It’s been a while since Cio Dorbandt released new music. The “queen of hypnotic minimalism,” as Resident Advisor accurately describes her, is certainly known for her trippy, cinematic and sophisticated approach to techno. Her last release, All in all LP on Semantica Records, dates back to 2015. Five years later, the artist returns to the label with her 12″ Fluidum III.
The release hiatus has been everything but that for Dorbandt or Cio D’Or, as she is better known. Fluidum III was, in fact, in the making for years already. During a phone call, Cio elaborates on the gap between All in all and Fluidum III:
“When I have an idea, I make a project of it. When I started making Fluidum III, I was playing a lot of gigs. I was in the middle of sound development and composing, but I felt the responsibility to prepare my sets for the terrific audience. For me, creating a good DJ set takes at least the same time as creating a track. In the end it’s the same, you have to have the idea, the dramaturgy and what you want to say.”
This eludes Cio D’Or to the way she generally works. She is a project person, a sound architect, who prefers immersing herself in that very project – whether it is writing techno, preparing a performance, composing piano pieces or developing sounds for musical theatre.
Her projects are entities, and separately, the tracks are fragments of the dramaturgy carefully composed in her studio.
“Many times I have been asked to release a track as a part of a compilation. When my tracks are done, they are together the result of an idea I had for a new music project. This is the reason I have not released anything for a long time.”
Cio D’Or’s music and her well-focused, hypnotizing performances are a result of patience. “I can work with one sound for days, or weeks,” she tells. “At the beginning I wanted to show that also the non-rich people can make music without expensive analogue equipment. Like Dasha Rush says, ‘all you need is ears.’”
By patiently sampling noises and reworking them to resemble something that could come out of an analogue synthesizer, she created her first tracks. “Once a label commented my tracks by saying wow, we can hear you have a real analogue equipment at home. That’s the best compliment I have ever had,” she says.
The initial ideas are significant for Cio, and usually they emerge before any music has been made. The ideas might appear as visions in her imagination, which the artist sometimes encapsulates into short films later used in her music videos.
“I have done films by myself, because I rarely find people who understand what I want to say. But I don’t have time to make professional films. If I did, I would not have time for the music,” she says and mentions artist Jennifer Trees, who created a similar-style video for one of Fluidum III‘s tracks.
Cio’s ideas can also be auditory. But how are those distinctive, eccentric and so tastefully executed sounds brought to life? The bottomline of Cio’s creative work lies in the concept, in the well-arranged minimalism, and in the thorough research of each piece of gear in her “music room.” The key is to know the selected tools – and to know them well.
“Less equipment makes it harder, but too much equipment makes it confused. I have been working with one sequencer for years. It is very old-fashioned, I have to say, but I did so many things with it. I still work with it, but now I also own some more programs.”
Cio’s early works were primarily released by Prologue Music, but also on labels such as Treibstoff, Motoguzzi and Telrae Records. Out of all the labels she’s collaborated with, Prologue felt the most like home.
“I already knew Tom Bonaty [Prologue founder] from a record store in Munich. Tom had the same taste in techno, so when starting his label, he asked me to make music for him. I had no time, and sent him Claudio PRC‘s music. I also made the first contact between Mike Parker and Prologue.”
Cio also co-creates, having collaborated with the likes of Donato Dozzy, Gabriel Ananda and Paul Brtschitch. Another interesting collaboration was PULSA:RE, a contemporary dance performance choreographed by Claudia Litchtblau and Mattias Harmann, in which Cio and composer Brigitta Mutendorf fused their experimental music styles with an orchestra.
However, the recent studio work for Fluidum III was done solo. By stripping down the already-minimal sound palette, the artist re-invented and developed her favorite sounds.
“Since listening to and creating a lot of techno in my life, I wanted to take a different path. I made three pieces without the kick, and was surprised that these pieces, used in the right context, can work similar way.”
Indeed – for the listener Fluidum III unmistakably sounds like Cio D’Or, yet further reduced. If comparing with All in all, the theatrical elements are mainly lacking. “I created orchestral elements for track Cascade, but they did not fit the key. This orchestral piece will later be released on an ambient or orchestral album,” she says.
Cio’s flowing, bleeping and even dramatic essential sounds are thoroughly present on Fluidum III, perfected with thoughtful arrangements of other elements. She describes the release as contemporary techno.
“If you do something for a continuous time, there is plenty of time to observe. I wanted to reduce the “typical characteristics” and see if it works the same way. I used track Fluidum III several times at gigs, during special moments, and the audience seemed to be excited. I wanted to show that the track does not need to have much to get people moving. It’s all about the sound.”
The creative process of Cio D’Or is not only focused on a project, but also on a sound. “It can take a long time, and still I might not be satisfied,” she laughs and tells how she patiently works with the equipment and synthesizers until she finally achieves the sound that is represented in her head.
“I work with special sounds, bleed, fluid and liquid. It is a long way to reach those sounds. Sometimes I am doing one sound for days, only one sound with one synth, until I think it is good. The concept has to be clear in my mind, and then I move on step by step.”
For Fluidum III the artist also experimented with BPM, sometimes doubling, sometimes halving the times. “I like it when the sound can breathe,” she says, and tells that she typically takes almost as much time mixing track as she spends writing it.
“A track should already work without mastering, then it is well mixed. In my opinion a good mastering lets the track breathe, does not compress it too much, nor does it change the character of the track. I prefer to work with Salz Mastering.”
Last year Cio announced she would stop flying to concerts until an ecological fuel variant for planes is developed. Fluidum III reinforces her statement, as the backbone of it is the rain – or more precisely, the lack of it.
“The past two years the rain has been missing in Europe. Many trees have died. I was in a train, on my way to a festival, and from the window I saw those dying trees. I was crying. We have nearly no rain, but we are still making parties. How could I fly to a festival after seeing all those dying trees? With Fluidum III I want to remind that without the rain, everything on this planet will perish.”
Cio hopes to encourage people to change their individual habits for the greater good. “I don’t think we should cry all day,” she clarifies, “but think about how we could change our lives to improve the situation. We cannot change the whole world, but we can let ourselves change. The same applies to the current worldwide Corona crisis, this is a very sad time for many people.”
So will Cio D’Or’s faraway fans see their idol perform again in their country? “I hope there will be a solution for better fuel. Then, why not? I love bringing my projects to different countries,” she says.
In the shorter-term-future Cio D’Or plans to emphasize her live performances in Europe, mostly within a train-ride-away from her home in Cologne in the Western Germany. While waiting the Corona crisis to facilitate, the extraordinary artist will keep herself busy with another music project – likely working on a concept already formed in her imagination.
“I have so many things in my mind. To follow all of them, I would need so many lives. Music is a never-ending story, it is an eternity.”
Fortunately, the sounds resulting Cio D’Or imagination are intangible, and can also be reached from afar.
Fluidum III comes out on Semantica Records in mid-May 2020. Preorder the release from here.