From resident advisor - an interesting take on where minimal is headed.
Month to Month: Germany goes deep
They might not sound exactly like their American forefathers, but a new breed of deep house producers are shaking up Europe, writes Ronan Fitzgerald.
There's nothing new about deep house.
And yet its resurgence in the European techno scene is now practically inescapable. The signs of DJs shifting away from “minimal” and towards more classically deep sounds are everywhere. Larry Heard is responsible for one of the biggest records of the year. The last Kerri Chandler release on Deeply Rooted House is being played by the likes of Ellen Allien, Simon Baker and Ripperton. Just a month or so later, Deeply Rooted issued the follow-up, with an A-side by none other than Argy, who has previously released on such distinctly minimal labels as Raum Musik and Morris Audio.
All the while, some of dance music's most watched labels such as Mobilee and Get Physical, in their role as magnifying glasses for what's going on at ground level in Germany, have noted this shift in emphasis and are releasing records and mix CDs that speak of a German scene looking towards the US for inspiration once again. Similarly, a slew of German and European producers and labels are enjoying commercial success amongst minimal fans with distinctly deeper sounds. Some, like Argy, are refugees from the clicks and cuts. Others, like Dixon and his Innervisions label, are just longtime keepers of a flame that's now burning a little more brightly.
Meanwhile, some record labels, like Hamburg's Liebe*Detail, exist somewhere between those two poles. Started by DJ Kai Fischer (Eurokai) and producer Christophe Wieland (Meta 83) in 2004, the label may have risen to prominence as part of the wider minimal movement, but like a lot of today's biggest labels, the music it releases has never strictly adhered to that tag. As such, recent Liebe*Detail releases that show off the US-house-meets-trance style of Tiger Stripes, Solomun, Efdemin, and Argy have been natural enough not to feel like jumping on a bandwagon, and still different enough to be creative steps forward. Eurokai believes that the wider change in style is just a natural reaction after minimal. "It became clear at some point that some people had perhaps had enough of 'minimal'. So they orientated themselves anew. We find it really good that music is getting more warm and soulful. But where this will all lead we don't know."
Of course, away from magazines features and the buzz in Berlin clubs, thousands of producers keep on making deep house music completely independent of any scene. What has changed in the last year or so is that minimal DJs are looking outside of their own clique and introducing the work of these outsiders into their sets. After the relative modernism of the last few years, it's almost ironic that there's now a real buzz in the minimal scene about the kind of revivalist, classic house sounds that never really go away, with reference points like Theo Parrish, Moodymann and Kerri Chandler popping up again and again.
Artists such as Dennis Ferrer and Jerome Sydenham, who've been making vintage US house for years, are lately making waves in Berlin and around Europe to an entirely new audience. Sydenham, who now lives in Copenhagen, has recently done remixes for Liebe*Detail and for Ostgut-Ton, the label wing of Berlin's Berghain nightclub, a recruitment decision which shows just how serious Germans are getting about this deep house thing. Ferrer, meanwhile, has had tracks licensed to a couple of Get Physical compilations, Crosstown Rebels 'Get Lost' series, and even, curiously, a compilation called 'Destroy Minimal' alongside practically every minimal stalwart you can think of: from Cassy to Villalobos to Luciano to Alex Under.
Month to Month: July 2007
1. Ksoul and Ra.H – Turning Point [Sistrum Recordings]
Sad, melodic and serious house music. Check Ra.H's releases on Morphine Music for more of this amazing producer.
2. H.O.S.H. – Themes Rhythms and Harmonies [Diynamic]
Diynamic continues its streak of quirky and weird releases with more trance inflected deep house music.
3. Dennis Ferrer – Son of Raw (Loco Dice Mix) [Objektivity]
Germany meets New York for a remix that drags the original across the Atlantic.
4. John Daly – Skydive [Plak]
Endless summer loops from the young Irish producer with a penchant for Yacht Rock.
5. Tiger Stripes/Solomun – Hooked/Jungle River Cruise [Liebe*Detail]
The inspiration comes from America, but the sounds on the latest Liebe*Detail cut could only come from Europe.
6. Anja Schneider/Sebo K – Sideleaps/Rancho Relaxo [Mobilee]
Long before everyone around them began doing it, Mobilee were doing this.
7. Break SL – Flow/Trombone [Philpot]
Another young producer making amazing Moodymann-inspired house music, with a follow up to this EP on the way.
8. Roland Appel - Dark Soldier [Sonar Kollektiv]
The weirdest anthem of the year, and also one of the best, set for full release in the Autumn but on a limited run right now.
9. The Mountain People – Mountain003 [Mountain People]
One deep and infectious Kerri Chandler-in-Germany style house cut is flipped with a psychedelic percussive drum track to make another great Mountain People 12”.
10. Professor De La Croix - Build Her [Deeply Rooted House]
-The fact that this is on DJ Deep's Deeply Rooted label means there are too many instances of the word "deep" for me to call this record "chasmic deepness". So I won't.
But Ferrer hasn't been deliberately courting the attention of Europe or Germany, despite admitting he's a big fan of Loco Dice, Martin Buttrich, and Innervisions. In fact he's bemused and even a little wary of the attention. "I love when different crowds get into my music, but the German thing is a big surprise, and well, I don't even know what to make of it to tell you the truth!” says the New York producer. “But I've never been one to run a trend into the ground. When I did Afro for a while, I was out of there at the first signs of everybody else trying to do it. And it's getting kind of close to that time in techy. Because everybody and their mother are trying to do it. It's hard to say it because I don't mean any ill will by it, but when the masses start making it, it's kind of time to go."
But it’s not just the classic producers who are getting picked up; other artists working outside the current clique of European DJs and producers are finding favour since the shift towards deeper sounds. John Daly, an Irish producer with releases on Plak and Wave Music, this year saw his 'Do It' track licensed for Sebo K's 'Back Up Vol. 1' mix, a compilation which perhaps best captures this year's fascination with deepness. Modelling his sound on early Theo Parrish and Moodymann, Daly's loose, jazzy productions are a world away from minimal. It's not surprising he's not necessarily bothered about new music. He explains: "Not a lot of new stuff blows my mind these days. In terms of house music, the earlier records by Theo Parrish and Moodymann were a big eye opener for me, along with Ron Trent and Prescription Records. Those really taught me a thing or two about proper deepness".
It seems the American sound hasn't changed a great deal. So in that case, what has changed? The European version of it? Why is deep house suddenly so big amongst minimal DJs? The simple answer is that some of the most popular DJs and producers, many of whom rose to fame on the hype surrounding minimal, have determinedly started playing it and making it again. But that shouldn't be surprising. With no truly new incarnations of house and techno emerging, and minimal reaching a saturation point, these producers are just doing what they always have done: aping classic Detroit and Chicago sounds.
Although perhaps this time around, in a world made smaller by technology, Europe can influence America too. Eurokai from Liebe*Detail believes so: "Labels like Ibadan or producers like Carl Craig are certainly big influences for European producers, but I think the process works the other way too. Tiger Stripes is from Stockholm in Sweden and Jerome Sydenham lives in Copenhagen right now. The Sydenham remix of Argy's "1985" (on Liebe Detail) happened because they swapped tracks for a while and liked each others stuff. So everything is getting closer in music."
John Daly agrees: "I think if you look at all the arts, not just house music, ideas have always bounced back and forth across the Atlantic. Different people interpret their influences in different ways, and this makes for some great work".
Of course this “new deepness” might be the trend du jour, but there are plenty of Europeans who never stopped paying homage to sounds from across the Atlantic. Many of the artists and labels that are now flourishing amongst minimal fans have been around for much longer, quietly following a strict aesthetic which now just so happens to be in fashion again. Take Hamburg's Dial imprint, for instance – they’ve been doing their own thing through various fashions and trends for seven years. Now, in 2007, they find themselves with two of the most acclaimed dance LPs of the year, from Efdemin and Pantha Du Prince respectively. Leipzig's Moon Harbour is in a similar situation. Having released quality deep house music throughout the height of minimal, they now find that changing trends have placed them closer to the zeitgeist than ever.
Similarly Innervisions and Sonar Kollektiv (the two are now separate from each other) have always been huge labels amongst deep house fans, but they are now revered by minimal audiences too. In the last year Innervisions in particular has grown to be one of the biggest labels in techno, full stop. Meanwhile Dixon, who runs the label along with Âme, has also seen his stock rise this year, having mixed the most recent installment of Get Physical's flagship mix compilation, 'Body Language', and even headlined the Sonar Festival. But have labels like Dial and Innervisions changed what they do, or has dance music just gone backwards to accommodate a sound these labels have always followed? Some would argue that this recent upturn in popularity for deep house is as clear a sign as ever that house and techno have only imitations of themselves left to offer.
But just because you revere the past, doesn’t mean that you can’t also create something new, according to Kristian Beyer from Âme: "When we started we were inspired by classic house music so we used analogue machines, then different machines for the mixdown, and this is what makes it sound different. I wouldn’t say our music is entirely new, but we have received nice emails from Quentin Harris and Underground Resistance, and everyone says we are putting a fresh vibe into house music. We are very happy to receive these emails but we are only producing the music we like. You can try and copy the original but you will never sound like the original.”
And that's the bottom line, even if German DJs are looking to tried and tested classic sounds more than ever, these influences still must pass through numerous filters before reaching the dancefloor. From producer to record label to DJ, everyone adds their own colour or takes something else away. And although these many filters may depurify the source, they also ensure that the final work isn't purely a carbon copy of the past.
What's happening right now in Germany and Europe is that deep house influences are being filtered through the infrastructure of the minimal scene, the labels, the clubs, the DJs, even the media, and the result is a sound that's neither minimal nor deep house, but some new hybrid of the two. In their failure to exactly replicate the sounds of so many American legends, artists like Solomun, Sebo K, and countless others (many of whom would have been classed as minimal a short time ago) are capturing the imagination of dance fans across the continent. Purists might say these producers can never measure up to their inspirations, to the likes of Kerri Chandler or to Carl Craig, and maybe they're right. But then, when it comes to artists copying their forefathers, perhaps failure is more interesting than success.