Perhaps our ‘innervisions; best manifest and unfold through the language of Melodic Techno & House, or maybe not. However, as much as we refrain from the limiting categorization of electronic music genres and subgenres, the consistently perceptive and insidious nature of Innervisons’ latest releases have rapidly molded the very marrow of this emerging musical pedagogy. Innervisions trifecta Steffen Berkhan, Kristian Beyer and Frank Wiedemann, as DJs, producers, label masterminds and cultural architects, surfed the volatile tides of an impulsive musical milieu, drawing momentum from the zeal of upcoming artists whose stories conform and enhance the future of sound as they envision. Dixon, Ame Live and Ame DJ, through the years held the hands and hearts of vulnerable music enthusiasts far and wide, into the various musical realms they deemed worth delving into.The label’s annual Secret Weapons compilation showcased some of the most promising talents that dwaddled in and made waves within the labelhead’s radars. Some are more effective than others. Earlier this year, Secret Weapons alums Jimi Jules and Eagles & Butterflies delivered the goods behind their tasters, both critically applauded. ‘IV 84’ was meant to mimic the tested model and make its dent. However, it manifested as something more meaningful and tangible than that.
Berliner Gregor Sutterlin is no new face to the Innervisions rooster, and certainly not a new name in the underground electronic music playfield. The Keinemusik label head is by no means an amateur in either the production or DJing field. Better known under his Rampa moniker the German DJ/Producer emerged as one of the most widely accepted electronic music movers and shakers through the years, a seasoned DJ with a genius perception of dance floor chemistry, and a fine ability to translate that into masterful productions. And at the end of May, four fierce weapons just fortified Innervisons’ arsenal – one of the label’s most potent releases was dropped, handmade by the none other than the Berlin-based artist who just recently resurfaced from off into the most relevant center of the grid.
Rampa revs up his encore with a cinematic aural sketch of a particular locale right off of the city of Freiburg in the Black Forest region of South Germany. The geographic reference is so precise, the 5-digit number title is in fact the zip code of Merzhausen. Brilliantly arranged within the F major scale range, ‘They Will’s’ intro track builds up on a meticulous and conscientious pace, shading a blank canvas in with plush green scenery, fertile yet undefiled. 79249 starts off abstract and liberated, but closes in on grainier musical textures that make it feel more animate and mundane. The incorporation of the lyrics ‘Nature, silence’, initially self-assured and salient, develop tension into doubt as underlying, drifting and overbearing sound structures grew more complex. The joyful, more celebratory – and much less solitary – elements become more pronounced, but a distinct wift of sorrow and regret, though light and quite complementary, grow more skeptical and introspective.
The EP’s title track ‘They Will’ revs the journey further in just a little over 7 minutes, dense, tense and sense-indulging. Rampa’s portfolio has through the years aired on the lighter and brighter side, but track two reveals an angle of the artists’ persona which his fans may have not seen or even expected before. ‘They Will’ is the most brusque of the quatruplet, pompous, insistent and unrelenting. Electronized vocals are at the core of this club-geared masterpiece, and in the vagueness and lucidity of those lyrics come an irressistible sense of nostalgia, lonely and euphoric at the same time. Set at 125 BPM, the tempo could not have been paced any better – where else can you dance and bask in emotions, some spiriting and others uncomfortable – so gracefully all at once? The intricate layers of organic and synthetic sound elements within ‘They Will’ are beyond reasoning, and simply pleasurable. The track focuses on the ‘They’ but emerges as the most determined, self-aware ‘I’ we have heard in electronic music in a long while. This one’s hard to figure out, and more than likely, we may never will.
From Dixon to Ame, Adriatique to Virgil Abloh, Adam Port to Peggy Gou, Rampas’ collaboration with Danish trio WhoMadeWho has come through loudspeakers across the globe, loud, clear and shot far out away from the ordinary. Whether the chicken laid the egg or the egg hatched into the chicken, does versatility trump adaptability, well, really doesn’t matter – Tomas Barfod, Tomas Hoffding and Jeppe Kjellberg’s electro-pop vocals needed Rampa’s sound arrangement, and so did his need their vocals to create a timeless track that very much embodies the exclusivity and density of an underground track, as well as the charm and relativity of a hit. ‘Tell Me Are We’ is illustrious from the get go, forward driven less than a minute before WhoMadeWho’s hypnotic falsetto hooks the bait in full throttle. Never within its 6:53 lamentation was ‘Tell Me Are We’ stagnat or repetitive. There are a handful of climaxes, build ups and drops within this track and none of them are exactly the same.
Wrapping up the four track voyage is a drum-heavy, hot-tempered hipshaker. Sutterlin’s energy is eminent here – the exquisite drumbeating beams with emotion and the flaring synths though imperfect are vivid and delicately aware it can only be human. A persuasive bind is being cast with each drum roll, seared in with tediously-cut snare reminiscent of the drug-like effect of the rhythm spiraling in inward locomotion, lavender-infused. In the words of the famous Jackson 5, ‘you can’t blame it on the moonlight, can’t blame it on the sunlight – just blame it on the boogie.’ Vocals ground the track in this dance, periodically harking its course back in range when in occasions, its vim strikes chords that veer on transcendent. But it’s an earthy track and it ends there.
2018 has served as one of the most defining eras of underground electronic music, and Dixon and Ame’s 14 year old label was certainly not a blink amiss throughout it all. There was a socio-cultural drift towards nostalgia, a curious urge to dab, dabble and wallow into, with and within the complexity of human emotion. Dancing alone was once and for all, haute, and the stigma around loneliness, translated into art by artists, grew equally enigmatic. IV’s 84th release could not resound that any better. This is modern age dance culture now, or at least that’s how it should be.
Rampa’s EP ‘They Will‘ was released on Innervisions on May 31st, 2019.
Review by Marie J. Floro