A rich and emotive techno session.
David Letellier wasn’t always a DJ, but this feels like the reason his mixes are so good. "I don’t know what you need as a DJ," he told Todd Burns back in 2012, "and I have never tried to ask what they need." He said this in relation to his own music, but it’s obvious that he approaches mixes from the compositional perspective of a producer, layering several pieces of music at a time to create a gently evolving mass of sound. In the past he’s used this technique to great effect on podcasts for Electronic Explorations and Smoke Machine, and he now displays this knack in a fantastic hour-long session for us.
Letellier always manages to pique our interest in these sorts of ways. His five albums for the always-on-point Raster-Noton label have arrived teeming with ideas and influences, often with a concept informing the work. On 2012’s OR he tackled consumer culture and economic collapse; its followup, Solens Arc, was recorded to form four arcs across its 12 tracks; last year’s Cory Arcane channelled the mind of the titular character and came with an essay from Letellier. There’s no easy way to describe the sound of this body of work. Around the time of OR, techno began to play a larger role in Letellier’s music—he’s since been embraced by that scene and regularly plays in clubs—but he’s always favoured plurality, his unconventional tracks arriving in a vast range of different tempos and rhythmic modes. Cory Arcane, for example, featured a grinding 102-BPM loop ("Dark Barker"), a dramatic 4/4 techno cut ("These Are My Rivers") and an advanced drum & bass-style roller ("Safran") in the space of a few tracks. On RA.519, Letellier is in a more streamlined mood, focussing on rich and emotive techno, but the results are no less satisfying.
What have you been up to recently?
The beginning of the year was very busy with gigs. Recently been DJing almost as much as I have been playing live, which is an interesting shift for me, opening new creative possibilities. Highlights of the last few months include some shows at Corsica Studios in London, playing Unsound Adelaide, both Solo and with my band project SUMS, and of course we just had a massive 20th anniversary with the Raster-Noton label night at Berghain, which was as intense as it was emotional.
How and where was the mix recorded?
Over the last few months, using a computer.
Could you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I want to take the chance here to thank all the artists who created the tracks I chose for this mix. I hope they'll be happy to be included in this selection. Whether it's for a DJ set or a mix, I am always really thankful to all the people I'm using the music of, as I know the amount of work, craftsmanship, sweat and passion involved in the making of each of these tracks, so I try to treat them with as much respect as possible.
I used to play almost exclusively live before, but since about two years, I started to do more and more DJ sets, mostly with a sort of “hybrid” setup, adding my own sounds and loops, using a small modular synthesiser and a drum machine. First because I got some requests for this, but also because I feel that this format is fitting better in certain contexts. This way I can do much longer sets, not only based on my own productions and exploring other ways of making and playing music, it also allows me to spend more time listening to other people's music, and act more as a curator rather than analysing my own productions, which is a great feeling.
I approached this mix with the same attitude as I have towards my DJ sets: finding a sort of balance, in order to talk equally to the mind and the body. I wanted something immersive and melodic, but at the same time the mix had to be listenable on a headphone or at home, so I tried to slowly dissolve it and make it gradually more abstract as it unfolds.
Tell us about your composition for the Raster-Noton White Circle installation.
The White Circle is a collective sound and light installation we created for the 20th anniversary of Raster-Noton, which we presented at the ZKM and the Halle Am Berghain. We wanted to have an open framework, a blank canvas on which each artist would project his or her own ideas, but at the same time the installation had to reflect a common aesthetic, similar to the way the label is functioning: an artistic platform that allows the development of different personalities and artistic expressions.
Do you have a favourite Raster Noton release or artist from over the years?
Most of them are good friends, so it's a difficult question. I really love Dasha's album on Raster-Noton, I've been playing it a lot in my DJ sets, and, of course, Emptyset are still some of my favourite producers out there. I was very impressed by Kyoka's show at our last Berghain showcase, so I'm also really looking forward to her next releases.
What are you up to next?
I've been working on an album for Stroboscopic Artefacts for a long time now, and it's slowly approaching its final form. I'm extremely excited about this record.
Also, after playing a bit in Europe and Australia, we're now starting a proper studio recording for the SUMS project performed at Berlin Atonal last year with Barry Burns from Mogwai. What started as a collaboration is now feeling more and more like a band. We also have a clearer idea where we're going. So we're recording guitars, drums and keyboards right now. It's a great creative challenge to get out of the context I'm usually operating in, and it also feeds back some inspiration for my other productions.