First Floor #54 – Patreon Creeps into Electronic Music
a.k.a. An interview with Jordan GCZ, who's teaching—and dropping exclusive tracks—on the subscription-based platform.
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. This is the free edition of the newsletter; access to all First Floor content (including the complete archive) requires a paid subscription. If you haven’t done so already, please consider signing up for a subscription (paid or unpaid) by clicking the button below. Alternately, you can also make a one-time donation here.
ON MY MIND
In last week’s newsletter, I spoke with UK producer Mosca, and while our conversation primarily focused on the culture of DJ promos—and more specifically, his decision to not to send out free promos of his latest release, even to fellow artists—he did also mention that he’d recently set up a Patreon. For those unfamiliar with the platform, it’s subscription-based, and allows supporters of an artist (or organization) to sign up (usually on a monthly or annual basis) for different tiers of benefits / gifts / goodies / whatever. Mosca mostly designed his as a place where fans could get access to his music (including some exclusives), but he also offered the chance for a limited few patrons to sign up for a sort of production mentorship.
Patreon is something that many artists (and media outlets) have turned to for support, especially during the pandemic, but within “underground” electronic music circles, its use, while growing, is not yet widespread. That may be changing though. Martyn, head of the 3024 label, set up an artist mentoring program through Patreon back in March, and has since accumulated nearly 100 subscribers. Just last week, Space Dimension Controller launched his own Patreon, and there are likely plenty more that are either live already or in some stage of development.
Jordan GCZ launched his Patreon on October 1. The Amsterdam-based producer (who grew up between the US and Israel) is best known as one half of Juju & Jordash (alongside Gal Aner), but he also runs a label called Off Minor and is a part of collaborative projects like Magic Mountain High, The Mullholland Free Clinic, Zsa Gang and others too numerous to list. Improvisation—both in the studio and on stage—has long been the hallmark of his work, and it’s also at the root of his new Patreon offerings, which lean heavily toward teaching and mentorship. (In his own words, he’s looking to help other artists “unblock and unfuck” their production and live performance.) That said, he’s also offering patrons exclusive new music that won’t be available anywhere else—not even on Bandcamp—a potentially risky path that not many artists are willing to follow, at least not yet.
Curious to find out more about his motivations and his future plans, both for the Patreon and his career in general, I got on the phone with Jordan late last week and peppered him with questions.
Go here to read our conversation. (PLEASE NOTE: the link will be open to all for the next 48 hours, but after that, it will be available to paid subscribers only.)
ANOTHER THING I WROTE
Last month, I started a four-part series for Beatportal that’s meant to survey where things stand in the electronic music world, six months after the pandemic went global. Part two dropped last week, and it specifically examines how promoters, festival organizers and booking agents are attempting to balance business with safety as gig slowly return (and sometimes go away again).
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.
Over the weekend, both Mixmag and Resident Advisor reported on Karim Molyneux-Berry, a former PR manager at Salon zur Wilden Renate, and the racist harassment he endured at the hands of other employees while working at the Berlin club. The venue, which also runs open-air venue Else, has also posted a statement and apology on its website.
The UK’s nightlife and hospitality industry had a tumultuous week, beginning with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s seeming suggestion that musicians and other creatives should seek out other kinds of work, which not surprisingly prompted a huge outcry (including an appearance from Sherelle on BBC Newsnight). Although the government then announced an expanded job support scheme for hospitality businesses ordered to shut down due to the pandemic a few days later, the sector remains riled, and is beginning to push back. London nightclub operator G-A-Y has filed suit challenging the country’s new 10pm curfew, demanding evidence supporting the logic (or the science) behind the rule. They’re not alone either, as several larger organizations, including the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), are poised to do the same.
Hieroglyphic Being is someone who’s been mentioned a whole lot in the newsletter this year, and last week he became the latest artist to deliver a mix for DJ Mag’s On Cue series. The post also includes an interview / feature by Lauren Martin, who gets the Chicago iconoclast talking about his prolific nature and unorthodox approach, along with the lessons he picked up from house legend Adonis back in the day.
Techno veteran Robert Hood unveiled the details of his upcoming full-length for Radio Slave’s Rekids label. Entitled Mirror Man, it’s set for release on November 20 and while no official previews have been shared, four tracks from the LP can be found on his Nothing Stops Detroit EP, which dropped last Friday.
Back in March, Bicep released “Atlas,” a would-be anthem that the pandemic prevented from taking flight on dancefloors, but last week it was announced that the track—along with nine others—would appear on Isles, a new album for Ninja Tune that’s slated to arrive on January 22, 2021. The LP is said to be informed by the Belfast-reared duo’s time living in London, and the first taste of the new record, the rousing “Apricots,” is available now.
Fans of hard-charging techno will likely be delighted to know that Matrixxman and Ø [Phase] have a new collaborative project called Phyxix. The duo quietly slipped out their first EP, Phyxix 001, last Friday—and yes, it’s also available on vinyl via Hard Wax.
Back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when I was working at XLR8R, my colleagues and I devoted an inordinate amount of ink to the LA beat scene, and while Flying Lotus ultimately wound up with the most accolades and attention, my favorite artist from that world was a different SoCal producer: Teebs. Ardour was his 2010 debut album, and it came out via FlyLo’s Brainfeeder label, which has now prepared a special 10th Anniversary Edition reissue that includes six previously unreleased tracks. The digital version is available now, and a limited vinyl pressing is set to drop in December.
I’m not a producer myself, but I am a big fan of UK imprint Cong Burn, and aside from running the label, founder John Howes has been developing Strokes, a Max for Live sequencing workstation that he describes as a “Euclidean Groovebox.” (For a deeper look into what that means and what it does, check out this Create Digital Music article from back in February.) Strokes is now on version 2.2, and Cong Burn has also put together a sharp-looking handbook / zine (a digital version is here) that includes strategies from artists like Peder Mannerfelt, Beatrice Dillon, Loraine James, Machine Woman and Lanark Artefax.
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 love the story behind this release. In 1986, musician John Gilbert Colman was commissioned to write a score for an avant-garde production of the Greek myth Daedalus that was touring the Belgian theatre circuit. The director, Guy Cassier, cast 45 cognitively disabled actors, and rather than using dialogue, told the story through music, costume and sound. The music is incredible! I’ve not heard of this genre before, but it has been described as pop-concrète, as he incorporated sampled environmental recordings (such as squeaking balloons) into traditional small-chamber instrumentation. The record was reissued in 2018 by Musique Plastique, but according to an interview with Colman, he actually threw out the original master tapes just two days before he was contacted by the label. (The interview also explains how they managed to make the reissue happen, even without those tapes.)
You can hear his entire masterpiece at the link above, but if you’re short on time, click here to skip ahead 13:10—trust me, it’s worth it!
NEW THIS WEEK
The following are some of my favorite tracks from three releases that came out during the past week or so. (Click on the track titles to hear each song individually.) An extended list of recommendations is available to paid subscribers only. If you are a paid subscriber and would like to go ahead and jump to the complete list—which includes the recommendations below—you can find that here.
What a beautiful record. I could say that about the whole of Silver Ladders, the brilliant new full-length from LA-based harpist Mary Lattimore, but “Sometimes He’s in My Dreams” is a real stunner, the sort of song that seems quiet and unassuming but somehow cuts right to the bone. Built around the gentle interplay between Lattimore’s harp and Neil Halstead’s guitar—the former Slowdive frontman produced and recorded the LP at his studio in Cornwall—the track never rises above a simmer. It’s wistful and maybe a bit sad, but Lattimore doesn’t wallow in the darkness. Although the music’s tender metronome feels like the pitter-pat of light rain against a window on a gloomy day, its mood—particularly once the guitar gets going about halfway through—seems focused on the small patch of sunshine that’s breaking through the clouds.
I’m not a Burial stan. Of course I liked Untrue, and plenty of other things the reclusive UK producer has done over the past decade or so, but I’ve never been one of those people who dissects the guy’s samples or treats every one of his releases like a coded message from on high. That said, this new remix he’s done for Charles Webster is truly intriguing—and also really good. Webster, a fellow Brit who relocated to San Francisco in the mid ’90s and now lives in South Africa, has been producing since the ’80s, but his last album came out nearly 20 years ago. Newly re-energized, he’s announced a new full-length, Decision Time, that’s coming out in November, and has preceded that with The Spell, an EP featuring three versions of the house-oriented title track, including this smooth, static-laden take from Burial. (As it happens, Burial cites the production on Webster’s 1999 LP All Systems Gone, recorded under the name Presence, as a major influence on his own work.) And if that’s not enough to catch your attention, the vocal on the track is provided by Ingrid Chavez, a former Prince collaborator who also famously featured on Madonna’s “Justify My Life.” There’s a lot of backstory to digest, but even without all the narrative, this is essentially a moody house cut with a smattering of subtly dramatic Burial-isms (hazy atmospheres, analog crackles, weirdly majestic pitch-shifted vocals), and if this is where his production is heading, then maybe I will become a Burial obsessive after all.
In recent months, Resident Advisor has been running a feature series called Perspectives from the Scene, in which different electronic music industry figures discuss how the pandemic has affected them and their business. One of my favorite entries was devoted to Ata Macias and Flo Reinke from beloved German club Robert Johnson, who discussed why they absolutely would not be trying to open the venue until it could be done properly. (Long story short: they’re not interested in hosting the socially distanced—and some might say neutered—form of clubbing that’s been happening in scattered places around Europe.)
At the same time, the club’s extended closure hasn’t prevented them from celebrating Robert Johnson’s birthday. An actual party might be out of the question, but there is a star-studded new compilation, Lifesaver 4-21, which they’ve dedicated to much-missed DJ legend Andrew Weatherall. Featuring artists like Axel Boman, Roman Flügel, Perel, Fort Romeau, Gerd Janson and many others, there’s a lot of great music on offer—much of it colorful, melodic house—but this track from Llewellyn (a.k.a. Lake People a.k.a. Amrint Keen), which closes out the collection, is a gem that sounds a lot more like old-school Italy than its creator’s native Germany. Channeling both neon-streaked Italo and the campy pianos of Italian dream house, Llewellyn is practically mashing the pleasure centers of listeners’ brains, and he’s doing it with a pair of giant sunglasses and a relaxed Mediterranean swagger.
Once again, additional track recommendations are available to paid subscribers, and can be found here. This week’s selections include new music from Shed, Robert Hood, Machinedrum and more, including new tracks from labels like Delsin and Quiet Love.
That brings us to the end of yet another newsletter. As always, thanks for all your support and thank you so much for reading. It really means a lot.
Until next time,