Ash Luk and Lida P have turned heads with their visceral live performances and raw, unpredictable club tracks. Nina Posner meets the Vancouver duo in New York.
None of this fazed the duo. They barely looked up from their gear, seamlessly recreating tracks from their new album, InDreams, a drum machine-fueled odyssey of techno, industrial, trance and hardcore. Their sound was monstrous in scale as we cruised over 150 BPM, and I couldn't help but cheer when I heard a melody I recognized. The room and its soundsystem could barely contain the sheer force that is Minimal Violence. We needed a stadium, or, at the very least, much bigger speakers.
The duo weren't always quite so full-throttle. Their previous records, on labels like 1080p, Jungle Gym and Genero, were lush and expansive, but much more minimalist in their sound design. 2017's Acid Lakes EP, released on Lobster Theremin, marked a turn toward upbeat, acid techno that would lead to an equally ravey 12-inch (and eventually, their first album) on Technicolour. InDreams homes in on the hardest and darkest sounds of the dance floor, but there's an element of play to it as well. Tracks like "June Anthem" and "Last One At The Rave" evoke the campiness of '90s EBM, trance and industrial.
"I probably hold us back sometimes," Lida told me when I asked if she and Ash think of their music as being fun. It was the morning after their show at Elsewhere, and it had begun to drizzle outside the coffee shop.
"You're the voice of reason," Ash countered, sitting beside her. "There's some moments with InDreams, where there's very unabashed, obvious synth patterns. I feel like it's a really weird choice to aim at writing something that's kind of like an anthem, because most anthems are produced so well. But trying to do these very unrefined anthems has an element of risk-taking. Not all the tracks on the album are like that, but we really wanted to have a track that was fun, anthemic and captured a specific time period. It might not age well but it would be representational of the time it was released, or of the time it was referencing."
The power of the anthem goes hand-in-hand with the physicality of the live set for Minimal Violence. When I saw them play live last summer, they were flanked by the massive subwoofers at the now-closed venue Output, and I felt like I got whiplash. "The heavier stuff is more fun for us to play live," said Ash. "We want to be able to get into the sets and really be having the same experience as the people who are watching. We play with the intent of cultivating as much energy as possible, like a wind turbine."
There's a punk ethos to the way Minimal Violence approach production. They went into the project with the idea that they would play live first and record music second—"a band mentality," said Lida. "We had machines. We were ignorant of them, but we were determined to use them."
"We may have kind of started in above our heads a little," Ash admitted. "It's affected our writing process a lot, because I think a lot of people start off with the dance floor in mind, understanding how tracks work best, but our ignorance towards that has played into developing our sound. Our music is a product of our limitations."
Watching Minimal Violence live, it's clear there's an inherent respect and trust to the way that they interact. Even when reaching over one another to create a loop or adjust a filter, they move intuitively. "We've definitely nailed down a bit of a formula for how we work best together live, but with production, we're always changing and finding the areas that each of us are strong in, and allowing those areas to shift," said Ash. "It's learning to let go of ego."
"And being allowed to disagree," Lida responded. "Somebody may make something, and the other person's opinion is valid if they say something's not right about that, or we can do better."