nightlife using unseen surveillance technologies to map out everything that happens therein.

The panelists, six male representatives from copyright-related companies, analyzed technology that monitors live DJ sets and identifies the tracks that were played in order to distribute royalties to each of the artists featured that night. They debated the possibility of developing technology capable of identifying 100 percent of the tracks played during a given DJ set, an aim that seems to be at odds with the mystical and liberal spirit of clubbing, as well as the environment that successful nightclubs attempt to create.

Clubs are, ideally, temporary autonomous zones where people are freed from the behavioral norms imposed on them in everyday life. Particularly famous clubs like Trouw employ no-photo policies in order to (among other functions) seal its interior from the outside world so that people can focus on living in the moment instead of attempting to capture it for future reflection. Yet there’s obviously money to be made in violating these foundational premises of club culture, which allow us to feel safe and separate from the rest of the world, by supervising and monitoring those spaces with voyeuristic technologies that clubbers don’t know are in place. (Obviously, now we know about Kuvo and its ilk, but it was only after those companies and their wares were established in nightclubs and the music industry that we started to talk about and reflect on them.)

It turns out that many of the ephemeral and unphotographed DJ sets I’ve enjoyed have been recorded, audited, and cataloged by external business interests. Of course, knowing about this corporate espionage after the fact doesn’t retroactively change the experience in a practical sense—they were still liberating adventures because I perceived them to be that way at the time—but I don’t think that’s necessarily proof that these technologies have negligible effects. What it does is cast a different light on the attraction of going out to clubs, which is to get lost in hedonistic rapture and leave all other woes somewhere outside the club’s impenetrable walls. And in this light, it seems like the ideal of clubbing nirvana, and all the measures clubs and DJs and clubbers take to achieve it, encourages us to ignore any facets of that experience that aren’t immediately present and pertinent. The troubling detail is that those other components of the dance music universe are still there, and the empty mindscape required to achieve clubbing nirvana leaves us vulnerable manipulation by those other forces, sort of like the way TV programming is designed to inspire in its viewers a mood conducive to accepting messages from its advertising sponsors.

If that comparison seems a bit hysterical to you, I’m curious to know exactly why. I’m also curious as to whether the reader can identify with any of these realizations, reservations, and skepticisms. Furthermore, I’m concerned not to give the impression that I think track ID technology is bad, or that it negatively affects club culture and its constituents, when I’m really more interested on the relationship between club culture and industry, and how their basic impulses might be at odds. After all, if ADE has taught me anything, it’s that business and music and technology and art and clubbing are elements of the same ecosystem.

And, if you think this piece over-intellectualizes a technology whose aim and effect is to improve an existing system by distributing royalties more fairly, I’ll admit that it strikes me as gullible to think that a business’s only or primary interest lies anywhere besides profit. It also strikes me as gravely naïve to think that, even if noble non-profit motivations greatly influence the development and deployment of those technologies, those premises aren’t subject to change at some point in the future. And what really bugs me is the idea that those changes might happen as imperceptibly as the technologies were installed.

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Hercules and Love Affair Soundsystem live in Amsterdam

Few developments in history can top the moment when humans stopped using music to exalt god and started to use it to exalt the body. Disco and house was, of course, built upon soul music’s divergence into the secular—and few contemporary acts manage to preserve this message in a way that still feels vital. Hercules and Love Affair have consistently been one of them. Ever since 2008’s self-titled debut, they have consistently proved fluent the language of yearning, heartache and release; reverent purists worshipful at the altar of dance music history, who, unlike the 2012 crop of DIY house outsiders, don’t feel the need to piss in the holy water just yet. A band whose Otherness is worn like a birthright. That the post-industrial setting for tonight’s stripped back Hercules and Love Affair Soundsystem (note: Soundsystem) gig in Amsterdam is called Trouw—Dutch for “faithfulness”—seems strangely apt because, if anything, they seem more protective of their roots than ever.

 

Opening their set with the baggy shirted strut of “My House” ensures the attending crowd’s blood is pumping to all the right places. The musky baritone of Rouge—one of two vocalists cum hype-people charged with leading the congregation for tonight’s stripped back affair—does a fine job of keeping it there. When the second guest vocalist, Gustaph, dressed in a monochrome Prada-style trackie, begins recanting “I Feel Love” over an undulating, disarmingly bodily arpeggio the crowd offers up vocal exhortation in concert and, for a moment, we all wish we could pull off knee-length shorts and a gold bootlace tie. Edging into a reinforced reworking of Tiga’s “You Gonna Want Me” sees the crowd lose their voice: “SING!” screams Rouge, and still the crowd’s in-depth knowledge of 2006 falls short. Awk. After an unexpected tract of heads down, eyes-up techno, a window is cracked and “You Belong” offers all the primal comfort of flesh upon flesh, the insinuatingly visceral synth vamps setting the stage for a scene stealing turn by Andy Butler. Hitherto remaining wizard-like in the shadows, he relishes his time in the spotlight with an impeccably executed duckwalk. This is the second gig in so two months which has descended into a vogue down (the last being Zebra Katz in Berlin), and the granite-flecked, Masters at Work timbres that Butler frequently recourses to tonight feel both timely and timeless. When a member of the crowd clambers onstage to do battle it’s hardly surprising. Vogue, after all, was one of the things EB and Andy Butler discussed at length in our interview this Autumn. A fine development, we say, even if the outbreak of vogue limbs in the audience leaves something to be desired.

If, after two hours, the throng of sweat-slicked and loyal struggle to keep their energy up it perhaps isn’t all that surprising. This is tough, muscular, music that demands a purely corporeal response. The heartsick torch songs that Hercules and Love Affair did and still do so well are banished in this functional Soundsystem setup, or else reworked into unholy basement club bangers that taste of sweat and metal. Still, Rouge and Gustaph are hard taskmasters who have little truck with tired Friday night legs: we’re kept on our feet until the bitter end where we’re invited onstage to wring out the last of our adrenaline in the company of Rouge and a now shirtless Butler. Just when we feel our bodies crashing— for bed, for respite, for the love of god, Rouge poses the one question that surely echoes through the ages: “Come on, people! Are you tired? Don’t you want to come to the after party?” Remember to say a prayer for us. ~

Photos: Jos Kottmann

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Electronic Beats presents Hercules and Love Affair Soundsystem in Amsterdam

We are pleased to announce that this winter, Electronic Beats will be presenting a string of European dates featuring Hercules and Love Affair Soundsystem. The stripped back setup, featuring Andy Butler and a small coterie of singers, will kick off proceedings on November 23, 2012 at Amsterdam’s Trouw with more dates to follow. Unfortunately, this is all we can disclose at the moment, but keep your eyes on the site for further news.

Here at EB, we’ve been into H&LA ever since their self-titled debut album, released back in 2008 and spawning the newly minted house classic “Blind” and in 2009 we got them to play at EB Festival Prague. Their second album Blue Songs saw BPitch Control’s songstress Aerea Negrot and vocalist Shaun J. Wright join the fray. It’s hardly a surprise that for the third album Andy Butler—as he explains in an interview published on EB today—has recruited a whole new set of performers and vocalists under the H&LA banner. Fancy getting a preview of the new line-up and material? Then you know where you need to be.

 To purchase tickets head over to www.TrouwAmsterdam.nl

 

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