26.11.2016 | Words by: Jasmin Hoek.
It's 2016 and all-male lineups are still the norm. Which is strange, for me at least, because gender doesn't play a role in my taste in music. Since De School opened, female DJ's have played an almost unquestioned role in the lineups. I'd love to say they've sought to directly address the imbalance and make female visibility a main priority, but in truth artists like Aurora Halal, Sandrien, Avalon, Emerson, Courtesy, Dr Rubinstein (the list can go on...) are invited to play because we just want to experience their music.
Aurora Halal played together with JP Enfant at the beginning of March and she returns for November's Het Weekend. When I first saw her she showcased her skills in a live set up before going into a broody DJ-set. Her sound - live or DJing – is what exactly what I wished for in the darkness of the club: heavy with a slight psychedelic twist. Halal is one of the heads behind New York's Mutual Dreaming party series and Sustain-Release festival. Her choice of booking diverse artists reflects her own scattered taste as a selector: a love for contemporary moody techno and raw house, but with a particular love and appreciation for the Detroit legends - this year’s Sustain Release was blessed with Umfang, DJ Sprinkles, Lena Willikens, Shanti Celeste & DJ Stingray amongst others. Her label – also called Mutual Dreaming - has released many of her sophisticated techno EPs, ones, like 'Passageway,' which play with a funky Detroit-style house alongside the weighted electro infused sound of synth infused 'Shapeshifter.'
Drum-computers and synths aren't the only machinery Halal has demonstrated her talents on - as featured earlier on De School's blog - she's also a renowned visual artist having produced several documentaries, installations, and music videos for various electronic/indie artists, including partner and collaborator Ital. Often working under the title 'Ital & Halal,' the pair have produced a series of electronic live sets accompanied by Aurora’s own live video-visuals and they released their Tower B EP earlier this year on Ital’s Lovers Rock label. Listening to Tower B, it differs so much from track to track in it's intensity. It cuts between the melodic, almost sleepy, bass-less track 'Where Exactly I Am' to the thudding rave anthem 'Tower B' - which I can easily hear being a point of climax in one of her fiercer techno sets.
Another resident heavyweight at De School is Sandrien. Over several years and multiple venues, she’s grounded herself as one of Amsterdam’s leading DJs on the darker side of electronic music, and - I can confirm - she never disappoints. Her name printed on a line up is pretty much signed assurance of a great night. The energy on the dancefloor is always consistently high from the steady stream of solid bass. She’ll make you go home soaking wet from sweat and adrenaline. The post-Sandrien-set feeling is similar to finishing a killer workout. Pure techno sets that keep surprising with our senses with the odd percussions-only track or a trippy vocal, played for short but magical moments.
Not only for me while growing up in the Netherlands as a nerdy girl with quite a dark taste in music, but also to many others Sandrien has been a role model: she has been playing an important part in the Dutch LGBTQ- party scene. Together with Carlos Valdes, she provides Amsterdam with a regular gay club night “Is Burning”. With this concept they wish to create inspiring a safe space for those who do not always feel free to be who they want, a higher purpose based on the original values of the underground disco, house, and techno clubbing scene. These values yet again also explain perfectly what Sandrien brings to the dance floor: mental and physic freedom through music. Although very different in their DJing style and selector taste, from Aurora’s twists of dark electro synth sounds to Sandrien’s personal preference for upbeat percussion filled tracks, they both know as no other what the perfect techno-filled club night needs. Feel free to expect everything from their upcoming sets at Het Weekend, as their names on a line up guarantee a killer evening, or weekend.