Cio D'Or's top three destinations
The Red Sea and the beautiful desert means I am provided with new information and sounds all the time. The Sinai is such a calm place and the water is clear with a colourful paradise underwater. The desert is so empty that all of the stress of life is gone after a while and I can hear music much more intensively after this holiday.
It's not that far away and not as hectic as Ibiza, but when I am relaxed enough and if I need any break from creating sounds and from snorkelling, I can drive by boat easily to Ibiza!
Okinawa Island, Japan
I will play on this island on the 4th of December as part of my upcoming Japanese tour. I saw some photos and fell in love with it immediately. It looks like a paradise and I really like the Japanese mentality, too. They are very friendly and brave with music and I love the food.
If this all sounds a bit cosmic, it's because like her spacey dance floor music, Cio views the world through a different prism than most of her contemporaries. "I have travelled a lot, I have heard new sounds in India and Asia and they have had an influence on me. I have music from Indonesia and it's very hypnotic. It's a totally different music and culture, but I can also learn from it and identify with it," she observes. "In Thailand, there was a guy playing on a plastic bottle and singing and I said to myself 'come on, put away your computer, this is the way to really make music.'"
If these sentiments sound too close for comfort to the culturally sensitive, dolphin-loving "European in Asia" attitude that inspired Sven Vath's classic "L'Esperanza," then it should not be forgotten that D'Or initially earned her DJ stripes in Munich's Ultraschall during the '90s, one of Germany's techno hubs at the peak of rave culture. "Ultraschall was definitely my favourite club in Munich at that time," she explains. "The crowd was very open, they were exposed to new and experimental sounds and styles. They got educated in a very broad range of music, which got rid of many limitations and borders in the scene.
"After this, I started my own night Nachtwind in a smaller club called Wondersclub," she adds. "I invited my favourite producers and the word travelled far, since there was always a good vibe and lots of people there." Cio eventually felt that there was something missing: "I used to go to record shops and get frustrated that they didn't have the music I wanted to hear. I had this music in my head, how I felt techno should sound, so I decided to make music just for myself, that I could play. I thought that I had to do it myself." The only problem? She had no idea how to do so.
Veteran techno producer Richard Bartz showed her the basics, which she then applied to her small, software-based set up. And Cio soon left Munich for Cologne to focus her attentions on it full-time: "A lot of my friends and labels back then were in Cologne. I settled in an apartment with a lake close by since there's nothing better than going swimming on production breaks," she explains. So does she prefer life in northern Germany to Bavarian Gemutlichkeit? "Munich really had a lot of amazing artists like Richard Bartz or Jichael Mackson. I'm not sure what it's like now, since I haven't been back in two years, but every city has its pros and cons," Cio feels. "Since I'm working on music and I'm travelling a lot, my home is the immediate surrounding, having my friends and nature around me are the most important factors to give me balance."
Nonetheless, she still retains ties to her former home: her new album, Die Faser was released on Prologue, a Munich-based imprint that specialises in the kind of tripped out techno Cio is known for. D'Or knows Tom Bonaty, the label's boss, from a record store back in the day in Munich. Her positive experiences with Prologue are in contrast to some of the false starts she has encountered in the past: "I wanted to find just one label as a partner to release on: Karmarouge isn't active anymore, and Motoguzzi had problems when Neuton closed, so I had back luck—now I have finally found my home with Prologue," she explains.
While it only took three months to write and record Die Faser, Cio says that the preparatory work was painstaking and began long before production started. "I'm very slow in the studio: I sample and gather so many sounds and then store them away….I sampled motorbikes in New York, industrial noises in Munich, flapping banners at the airport in Turkey, noises from the streets in Hong Kong. Sometimes I am experimenting in my kitchen with hazelnuts and a metal bowl, but a lot of sounds I also prepare with my music programmes…." she explains. "I want to put a feeling in every track, so it takes a long time to make all this music. I try to make this music sound endless, for me it's something that never stops, in the same way that the world is always turning," she adds, her voice trailing off mid-sentence.
Given her unusual working methods, it is no surprise that Die Faser is an unashamed concept album. Cio explains that "Faser" means "a single string, like a single sound in music, that's the basic material that is the origin of any fabric. The analogy here is the track structure, which is then made into a piece by adding drama and structure. The colouring of the material then finally creates the mood of the piece. That's very similar in music, it's created from single notes and tones, which in their combination with other sounds becomes its form."
Cio says that apart from her real-world sojourns, existential travel played a role in the recording of Die Faser: "[I went] back in my mind to 1970s Pink Floyd" during the process. Contemporary techno, ethnic music and classical music—"a lot of Chopin and Erik Satie and Stravinsky, a lot of the real musicians"—were also on heavy rotation during recording. Does that last remark mean that she doesn't consider techno to be real music? "No, no," she cackles wickedly at the possible misunderstanding. "Techno is a very good style of music: on one side, it's good to show your emotions, but it's also good to lose yourself in, to close your eyes and forget everything. Don't forget that most people want to go out, have fun, meet boys and girls, have sex and more and more because of what's going on in the world, forget their day. This is why I like hypnotic techno, it gives people this sense of endlessness, this infinity that trance doesn't achieve."
people this sense of endlessness,
this infinity that trance doesn't achieve."
The end effect that this plurality of influences has on Die Faser is to render it both organic and electronic, natural and synthetic sounding. It is also arguably the natural successor to the bucolic/pastoral narrative in techno developed by labels like Karmarouge and artists like Dominik Eulberg—a sound that was best articulated on Eulberg's Flora & Fauna. However, despite an underlying wispiness, Die Faser is also amply equipped with the requisite dance floor muscle—check the rumbling bass underpinning the palatial chords of "Goldbrokat," the surging rhythm at the centre of the epic synth-led "Mohair" or "Pailletten," D'Or's attempt to inhabit an undefined zone between Sleeparchive/Sahko-style bleeps and droning Regis repetition. This mixture of melody and force goes some way to explaining the rise in popularity of artists like D'Or, Dozzy and Van Hoesen: Their heads-down sound captures that lost-it 6 AM feeling perfectly.
It's not that simple of course; there is a sense that this loose group has tapped into something deeper, be it a need to re-engage with techno in a more cerebral manner or a subconscious reaction against the way that mnml turned techno into a popularity contest. Cio agrees. "This is the reason why I do it: there are different scenes, and maybe one is getting more commercial, but it's not the one I am drawn to," she answers. So does she feel comfortable getting lumped in with the artists and labels just mentioned and being described as being a leading light in the headfuck techno scene? "Yeah, it's a small group that goes against the flow," she says in a matter of fact manner. "It's not easy, but we do it with our hearts and we are very connected to each other. It feels like these people are thinking more about what they are doing than just doing it for fun. I think so much about music, there are so many ideas that I want to express—this is headfuck," she says, her voice trailing off.
Cio speaks a lot about the sense of community that exists between herself and Dozzy, Van Hoesen and artists like Samuli Kemppi and Pendle Coven, who have remixed tracks for the album. In fact, it all sounds a bit like a hippie. "Yeah, I'm still a hippie, I like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder," she answers. "But I was always into deep music, everyone from Grace Jones to Pink Floyd." But what about punk and techno, surely they came about as a counterpoint to the kind of bloated conceptualism that progressive rockers like Pink Floyd embraced as their popularity soared and they lost touch with their edgy roots? How can a techno artist cite them as being influential? "They did Ummagumma, which is a great album, very experimental," she counters. "Sure, it's far away from what we are doing nowadays with techno, but to play a guitar and to catch a musical feeling the way they did is special too."
Returning to the present day, Cio believes that one of the biggest issues for techno music is the excessive number of labels releasing substandard music, which has become "too hard to filter." Despite this, she is still positive that quality music will find an audience and cites labels like Prologue, Aquaplano and Time 2 Express as outlets that release great techno. "There is still so much good music around, especially a lot of good deep house, dub techno and darker techno," she believes, adding that she was spoilt for choice when she decided to commission remixes for the album.
While she says she will attempt to return the remix favour, the reality is that Cio's gigs all over Europe and Asia don't leave her with a lot of free time. "I prefer to create less: I am not a machine and I want to do it in the right mood," she says. It is arguable that her productions secured the gigs, but the role of her brooding online mixes should not be underestimated. Cio's sets on mnml ssgs and Modyfier acted as an introduction to a worldwide audience. "The internet is the medium of today. As an artist I am working day and night on music, mixes or tracks or remixes, and I am so thankful to blogs and sites that posted my music or interviews. It's amazing what some blogs are doing for artists: I have a lot of respect for them."
Be warned though: If you go to catch her spin in a club, you may be surprised. "I have changed my DJ style a bit," she admits. "I'm a little bit more melancholic, I like that more now, but I still like a lot of warmth in the melancholia. The online mixes are for listening to at home but when I play in a club I try to show the dancers new things, feelings that I feel, a lot of drama, but most of all that the music is for dancing."