As debuts go. This is unequivocally s**t hot. Smokey, rebellious while not afraid to tear at the edges of sound with its grainy, dark synthesizers Stimmhalt’s initial release for the label contrasts it all with some timely, rather sublime percussion adding a sense of soulful, funkiness to the arrangement. Evolving over some eight minutes and ending up with soaring, improvised instrumentation breathing bliss this is yet another standout from the label. Which, in this instance comes with a tougher rendition from Pezzner whose undulating sequences are things of compelling beauty.
Breathing like an old-time soul classic the beginning of Mitchel Kelly and Thijs Bastiaans aka Paris Green’s emotionally resonating You Got To Try feels every bit like a great record, right down to its relatively short life-span of 4:20. Time is inconsequential here as the smoky, downbeat vibes gather their own pace amid unfussy drums, low-end bass and David Stolk’s yearning vocal delivery. Ghost, then lifts the mood a touch with suggestive keys hinting towards a climactic sense of occasion inside shuffling machine drums and wobbly synth lines plus voices. But back to the title track and Steve Bug’s two equally striking remixes with the warm exhilaration of his Sunset version sounding particularly wonderful, while the Club Dub does just that via stripped down beats acquainted with fizzy synthesiser sequences.
If on the other hand you never want to leave the dancefloor Kevin Knapp returns to the fold to point you in the right direction. There’s something just ‘right’ about these productions beginning with Bumpin’ as it grinds its way forcefully into your line of vision. The beats and bass are tight while the commanding vocal delivery exists in its own space accompanied by whirring synths plus a heavy yet understated bassline. Flipped then follows in a similar mood, although with more throb added to the bass with the excellent title track, Find Me contrasting nicely via an edgy combination of tempting vocals care off Baby Luck and elastic, probing bass plus deliciously moody keys electrifying the atmosphere. Without Purpose, ends on yet another high with a familiar vocal sample working its way across the stereo field amid fiery snare drum hits and super-funky basslines. Lovely.
2017 sees the launch of your new alias: Rowee with a single for Rebellion. What’s the story behind the name and why have you chosen to use an alias?
Rowee comes from a story based on a profound feeling for music, representing an alter ego; it is the darkest part of me, and at the same time the hypnotic and mental part, music with a soul. Artists often have several different faces, and the decision to hide a side of myself in Rowee was immediately the right choice. I needed to somehow express a part of me that I hadn’t yet revealed.
The release ‘Disguise EP’ features collaborations with Thomas Gandey, KnowKontrol and Simon Wish. Tell us about how your working relationship came about with these artists? And with label itself?
I met Damian Lazarus at a party in Tuscany, where we talked about some demos I had tucked away in a drawer… I always thought that the best “home” for Rowee would be Crosstown Rebels / Rebellion. Damian Lazarus is a great artist whom I hold in the highest esteem, both for his musical choices as a DJ, as well as for the high quality of his labels. The Disguise EP represents a “voyage” divided into three different sections; “Earth To You” created together with our friend Thomas Gandey describes sensuality and essentiality through music. We created a minimal environment that serves as a background for a sensual, cutting edge voice. We got to know Thomas a few years ago, sharing the console at a well-known Italian club. We started collaborating on that day and have since cultivated a valuable friendship and in-tune relationship. The second track that gives the EP its name is “Disguise”, a collaboration with the singer KnowKontrol, a profound track with an authentic soul, “a lost sense of complicity hidden behind the guise of two people pretending that their relationship is OK”. I have always admired the vocals by KnowKontrol on tracks like “After Dark” by &ME on “KeineMusik” or “Shadows” on “Saved”, so the decision to collaborate with him was easy. The voyage concludes with “It Shows You”, a collaboration with our friend from New York, Simon Wish. We developed the track with an acidic sound and the right energy for the dancefloor, a perfect conclusion for this 3-Track EP.
Can you talk us through how you created one of the tracks from the initial inspiration to the final production? How would you describe the studio that you like to use?
Work in the studio is usually very fast and straightforward. I try to convey my concept based on inspiration from past artists and sounds that are often beyond just the dancefloor, to then go into the studio and work on all the ideas together and develop the album. I really like using Moog, Modular, Minimonsta systems; they are often a source of great inspiration for creating an album. In the case of the single “Disguise”, the entire concept was born from the vocals and the feeling they expressed; I just needed to create the right costume to perfectly fit the meaning conveyed by the voice. So with an ever-present and essential groove, a hypnotic riff and a moog synth that gives the perfect energy behind the vocals. The result was exactly what I was looking for, the right balance between groove and synths, emphasizing the vox to their maximum.
You’re playing at the BPM Festival in January. How do you prepare for such an event? And what are your feelings on the rise of festival culture (as opposed to having a residency in a Club)?
I think the BPM Festival today represents one of the top festivals in the world, with an enviable line up and the incredible backdrop of Playa Del Carmen. I am much honored to be part of the official line up. I love festivals that take place under the sun, giving the atmosphere positive vibes, plenty of smiles and energy. I don’t think it’s possible to compare a club and a festival, because they each give you a different sensation… a club makes you feel “at home” with the contact among the people immediate creating a great feeling on the dancefloor, with the “detachment” between the console and the public is totally cancelled out in a club. In contrast, a festival does not really have this aspect, because detachment is unavoidable, but the energy of a big crowd gives you a one of a kind, amazing sensation.
Tell us about your choice of music for the forthcoming BPM2017 compilation? What for you makes the perfect club track?
I usually don’t choose the music before the event, and I always try to let myself be transported by the emotions that are generated by the dancefloor as I am playing; that’s when I select the tracks for my set, often alternating my works with those from other artists. I don’t think a perfect track exists, but I do think that a DJ’s approach to the dancefloor makes any track the perfect one.
What’s the scene like in Florence at the moment? What are your favourite Bars & Clubs?
Florence is an incredible city, full of beautiful places for organizing parties, and the underground scene is very interesting. There are many talented people and interesting parties happening, like Nobody’s Perfect at Tenax, the Next Tech Festival (for the techno scene) and many others, like the Tropical Animals, who represent the essence of the Florentine underground scene.
How did you first get into producing music and where did you learn about it?
I began producing about 10 years ago, but my first real approach to music was when I was young and I studied how to read a stave and understand the notes, as well as studying acoustic guitar. I have always thought that studying is important, but I think it is just as important to learn from people who have a lot of experience. For example, Fabrizio Giovannozzi (a well-known engineer who passed away a few years ago) is one of those people I always admired for his body of knowledge and experience in the world of sound mixing. I learned a lot from him and I began to understand many aspects that cannot always be found in books. It is important to listen to and capture what you can from everyone, to then reinvent it within your own mind.
What are your plans for 2017?
2017 is just the beginning. Rowee debuts in the month of January with two very important EPs, one on the Steve Bug label and the other on the Damian Lazarus label. I am very happy to be part of an important crew like the “Crosstown Rebels / Rebellion”. I am already working on new tracks, and why not, maybe a new album? So stay tuned!
Leonardo Gonnelli’s brand new alias launches into 2017 with a renewed vigour featuring three new tracks and collaborations. The opening gambit combines the effervescing production talents of perineal Magazine Sixty favourite Thomas Gandey with the aptly spacey Earth To You entailing the airwaves with dark, smoky drums and fizzy electronics running over the course of several thrilling minutes. Disguise, featuring KnowKontrol follows on with more rigorous drum programming accompanying throbbing basslines plus probing tones and Dwayzo Lawrence’s yearning vocals. Leaving the suggestive Simon Wish collab It Shows You to end this first rate release with punchier percussion fuelling energetic rhythms and forward thinking propositions.
Your new single: One for the Heads EP is coming out soon on Rebellion. Each track connects between the transcendent power of the dancefloor and an inner spiritual quest. Can you tell us about how you discovered these ideas and what they mean to you in practice?
A lot of our inner spiritual quest has come from our own individual paths, our trials, and our soul searching and we try to reflect that in our performances and our music by creating music and art that stimulates the mind and body physically and emotionally. So much of the culture is trying to lose themselves in the moment rather than enjoying it, getting lost in the music instead of being liberated by it. It is our humble effort to give people a chance to connect and dance through the medium of dance music.
Do you feel that in today’s digital rush and seeming easy connectivity that we have lost something in translation? If so, how has Club Culture changed for you over the course of your career?
The age of convenience and instant gratification via technological evolution is quite a marvel of the modern day indeed. As we creep closer to a world dictated to us through technology it’s important to maintain a firm footing on the ground lest we be completely swept away into a direction we didn’t see coming or want. Social media has connected the world but divided us further. We look for connection online but it’s still pretty hollow. We are physical beings in physical matter, and there’s something to be said about the transference of physical energies.
The great thing about Club Culture is that it’s a mingling of people from all walks of life, and on the dance floor we’re all the same, coming together to celebrate life and love to the healing sounds of music. The faces change, the music changes, fashions and trends change, but that’s alright. I think the most constantly changing thing seems to be the business side, which most recently was hijacked by the corporate world for a moment as it tried to figure out how to capitalize off of a culture that prides itself in being anti-corporate, and as we’ve seen it didn’t work out too well as the too-big-to-fail model imploded on SFX and some larger festivals, but now that the dust has settled, I see lots of growth in the dance music culture especially in America right now. Music business is always a tough business, especially for the artists. But change is good — change is the natural constant of the ever evolving infinite universe. Whether it’s good or bad is completely subjective, so the most important thing is to remain forever innocent and wide-eyed with wonder and excitement, be inspired by change, use other’s changes to inspire your own growth, otherwise you succumb to a negative outlook which can jade and trap you in darkness.
Can you talk us through how you produced one of the tracks, and something about your studio plus how you approach the working day?
Well in this instance the title track probably has the most exciting story “One for the heads”. We had access to a killer studio and had just gotten back from the NYE-BPM happenings down in Mexico and went into the studio with our new Roland JP-08 and Roland Space echo. A lot of the rhythms in the track were inspired by a lot of music we heard in the jungles of Mexico and were for the most part were recorded live in the studio. The synth sounds were recorded from the JP-08 through the space echo and instantly perked our ears. The rhythms were created by using Euclidean rhythms which really birthed a beautiful hypnotic abstract rhythmic base to the track. By the time we had composed the track it was obvious we had created a very serious piece of dance floor material not for the faint at heart, hence the title of the track. We felt it was a piece appropriate for the sharp and educated ear of dance music lovers world wide.
This is the second release for the Crosstown Rebels family. How did you first hook up with the label?
We crafted this extremely crazy bootleg remix of Bjork’s “All Is Full Of Love” and sent it to Damian, and he was super in to it and we heard he was playing it out quite often, so we decided to give a shot at putting together an EP to submit to the label, which birthed our first Rebellion release, “Drowning in Irises”. Since then he’s invited us to play the Get Lost during WMC, as well as the recent one in downtown Los Angeles at the legendary Park Plaza Hotel.
What are you listening to, reading or watching at the moment outside of Dance Music?
Chris: Right now I am reading a few things, “The Secret Teachings of All The Ages” by Manly P. Hall, “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse, and “Tristessa” by Jack Kerouac. My listening always contains heavy listening of the Grateful Dead and Miles Davis. Modern stuff I love is Yagya, Tyco, and have been really inspired by late 90’s electronica. But in any genre a good song is a good song and I love it all.
Reagan: Currently I’m reading Taschen’s “The Hermetic Museum: Alchemy & Mysticism” right now with is an amazing compiling breakdown and analysis of all of the the alchemical art through history. As for music I go between a bunch of jazz, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Ricardo Villalobos, Bjork, Radio Head, and this vaporwave band, 2814, whose album “Birth of a New Day” has been my sleep loop album for the past year now! I’ve also been re-listening to Sneaker Pimp’s second album a lot lately.
How was your experience of Burning Man this year. And how do you feel about the prominence of festivals these days?
Well we both had very different experiences, as Burning Man is a very personal experience for anyone involved. On the objective level, however, Burning Man is the largest social experiment ever conducted by mankind. There is so much to do and see and immerse yourself in that everyone’s experience and interpretation will be different. The prominence of festivals is a good thing — not only does it offer great music outlets for talented musicians and artists, but the efforts of the builders and the creativity involved is very exciting and stimulating. It’s also a great chance for people to make friends, hang out with old ones, hear great music, and and see amazing art. It’s really great to see new people going to Burning Man and being inspired to bring a piece back to their own communities and in some cases start throwing their own events in cities or towns that might not have had any exposure to the non-commercial dance music scene as it’s really helping the overall music scene in America — almost seems to be a mini-renaissance. The only thing to be weary of is over-saturation, but we see more people focused on building communities fostering love light and connection.
How would you describe the experience of playing ‘live’ to people?
Playing live is really special for us as we are able to fully immerse people in our harmonic interpretation of the universe and lead them on a journey. We write so many moods of dance music that it allows us to tell some really exciting stories. The current live set is mostly a hybrid, consisting of our music broken down in to 9 channels of stems, interspersed with some full tracks to help bridge between all the elements. We use our elektron machinedrum and analog rytm as well for additional percussion and elements, and sometimes Reagan does live vocals.
Kicking off the New Year Mobilee sister imprint Leena has Kevin Yost supply another killer production. This deceptively uncomplicated number shoots straight to the heart of the matter with heavy-duty bass providing an irresistible lesson in low down theory. Accompanied by layers of haunting vocals and tough drumming alongside cutting synthesizer stabs Don’t Give In is much more than the sum of its message. I Don’t Get It, poses an unforgiving question which only underpins the moody electronics on sequence, with the third and final More, More replying via a more expansive production that is high on sounds with a certain jazzy, funkiness providing a suitably fine ending.
Life imitating Art as title track ‘Drowning in Irises’ is inspired by Van Gogh’s Irises painting. Equally impactful is Dance Spirit’s tough fusion of sharp percussion and bottom-end intensity alongside the fizzy addition of caustic synth lines transporting it all onto another level entirely. The sense of the otherworldly is continued with the addition of stabbing voices accompanied by a more blissful breathy ambience. The creativity then proceeds into Unfold with its darker tones settling into biting psychedelic sounds while contrasting melodic vocals lend this its own distinct edge. Completing is, In Between Spaces which marries minor pads together with gritty touches to produce something, again, rather wonderful as a result, swirling with ambience yet far from easy.
Rotten City Files/ Records
We like the breath of fresh air. And both originals define punky attitude along with a refreshing injection of life. Overdrive, sees the Madrid based trio deliver on the promise with moody rhythms augmented by fuzzy guitar plus an ice-cool vocal delivery. Addictive, certainly. The Jamie Paton remix retains that sense of occasion while blending it over pulsating electronic beats to devilish effect. The equally exciting Sriracha simmers with a kind of joyous melancholia that hints at 1980’s New Wave, and with an excellent remix from II Est Vilane who crash sleazy euro-disco into it this is all too hard to resist. Which then only leaves In Flagranti to hit Chipotle with a heavy dose of Acid frenzy for the bonus track.
Your excellent new EP: Metanoia is for Tenampa Recordings. It has taken quite a long time for the title track to be released. Can you tell us about the history of the track?
I wrote it during the same time as Two Suns In The sky. But because it was not part of the EP I never tried signing it as a single. That’s why it took so long to get it released.
It has a very cosmopolitan feel. Can you talk us through how you produced it, and where the inspiration came from?
I was experimenting with middle eastern sounds a lot two years ago. I made a ton of records but not all of them were that interesting. I think Metanoia is special because I mixed Armenian and Middle Eastern instruments and harmonies together;
Are Festivals still ‘underground’ – what does the word mean to you in 2015?
Yes I believe they are. I personally have had very fun and inspiring experiences at festivals. But of course depends which festival. For example BPM is as underground as it can get. I believe the word Underground still remains the same as it always did for me. For me it always meant the opposite of pop music. And I think it still does.
You recently played at Do Not Sit On The Furniture on Miami beach. Sounds like a special night. Please tell us some more about it?
I played there last month and it is my 3rd time there. It is Behrouz’s club that he has built with a specific vision. It is a small and intimate spot that has a very nice vibe. He has established a special sound there by inviting djs that like to play more mellow and take their time building their sets within 4-5 hours. Not your usual banging club which I respect.
What are your thoughts on music being ‘free’? You made some interesting comments on a recent article by Roger Waters and I wondered what you thought the solution could be (if any?)
I had an idea two years ago to start my own label and release everything for free download. It was a good idea at the time but I am glad that I didn’t go forward with it because now it really makes no sense. Music producers spend 10 hours a day in the studio to reach their goals. If we are to give away our creation for free, not only we will not be able to survive in this world by being a musician but also we will not have motivation nor the music will have any value.
Can you tell us about some of your influences both from Dance music and outside of it?
I have been very busy with dance music that I am afraid I do not have any influences outside of it at the moment. But one of my dreams is to have an Apparat type of a band. Just need to find the right musicians that have the same taste as I do.
What are your forthcoming plans for Production and Dj’ing?
The plan is always the same, Keep making as much music as possible and experiment with new sounds and of course be able to play lot of gigs which is not that easy. Last year i managed to release only 2 EPs because of being away from the studio while traveling. This year i am trying to balance it out and so far so good.
Your latest single ‘Don’t Believe’ EP for Crosstown Rebels offshoot Rebellion feels like Dance music of the future. Can you talk us through how you produced the title track?
I was in the studio with my mate Joshi and we started playing around with some synths, it was quite abstract and moody at the beginning. I wrote and some 70s progressive lyrics over it and it sounded different & real. A dark record with a warm soul. Music is like cooking, sometimes you need to drop a little cream into the tomato sauce to take off the acid edge.
Where did it all start for you: which Dj’s/ Clubs first inspired you?
I actually started in a radio in Cassino called Radio Jolly I was only 13 I just loved vinyl and they had loads. Then I discovered mixing and it was all over. I played for a long time for a club called Axis and the boss and partner Chris used to go to Ibiza quite often to Ibiza and come back with a lot of Amnesia tapes, we used to love the Balearic vibe, was a great inspiration for us. I ended making quite a few Balearic records and playing quite a lot in Ibiza with Made in Italy.
How did you get into producing? Any favourite pieces of studio equipment you like to use these days?
I got into producing buying my first sampler: an Akai 950. That I actually still have it, seems to be very much in demand for the low sample rate it has, people like dirty stuff these days 😉
My favourite piece of equipment is my voice, now that’s really dirty.
What’s the story behind the re-release of ‘The Magic Room’ due out in May on your own Fine Human Records?
This Magic Room was released very softly in 2014, the artist name was ‘Loden In Ny’ which simply is an anagram of Dino Lenny. The feedback was so incredible that people were asking ‘why isn’t this record a hit?’ So I thought about giving it a proper release getting some good remixes. Doorly’s boosted the original mix and it was so spot on that we decided to use both our names to give it maximum exposure. I think it deserves it’s quite an eclectic record, I just love the message and the positivity.
How would you compare the Dance Music culture of 2015 to when you first began to DJ/ Produce?
I think it’s all back on track now, we had a few dark years when we thought that people were not going to look back anymore. Evolution & Technology is great but it doesn’t necessarily mean quality. I know it’s strange but sometimes I like Djs that mix slightly out tempo but then put it back in time. I like music with an emotion, with a human factor. That’s why my label is called Fine Human Records.
Where can people hear you DJ?
I’m going to be playing with Maceo Plex at the Ellum parties quite often.
Not often I get to use the word outstanding but this latest from Lee Van Dowski is all of that and more. Two tracks go to make up this release for the ever excellent Mobilee and it’s the breathtaking numeric’s of 050504 that scores full points. Powered by rolling Toms and soaring vocals this is in a class all of its own sounding heavenly, and feeling distinctly anthemic. Lee’s mobile, then provides a more typically techy production that gets us just as involved with commanding synths blazing their way across pulsating rhythms. Outstanding!
Kicking off the New Year with Petite Noir’s delightfully breathy vocal delivery is certainly a good way to start. ‘Chess’ plays tricks with the imagination via a swirling array of melodies and electronically infused rhythms accompanied by various off the wall sounds, which still manage still retain a live ‘authentic’ feel to them. Released through Domino Recordings sister label Double Six this not only pulls the heartstrings – check the lower register – but also feels slightly epic care off the cumulative Rock sensibilities employed along the way. One of five great tracks on offer with the remainder all exploring similar themes plus notably the more explosive Till We Ghosts featuring Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) adding yet another twist to the picture.
Nolan ft Amber Jolene
Dear Deer Records
Released at the tail end of last year this is too good to let slip by into the ether. The Original version feels much funkier with loose grooves and a familiar guitar lick capping it all off, while Amber Jolene’s inevitably cool vocals add the icing to this emotive feast. An excellent remix comes care off Kyle Watson who combines a striking amalgamation of influences transforming it all into dancefloor nirvana complete with taught Garage bass sitting comfortably alongside tough House beats and soulful Organ.
Sandeman & John Monkman
French Girl In Berghain
Excellent production from this duo which is best played LOUD with the lights low. Its twisted combination of sizzling, sleazy grooves and seductive French spoken vocal does wonders emanating from your speakers and exists in place way beyond mere dancefloor fodder with this carefully crated arrangement of sounds playing like excitement personified. The Original Mix is complimented by a Laughapella should you require it.
It’s hard to resist any of Aaron Bessemer’s irrepressible twisted Techno madness with the title track starting as things mean to go on. Curly Blonde provides you with addictive, pulverising beats and bass, splashing hi-hats and hints of vocal in amongst the background drone. Passetto then does more of the same, this time with added percussion, as the standout track Good Intentions hits next with tribal flavoured drums and hot, punchy piano adding the human touch to the otherwise relentless rhythms. Lastep, completes with funkier bass and more vocal on yet another fierce production that simply doesn’t sleep.