Have You Ever Heard of Post-Socialist Techno?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this is old-school German techno done right.
By Maik Brüggemeyer
You could call Strahil Velchev the Neil Young of Techno. Just like the stubborn Godfather of Grunge, he shares his love for old-fashioned analog gear and dry sounds. He calls himself KiNK — like a kink in a wire — and he performs his DJ sets, like the recent one at the Panorama Bar of Berlin’s Berghain, not with static mouse clicks like most other DJs, but by wildly turning knobs and records. Now and then, in the middle of his sets he even strikes up some old Bulgarian tavern songs on a cheap keyboard.
Indeed, with KiNK, dynamic music originates from motion. It is important to him that you see where his sounds come from and how they are produced. From time to time he hands one of his consoles to the audience, so no one thinks he’s cheating by running things electronically. He’s big on authenticity: KiNK calls his musical Reinheitsgebot — like the German purity law for beer, or Credibility of Sound.
Through destroying other people’s music, I’ve created something new.
Velchev grew up in the Eastern bloc, where access to Western music was strictly limited in the time of the Iron Curtain. Only a few techno tracks found their way from Chicago or Detroit to the socialist industrial Plattenbau buildings in Sofia. And those were constantly recycled, analyzed in detail, deconstructed and reproduced. Techno artists in those days virtually hacked the music of the alleged class enemy in the same way they adapted Western technology by opening the devices and rebuilding them ground-up.
The aftermath of this musical backward engineering shaped the years of Velchev’s apprenticeship as a techno alchemist and helped to later define his style. He was never interested in genre boundaries, as you can hear on his massive acid-infected collaboration work with British DJ Neville Watson.
Until now KiNK’s tracks and remixes have been scattered on EPs for labels like Odori, Endless Flight, Boe and Dirtybird. Eventually his first album will be published on Berlin’s Electro-Label Macro. Naturally, it was produced in a Plattenbau building in Sofia, as you can see in his ten-minute making-of documentary on YouTube. Once again Velchev started with reconstructing favorite tracks of other DJs. But the work rapidly went beyond pure imitation: He disassembled the tracks into their elements, found new possibilities in the separated components and re-assembled them differently.
He explains the album’s title, Under Destruction: “Through destroying other people’s music, I’ve created something new.” With the addition of Rachel Row’s “Siren Call,” the 12 collected hybrid tracks of techno, dub, house, trance and experimental electronica get emotionally charged, while minimalistic noisescapes at times shortly scare them out of their grooves.
Strahil Velchev likes to call his deconstruction technique “post-socialist techno,” drawing on his historical past as well as his creative overcoming. Certainly KiNK’s Under Destruction is structured a bit too much in a slow-motion feel to be danceable. But for a little utopian dream amid daily routine, you can’t find a better soundtrack for the year.
- Maik Brüggemeyer, OZY Author Contact Maik Brüggemeyer