01.11.2016 | Words by: Alex Rigby.
In light of their Indigo Aera label turning 5 years old, De School residents Jasper Wolff & Maarten Mittendorff recently released an intriguing project named Lost Archives which compiles their most prized techno finds to date.
Made up of relics that were pulled from forgotten boxes of dead tapes, old blogs, overlooked live sets, and now defunct hard drives, the compilation takes form as 18 mysterious tracks that have been carefully dusted off and ordered into an epic 5 chapter trip through the genre’s most soulful reaches.
I spoke with the two about their process of unearthing these rare pieces of music, and where Amsterdam fits within the story of the Lost Archives.
For people who might not know, can you tell us about the original concept of your label and on what sort of principles it was formed?
MM: Around 2010 there wasn’t much analogue sounding techno that was being published. We’d both been fallen in love with that old school Detroit techno sound and we felt it was very much missing from the current scene.
JW: We started speaking to artists we loved in order to find both dancefloor tracks and more art form ambient compositions – the idea was always to keep some kind of unifying emotion that would pay homage to the soulful Detroit sound.
The Lost Archives compilation is split into 5 sections or movements – Rhythm, funk, soul, spirit, soul, and transformation – can you explain these themes in relation to the Detroit sound?
JW: I think that the 5 sections were a logical way of ordering tracks we found and really describing the overall sound of our label. Each disc has a theme and each theme is picked to sum up an aspect of the label in some way.
MM: For example, take transformation as a theme – I think the aspect of putting human emotion into synthesizers is transformative in some respects; it’s feeling expressed in electronic pulses. So in that section there are tracks that reflect that idea well. If you think back to Detroit and the automotive industry there’s something about transformation there also. A lot happened to that city. Many classical Detroit tracks have a strong reference to transformation.
What about something like spirit and soul?
JW: Well, everyone who talks about Detroit techno knows it has this spirit and soul inside it. Those sections are there to pay homage to the use strings and the music’s more melodic parts.
How did you choose certain artists to fit these themes?
MM: I think that it’s both the sound of their music but also there’s maybe a deeper aspect. For example, Joris Voorn appears on transformation because of the sound of his track but also because he has made a more literal transformation in his music. In his early days he was producing more analogue sounding music, then he went through a change and started to make more common stuff for a bigger audience. I think for us it’s a really good example of personal transformation can relate to the music itself.
Are there any tracks that you unearthed that have particularly strange backstories?
MM: Where do we start? To go back to Joris Voorn again, his track from 2004 is a great story. When we started with the label in 2010 we wrote to Joris about whether there was some old stuff of his that we could use. We’d stumbled across a blog a while back and there were these incredible unreleased tracks. We asked and he said no, because it was music from his past. A year went by and we emailed again, and got another no. Then finally the Lost Archives project fell into place and we sent him the musical parts we already had. Somehow the moment was right as he liked it and said he wanted to go for it. He gave us the freedom to pick the one we liked the most.
JW: After agreeing, he said that there was a big chance he couldn’t find the actual project we wanted. He thought that he might have lost them on an old hard disk or something, so he really had to search through his archives. He didn’t know where to start. He finally found it and he sent 3 versions, and we picked the original version that we’d heard first and loved the most.
What about the track from Makam?
MM: Makam story is also great. He had already contributed one track to Indigo a few years ago called Lion King - one of the biggest releases on the label. We told him about the project and then he was like ‘oh, I have this live set from when I just started producing in 2004 and there are specific parts in this live set I really liked that you might like’. So he went back to the set, grabbed the part, looped the beginning and end, put some strings on it. He was really amazed that he recorded back then in such good quality. It was destiny that he recorded it in WAV, rather than mp3.
JW: It was so lucky. The great thing about the track is you feel this early energy from a kid trying open-minded stuff. There’s a free spirit in the track. It drifts and goes everywhere with a very raw, playful and experimental element to it.
I think – besides you two – 7 of the artists on the compilation are based in Amsterdam (Makam, San Proper & Antal, Deniro, Sterac, Joris Voorn and Daniel Jacques) – how important is Amsterdam?
MM: It’s our DNA. Labels like Rush Hour, Dekmantel and Delsin heavily influenced us when we got into Amsterdam.
JW: We connected loose things from this Amsterdam scene on this project. For example, you have San and Antal from Rush Hour, Steve Rachmad who released on Delsin, Makam and Deniro who released on Dekmantel and we clicked them together.
I guess after 5 years as an established Amsterdam label you get a pretty good overview of how Amsterdam nightlife changes and develops. What are you noticing at the moment?
MM: I think Amsterdam is developing in an incredible way. It’s getting so diverse. It’s open. It’s spontaneous. 4-5 years ago it was all the same. I think one of the big players to open up everything were Dekmantel. They made the strangest electronic sounds cool again. We chatted to Antal the other day and he noticed that in 2004 or 2005 much of the “older” DJs in Amsterdam stopped buying vinyl and went digital, selling their collections for garbage prices. Then there was a new generation in Amsterdam that showed interest in the old ways of playing and the old sounds.
JW: The wave we are on right now is such a good one. So many people and organizations are doing great stuff. The great thing is that people who show their first interest in electronic music here have such good reference now. The landscape is so diverse. It’s quality stuff and pretty unique to a major city. Everyone is becoming well educated.
MM: And that’s a catalyzing effect.
And finally, how is your night at DS going and what exactly are you trying to do here?
MM: All the people we suggest to book are people we are inspired by. It’s important for us to invite people who really grip us.
JW: I guess the sound and atmosphere is a bit deeper on our nights. Most of the artists we invite we believe to have the same sound and approach as us. The good thing about playing here is that people are always going for it. The people on the floor are extremely open which allows us to play more eccentric music. There’s a feeling that people want to learn more.
JW: We feel we can look for tracks that we don’t play that often – tracks that we play with a special vibe. Every time when we step in the booth, within five minutes you get this feeling like, oh, this is how it felt. I can play anything I want with total freedom.