It is a pretty cold and very wet evening in Oslo. Winter is beginning to set in, and the freaky summer melange is starting to roll out like a yearly tide. There are, however, still people out on the streets tonight who need an aesthetic fix to electrify the corridors of their work-tired minds and activate parts of their slumped bodies into repetitive and shifting shapes in a race for a good bit of body/mind bonding.
Yes, it’s true, they could have been satisfied by doing Yoga mid week.. but techno is not Yoga. The desires that bind the pursuit of these pass-times with some kind of transportation to another realm (rarely achieved if using the cheap fixes mainstream culture often offers) are quite different. Techno has a visceral energy that focuses and pacifies with equal measure when done right, and these guys playing tonight definitely do it right.
Jaeger is hosting Roland Lifjell’s Filter Musikk and he is joined alongside by one of Spain’s most dedicated and uncompromising techno artists – Reeko. As I have understood, Lifjell is a staple in the Oslo techno scene (I’m new here!) and regularly plays at Tresor, OHM and Dagslys to name a few. I popped into his shop (Filter Musikk) last week, and as far as I know, there is no place like it in Oslo for those who know, love and want to make their electronic music. There is a huge range of synthesisers, drum machines, processors and gadgets of all shapes and sizes. All the kits I want is there, and of course lots of the kit I didn’t know I wanted until now. Also, he has all the records you want featuring some gems in the 90’s techno section and a good range of Norwegian artists. I briefly chatted to him and he seems like a nice guy too! But perhaps I’m straying here…
He starts his set at 11pm with with deep pad, warm kick and soothing synth sounds which undulate around the room. It’s early, and there are just a few of us out here to begin his journey with him, (the rest soon join us from upstairs when he starts really firing up the 4/4 engines). Roland orchestrates a choppy and broken early phase, with bass frequencies occupying more room than they normally might, and then switching to vice versa with the treble taking over, tilting this unsteady techno ship from side to side and bucking it up and down the frequency spectrum. This makes it exciting for me, as I don’t know where the next chapter will take us. It is like an extremely muscly, top heavy shot-put thrower, who looks like they will fall over any minute but delivers killer throw after killer throw, or a boxer who seems to be either falling or twirling round for a decisive blow. A smooth fade into 16 beat clicks introduces a groove that feels like it resonates on about half the frequencies human ears can hear. This helps the space open right up for deeper and also higher pitched atmospherics, which sour and circle around the structural foundation. The sonics and atmosphere have an analogue aggression to their texture, and it feels like you are watching an old and dusty 70mm cinema print of a late 70’s scifi. Dune comes to mind.
Then, the noise gets squashed and shoved aside allowing a syncopated percussion to start bursting through from underneath it, like a cracking surface of a distant moon giving in to some new and deadly technology. This technology is that of a distant race though and doesn’t look like ours, if it has ever been imagined it is probably archived in a VHS straight-to-video release, and remembered as some kind of alien tribal sacrifice. A distant technological future cousinof the VHS format, then, smashes through this landscape with an all-out resonating hi-fidelity bass line, hitting you where it hurts.. Things then start to morph, and get more wonky. Rudderless loops with a draggy anchor really get me going, so I’m on cloud no. 9 for this part of the set. The business end of the set then hits home with some heavy 4/4, and the dance floor fills up nicely for the arrival of Reeko. I feel that it was a true record collectors set, with a love of the experimental and the musical non-sequiter running through it’s veins (if sets have veins.. forgive my metaphoric hyperbole).
The extremely prolific Reeko has been releasing music and DJ’ing for many years. His own Mental Disorder label’s 12 seminal releases from 2003 carved out a name on the scene for crumbling, dark, symbiotic techno, and since then he has released on countless other imprints and is a fully fledged member of techno literati – PoleGroup. He begins by setting up his stall meticulously. I don’t mean arranging his records in rows and making sure his decks are both an equal distance from his mixer… but he develops his world, and makes sure it becomes consistent for us, the dancers, so gradually we get in sync. This attempt at integration is crucial. The concepts integration and similarity seem strong within Reeko’s artistic practice, and they mean we get sucked increasingly into his singular world where things start to make sense in finite comparison only to themselves. Minimising is maximising after all, as somebody probably once said. The set steps up the tempo to around 130bpm, but rather than getting us all gasping for breath, it bypasses our cardiovascular system and goes straight for hypnotising our hypo-campus. It’s basic, and linear, and things start off by sitting in the mix where you would expect them to in terms of your bass/kick/perc balance.
After a while, though, unknown landscapes start to creep in. If I had to describe them (which I do, being a writer..) I would say, there is some heavy retro sci-fi imagery, Highlander style, and we are simultaneously in 1983 and 2047. Both eras collapse on each other and start to crumble. The sound becomes dirtier, and more caustic, the hi-hats start to get swamped and disappear more often and for longer, and we are heading along a lo-fi techno battle worn road with hi-fidelity jet fighters intermittently ripping into our acoustic vista. The F1 sound system’s speakers are being tested for what kind of colour differentiation they can give at all sorts of low frequencies. Headphones are a horrible way to listen to this stuff, I realise, when served this cerebral platter, and the main course is on its way. We are really starting to explore the bricks, cement and the mortar of his sound in the middle and lower regions – when BAM! A rhythmic muscle takes over and I seem to have become a whirling dervish at the front of the room. Others have been activated pretty deeply too and express it with some karate chopping and shape making of a higher intensity that gets the rooms dynamo truly up and running.
Two party-people come down from upstairs, stand at the front and go ‘yay’ literally for 2 mins. They then leave and repeat the process 3 times. There are no pop hooks, or breakdowns, for them to cheer, so I’m not sure if they are either really, really into it or just very drunk. Anyway. Reeko reached out, sucked us in and then hit us with electrifying dance floor power. I left with my feet aching and tired and my imagination fired. I couldn’t ask for more.