First Floor #51 – Would You Pay to Go Virtual Clubbing?
a.k.a. An interview with The Advent, co-founder of new streaming DJ platform techno-club.net.
Hello there. I’m Shawn Reynaldo, and welcome to First Floor, a weekly electronic music digest that includes news, my favorite new tracks and some of my thoughts on the issues affecting the larger scene / industry that surrounds the music. If you haven’t done so already, please consider subscribing to the newsletter by clicking the button below.
ON MY MIND
This won’t be news for many of you, but as soon as the pandemic hit, DJ livestreams exploded. Back in March, April and May, it often felt like every DJ on the planet was broadcasting from their living room.
Personally, I’ve never quite warmed to the idea of DJ livestreams, and have even looked on them with a fair amount of skepticism, especially as it became clear that licensing protocols were frequently being ignored (or contributing to a subpar user experience) and nobody was really getting paid.
Since then, the conversation around livestreams has died down significantly, especially as things have (slowly) started to open up and folks have increasingly left their homes. It certainly feels like livestreams are less frequent—although I have no way to quantify that—but they have continued to happen. A growing number of festivals are staging stream-centric virtual editions. The promoters of Detroit’s iconic Movement festival recently announced a new partnership with Twitch, along with the promise of four upcoming virtual festivals—the first of which is scheduled for this weekend. Beatport also announced a new Twitch partnership, and will be launching a series of new programming on the platform.
It’s difficult to applaud these deals, especially when Twitch—which is owned by Amazon—continues to flout proper licensing rules. (Of course, the platform’s “Wild West” licensing environment is part of the reason it’s attracted so many takedown-weary DJs in the first place.) Nevertheless, these moves do seem to indicate that some of electronic music’s biggest brands are betting on the notion that DJ livestreaming is here to stay, and will remain an important component of the electronic music landscape for the foreseeable future.
Amidst all this, a new independent player has entered the fray. Founded by Cisco Ferreira (a.k.a. The Advent) and Dave Bate, it’s called techno-club.net and is set to officially launch this weekend. Designed as a sort of online club, the site will feature 10 different rooms, all of which will feature new programming every single weekend. Plenty of heavy hitters have already agreed to take part (both as residents and guests) and the opening weekend’s lineup includes folks like Robert Hood (and Floorplan), Tony Humphries, Ron Trent, Claude Young, Delano Smith & Norm Talley, Sync 24, Cari Lekebusch, CJ Bolland, The Advent (obviously) and lots more.
There’s one major difference about techno-club.net though—people have to pay to get in. Just like a real club, there’s an entrance fee, with a price that varies depending on how many minutes you’d like to spend inside. (Prices begin at five euros.) The money will then be used to pay the DJs, and for those concerned about licensing issues, the site claims to be completely above board with all of the necessary streaming licenses.
It’s an intriguing prospect, albeit one that seems risky given the fact that electronic music audiences have been gorging on free content for years now. That said, it does put certain ideas to the test, such as the real strength of the electronic music “community,” the music scene’s ability to truly support itself and whether or not some sort of independently owned, audience-funded virtual clubbing platform is even viable in this day and age.
Curious to find out more, I had a conversation with Ferreira last weekend, which you can find here. It’s pretty long—which is part of the reason why I put it on its own page—but I had a lot of questions, and to Ferreira’s credit, he was very open about what they’re trying to accomplish and how it’s all supposed to work. Only time will tell if the site will be a success—and, truth be told, there’s undoubtedly room to improve on what they’re doing—but I’ll save any further critique until after they’re up and running. In the meantime though, I’m definitely excited to see how it goes.
A round-up of the last week’s most interesting electronic music news, plus links to mixes, articles and other things I think are worth sharing.
Are we due for a witch house revival? Maybe so, because SALEM has released a new track called “Starfall”—and it’s actually good. Along with the track, they released a music video that pieces together a footage of the band’s storm-chasing exploits during tornado season. (I swear that is not a joke.) And for those wanting an even bigger peak into SALEM’s subconscious, they’ve also uploaded STAY DOWN, a mixtape they first premiered on NTS Radio back in May.
Following up on her excellent Phase to Face album from last year, rRoxymore has announced a new remix EP, Forward Flamingo. Set for release on October 2 via Don’t Be Afraid, the record will include the original LP cut, along with reworks from Altered Natives, Badsista, DJ Plead, Banga and Joe—the latter of which is already available to stream here.
Fresh off his excellent Witness album and the subsequent Snake Dance EP for Livity Sound, UK producer Al Wootton is set to return to his own Trule imprint with a new 12” called JL. It won’t arrive until October 9, but the title track is streaming here.
Back in February, Surgeon debuted on Ilian Tape with an EP called The Golden Sea, and now the UK techno veteran is set to return to the Munich label with a new four-tracker entitled Europa Code. Previews are streaming here, and the full EP is slated to drop on October 2.
Byta, an audio platform designed to help artists and other music professionals upload and privately share their music in a variety of formats, is offering free artist accounts (usual cost: 15 euros a month) to folks who sign up for their new beta program. (Disclaimer: I’ve never used the platform and can’t vouch for anything about it; they haven’t paid me or provided any compensation—I just figured some people reading the newsletter might be interested.) To find out more details and / or apply, go here.
MY WIFE HAS BETTER TASTE THAN I DO
My wife Dania is a wonderful person, but she has little regard for my taste in electronic music. Head of the Paralaxe Editions label, she often describes the music I like with words like “cheesy,” “simple,” “predictable,” “boring” and, worst of all (in her mind), “happy.” In contrast, I think she has a fantastic ear, and I’m constantly amazed by the obscure gems she unearths, both from record bins and the dark corners of the internet. Given that, I’ve asked Dania to share some of her finds with the First Floor audience. Each week, she highlights something that she’s currently digging, and adds some of her thoughts as to why it’s worth our attention.
Hello. I was rearranging my records yesterday, trying to find some more space, and I was so happy to see Tod Dockstader’s Recorded Music For Film, Radio & Television: Electronic Vol.1. “Pond Dance” is one of my favourite songs on there, and the title is the most perfect succinct description—I just imagine this secret little amphibian soirée. It’s such a short song, but it’s so evocative and playful. Fun fact: Dockstader's first record, Eight Electronic Pieces, was released in 1960 was used to soundtrack Fellini’s trippy science-fiction film Satyricon.
NEW THIS WEEK
The following is a rundown of my favorite tunes that came out during the past week or so. Click on the track titles to hear each song individually, or you can also just head over to this convenient Buy Music Club list to find them all in one place.
Back in May, Maltese producer Jupiter Jax released Dee-Life Mix, a beautiful tribute to a Midwestern deep house label that never actually existed. Stuffed with plush melodies and slow, sumptuous grooves, it sounded like Larry Heard crossed with Italian dream house, and a similar aesthetic colors No Such Thing, his new full-length album. “Moods No Grooves” is one of the LP’s highlights; with its thick, rounded basslines, synthesized flute melody and canned snippets of birdsong, it’s a luxurious bit of shimmering house music, the kind of thing that’s perfect for a sunset sashay on a Mediterranean terrace.
Speaking of dreamy deep house cuts, “Das Rote Haar” is the real deal. Originally released in 1990, it’s now been reissued on Gerd Janson’s Running Back label, the culmination of a process that began when Janson first heard the track in an old Tony Humphries KISS FM Mastermix. Although the lush track sounds like something out of late-’80s Chicago or New York, it was incredibly created by a pair of German producers, who built the track around an old François Villon poem that had been popularized by actor Klaus Kinski. (Apparently the lyrics are about falling in love with a redhead. ) It’s a crazy backstory, but the tune itself is a wonderfully woozy Balearic gem.
More reissue gold from Running Back, this time highlighting an obscure Chicago duo that only released a few records in the mid-1980s. “Electric Baile,” which first came out in 1986 and has been edited here by Enzo Elia, could be described as a proto-house track, but the synths sound like something the Human League might have cooked up, while singer Pepper Gomez’s vocals aren’t terribly far off from what artists like Lisa Lisa were doing around the same time. In short, it’s a hybrid, and one that showcases an incredible moment in dance music history; listening to the track—which also happens to be a lot of fun—so many of house music’s constituent parts are present, and it suddenly becomes so clear how they came together and eventually crystalized into the genre we all know today. If only all of our history lessons could be this enjoyable…
AD 93 (formerly known as Whities) has always offered up a musically diverse slate of releases, and though its club cuts tend to grab most of the attention, I’ve been enjoying the label’s increasingly frequent forays to the outer realm of the dancefloor. A few of these excursions populate Blue 08, a compilation EP that features a quartet of artists, all of which are new to AD 93. Martinou hails from Sweden, and “Let’s Get Out of Here” might loosely be described as house music—after all, there’s a steady, if slow, four-to-the-floor kick—but the song’s symphonic strings and earthy, new agey sound palette make for a rich, enveloping listening experience. “Swirls” is similarly transportive, but Japanese producer Sapphire Slows prefers percolating dream-pop to cinematic grandiosity, making for something that sounds like Cocteau Twins messing around with an arpeggiator.
Amidst all the chaos of 2020, KMRU appears to be having an excellent year. Less than two months after the release of his Peel album for Editions Mego, the Kenyan ambient specialist has returned with a new cassette, Jar, which has been billed as “a journey through the dust of time.” The whole thing is gorgeous, but the slow burn of “Note 43” is uniquely potent, especially as the song’s bubbling synth melodies gradually swell, briefly burn bright and then recede over the course of eight and a half minutes. All the while, KMRU weaves in subtle field recordings—which sound like kids playing in the street—evoking sunny days and happier times, or at least our nostalgia-warmed memories of them. It’s a beautiful trip, and a fantastic salve for the creeping gloom of the real world.
Slow and soothing seems to be a recurring theme of this week’s selections, and few artists fit that bill better than Sarah Davachi, whose new Cantus, Descant album is an utterly immersive, 81-minute opus. The Canadian composer (who now makes her home in Los Angeles) specializes in the deliberate, her languid creations blossoming at a notably unhurried pace. (Even when the songs’ runtimes are relatively short, as they mostly are on the 17-track Cantus, Descant, it never feels like Davachi is rushing toward her destination.) The new LP is largely built around richly droning organs, but “Play the Ghost” takes a different path, foregrounding Davachi’s voice—which has never before appeared on her records—atop a melancholy suite of piano and flute melodies. It’s a far cry from the deep listening excursions she’s known for, and yet, the song feels more immediately human (and more accessible) than anything she’s previously done. While I certainly wouldn’t advocate for Davachi to drop the long-form compositions and suddenly embrace a downtrodden strain of vocal-driven indie confessionals, “Play the Ghost” does feel like a real growth—and a welcome window into the more tender aspects of her artistic vision.
Now that I’ve been living outside of the US for more than five years, I’m admittedly a bit out of touch with what’s happening on American hip-hop and R&B radio, but I’d like to think that in a just universe, a song like “High Enough” would be all over it. The song first surfaced in 2019, but it’s popped up again on Kingdom’s new Neurofire album, bumping along at a house tempo while tapping into the sexy / sassy spirit of classic ’90s and ’00s R&B. Granted, the LA producer and Fade to Mind boss has been successfully walking that line for years now, but hearing a song like this, it seems obvious that he deserves better than being relegated to “underground” circles.
This was a pleasant surprise. Guy Andrews has been keeping a relatively low profile in recent years, but the UK producer has just dropped Permanence, his first new album since 2017’s Tåke. Although he’s never been the kind of artist who churned out mindless bangers, the new LP feels like a more complete break with the dancefloor, or at least the idea of making “functional” DJ tracks. Even when his music is still loosely tied up in the idea of “the club,” as it is on “1.3,” it’s bigger, bolder and heavily reliant on highly detailed sound design. This track does sport a techno-ish pulse and some serious low-end heft, but its cinema-ready sonics bring to mind the sharp, chrome-plated productions of artists like Jon Hopkins, Houndstooth labelmate Throwing Snow and even Four Tet at his most grandiose.
Reports of dubstep’s demise—including the ones I myself have made over the years—appear to have been premature. In fairness, Mala’s Deep Medi label has never really lost the plot, and its latest offering is the Subchaser EP from New Zealand duo Truth. “Tui,” a collaboration with fellow Kiwi artist Tiki Taane, is something of an homage to their homeland, as it features clips of native New Zealand birdsong and a variety of traditional instrumentation, but make no mistake, this one is all about bass. Truth serves up wave after wave of thick, gelatinous low end, which ripples out across the track and oozes into every crevice of the song’s confident, dubwise strut. It’s not a throwback per se, but it is a welcome reminder of what once made dubstep so appealing in the first place.
This bruiser comes from Bakey, a young London producer whose new EP, Take It Further, just dropped on Shall Not Fade’s UK garage offshoot, Time Is Now. Armed with a seriously rude bassline, “Take It Further” is a rave-ready shuffler with all the subtlety of a kick to the head. Of course, like all good garage tracks, it’s got a syncopated rhythm and pitch-shifted diva snippets, but this tune is no champagne bubbler. It’s been primed for the soundclash, and is bound to stack up nicely against whatever other screwface anthems are already sitting in your crate.
Taken from his new Sambo EP, “Al Gore Riddim” is an impressive bit of snarling electro from Cressida. The Berlin-based, UK-raised producer has definitely cribbed a few notes from artists like Gesloten Cirkel and Galaxian here, but there’s more to “Al Gore Riddim” than fast-snapping breakbeats and sci-fi sound effects. Cressida dials up the dystopian mayhem, filling the track’s empty spaces with patches of harsh static and jarringly twisted vocal clips, resulting in something that’s both highly danceable and a little bit terrifying.
Is it just me, or is The Cyclist terribly underrated? I know that the UK’s post-dubstep (or whatever you want to call it) landscape was terribly crowded in the early 2010s, but it still feels like this Northern Irish producer (who now lives in Birmingham) never quite got his proper due. His latest EP, Weather Underground, finds him returning to the 100% Silk label, and it’s another collection of wonderfully unpolished house(-ish) cuts. The Cyclist has a talent for pushing his music ever so gently into the red, and the distortion-kissed “Catacombs”—one of the EP’s more linear offerings—is a driving club track with grotty percussion, plenty of crackle and a life-affirming piano melody that kicks in about halfway through. “Crying for Sleep” dials back the distortion (slightly) and lightens the mood, layering soft chords and a dreamy French chanteuse over a skittery, jazz-inflected breakbeat. There’s a bit of a pop undercurrent at work, and it sounds like something you might have heard on a late-night BBC mix show in the early 2000s. (I mean that in a good way.)
If I’m being honest, this track probably doesn’t belong in the First Floor newsletter, because it’s not really electronic. Leaving behind the synth-driven psychedelic explorations of her past solo efforts, Angel Deradoorian assembled an actual band to help realize her new album Find the Sun, and while her arresting voice is still the star of the show, it’s now sharing the stage with guitar riffs and clouds of boomy distortion. The change actually suits her quite well, as the fuzz-laden “It Was Me” borrows equally from long-haired ’70s rock and the ’90s grunge and indie outfits who grew up listening to it. There’s still a cosmic, otherworldly quality to the music, and that feeling is enhanced by Deradoorian’s dogged excavation of her own psyche, but there’s no denying that the new LP is likely not what most people expected. Luckily for her though, it’s also got some highly hummable gems like this one.
And with that, we’ve come to the end of today’s newsletter. My apologies that it’s arriving a few hours later than usual. Regardless, thank you so much for reading and as always, I hope you enjoyed the tunes. (Don’t forget, you can find them all on this handy Buy Music Club list, and if you like them, please buy them.)
Have a great week,