Followers of the writing that appears on this page and the stupefied textures that appear in our radio show should be aware of our penchant for weird abstractions. Long since a fan of Murcof and Philip Jeck, players that harness the full power of white (and pink) noise and - at the risk of sounding like a complete thundercunt - of the fulfilling kind of solace listening to the unfurling of a drone can provide, we like going to art galleries, and or big white painted spaces to listen to a heavy set Japanese dude detune a banjo for an hour and three quarters. Alt-rock band Fog remain one of the most important bands in this blog's editor’s musical history, and in a sense, they hit the nail we’re trying so hard to paint upon, on the head. Fusing conventional pop song melodies with awkward glitches, propelling drum lines and full on horn wig out sections, they’re weird enough to engage our elevated opinions and have pretty enough songs to make us listen to them way more than once.
Downliners Sekt are another one of the acts that appease all sides of our tastes. Ethereal enough to be ceremoniously stamped with a Burial influence, it’s the crackle of static that is the outfit’s biggest star on their June released Hello Lonely, Hold The Nation EP - put out as the first part in a trilogy of EP’s on Barcelona’s disBoot label - and it’s with their acre deep crunch that we’ve so openly bonded. Largely anonymous, never conversing using names, the rotating group began producing music under the Downliners Sekt moniker back in 2004...
“It's the classic story of a bunch of all time friends sharing the same cultural interest,” we’re told by the vocal representative of the group over the course of several emails, “but unlike most bands, we started working together when we got separated and were all living in different cities.”
“Thanks to the internet we broke the gap between us and started collaborating. Back at that time we were more or less involved with different major signed bands that were taking most of our time and energy. Downliners Sekt started to take shape back then, coalescing from individual projects, waiting in the shadows and growing slowly but immaculately from deadlines, budgets schemes, and formats. Because music it's always been a priority to us, we've been arranging our time to keep making it happen. We never know what's coming next, but after a lot of crucial changes and 6 releases, it's good to see we have a history backing us up.”
Stretching across two albums, 2005’s Statement of Purpose and 2008’s The Satire Wave the Sekt have built a catalogue that swims in diversity. From the early dubstep bass weight of Statement of Purpose’s opener ‘Benz’ to the blitzing textures on Hello lonely…’s closing track ‘Negative Green’ and the guitar infusions on their entire Satire Wave album, the group have skewed themselves across almost every genre, style and process. It’s only now, with the gift of hindsight, looking back through their discography and at the time they were constructed, that it becomes so evident how far ahead of their peers the group was, and are now.
“We were teenagers in the 90's so that's where most of our musical influences come from. We could be viewed as an indie/noise/garage band entirely submerged on a rave/DJ/party/drugs culture. With our second album The Saltire Wave, when we were working on it, we took a break from the machines, plugged in our guitars and the album was perceived by some listeners as post rock, which to us sounds a little bit reductive.
"when something we are producing begins to sound too clubby or too fancy we feel like taking an AK47 and shooting that whole dancefloor we've just imagined."
“We're never really sure of what sonic direction we are taking but we get more fun out of a huge noisy bass than a cheap 80's synth preset. We work on a very spontaneous way of producing tracks which is avoiding clichés, pre-made loops and stuff like that. To us it's about creating and destroying. It's like when something we are producing begins to sound too clubby or too fancy we feel like taking an AK47 and shooting that whole dancefloor we've just imagined.”
Positioning Downliners Sekt’s music in a club is another, wholly welcomed contradiction. Sharing little aspects of the beat scene – in that sometimes there is a beat and that the kick drum of that said beat thumps powerfully – their most recent work impacts upon speakers with a stuttered grace. Organic vocals float behind the powerpunch percussion on tracks like ‘Selfish G,’ and, in a traditional lazy point of music journalism reference, echoes the work of Mount Kimbie, whose constructions fuse similar uncomfortable frequencies, beat patterns, vocal snatches and reams of bassweight.
“We've been changing setups and methods of working since day one, but right now its basically laptops and drum pad controllers. Since we started working with computers we've always tried to avoid the machine taking control of our sound and the sequencer taking control of the rhythm patterns. At the end, the computer became just another sophisticated multitrack recorder to us. We've been recently trying some external analog gear, like vintage mixers and preamps but nothing really flashy. The final touch comes from the mastering studio when we work closely with the engineer and try to achieve the kind of sound we have in mind. He brings the gear and techniques while we suggest him to take some directions he wouldn't usually take.”
Downliners Sekt – Negative Green (video by Enrique Muda)
On the cusp of their 2nd EP in the trilogy, We Make Hits, Not The Public, it seems the troup are honing in on the glitches, fully making a feature out of those little crackle powered moments; always letting the snares rip through the mix with the stabbing high end snap of white noise.
“This trilogy is more like an album fragmented into three parts,” we’re informed. “It was a matter of urgency. After the release of 'The Satire Wave' came a long period of experimentation and when we got together again to start working on new material we realized that, because the way we work, it would've probably taken another year or so to complete an album. The guys at disBoot label were thinking on 7" singles or 12" so we started working in that line. It happens that this, more frequent sequence of releases is giving us more constant exposure than releasing a full length in that same period of time.”
On We Make Hits... the poignant roughness of tracks like ‘From Under Spinning Lights’ seeps out in fits, with the jagged edge of the chorus juxtaposing the layered vocals – that are actually just layered, and multi-tracked rather than chopped into fragments and rearranged into make shift sentences in that way so many producers seem to be fond of doing. ‘Incertia Gloria’ hits heavy with electrified kick drums piercing though the current, whilst ‘White Dawn’ paces things slower, making the most out of the sparse percussion and high pitched vocals and ‘Selfish G’ flutters impatiently, almost amplifying the aching anxiety of the whole release with its roughly sampled pads. Making music from such a broad palette can be daunting at times, having too much of a wealth to draw from can sometimes produce a work thats not streamlined enough to work as a whole, but Downliners Sekt make their genius sound casual. The perfect mix of the rugged and raw and the resplendent.
“It's not tough at all to categorize our music,” the anonymous producer ponders. “We have a whole list of styles that fit. When we have to tag our mp3 files we usually fuck around with made up genres: 'electronoise for breakbeat initiates,' 'slower but faster,' 'dawntempo,' 'r&k,' 'heavy mental,' 'noize in the woods,' '(under)grounded,' 'after hours post rock,' 'save as,' 'en descente de Portbou,' 'down the line,' 'by the way'... Really, people shouldn't spend too much time trying to categorize music; its better just listen to it."
Words: Oli Marlow
All the releases mentioned are available to download from the Downliners Sekt webstie. We Make Hits, Not The Public is out now.
You can download Downliners Sekt recent mix for the highly regarded Electronic Explorations podcast series, in show number 127 here: http://electronicexplorations.org/the-show/127-downliners-sekt/