Germany’s Michael Mayer has been entrenched in electronic music since the late ’90s, working as a DJ/producer/remixer and co-running the famed Kompakt label with Wolfgang Voigt. At the end of October he released his third album, &, a follow-up to 2012’s Mantasy. Instead of hunkering down in the studio by himself and forging tunes, Mayer’s latest is a wonderful collaborative effort featuring a notable list of talented artists including Gui Boratto, Joe Goddard of Hot Chip and The 2 Bears, Friendly Fires’ Ed Macfarlane, Miss Kittin, Roman Flügel and Prins Thomas. The seed of the idea was planted in 2015 when he began doing back-to-back DJ sets that allowed him to experiment and transform.
As he continues to gallivant around the world playing music, we managed to connect with the globetrotting Mayer and found out which five artists he’s currently drawn to. Here they are listed in no particular order. Continue Reading
If the earth suddenly flipped on its axis and the music industry started handing out awards for the most beautiful sounding albums instead of the ones that were the most popular, Vermont would be awash in trophies. The ambient collaboration between Marcus Worgull (Innervisions) and Danilo Plessow (Motor City Drum Ensemble) is a delicate, gorgeously produced work overflowing with bold, majestic ideas. What’s even more notable is how the album falls well beyond both producer’s comfort zone: music produced for the dance floor. A beat-less masterpiece forged from jam sessions and assorted analog noodling, Worgull and Plessow’s 14 songs float, captivate and never fail to hold your attention. For their self-titled debut they get by with a little help from their friends: Cologne Krautrock legends Dominik Von Senger of Dunkelziffer and Phantom Band (guitar on “Sharav,” “Cocos” and “Montag”) and Jaki Liebezeit of Can (drums/percussion on “Cocos” and “Macchina”) add to the lush sonic wash, while Irish violinist Dermot O’Mahony (Übersprung”) and Cologne leftfield musician Lena Willikens (theremin on “Lithium”) contribute to the splendor. Cinematic in a grand sense without espousing any sort of grand artistic statement, Vermont quietly deliver one the best performances of the year.
File under: Wolfgang Voigt, Autechre
Known for his sublime releases on the venerable Kompakt label, Cologne’s DJ Shumi has been championing soulful, deep house productions and blissful DJ sets since the ’90s. Before making his U.S. debut this week in New York City on a pair of shows presented by The Duchess Of Brooklyn English — Bossa Nova on November 7 with Ital and Nooka Jones and Kinfolk Studios on Movember 8 with Sexy Lazer (Reykjavik and Copenhagen — we talked to the German house hero about playing the Big Apple for the first time, the launch of his new label, Low Hanging Fruit, and National Geographic EP.
Tell us a bit about your U.S. jaunt. What are your experiences like playing in NYC and America?
DJ Shumi: This is the first time I will play in the U.S. so I am really excited. It’s always a great challenge to play for new people with different musical culture backgrounds.
You’ve launched your own label, Low Hanging Fruit. What led you to start this endeavor?
I started the label with a good friend from Cologne and another friend from Chicago. It’s a dance music Label with a little twist. The influence comes from Cologne Krautrock, Chicago house, and Detroit techno. We just felt that it was a gap on the the market for this kind of music label. And our distributer, Kompakt, was very helpful.
Will the label focus on a particular genre/sound?
Fresh and new dance music from arround the world.
Any new releases in the works?
I will release some tracks under the name Truffle Shuffle together with my good friend and great DJ, Marc Lansley. The tracks will be released next year on Low Hanging Fruit.
What else are you up to this year?
I will have my third anniversary with my resident party Risky in Cologne at end of the year. I had guests like Simian Mobile Disco, Michael Mayer, Axel Boman, Trentemöller, etc. I am also DJing around in Europe quite a lot and, of course, I have to take care of the label [smiles].
Bowled over, lurching towards danger, a thrillseeker slash foolhardy dancefloor voyager, The Field will not excuse himself for kissing the sky. Unflinchingly long and straightforward synth lines unfurl to take over stadia at a canter. A trance distillation lacks none of the genre’s powers of affirmation. Duplication unto infinity scuba-dives for pearls of dream house and cerebral techno, until its natural, unfettered drift takes it into shark infested waters.
Spread over a mere six tracks means Axel Willner works the headswims so their pendulous swirls place you on their path to ascension, if not always enlightenment. The title track hazes up and down through a loop trigger marking an uncertainty between fantasy and reality, and “No No” is a dramatic triumph of reshaping El-P’s “Stepfather Factory.” Provocative with the most scant of tools, an almost academic prowess is found rounding up a troupe of fallen angels.
The sweet “Black Sea,” keeping with the aquatic analogies, happily laps up the waves before, without warning, something sharp starts nipping at it from below. After spending the album’s majority perched on an exalted pasture, proceedings are moved from open air chill out to gasping techno asylum on a two-for-one deal.
Considering the Swede overcame a degree of writer’s block to get this album underway and still dices with production genius and everything fortunately falling into place, his maintenance of control keeps cool when under pressure, and more importantly, makes the ever-steady interesting and inspirational.
File under: DJ Koze, Loops of Your Heart, Walls
On potentially the biggest EDM LP of the year, Kölsch practises stadium scales as a keyboard lesson warm-up, taking further liberties when the breakdowns to “Bappedekkel” and “Loreley” seem to be played left-handed. If you’re pro chemical reactions under the sun, 1977 is a year you’ll always remember. If you break down the mechanics, it’s just another EDM album from someone who isn’t plastered all over MTV.
This is surely forthcoming, given the Swedish House Mafia/Armin van Buuren-like “All That Matters”, the album’s only vocal track. European rule bakes the LP with a thin cheese crust, giving you a stereotyped cultural appendix to an EDM/trance step-by-step. Reference points are obvious throughout, loading 8-bits many a time, reigniting the spirit of “Strings of Life” on “Der Alte”, though a good piano track will never go out of fashion. Tunnel rusher “Basshund” firms up a Mylo pressure drop, “Zig” & “Loreley” have posters of Xpansions and Southside Spinners on their wall, and “Eiswinter’s” dirt bike bass, the one-time Kölsch swishes about in the gutter, rides dirty to Hervé’s “Better than a BMX.”
Defending Kölsch, his sound is allowed to generate and find a way rather than immediately look for the payoff, making the ensuing pyrotechnics, shall we say, slightly less silicone-based. While swinging the keys to a church of easy access euphoria, it’s a small token to bear in mind when you’ve written him off into the EDM flock.
File under: Gui Boratto, Benny Benassi, Tiësto
Presently taking a much-deserved victory lap in lieu of its 20th anniversary taking place this year, Cologne, Germany-based label Kompakt Records — the imprint founded by Michael Mayer, Jürgen Paape and Wolfgang Voigt — will mark two decades by setting up a pop-up store within Ableton’s Berlin-based office. A week-long series of events running August 31 to September 7, Kompakt and notable Ableton artists will be on hand for a series of performances, DJ sets, presentations and workshops — all of them free and open to the public. The festivities take place in conjunction with Torstrassen Festival and will remain open until September 7, coinciding with Berlin Music Week.