Dub techno artist Brendon Moeller will release another album as Echologist this April, entitled Subterranean.
Born in South Africa and based in New York, Moeller is a tireless producer with releases under a number of pseudonyms (Echologist and Beat Pharmacy when he's not using his given name). Subterranean will be his seventh album, and his second as Echologist, following 2005's Explorations Vol. 1 on Mule Musiq. The album was recorded live in one take, using pieces Moeller had produced on tour in South Africa and Europe. Its overall sound is deeper and more atmospheric than most of Moeller's output to date, which he attributes in part to his recent move upstate from New York City. "I mean you look out my window and you see houses in the distance, but it's sort of forest and trees and deer and farms," he says. "I wonder if that made the album more ambient and soundtrack-y. Who knows?"
Earlier this week, Moeller took a break from his studio work in Amsterdam to give us the rest of the scoop on Subterranean:
When did you start working on the new album?
Basically I started doing these Echologist 12-inches for my own label, and I wouldn't say there was a sort of desire at that point to put them together as an album. But then I realized by the fourth or fifth piece that there was a cohesive thing going on that could work. I sort of decided that I was going to put together an album, but not make it a techno record; just put it together differently in the vein of a DJ mix, and with the idea of trying to capture the essence of techno, which is sort of propulsion and rhythmic elements, but without using a bass drum or hi-hats, and to try and make it as driving and propulsive as a techno sound would be in Berghain at like five in the morning, but without all the typical elements, namely the drums. So it ended up becoming the sort of thing that it is right now.
I wanted to make sure it's the sort of thing you have to listen to—you can't just put it on and skip through it. It was a full-on album concept; I wanted to have a serious narrative, and maybe it's something that's more for home and for listening and something that you throw on getting ready for a night out. So it still possesses a lot of elements that make us love deep techno and electronic music. There's a lot of my own personal derivatives of what inspires me in there, lots of bits of electronic stuff, ambient stuff, and taking elements from shoegaze, rock stuff that I was obsessed with back in the late '80s.
What makes it an Echologist record versus at Beat Pharmacy or Brendon Moeller record?
Well, essentially Beat Pharmacy was what I was going to go with, and then I talked to Francois K... He didn't want me to use Beat Pharmacy for releases outside of Wave because he wanted exclusivity. I was quite happy to give that to him, because he was paying me really well for the albums and, you know, I kind of understood that he wanted it to be his baby, so I was fine with that. I never really wrestled with what Ecologist would sound like, but now I think Echologist definitely has a sound. I think this album sort of solidifies it. It's not too far removed from the Echologist album I put out on Mule Music, except I was a much younger and sort of inexperienced musician at that point and you can hear it on that album.
So you think Subterranean is the album where Echologist establishes a distinct sound?
I think so, yeah. I think now Echologist is a legitimate project and I now have, at least in my own mind, a clear identity of what it is and where I want to go with it.
You said you weren't sure what the response would be to the album because it's pretty deep and experimental. Do you feel that, as a DJ and a live act, it's difficult to break into more trippy, experimental music?
I think there are some pressures for people involved in club culture to keep putting out material that is DJ friendly, or if you put it on vinyl that there's something DJ's can play. So I think, yeah, there's a nervousness about it, but I'm finally at the point where I just don't give a shit. I've really, over the last year, realized more and more that the second you're trying to tailor-make or meet the criteria of others, you get lost. I have been lost, I have, in the past, done things in order to compromise to certain limitations that I've set for myself. There's things that I've released that I kind of regret releasing in the form that I did.
But now I just don't give up—in fact that's pretty much my approach to my life and my DJ sets as well now. I'm going to go in and do what I do and I guess that's also part of the struggle of the identity of a musician, this long winding path. I'm not saying by any stretch that I've reached the mountaintop in terms of figuring that out—if I did I probably wouldn't make music anymore. But I feel more comfortable now, and I think this Echologist record is my seventh album, so maybe it all adds up to feeling a little bit more comfortable. As I said to you, I would like people who have supported Echologist to this point to dig it, but if they don't it's not a huge concern and I hope it will bring on some new fans who are completely surprised to hear an album like this.
Subterranean will see release via Moeller's own label, Steadfast.