Outside of their steadily growing local (and online) customers, many have discovered Marvin and Valentino through their part in Tambien, a production project with Beni Bartellow, an equally busy individual with many different musical outlets. As Tambien, the trio has issued a small but significant number of singles, both through Public Possession and ESP Institute. Marvin and Valentino forged their friendship over a shared love of DJing after leaving school, while Valentino and Beni played violin and guitar, respectively, in a jazz band. They stayed in contact, but it took some years before the three started working on tracks together.
"One of our most important common roots is the Munich disco scene," Beni explains. "I always enjoy collaborating with artists coming from another background. DJs have a lot to say when it comes to music production."
Both Marvin and Valentino are keen to stress the importance of Beni's input in the production process—it's in his well-equipped studio that they produce all their tracks. Through a life dedicated to music, Beni has amassed an array of equipment, from the old to the new, which all feeds into the rough-around-the-edges Tambien sound. "That sound wouldn't be possible without Beni and his setup," says Valentino over Skype.
The first release from the trio was a self-issued white label that featured three striking edits of obscure tracks from the far-flung reaches of what could be considered disco. They sported a healthy love for African percussion, spacious production and a generous helping of freakiness. After repackaging the release as the first 12-inch for the Public Possession label, two represses rapidly came and went and the record remains frustratingly in-demand (and pricey) on the second-hand market. By contrast, the first Tambien release on ESP Institute is more obviously machine-driven, from the slow and grainy techno of "Drogato" to the fluttering breakbeats of "Dois." With their commitments elsewhere in Munich, studio time can be erratic for Tambien, veering from focused twice-weekly sessions to three-month gaps of inactivity.
"Because of what we do for work, we listen to so much input that we have sort of an idea of what we want to do when we arrive at the studio," says Marvin.
"Most of the time it turns out to be totally different," Valentino adds. "Don't forget that we are three people in the studio so there is a lot of discussion."
Tambien has a wide-reaching stylistic ethos, which is reflected in the range of artists who release on Public Possession. To date this group is far from household names, although Rohan Bruce Bell-Towers, AKA Bell Towers, is slowly gaining a reputation through his appearances on Internasjonal and Ruf Kutz, not to mention the three records he has released with Marvin and Valentino. What binds the likes of Matthew Brown, Obalski and imminent contributor Anton Klint is a pre-existing relationship with their label bosses.
"We don't set ourselves any boundaries, but the idea was always to have a little crew around the label and also have friends coming in," says Marvin, "so we just wanted to build our own roster." Klint's release for the label, which will be Public Possession's sixth, is a wild two-part variation on a theme that veers between playful sample trickery (with an EBM thrust) and a proggy throb (with a Balearic twist). Although he comes from Sweden, Marvin and Valentino have DJ'd with Klint for many years, so it's fitting he should get his first solo release through Public Possession.
Bell Towers, who the pair jokingly describe as their star asset, has a tough rhythmic edge to his music. Valentino met him while spending two months in Australia DJing and travelling. Along with Matthew Brown (who now lives in Tasmania) he forms Public Possession's Australian connection. "Yeah I don't know why it is like that!" says Marvin at the mention of an Antipodean link. "It's really strange," agrees Valentino. "We also ship a lot of records to Australia actually. A lot of people buying stuff at our online store are coming from Australia. Outside of Europe is 90%, and I think of that 90% maybe 70% are Australians."
The Public Possession shop has only been in action for one and a half years, and neither Marvin nor Valentino have any prior experience in selling records. While the task of keeping a physical store in operation can be tough, the pair is upbeat about how their modestly sized shop is performing. "It takes some time to find out what works and what doesn't," says Marvin. "Especially in a city like Munich. Obviously there are a lot of mistakes made before you realise how to do it correctly, but so far everything is pretty good."
When talking about "a city like Munich", Marvin refers to the limited number of new DJs passing through town compared to other German cities, as well as a small pool of customers who share the shop's tastes. As with the label and their own productions, the selection is a reflection of Marvin and Valentino's idiosyncratic leanings. "From the beginning we were thinking to specialise and to really let our tastes flow into what we are selling here," says Marvin. "There's no record we order only from the business aspect. There's a 100% trust in our selection from our side."
"It's definitely the best shop in town," insists Beni. "There's a great selection, and although they always give me a decent discount, I fear to step into this room because I know I will lose lots of money. Same story every fuckin' time!"
Another key element in their emergence as a record shop is a commitment to in-store sessions from friends and visiting DJs. A glance through the hefty Public Possession SoundCloud page shows mixes from such notable guests as Severino and Optimo Espacio. One thing that will be apparent to anyone checking the shop's website and social media is the consistent grainy print style and corporate sloganeering that shapes Public Possession's visual aesthetic. From business-minded manifestos as promotional text to an imaginary catering company set up as a front for graphic design, it's in the presentation of the operation that Marvin and Valentino's humour shines through. You can hear it firsthand in some of the speech-heavy interludes in the mix that accompanies this feature; this dishevelled artistic finish mixed with power-lunch lingo all helps solidify Public Possession as a cohesive entity.
"For us Public Possession is not just the label and the shop," says Valentino. "It's more like a total of things that are fun to do and to design, and so the visual part of the label is always 50% as important as the rest of the label. We want to build a whole PP world."
"Sometimes we worry that it's only our humour and nobody else's," Marvin says. "Everybody else is thinking, 'Oh man, what's that about?'"
You can hear that tongue-in-cheek instinct in Tambien's music, such as in the madcap cartoon sound effects on "Ugli Elevator." Likewise, when they talk about Obalski, one of the label artists, they refer to him as "a shareholder of the company."
"I know their potential and their alliances to groups and organizations all around the globe," Obalski says of his CEOs. "Valentino even can speak to animals."
Among the posters for their intimate monthly parties at bowling-lane-turned-Munich-nightspot Charlie or the introductory text for their burgeoning DJ booking division is a homespun charm that refuses to take itself too seriously. I put it to them that Public Possession has all the makings of a cult label. "Even though you are probably absolutely right, we are not really planning this," insists Marvin. "We are not doing this because we want to be different or we want to do something specific with it. It just happens that we have different interests and they all collide within the label."
Ultimately, the lack of pretension is what has made Public Possession such an endearing force in a short space of time. That Marvin and Valentino have a keen ear for exciting, surprising and eminently danceable music is paramount, but it would never sound the same if it came from a pompous intention. "It doesn't matter if the music is super popular or if nobody knows it," Marvin says of stock in the shop. "As long as it's good it's totally fine. We are not trying to be like this diggers' super selective record store. The same with the label. It's not about releasing music that's unplayable or only five people will like it."
Based on the wild and adventurous spirit of what has come before, it's hard to picture Public Possession edging towards mass appeal in anything they choose to do. But with the continued energy of their work it can't be long before they're a multinational concern ready to shake the ivory towers of the house and techno glitterati.
Marvin and Valentino show their label's wares with a 17-track selection that goes hard on the interludes.
Filesize: 104.7 MB
Henry Gilles - Exploring 0° S, 102° O (Public Possession)
Bell Towers - Territory (Samo DJ Disko Mix) (Public Possession / Under The Influence)
Matthew Brown - Headly Foot (Public Possession)
Tamas Jones & Hysteric - Arabian Song Edit (Public Possession / Under The Influence)
Tambien - Sexalität (Public Possession)
Obalski - Lobo’s Bells (Public Possession)
Anton Klint - Spritzer Part 01 (Public Possession)
Bell Towers - Territory (Public Possession)
Samo DJ & Kool DJ Dust - Acid Rasta (Public Possession)
Henry Gilles - Instrumental (Public Possession)
Ralph Lundsten's Andromeda studio in pictures
The home studio of Sweden's most prolific electronic artist is a universe unto itself. Just before it closed to the public, RA captured it in pictures.
RA Sessions: Perc ft. Dan Chandler - Take Your Body Off
Ali Wells teams up with metal vocalist Dan Chandler for a blistering bout of live techno.
Playing Favourites: Nail
The cult house producer plays us the tracks that have soundtracked his many ups and downs.
Top 10 October 2014 Festivals
Here are our top picks from around the world in October.
Label of the month
Label of the month: Sound Signature
Waajeed, Specter, Lakuti, Gerd Janson and more reflect on 20 years of Theo Parrish's pioneering label.
Label of the month: Ascetic House
Noise, blood and chaos—Matt McDermott heads to the Sonoran Desert to hear the unlikely story behind one of America's most prolific underground crews.
Label of the month: Objects Limited
Ray Philp travelled to the UK's south coast to meet Lara Rix-Martin, founder of a crucial outlet for emerging experimental artists.
Label of the month: Brutaż
This Polish label and party intentionally pushes dance music beyond its comfort zone. Elissa Stolman catches up with its curator, RRRKRTA.
Label of the month: Latency
Oli Warwick profiles the immaculately curated French label that tries to programme its catalogue like a DJ set.