fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 2: disarming peace

A silhouette of a figure, backlit standing on a stage. The image is rendered in greyscale as a negative.
1. “Anti War Dub” – Digital Mystikz On 26 January 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found [YouTube] there was a case for potential genocide being carried out by Israel in Gaza. The court stopped short of recommending a provisional cease fire and rather required Israel report back in one month about measures taken to address its concerns (legally binding for member states). My friend, the artist Sybille Neumeyer, responding to the ongoing loss of (civilian) lives commented that there is no longer a neutral position. Indeed, I’ve heard arguments in Berlin that calling for a cease fire opposes Israel’s right to self-defence and is thus antisemitic—an accusation that can lead to serious repercussions in Germany. This episode is a playlist/meditation on how peace activism has become weaponized, reflecting on my experiences at Transmediale and CTM festivals this year. 2. “Afrotek” – Scratcha DVA The context of this episode is the Strike Germany campaign, that began in January 2024 when the Berlin Senate announced that it would adopt an anti-discrimination act as a condition of its cultural funding, which included a controversial working definition of antisemitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). It reads:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

To which the Berlin Senate added an extension which conflates criticism of Israel with the persecution of Jewish people. This decision was protested by a significant part of the cultural community in Berlin (see this letter signed by numerous Berlin-based artists and cultural workers). Strike Germany deploys similar tactics of Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS), understood as a means of peaceful protest used with success against apartheid South Africa. The BDS movement against Israel has been banned in several countries and in 2019 the German Bundestag passed a resolution to outlaw it in Germany. This decision is subject to ongoing dispute (see this letter from artists, academics and cultural workers protesting this resolution). The Strike Germany campaign can also be read as a retaliation for the forced resignations of artists and cultural workers in Berlin who have been critical of Israel, notably from South Asia (eg the resignation of Documenta 16’s finding committee in November 2023 and the cancellation of Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie 2024 soon after). Strike Germany has had a significant impact on the cultural sector, initially in Berlin’s club scene/economy, with artists withdrawing from performances at its famous Berghain club. The “sister” festivals, Transmediale and CTM, held annually in late January and early February were also affected this year. London-based producer Scratcha DVA is one artist who announced  his withdrawal via Instagram, and whom I was looking forward to seeing in Berlin. This track “Afrotek” (2021) with Durban producer Mxshi Mo brings together UK bass and gqom [YouTube].
3. “ANG INTERNASYUNAL BUDOTS BOMB STYLE REMIX [SISONS GREETINGS!]” – Teya Logos CTM opened on 26 January, the day the IJC announced its findings, so it seems significant that the festival’s first club night at the aforementioned Berghain featured a room curated by Thai artist Pisitakun, a recent fellow at the DAAD’s Music & Sound programme. Pisitakun’s research concerns the music of social movements for democracy in South East Asia and during his time at the DAAD he launched The Three Sound of Revolution project, named after the “three finger salute.” With reference to the popular TV series Hunger Games and derived from a signal used in the French Revolution, the gesture has been recently adopted by protestors in South East Asia to demand Solidarity, Equality and Liberty. The Three Sound of Revolution is divided into three sub-projects, “Middle Sound”, a compilation of protest songs, chants and speeches remixed as dance/party music by a selection of artists was released in November 2023. This was showcased during Pisitakun’s take over of Berghain’s Säule, with the artist inviting others representing South East Asia to perform and also installing a screen printing station to distribute talismanic revolutionary imagery. Given the situation of strike and withdrawals coupled with protests against the rise of populist Right wing movements in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, Pisitakun’s programming struck a chord. While CTM joined wide-spread criticism of the Berlin Senate’s anti-discrimination bill, it refrained from directly commenting on the war in Gaza and many of us were interested in—and perhaps anxious about—how participating artists would respond. Someone who clearly did not give a fuck was Filipinx artist Teya Logos playing “hardcore” Budots dance music, while screaming and slam dancing. She closed out her performance with a remix of the anthemic “Dammi Falastini” by Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf [YouTube]. 4. “MONn-aARCHhE-EAT-JACKAAAL” (Elvin Brandhi Remix) – Pisitakun

“Since I was born I witnessed three different coups: in 1991, 2006 and 2014,” says Thai artist Pisitakun. “The question is stuck in my mind: Why do we have so many coups?

This track, remixed by Elvin Brandhi, another artist featured in CTM, is from Pisitakun’s album Absolute C.O.U.P. (2020) [bandcamp] 5. “Prayers” – Pinky Htut Aung This recording is taken from the compilation Common Tonalities (2022) produced as part of Goethe-Institut’s Nusasonic project focused on experimental sound cultures in South East Asia, made in collaboration with CTM alongside Yes No Klub (Yogyakarta), WSK Festival of the Recently Possible (Manila), Playfreely/BlackKaji (Singapore). From Myanmar and currently based in Paris, Pinky is a multimedia artist and noise musician. She spoke on CTM’s panel “Revolutionary Music Movements under Distorted Rule of Law” (31 January 2024), where I asked about the connection between the kinds of popular protest songs that was discussed in the panel and the noise and “hardcore rave” dance music that was showcased at Berghain. While such sounds are often overlooked by music scholars and professionals, I was interested in how they had become popular in times of social upheaval. Noise music is distinct from commercial pop music and elite classical or compositional forms. It could be understood as being a liberatory or cathartic practice, and is often made collectively, but is it necessarily political? Or does it signify a politics that is different to conventional party systems, like anarchism? I was struck when Pinky said that for her noise music is therapeutic. To pick up on CTM festival’s theme “Sustain” for its 25th edition, could it be said that music sustains people through difficult times? 6. “Indignation” – Divide and Dissolve Divide and Dissolve [bandcamp] are well known for their commitment to Black and Indigenous struggles as much as for their slow, loud and lurching music, devoid of vocals. I said to a friend who is keen to play heavy music with other racialised people, that she might not be familiar with Divide and Dissolve’s music, but she would certainly know their tee-shirt emblazoned with the words: “Destroy White Supremacy.” A classic, is how someone described it at the band’s merch stand and Divide and Dissolve have since produced a series of tees with statements that are, according to the band, “designed to provoke a conversation.” Emerging from Naarm/Melbourne’s punk scene, where I first saw them play in 2017 alongside anticolonial death metal band Dispossessed [bandcamp]. Divide and Dissolve have gone on to achieve notable success, releasing their last two albums with Geoff Barrow’s (Portishead) label, Invada. So I was curious as to why they had not heeded the call to divest from Germany. With my mind still occupied with Pisitakun and Pinky’s panel about protest music and noise earlier that evening, Divide and Dissolve set the scene at Berghain with a large back-projection of a animated Palestinian flag, rippling in the wind behind a wall of amplifiers. Guitarist and saxophonist, Takiaya Reed arrived on stage wearing a black and white keffiyeh across her shoulders and the duo’s drum kit was similarly draped with the checkered cloth that symbolises Palestinian liberation. After Sylvie Nehill left the band in 2022, Reed has continued with a roster of drummers and tonight she was joined by someone she named “Ced”, “Syd” or “Seb” oder…? Having established that their performance at CTM was a statement of solidarity, Reed breathed into her soprano saxophone to begin the first song only to realise that it was broken. She asked that if anyone in the audience could help, she would appreciate them coming back stage. For some long minutes we stood around, before the super-sized animated flag chatting to our neighbours and sipping our drinks as pop music played over the club’s legendary sound system. This was turning out to be an awkward performance. Arguably, Divide and Dissolve decided to stay with the festival as their appearance would be more effective than their withdrawal. Indeed, artists critical of Strike Germany have argued that withdrawal is a privilege for only those who can afford to do so and often targets organisations working “behind the scenes” towards justice and peace. However, Divide and Dissolve also disrupted the smooth functionings of the event. Aside from delays due to her broken instrument, Reed took her time between songs to explain her position as someone with Black and Cherokee ancestry. She talked about cycles of violence, as those who have suffered genocide in turn perpetuate genocide, and elaborated on how some First Nations people in the US having survived colonial violence became slave owners. While Divide and Dissolve have cultivated a loyal and attentive following around the world, Reed’s ruminations were not well received by all at Berghain. I didn’t think it unusual when someone called out that she should stop talking and “play more music”, and certainly the audience was thinning out. Undeterred, Reed continued to address her heckler in a calm voice, without aggression, but nevertheless confrontational. With Reed holding the space and taking her time to discuss the issues that motivate the band and to name and thank all who had supported her, I began to think that Reed wields her vulnerability as a kind of power. Indeed, if Divide and Dissolve’s bone-rattling sound is as much therapeutic to experience as it is cathartic to perform, it is arguably during these times of violence and anxiety that it is most needed.
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7. “Holy Motor” – FITNESSS feat. LUnG FITNESSS’ striking intervention was into Berghain’s dance floor. Appearing among the crowd with a panel of backlit buttons strapped to their chest, FITNESSS’ provocateur (is it Jas Lin 林思穎?) encouraged the audience to push them and trigger sounds then heard on the main room’s massive surround sound system. FITNESSS are corporeal; physically confrontational and I suppose cathartic in a screamo kind of way. It feels more like a happening than a concert, as the crowd follows the action around the room. We are often pulled into to touch, mosh to crisp digital noise and so-called “sound design” or to pogo to pop music. I’m not sure if FITNESSS is the person I am watching being dragged around the room on their back, or the event in which the boundaries between performer and audience and the social conventions of the club are (physically) challenged. Towards the end of the performance, a shirtless vocalist lurches into the maelstrom of bodies, rasping into a microphone. I guess this is LUnG. Later online I read:

A FITNESSS performance is an expression of raw energy—creating immersive experiences that challenge conceptions of being and communion through movement, electronic sound architecture, and post-modern aesthetics. With an emphasis on audience involvement and collective presence, FITNESSS’ work explores the volatile nature of interpersonal dynamics, as well as the transformative power of crowd synchronization.

8. “Dimensional Spleen” – Aïsha Devi I have been looking forward to see Aïsha Devi perform for some years. Although she does perform often enough in Berlin, I always seem to miss it. Now, touring her recent album Death Is Home (2023) [bandcamp], I find myself sitting exactly front and centre in the Volksbühne theatre where Devi will perform the closing concert. The stage’s scenography consisted of patchwork drapes and flags, set in motion by fans. Strobe lights and fog machines further contributed to Devi’s theatrics, and I heard someone commenting about “the weather on stage.” Dressed in a sheer black dress and shiny black trainers, Devi was often rendered as a silhouette and it soon became apparent that she had a Palestinian flag affixed to the back of her outfit (see main pic above). I can’t be certain about Devi’s use of flags. Given the artist draws inspiration from her paternal ancestry in Nepal, I’m guessing they are a reference to the Buddhist traditions of the Himalayas; when the wind blows through “prayer flags” bearing sutras they are believed to recite them. Devi often discusses the links between her mediation practice and music production by way of the healing qualities of frequencies. In a recent interview for Metal she offers:

Modern physics acknowledges 11 dimensions, and we perceive life in just 3D. To heal this civilization, I think we will have to be much more aware of our existence outside of this corporeal reality and in a higher dimensional plane. I really think that hyper-materialism is annihilating our sense of immortality, and that’s why the intangibility of music is so present in our life. Music is one of the tools that can help us initiate this consciousness and open the portals. I want to bring back the essential ritualistic aspect in contemporary music.

I admire Devi’s open-mindedness and willingness to speak her mind as much as I enjoy her music. When she addressed the audience at the closing of the concert she voiced her support for Palestine and said: “I came here because this is my community—you are my community.” Despite several withdrawals (and at least one forced cancellation at Transmediale), I often heard people reiterate this sense of community with phrases like: “this is my community and so in these days of war, genocidal violence and the threat of fascism it is important that we come together and talk.” Certainly, there are those of CTM’s community who were missed. Kyham Allami, for example, who was instrumental to Nusasonics’ Common Tonalities project, announced his individual and indefinite strike from all German state funded work in October 2023, some months before the Strike Germany campaign. This prompts me to think about the politics of friendship during this time of polarization. TBC…

fugitive frequency, season 4 episode 1: footwork fever

A blurring image of an an extended leg, clothed in long trousers and sneakers, on a wooden dancefloor. The dancer is encircled by an audience that can only be gauged waist-down.

Image lifted from The House-O-Matics Reunion TV Special (2014), Watch N Witness.

If dub is a “mutant virus”, as Kevin Martin wrote back in the mid-1990s, then perhaps footwork is a fever—bringing some heat to a globalising club culture? Emerging from the South Side of Chicago, footwork and its sibling juke have certainly caught on since I first heard such productions via the blogosphere circa 2010. This was largely due to the late DJ Rashad (1979–2014) and DJ Spinn who had to began to tour beyond these scenes and into Europe. Here is an informative interview with these innovators and ambassadors of footwork at Redbull Music Academy from 2011.

Planet Mu’s Bangs & Works compilations (two volumes released 2010 & 2011) are often credited for bringing this genre of dance-battle music, gestating among the community centres and gyms accessible to the South Side’s youth, to the world. In this interview for Resident Advisor, 2011, Mike Paradinas, founder of Planet Mu, discusses the process of connecting with young producers in Chicago and sourcing the music for these compilations, such as ripping audio from YouTube! This was soon followed by compilations such as Juke Underground’s Juke World Order (2014–16), Teklife’s VIP (2016-ongoing) and On Life (2017–ongoing) series and Juke Bounce Werk’s JDUBZ (2014–ongoing) series among others, which attest to the global appeal of this urban dance music that evolved out of booty house and ghetto tek. I’ve been steadily accumulating a hard drive directory full of these compilations over several years, and while juke and footwork tracks have been part of my DJ playlists for some time, it was only recently that I found myself really digging working with these forms. So, over the Christmas break I decided to sift through my archives, organising GBs of music towards making this turning-of-the-year mix. An annotated tracklist follows.

Tracklist
01. “Hello (Footmerc edit)” – The Isley Brothers

From Juke World Order Vol. 1 (2014) [bandcamp] released by Juke Underground to showcase juke and footwork as a worldwide phenomenon. I must have stumbled across this  compilation online in the years I stopped mixing, between 2010–20, and it has sat shelved on a hard drive. Although they seems they were quite active, I couldn’t find out much about Footmerc online, other than they are based in Austin. This video of a Teklife footwork battle at SXSW2013 is a curiousity. Their reworking of “Hello It’s Me” (1974) by the Isley Brothers is nostalgic, yet likeable, and serves as a friendly entry point.

02. “Get Down Lil Booty” – EQ Why feat. Traxman

I think I first came across Traxman [bandcamp] via a Dance Mania compilation. Active since the 1990s, Corky Strong AKA Cornelius Ferguson is a so-called legend of the Chicago scenes as part of the G.E.T.O DJZ INC and Teklife crews. His releases are prolific and varied across several labels, including Planet Mu [bandcamp]. I was led towards his Acid Lyf [bandcamp] releases while listening to some early techno in recent years for fugitive radio. I was for some time thrilled by this mix he made for Resident Advisor, impressed by his seemingly irreverent but precise technique.

With arguably the best name in the game EQ Why [bandcamp] AKA Tyrone Smith is another prolific stalwart of the Chicago scenes. I first came across him via Chitokyo Mixtape (2013) released on Orange Milk Records [bandcamp], which is an eccentric and high-speed montage of 60 tracks over 60 minutes. There is more to be said about Japanese footwork scenes, whom EQ Why and Traxman seem to connect with. None of it made it to this mix—perhaps another time! This track from EQ Why’s Juke Pack Vol. 2 (2021) [bandcamp] does a good job moving the mix rapidly from familiar pop/soul sounds into bass-heavy, repetitive dance floor workouts.

03. “Shawty You Lit 2” – DJ Taye

There was some hype about this Teklife prodigy coinciding with the release of their debut album, Still Trippin’ (2018) on Hyperdub [bandcamp]. This track comes from Taye’s more recent self-released “mixtape”, PYROT3K (2020). It was the sampling that got me hooked — tight and repetitive and that shifts emphasis for rhythmic effect.

04. “Haters Knock Em Out” – DJ Pierre

DJ Pierre is probably best known for his work with Phuture (alongside Spanky and Herb J) who brought Acid House into the world in the late 1980s. This track came to me circa 2008 via a Subterranean Playhouse Sampler I picked up on an e-music service and is probably one of the first juke tracks I heard, although it does not sound so much like the kinds of music I associate with the genre. I was very happy to find it while rummaging through my hard drives. Relatively slow, hypnotic and repetitive I can imagine it piquing the interest of dubstep and grime enthusiasts.

05. “Azzoutof Control” – RP Boo

Kavain Wayne Space, often referred to as the “Godfather” of footwork, is credited with making one of Juke’s foundational tracks, “Baby Come On” released on Dance Mania in 1997. Tracks such as this, with its repetitive rhythmic refrain and phasing, remind me of the early tape works of Steve Reich. Made for dancers, Boo’s productions are undoubtably funkier, but they suggest a kind of fascination with sonic phenomena (eg psychoacoustics) that seems to operate beyond the tropes of dance music genres. The much-loved “Buuuuu” eventually released his debut album, Legendary (2013), on Planet Mu [bandcamp] and label founder Mike Paradinas (who records as μ-Ziq) has been instrumental in promoting Boo and his legacy around the world. There are several insightful interviews with Boo online and I can recommend this conversation for Red Bull Music Academy 2016, where he discusses, among other things, the late DJ Rashad paving the way for his first gigs abroad. Via this video I came to the delightfully candid documentary of the House-O-Matics 29th reunion, 2014, embedded below. Made by Watch N Witness for television(!) it bears witness to the emergence of footwork out of juke and ghetto house, with cameos from notable dancers, DJs and producers such as the late DJ Deeon (1966–2023), who was affiliated with the Dance Mania label.

06. “Naked Rewerk” – DJ Innes feat. BE3K

Before making this mix, I’d not yet heard the way footwork has infected vogue ball, although I was not surprised. I was, however, surprised to learn that Jake William Innes resides in Sydney, where I also grew up. This says something about the globalisation of footwork which seemed resolutely localised in Chicago from when it emerged in the late 1990s until it was taken abroad by DJs Spinn and Rashad circa 2010. Innes’ Shout Outs (2019) [bandcamp] brings together previously released tracks and collaborations with the likes of Divoli S’vere—a stalwart of New York’s Ballroom scene and member of Qween Beat, founded by the legendary MikeQ, and with whom BE3K [bandcamp] is also affiliated. Innes is part of the TEKK DJz crew [bandcamp] alongside Traxman, and indeed the pair released a collaboration, The T & J Project (2015) [bandcamp].

07. “WFM” – Heavee feat. Gant-Man, DJ Paypal, DJ Phil, Sirr Tmo

Heavee [bandcamp] was another new discovery for me as I sifted through numerous Teklife compilations. Described on Hyperdub’s website as a queer producer, Heavee’s tracks segued perfectly between the unrelenting “work” tracks, shifting the mix into different gears that reference RnB, jungle and vogue ball. This track is from Heavee’s WFM (2018) album released on Teklife [bandcamp]. Later in the mix I was amused by how Heavee’s “Take Control” sparred quite nicely with the histrionic minimalism of RP Boo’s “Total Control” and into Jana Rush’s howler, “Disturbed”. To my mind, a reliable “connector” track is the mark of a great producer/DJ and Heavee’s tracks feature…um…heavily in this mix. I hear some influence of video game music (VGM) in “Floor Burn”, confirmed in this interview for DJ Mag. There is also an appreciation for space, tension and drama that plays out on the EP from which it was lifted, Audio Assault (2022) released on Hyperdub.

08. “Diamonds (Ventah Remix)” – Iyer

Iyer first came to my attention for his Tamil Footwork (2014) [bandcamp] released on Ground Mass Music. At the time based in Singapore, Iyer has since relocated to San Francisco and his productions also speak of the globalisation of footwork as a music genre, if not the culture that emerged around competitive dance-battles. Searching for a different footwork flavour, I was snagged by this remix by Ventah from the Tamil Footwork Remix EP (2015) [bandcamp], with its nebulous synths and boomy and muted kicks. By chance, it aligned perfectly with Statik’s refix of Goldie’s Timeless (1995) classic below…

09. “Inner City Life (Statik Footwork Refix)” – Goldie feat. Diane Charlemagne

I suppose one could say that this 2021 re-working of Goldie and Diane Charlemagne’s drum n bass crossover anthem by a Manchester-based DJ and producer—and made available as a free download from SoundCloud—tugs at the heart strings, as did the original. Which makes me think it adds a flourish of old-fashioned nostalgia to the mix! I thought of it as the mix’s “emotional core”, although it occurs about 17 minutes into an hour-long sequence. I’d say it brings another shade or mood to the mix following a series of pumelling “work” tracks. Statik’s remix is also indicative of the way footwork was embraced by UK DJs schooled on jungle, such as Paradinas mentioned above and Hyperdub founder Steve Goodman AKA Kode9. Under the moniker Addison Groove, Brighton-based producer Tony Williams, known for his dubstep productions as Headhunter, began bringing the genres (and speeds together)—and struck up a friendship with Rashad around 2008. DJ Rashad also concurs in a 2013 interview for The Quietus, noting the genres’ similar tempos, as does another notable and prolific British producer Mark Pritchard in this interview for Fact magazine from the same year.

10. “Our Love” – Surly

From a compilation JBDUBZ Vol. 4 (2016), released by the Juke Bounce Werk collective [bandcamp] which seems to have gone offline. Another label that emphasises the globalisation of juke and footwork, foregrounding an international network of artists. What I know of Surly, gleaned from their bandcamp page, is that they are based in Auckland, which had a reputation for nurturing a thriving drum n bass scene in the 1990s. This spare, shuffling track, with its skittering snare/rim patterns offsetting (synthetic) orgasmic moans, brings another kind of fidgety swing and affect to the mix. I often think that DJing is not simply about matching beats, but about tension and release and this track serves to wind things down in terms of its beat science, but raises the erotic quotient significantly. It’s certainly not a battle track, but then I find it a little over the top for love-making, which I suppose it what makes it effective as a “DJ tool”.

11. “Funky Groove (Bass Bag)” – Heavee

Another great track from my current favourite producer, that takes the energy of the mix up a notch with its forceful drums and brash bassline that serendipitously locks snuggly into Surly’s twitchy groove. There’s also some special talent in making the “funky groove” sample not sound totally kitsch. Taken from TRACKPAK V.5 (2020) [bandcamp], Heavee describes the track as being inspired by UK producer Addison Groove’s “Footcrab” and specifically this remix my DJs Spinn and Rashad.

12. “Barnacles (Kode9 Remix)” – Hyph11E

I was trying to avoid Kode9. The London-based DJ, producer,“label boss” and sound theorist AKA Steve Goodman has certainly shaped the kinds of bass and urban dance musics I listen to. However, as an early champion of footwork, I was wary of his influence overshadowing this mix. Also, I’m not sure if this remix would be considered footwork. To my mind, Kode9 takes Hyph11E’s sound design (AKA Tess Sun, who worked in film/television sound production before focusing on music), which has the atmospherics of a sci-fi alien horror movie/game crossover, and sutures them to a “banging” drum track (I think lifted from DJ Paypal’s “100%“) with dollops of ectoplasmic bass. It rattles alongs like a mousetrap rollercoaster and it even has a big dipper moment, when the snares and cymbals drop out and the kicks and bass take over, which makes me think its structural blueprint comes from playing first-person video games. To my ears, it sounds closer to breaks than anything else in this mix, which I find quite funny. I can’t seem to take breaks very seriously—which need not be a criticism. Why shouldn’t dance music be full of novelty and thrills? The textural quality of the sounds is also different to what has come before it. Letting it play all the way out, I also found it mixes quite nicely with the EQ Why track, that follows, their respective bass punctuations seem to goad each other along, adding some extra bounce in the bottom end.

13. “Whip, Shake, Werk, Bang” – EQ Why

Like most of EQ Why’s oeuvre, this track from 2020 [bandcamp] is well produced, charismatic and works reliably in a mix. Its frequencies resonate for me in all the right places and structurally the song punches, kicks and twitches just as I like.

14. “Mkwa” – DJ Hank

A slick sounding, robo-voiced, footwork-RnB-garage hybrid. The title, I’m supposing, is a reference to Midori Takada and her role in the Mkwaju Ensemble, who are cited as influences. From a much-hyped and well-received City Stars (2022) EP released on Hyperdub [bandcamp], which points footwork (retro) futures towards shiny new horizons. Pure ear candy!

15. “So High” – Jlin

Growing up in Gary, Indiana, Jlin AKA Jerrilyn Patton developed her music on the fringes of Chicago’s footwork scenes, and is often described as being “footwork-adjacent”. I find that in the experimental music scenes in which I circulate, Jlin has come to represent the more experimental, abstract or “fucked up” aspects of footwork and is increasingly being recognised as a contemporary composer—a piece she developed with Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2023. This track, taken from Dark Energy (2015), Planet Mu [bandcamp], is to my mind playful and winsome, evidence of a lightness-of-touch.

In my experience of mixing footwork I’ve found that much of it conforms to a 160BPM/80BPM tempo. While the drum programming of producers such as Jlin are often described as “complex”, “abstract” or  “asymmetrical”,  footwork tracks tend to retain a 4/4 time signature (vestigial house?). So while it might not always be so easy to hear the “one” that emphasises the beginning of a new bar in polyrhythmic productions, there a different points in such tracks where it can be cued in or looped to emphasise a specific rhythm. In some footwork tracks, a looped vocal sample supplies the rhythmic backbone, eg DJ Taye’s “Shawty You Lit 2” prior.  Samples in footwork are often short sound bites, that serve as a hook and are potentially instructional on the dance-battle ground: “work it”, “bang this joint” etc. When listening back to recordings of my mixes, I was struck by how these different voices seemed to speak to each other, coming in from different points in the stereo field and occupying different spaces of the frequency bandwidth…

16. “Ridin Hi” – DJ Earl

So, it’s obvious that DJ Hank’s refrain of “you make me feel so high” would speak to Jlin’s “so high” before encountering DJ Earl’s “you ridin’ hi”. From a compilation Dred Collective Vol. 2 (2014) [bandcamp], released by a London-based “multi-genre digital labal”.

17. “Propaganda” – A.Fruit

I’ve only just come across Anna Fruit while making this mix; a Russian producer who the internet indicates is now based in Barcelona. This track appears on Teklife’s On Life Vol. 3 (2022) [bandcamp] and sounds to my ears like it would suit a vogue ball.

18. “Workitbaby” – SubCode

I found this on Juke Bounce Werk’s JDUBZ Vol. 4 (2016) and there are ten in this series so far. The track is from SubCode’s self-released YoushouldbeDancin (2016) long-player. Not a lot of info— they seem to be glitchy productions comprising samples from rap and RnB. It segues out of the “high” segment of my mix, made up of what I’m calling “fragmented” tracks. The looping and cutting could be developed further as a particular mixing style.

19. “Bang This Joint” – DJ Manny

A tight production by Manuel Gaines, one of the co-founders of Teklife, lifted from his Control (2023) EP released on Planet Mu [bandcamp]. I like how all the sound sources are tweaked and EQ’d and sit in distinct zones of the frequency bandwidth. The repetitive sampling winds up the rhythmic tension, and this is another track that lends itself to be mixed according to the vocal line.

20. “Floor Burn” – Heavee

From Audio Assault (2022) released on Hyperdub, an EP that the producer says is designed to score specific scenes in a video game battle such as:“the calm before the storm, the showdown, the battle, and the aftermath”. To me this track builds up the drama of the mix and sounds like something I could imagine hearing at a vogue ball.

21. “Total Darkness” – RP Boo

From Planet Mu’s Bangs & Works Vol. 1 (2010) [bandcamp], the looping vocal sample in this track makes me a little anxious—it sounds an alarm—and after some repetitions it sounds to my ears like the singer is invoking: “Boo-ooh…RP Boo-ooh”! It has an epic build up—it’s almost two minutes into the track before the voice commanding listeners to “take the floor” kicks in. I can’t imagine what this would do to a dance floor.

22. “Take Control” – Heavee

Some fun mixing/wordplay as RP Boo responds to Heavee’s suggestion, “I think it’s time to make the floor burn” with “take the floor” which is then cut with Heavee’s “take control”. I suppose this would be the battle sequence of the mix. This track is from Heavee’s TRAKPAK V5 (2020) and is described as being influenced by dub and ragga.

23. “Disturbed” – Jana Rush

Arguably the emotional climax of this mix. I find Rush’s productions to be spare, almost skeletal. Nevertheless, the vocal sample is hilariously hysterical, bringing to mind diva driven house music. It’s taken from her Painful Enlightenment (2021) LP released on Planet Mu [bandcamp].

Jana Rush’s DJ style, which you can watch here at HÖR Berlin (2023) had some influence on this mix, notably the way she (jump) cuts tracks with the faders, alongside her use of effects. More so was Nick León’s bold use of echo during his DJ set at the closing party of Unsound 2023.

24. “Stolen Phone” – Fire Lord & Seven Six

From Juke Underground’s compilation Juke World Order Vol. 2 (2015) [bandcamp], I feel like I’ve been carrying this track around for a long time. Its production standards are not as slick as much of the music featured in this mix, nevertheless its humour, driving pulse and jarring noise that have kept it in my playlists. I also thought it cute to bookend this mix with two cuts from Juke Underground’s series; beginning with a track that extends a friendly “Hello” and ending with another that issues a curt “Goodbye” before hanging up!

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 12: The Image of Gaza

A protest placard sitting on a bench stating: “PROTECT ALL CIVILIANS-CEASEFIRE NOW”

My friend, the artist and broadcaster Nathan Gray [Instagram], describes the current war in Gaza as the “New Berlin Wall”, as it has polarised a city that is home to significant migrant communities from both Palestine and Israel. In a country held accountable for the Jewish Holocaust and which considers Israel’s security and right to exist its “Staaträson”, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment have surfaced since Hamas’ 7 October attack in southern Israel. From a distance in Finland, I began to approach these developments via anti-racism frameworks; being attentive to (historical) forms of biological race and ethno-nationalism, alongside more recent concepts of ethnocracy—a term coined by Oren Yiftachel, a Professor of Political Geography, to describe circumstances in which democratic processes are unequally distributed among citizens, biased towards ethnic groups in power.

Cultural theorist Paul Gilroy opens his book, Against Race (2000)—re-published as Between Camps (2004)—with a citation from Frantz Fanon:

At first thought it may seem strange that the anti-Semite’s outlook should be related to that of the Negrophobe. It was my philosophy professor, a native of the Antilles, who recalled the fact to me one day: “Whenever you hear someone abuse the Jews, pay attention, because he is talking about you.” And I found that he was universally right—by which I meant that I was answerable in my body and my heart for what was done to my brother. Later I realized that he meant, quite simply, that an anti-Semite is inevitably anti-Negro.
Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks) cited in Gilroy 2000, p. 1.

Writing at the turn of the last century, Gilroy argues that the ambition of anti-racism work should be to dismantle race as a category of difference, and he urges his readers to be wary of emergent forms of racism arising from technological developments, such as genetics.

Like many others, doomscrolling through a feed of “atrocity images” and trauma over the past two months, my interest was piqued last week with the publication of an investigation “‘A mass assassination factory‘: Inside Israel’s calculated bombing of Gaza” by +972 Magazine and Local Call , an independent, bipartisan and non-profit platform established by Israeli and Palestinian journalists. Authored by Yuval Abraham [Instagram], the article outlines Israel Defense Forces (IDF) use of machine learning and AI in determining military targets, in particular a system named Hasbora (The Gospel). There has already been much discussion about the inherent bias in such systems and criticism about their use in policing, so Hasbora’s deployment in a situation where vengeance is a motive is alarming. It should be noted, as Abraham states at the beginning of this interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, that this report was vetted by the Israeli military censor. That is, the IDF has some interest in publicising this information. A recent article in the New York Times reveals how Israel’s security intelligence failed to act on early indicators of Hamas planning an attack on 7 October, thus Abraham proposes that the Netanyahu government is under pressure to produce a “victory image” for its citizens, and arguably one that foregrounds its technological prowess.

Investigative journalist Antony Loewenstein, whose recent book The Palestine Laboratory (2023) is concerned with how Israel develops and tests its sophisticated military and surveillance technologies in Gaza, is often called upon to comment on these issues. Contained within a security wall, Egypt’s national border and the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza is often described as an “open-air prison”. With over 2 million people in area that is approximately 365 square km, it is one the most densely populated regions in the world. As noted by scholars Eyal Weizman (2007) and Jasbir K. Puar (2017), Gaza is tightly controlled; dependent on aid, supplies and (communication) infrastructures that are ultimately managed by Israel, calculated according to what is necessary for survival. Thus, it can be easily analysed as a bio/necro-political regime. Following the end of the cease-fire on 30 November and as the staggering civilian death toll continues to climb, the US and other allied states, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, are qualifying their statements of unequivocal support for the war Israel names “Operation Iron Swords”, cautioning the Zionist state to minimise civilian casualties while continuing to sanction its efforts to completely destroy Hamas. In an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!, Loewenstein points out that these states are continuing to export arms to Israel, and that some of them have significantly expanded these exports since 7 October. Alongside arms proliferation and shared intelligence, these states are also implicated in global supply chains that produce these weapons technologies. As such, the images (and information) currently flowing out of Gaza are effectively, as Al Jazeera presenter Jonah Hull puts it, a “live-fire, real-time experiment” demonstrating these technologies and their concomitant political strategies.

This podcast, “The Image of Gaza”, returns to the theme of “optics”. It is a montage/mixtape of news media, music, infomercials and street recordings that serve as a prompt to think about the images flowing out of the war and how they are being received and interpreted by different interests. These include:

– affective “atrocity images” of an exceptional humanitarian crisis at scale and evidence of possible war crimes
– a “victory image” that Israel’s Netanyahu government is under pressure produce following security intelligence failures to act on early indications of Hamas’ 7 October attack
– a “live-fire, real-time experiment” demonstrating Israel’s military technologies and that attest to a global weapons market and production supply chains that implicate the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia in the war.

Media used (in order)


Music: “Drone Command”, Marc Torch


A song that was briefly removed from Spotify in May 2023, provoking a backlash against the popular music-streaming platform.


Yasmeen Daher from Palästina Spricht/Palestine Speaks addresses a demonstration in Berlin, 4 November 2023.

Breakfast@Goethe with Matti Aikio, 2 November 2023

A group of people sit around a long white table. They are facing two figures at the far end of the table who are obscured by arching microphone stands. Bhind them is a screen with a video projection showing a web browser opened on YouTube.

Goethe-Institut Finnland [Instagram] hosted fugitive radio and Sámi artist, reindeer herder and political representative, Matti Aikio [Instagram] for a breakfast event, 2 November 2023. It was live broadcast on πNode and lumbung radio/Station of Commons.

We began by recalling Matti’s visit to Sydney, Australia in 2000 as a representative of the Finnish Youth Parliament and then went on to range over issues that overlap art and politics, such as: settler colonialism in Finland and the Nordic States—notably so-called “Green Colonialism”—alongside the appropriation and weaponisation of Sámi culture by the tourism industry. We also discuss our mutual interests in music; the horrorcore rap of Inari language activist Amoc and the intricacies of Sámi joiking. Given we both DJ, Matti also shed some light on the underground techno scenes in the North.

Many thanks to Lena, Petra and Ville-Veikko from Goethe-Institut Finnland for organising the event. Also props to Timo Tuhkanen, Eddie Choo Wen Yi, Constantinos Miltiadis, Irina Mutt, Mathilde Palenius and Essi for their generous contributions to our conversation, and to Goethe-Institut Finnland and Jakub Bobrowski for the fotos [all links on Instagram]!

Sumugan Sivanesan (L) and Matti Aikio (R) sit at the end of a table behind microphones. Before them are bowls of fruit and jugs of water. Behind them is a video projection of the desktop of Sumugan’s laptop, displaying the software, platforms used for the broadcast and IR chats occurring simultaneously. Foro: Jakub Bobrowski.

Media used in this broadcast:

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 10: post-apocalyptic partying with Juan, Selfies & Sandro, Radio Tropiezo

radiotropiezo.org

This month’s episode is a conversation with Juan, Selfies and Sandro from Radio Tropiezo, that is part of the collective Cráter Invertido [Instagram] in Mexico City. Radio Tropiezo is involved in the lumbung radio/Station of Commons network and we met recently in Berlin during the Miss Read Berlin Art Book Festival & Fair, 22–24 September at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Selfies and Sandro, who are also part of the DJ collective Chakanais [Soundcloud], and Juan DJ’d the opening party of the 3-day event in HKW’s restaurant and bar.

Our conversation touches on the post-apocalyptic party culture of Mexico city and features excerpts of their sets — Selfies and Sandro spinning cumbia and Juan playing high energy Italo disco and house. Many thanks to Eddie from Station of Commons for these recordings.

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 9: Κρατήρας with Jitsa Kon

Demonstrators hold a banner at the “Womens Strike”, Athens, International Womens Day, 8 March 2023.

This episode features and interview with Athens-based choreographer Jitsa Kon [Instagram] recorded in March with Anastasia Diavasti, artist and founder of the feminist platform NTIZEZA [Instagram]. We discuss the durational dance-research practice Κρατήρας (Crater), initiated by choreographers Vitoria Kotsalou [Facebook] and Michael Kliën. I first encountered Κρατήρας in front of the Olympia Municipal Music Theatre Maria Callas which was then being occupied by students [Instagram] protesting policy changes that devalued their education and thus professional standing and opportunities. Interspersed throughout the podcast are recordings made during the march marking International Womens Day, 8 March in Athens and a performance by “Chrishanti and friend” recorded outside Rex Theatre, also in central Athens, and that was also being occupied [Instagram].

This episode was made possible by Onassis AiR.

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 7: bioluminescence mix

A solarized image of a beach.

An hour-long mix made for an installation by Jeanne Berbinau Aubry. Made live with Pioneer’s rekordbox software and DDJ–FLX4 controller, this mix is a record of the so-called “vapor rave” I’ve been playing lately.

Tracklist
01 Sinistarr & Stingray – “Untitled”
02 JLin & Zora Jones – “Dark Matter”
03 Hyph11E – “Barnacles (Kode9 Remix)”
04 Siu Mata – “Ngalah Oreyo x UMOJA – GALA GALA (Siu Mata Edit)”
05 DJ Marfox – “Lucky Punch”
06 Hyroglifics & Sinistarr – “BS6”
07 Ikonika – “Energy”
08 Loraine James – “Let’s Go”
09 EQ Why & Traxman – “Dsc”
10 NET GALA – “Reclaim It (ZULI’s Shifting Weight at the Club remix)”
11 Ayesha – “Downpour”
12 Amor Satyr – “Rebola”
13 Black Rave Culture – “Sub Poppin”
14 EL PLVYBXY – “A Pulmon”
15 JLin – “Auto Pilot”
16 Gant-Man – “Distorted Sensory (Kode9 Remix)”
17 RP Boo – “Off Da Hook”
18 Siu Mata & Amor Satyr – “Acidez”
19 Ayesha – “Dark Matter”
20 Hyroglifics & Sinistarr – “Turn Up”
21 JLin – “Connect the Dots”
22 Ziúr – “Collar Bone”
23 Sinistarr – “Nonlinear Threat”
24 Kode9 – “The Jackpot”

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 6: “Four Cees and a Ka”, in conversation with Rosa de Graaf

LIVE RADIO RECORDING IN PROCESS FEEL WELCOME TO SIT & ENJOY (For this reason the sound works in this exhibition are currently switched off)

Rosa de Graaf is curator at Kunstinstituut Melly, Rotterdam. Recorded in May 2023, our conversation was instigated as a live broadcast at the Jan van Eyck Academie Maastricht, where fugitive radio is currently in residence. We address the thematics “Community”, “The Contemporary”, “Conviviality”, “The Curatorial” and “Karaoke” with reference to radio in exhibition practices. We touch on the work of artists Anna Witt and Ayeshah Hameed who have recently exhibited at Melly. This episode also includes audio excerpts from Anna Witt’s Soft Destructions (2023) video below and an episode of Ayesha Hameed’s podcast “Brown Atlantis Radio featuring Ananya Jahanara Kabir”, recorded at Melly in 2022. The main image lifted from Ayesha Hameed’s Instagram, taken during her broadcast at Melly,

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 3: “techno samba” launch Mixxx

silhouette image of a beach bar “Barraca de Falvio“. A shack on a beach flanked by two makeshift flag poles from which fly numerous banners.

This mix announces fugitive productions’ techno samba release on Bandcamp, four drum tracks made over two visits to Brazil during two presidential elections (2018 and 2022). Made with Mixxx free and open source DJ software and a Numark DJ2GO2 Touch, this mix proposes a way to work with these rhythms by looping, filtering and slip-phasing beats. It’s certainly repetitive! At times minimal, occasionally “asymmetrical” and at best hypnotic with a few jump cuts to keep listeners on their toes. May not be suitable for driving. Try dancing?


fugitive radio rádio em fuga in Brazil 2022 was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.

fugitive frequency, season 3, episode 1: “techno samba” live mix

A textured photograph of trees rising up from a field of grass at Residencia São João, Brazil.

Tracklist
01. 0:00:00 Simulacrum – Samba tem digital
02. 0:04:02 Juan Atkins – Other Side Of Life
03. 0:07:10 Der Zyklus – Diffeomorphism
04. 0:09:32 MU – Out of Breach
05. 0:12:12 Phuture – Acid Tracks (12″ Version)
06. 0:16:38 Adonis – No Way Back (Instrumental)
07. 0:21:26 Model 500 – NO UFO’S (Instrumental)
08. 0:26:46 Simulacrum – Zona Contacto
09. 0:28:12 DJ Joe Lewis – Acid Falls (Original Mix)
10. 0:30:52 Da Posse – It’s My Life (Aluh mix)
11. 0:34:52 Steve Poindexter – Computer Madness
12. 0:37:24 Despina – Alexa In Disrepair
13. 0:40:16 Traxman – BAD INDIGESTION
14. 0:43:46 Simulacrum – Bloco Techno
15. 0:47:44 Der Zyklus – Eigenface (Facial Asymetry)
16. 0:50:46 Model 500 – Digital Solutions

Riddim writing, software affordances, rhythmachine music.
This mix is far from perfect. It was recorded live and thus presents a “snapshot” of my thinking/feeling “in-the-mix”. It was made using MIXXX, a free/livre and open source (FLOSS) DJing/podcasting software and with a near pocket-sized Numark DJ2GO2 Touch USB controller that I bought last year to use while on a series of residencies in Brazil. The device compromises on controls for size, so it does not have separate pots for Hi/Mid/Low EQs on each channel that would seem essential for mixing. Instead it has a single knob that is mapped on MIXXX to a Lo/Hi cut sweep filter.

These genres of music are also relatively unfamiliar to me. I learned to mix garage, grime, dancehall, desi, baile funk, hip hop and what became known as “global bass” in the early 2000s, performing as Sven Simulacrum. I stopped around 2012 to focus on other research interests. Recently I’ve been curious about the abstract sonics and asymmetrical rhythms of “experimental dance music” (EDM) often made by producers who are “adjacent” to established genres such as footwork (Jlin) and ballroom (quest?onmarc) alongside high energy styles forwarded by labels including Principe, Lisbon and Yes No Wave, Yogyakarta. Music that I’m tentatively calling “other technos”.

The notion of “techno samba” emerged during fugitive radio’s recent time in Brazil, and particularly while in residence at Residência São João (RSJ); a farm, coffee plantation and self-organised artist space in the countryside of Rio De Janeiro in late October–November 2022. RSJ is reputed for its somsocosmos music residency, so I sought to spend my time there to working on sound production. Before leaving São Paulo late in October, I met with Coletivo Digital [Instagram] at their space in Pinheiros and my first task at RSJ was to I edit our conversation for a podcast. The collective had sent me a song to use, “Canção tem samba” by Trilha Sonora, recorded in their FLOSS studio and I’d thought to make a remix, also using FLOSS; specifically a suite of programs I was working with for Thalaam Riddim Reapers, alongside Luci Dayhew and Brendy Hale. Simultaneously, I undertook the same process with the popular proprietary music production and performance software Ableton Live, to understand the different affordances of these digital tools. I must admit, I was much happier with the results in Ableton and continued to use it to develop what became “Samba tem digital”, thinking once I was done I would return to a FLOSS set-up.

I should have seen it coming, but after some days of tinkering I opened a folder of musical skeletons I began in Ableton, 2018, when I first visited Brazil. At that time I was working on an urban research/cooking project, but had some inkling beforehand that Brazil would re-ignite my interest in music, as I had purchased a small USB keyboard that came packaged with an LE version of the software. In Rio I intuitively began making recordings on my smartphone of music I would hear everyday in my unfamiliar surrounds. This was also during the time of the presidential elections and there were regular demonstrations—manifestaçãoes—in the streets and plazas, notably the ele não campaign against Jair Bolsonaro, who went on to win by a significant margin. In Rio, I began to transcribe some of the rhythms I had recorded into MIDI—“riddim writing” is how I described it, as it bore some resemblance to writing, editing and fine-tuning text. After the patterns were entered into the software, I would run them through different drum kits and samples. Swapping drum kits on the fly is simple to do in Ableton and can lead to surprising results. I wasn’t sure what to do next. I sent a couple of riddims to some friends whom I thought might be interested to voice them, but received little response. Later I dropped them into fugitive frequency podcasts, just to put them to some use and to “see” how they sounded.

At RSJ, I was the sole inhabitant at figuera, a ground level cottage by an unsealed road that ran through the property, that could have easily housed four or five more residents. I had a small PA at my disposal and would often spend my nights mixing tracks, knowing that I wouldn’t be keeping anyone awake. My closest neighbour, Javier, was maybe 20 meters or so down the road. While I would make noise in the evenings, he would wake up early to practice trumpet and we never seemed to bother each other. Prior to moving to RSJ during the COVID pandemic, Javier was based in Rio where he’d been involved in a gallery/project space where I believe he was brewing beer, a practice he was carrying on at RSJ.  I asked if he was thinking to play trumpet with others—maybe join a samba bloco?—a popular sport of sorts in Brazil. He said something about playing in a “techno samba” group and I was intrigued.

In July last year Kode9/Steve Goodman released his album Escapology (2022). Like many others, I have much respect for the London based DJ, Hyperdub label boss and theorist. Alongside his colleague Kodwo Eshun, whose book More Brilliant than the Sun (1998) unleashed a slew of concepts concerned with black alienation, technology and “rhythmachine music”, Goodman has been a steady influence on my thinking about sound and EDM. At RSJ I listened to some recent interviews in which he recalled his early love for jungle, which reminded me of the “hardcore continuum”, a termed coined by another of Goodman’s contemporaries, music journalist Simon Reynolds. It describes morphing but consistent musical genres and scenes that extended from early hardcore rave in the late 1980s UK, to jungle, drum and bass, garage, grime and dubstep and its ecology of record shops, pirate radio stations, parties, promoters and clubs. The notion of a hardcore continuum has propelled my interests in EDM from the time that jungle and drum and bass first entered my consciousness growing up in Sydney, and a curiousity to tap back into it is what prompted me to start mixing again for fugitive radio.

It was again the time of the presidential election when I returned to Brazil in September 2022, and shortly after I arrived at RSJ a second run-off election was scheduled. While now relatively removed from the action in the bigger cities, the mood at the fazenda and among its community was anxious. On the day I arrived, I was swept up in a manifestação organised in the nearby town of São José do Vale do Rio Preto. The following weekend, on the 30 October election the working class icon and former president, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva defeated Bolsanaro by a narrow margin, indicating that the country remained polarized.

So it was strange to find myself in the after glow of the elections and among RSJ’s idyllic surroundings in late Spring, turning to Reynolds’ 2012 book Energy Flash, which recounts his experiences of early rave and jungle in the UK, and following the scene as it transformed in the US. Early in his book Reynolds interviews Juan Atkins who coined the term “techno” to describe the music he and his friends were developing in Detroit, inspired by his high school readings of Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock (1970) and its sequel The Third Wave (1980), which includes references to “Techno-Rebels” who “embraced technology as a means of empowerment and resistance”. Reynolds recounts Atkins describing himself as a “warrior for the technological revolution” (Reynolds 2012). For me, Atkin’s attitude reminds me of the techno-optimism of early net culture and open source movements; perhaps a “past potential future” to use a phrase associated with the Otolith Group, a collaboration/collective co-founded by Eshun and Anjalika Sagar in 2002, known for their film-essays. Reynolds points out that Atkins and his friends and collaborators, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson—mythologised as the Belleville Three—used the term “techno” to distinguish themselves from the other black dance music gaining popularity in the UK: house from Chicago. In his recent history of Detroit techno, Assembling a Black Counter Culture (2022), DeForrest Brown Jr [Instagram] notes that May preferred the term “High Tech Soul”, which became the name of a 2006 documentary.

Reynolds describes house music as “inorganic”: “machines talking to each other, in an un-real acoustic space” (2012: “New Jack City), which resonated with my experiences of working with software. He emphasises the musical form of the “track” (ie a drum track) rather than a song (2012: “Disco’s Revenge”), as a tool developed by house music DJs such as Frankie Knuckles (1955–2014); “house” being a contraction of “Warehouse”, the Chicago club where Knuckles honed his skills. Initially made on reel-to-reel tape, these would be used to mix, supplement and extend long instrumental sections of records. So the “techno drum track” became the point of reference to the music I was developing at RSJ and I adopted Javier’s phrase, “techno samba”, to describe it.

I’m aware of a recent re-appraisal of techno in sound studies, black studies, queer studies and contemporary art. For example, the short film Black to Techno (2019) by Jenn Nkiru, comissioned by Frieze and Gucci for their series Second Summer of Love (2019) recalling the music-driven cultural revolution of 1988.

Indeed, madison moore and McKenzie Wark, editors of a recent edition of e-flux Journal themed “Black Rave” (December 2022), issue a call to develop the field of “Techno Studies”.

Most significant is the campaign to “Make Techno Black Again”, fronted by the aforementioned writer and musician DeForrest Brown Jr/Speaker Music. With his interests firmly rooted in the black working class experience of Detroit, Brown Jr’s book Assembling a Black Counter Culture (2022), proposes to delink techno from the hardcore continuum and its associations with (European) rave culture and rather re-frame it as a distinct African American artform and “embodied aural history”. Perhaps a hardcore discontinuum?

Deforrest Brown Jr sits cross-legged on a polished floor. Dressed in black, he wears a “Make Techno Black Again" cap, a covid face mask and is reading from Kodwo Eshun’s book "More Brilliant than the Sun" (1998).
DeForrest Brown Jr reading Kodwo Eshun’s More Brilliant than the Sun. Photo: Ting Ding 2020

Brown Jr presents his thoughts as an extension of Eshun’s writing and he also responds to ideas raised by Goodman in his book Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect and the Ecology of Fear (2012). In the podcast below produced by Haus der Kulteren der Welt, Berlin and Camden Art Centre, London, 2021, Brown Jr, Goodman and musician Nkisi discuss the migration of techno from Detroit to Europe.

While I’m still working my way through Brown Jr’s detailed volume, it has pointed me towards some interesting music and history, some of which appears in this mix, notably the “acid house” tracks: Phuture’s “Acid Tracks” (1987), Adonis’ “No Way Back” (1986) and Steve Poindexter’s “Computer Madness” (1989). I’m also curious about the continuity of acid house in footwork, as can be heard in productions by Traxman (AKA Corky Strong), whose “Bad Indigestion” from his Acid Lyfe (2018) release also features in this mix. His 2019 reworking of Steve Poindexter’s “Work that Mutha Fucker” (1989), pressed on the same record as “Computer Madness”, is another notable track.

Another influence is Brown Jr’s descriptions of how house DJ’s would loop and mix instrumental rhythms breaks and drum tracks, into repetitive hypnotic sequences that could last up to an hour or more—“music that would never stop”, according to Larry Levan (1954–1992) the legendary DJ at the New York’s Paradise Garage in the 1980s. A combination of these readings and the qualities of these musics have led me to attempt looping and crossfading back and forth between tracks more than I am accustomed to doing, and admittedly with mixed results, nevertheless giving a sense of where “techno samba” might go. Another technique I’m curious to experiment with, but am limited by my current set-up, is the “rhythmic fader” DJing techniques of Derrick May (listen here) and that I find reminiscent of another influence on my mixing, Venus X (listen here). (Incidentally Venus X also features in Wu Tsang’s contribution to the Freize and Gucci series, Into a Space of Love (2019) concerned with New York House.)

While I am processing Brown Jr’s arguments in this mix, as a testing ground for thought, I nevertheless regard my approach to techno is in its most generic sense, ie rhythmic dance music made with machines.

fugitive radio rádio em fuga in Brazil 2022 was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.