Throughout the week, Electronic Beats has rolled out the final segments of our five-part 72 Hours in Antwerp series, exploring techno’s Belgian roots. The Flemish, as A.J. Samuels and Mark Smith note, have been moving to mechanized rhythms and partying for days on end since before the concept of rave even came into being. In fact, music from Belgium made up a major proportion of the records circulating through Berlin’s early techno scene. In his guide, former Tresor resident and Berlin techno pioneer Tanith helps us navigate some key tracks from the heyday of Belgian rave.
This track remains a Belgian anthem, and may be the boldest example of Wagnerian techno yet. Its release led to countless imitations, and the style quickly became overused and went out of favor.
Zsa Zsa Laboum “Something Scary”
New Beat par excellence. Bold and dark in a post-acid rush, with clear roots in EBM.
Agaric “I’m Gonna Beat Dis”
The title says what I always enjoyed about this music, which I like to call “positive aggression.”
Edwards & Armani “Acid Drill”
A combination of acid and drill from Belgium—the absurdity knows no end. I still laugh out loud when I hear this.
Ravebusters “Mitrax (In-Fluid)”
Contrary to popular legend, Belgium stood alongside Detroit and the UK as a pillar of the early Tresor sound. This is Belgian techno as it was at home in Tresor.
Photon “Doin’ Our Thang”
For me, still something like a techno freedom anthem.
The Second Wave “Let the Groove Move (Dub Mix)”
This track is still the perfect soundtrack for coming out into the light after eight hours in a dark club and taking your transport of choice through the Berlin streets, looking for your next kick. Try it out!
Liaison D “He Chilled Out”
It doesn’t have to be nosebleed all the time. This track proves the Belgians’ versatility.
Lhasa “The Attic”
This 1990 track laid the blueprint for what would become trance from ’93 onwards, without too much sugar and kitsch.
The Age of Love “The Age of Love”
Better known for its equally brilliant Jam & Spoon remix, this track is an Age of Love original.
Synthek & Audiolouis kick off Unwise Remix Series #1 with a tripping, atmospheric techno rework from Polar Inertia and a music video for the original track.
We’re easing into the week with some rich and enveloping techno courtesy of Berlin-based duo Synthek and Audiolouis. The pair recently released Unwise Remix Series #1, the first in a trilogy of reworks of tracks from their debut album Unwise, which they released via their own Natch Records label last summer. The inaugural package features remixes by Tadeo, Aubrey, and the mysterious Parisians known as Polar Inertia, who’s simmering nine-minute journey is embedded in full below.
“One of the most important goals we achieved over the last few years was to build a decent reputation as a techno label,” Synthek told us. And indeed, the Natch crew’s efforts to establish themselves has paid off on the Unwise Remix Series, as they enlisted a batch of well-respected techno artists like Varg, Neel, and Sleeparchive to flip the tracks. They’ve also won over the movie buffs at The29Nov Films, who created a video to go along with the original version of the album’s title track, “Unwise,” which clip you can peep for the first time in the player below.
Late last year, we tapped Bronze Teeth to compile a mix for us. They had recently released their debut 12″ on Diagonal, the noisy label run by Powell, a staple at experimental festivals like Atonal 2014 and CTM 2015. The duo, a collaborative project between Richard Smith and Factory Floor’s Dominic Butler, sent back one of the best sets we received all year. It was a gritty and punk-influenced trip through tightly-wound acid lines and busted-up mechanics from the likes of Hieroglyphic Being, Metasplice, and EBM icons D.A.F., but we couldn’t post it because the stellar tracklist caught the attention of SoundCloud’s copyright detection algorithm. At long last, we’ve found a workaround, which explains why this EB Radio special is available on YouTube.
Update: You can also download the mix for a limited time, here.
Earlier this week, Lady Gaga instigated something of a supernova in the techno underground by enlisting UK techno DJ Surgeon to warm up the crowd before she took the stage during her artRAVE tour stop in Paris.
LADY STARLIGHT and SURGEON ARE MURDERING IT WITH SOME purely LIVE TECHNO!
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) November 24, 2014
The performance was live-streamed on Yahoo and later uploaded to YouTube, and the video shows the underground stalwart waltzing onstage in jeans and a t-shirt emblazoned with the legend “Constant shallowness leads to evil,” with Lady Gaga’s longtime friend and former collaborator Lady Starlight on his arm. The pair proceeds to pound out a live set of heads-down techno, which eases at one point to provide Starlight the opportunity to explain how she ended up jamming on hardware with Surgeon. “One day I was in Birmingham, and I shouted out from the stage one of my favorite techno artists, Surgeon,” she tells the crowd, and pauses to indicate that the crowd should cheer at the mention of his name. “Surgeon! Thank you. And he was in the audience, and we became really good friends, and it’s like, dreams come true.”
Surgeon shared the backstory with Bloc Weekend yesterday. Here’s the short version: He and his wife went to one of Lady Gaga’s concerts in his hometown, Birmingham, and heard Lady Starlight’s shout-out. After the show, he introduced himself to Starlight, and thus began an intense artistic connection and rewarding friendship that challenged pop listeners’ expectations and the techno intelligentsia’s illusion of isolation from the mainstream universe, which in many ways sums up Lady Gaga’s entire artistic mission. Starlight invited him to perform with her at the next artRAVE stop in Birmingham, and after that performance, Gaga invited them to play at Monday’s show in Paris as well.
We sent Surgeon some questions that Bloc Weekender didn’t ask.
Did you know or meet Lady Gaga, or did she reach out to you out of the blue?
Honestly, I didn’t know much at all about Lady Gaga before all this. Although I do remember seeing her perform on a Japanese pop music show—she played a version of one of her songs just singing and playing the piano. That really struck me, so I knew she was a “real artist.”
Were you surprised when Lady Gaga asked you to open? Or was it Lady Starlight who asked you to hop on stage with her?
The idea didn’t come from Lady Gaga. After meeting at the first Birmingham gig, Lady Starlight came to stay with me during the off days between their UK tour dates, so we got to hang out a lot. We did some live jams together in my studio and we connected instantly. No effort. So much fun. Since their tour was returning to Birmingham in November, we had the idea to perform together. It all came together very naturally.
You were playing with Lady Starlight, so was your set any different from what you’d normally play?
We played a totally improvised live set. Whenever I perform with someone else, it’s like unique conversation between us. I’m very picky about who I do that with, and there has to be an almost telepathic connection for it to work. We made heavy, raw techno. It was very important for us to present real, raw techno and not water it down, or try to make it more palatable. It had to be the real deal, otherwise we would have been doing everyone a disservice.
Did you have any personal contact with Gaga backstage? What were those interactions like?
Yes, she was very enthusiastic about the onstage chemistry and raw energy created by our performance. She made time to hang out with me and my wife at the Paris aftershow party. She was having a great time along with everyone else.
Have you performed in these sorts of contexts to those kind of audiences before? What was it like playing to huge spaces and a non-techno-oriented audience? How was it similar or different to the shows and environments you’re used to playing in?
I’ve played to very large audiences before, but never in that situation. As I said, I love how absurd it was. My focus was really on the connection and improvising with Lady Starlight. We were having a great time up there.
Playing this sort of set puts you in an unusual position for an “underground” techno producer. Do you think this is the beginning of a trend of co-opting techno for “pop” contexts? Or rather, what does “pop” get out of affiliating with techno?
I don’t think it’s the beginning of any connection between pop and techno. What we did was too raw. I’d like to think that Lady Gaga fans got to hear something new that night and one or two may investigate further. Bear in mind that Lady Starlight has been opening the whole seven-month tour with her no-compromise techno live set and telling the audience what it is.
Do you like Lady Gaga’s music?
I really like about half of ARTPOP. The first few songs are awesome.
Are you going on tour with her? Or were these gigs a special case?
Just dipping in on two dates of their seven-month tour has made me realize how hard they all work. No thanks! I just take everything as it comes, no plans. I love the techno gigs I play so much. This experience has given me a really different perspective on everything and I’m really, really touched by the overwhelmingly positive response from techno music fans, I know this whole thing has pushed a lot of peoples buttons, so seeing so many people “get it” really means a lot to me.
This isn’t the first time we’ve asked an artist about what it was like to play with Lady Gaga—in 2012, we hit up Wolfram to chat about sharing the stage with the pop titan, which you can check out here. Also related: the astute dissection of ARTPOP harsh noise legend William Bennett did for Electronic Beats last year.
The mysterious Swedish producer Abdulla Rashim makes music that hums and sweats; the tribalistic, humid grooves evoking a certain kind of out of body trippiness. Perhaps it’s not insignificant that he puts on open air parties in woodland for his friends. But if his previous releases on Semantica (a sometime home of Vladislav Delay and Silent Servant) and his own label Abdulla Rashim Records demonstrate his commitment to pushing his wing of dark-hued techno, his debut album goes even deeper into the woods. The full-length format works in Rashim’s favor as his long form, atmospheric productions are allowed time to breathe and develop—even if they lead to precisely nowhere. And really, what’s creepier than that? Be the first to hear Unanimity, released through Rashim’s new label Northern Electronics, above. Let us know what you think in the comments.
Abdulla Rashim’s Unanimity is released on May 12th through Northern Electronics.