As deep/tech house label Diynamic prepare to release their first compilation, we talk to co-owner SOLOMUN (right) about soul, deepness and the state of the house scene…
We’ve always been fans of proper deep house here at Tricky Towers, so it’s nice to see the genre getting some decent props at long last. It wasn’t all that long ago that admitting a love of melody-driven, emotion-rich deep house was a major fashion faux-pas. Not that this ever worried us, of course – we’re all about as fashionable as a button-up M&S cardigan – but it must have been frustrating to those who produce and play the stuff for a living.
There is certainly a strong argument to say that interest waned in deep house because it got a bit, well, dull. I used to buy and play deep house all the time, but got turned off by the glut of identikit, supposedly ‘soulful’ 12s that began to flood the market. I like a nice bit of jazz as much as the next bearded nerd, but there are only so many flute solos and boring Hed Kandi-does-broken beat remixes you can take. No wonder most producers and DJs looked elsewhere for inspiration.
Now deep house is back, back, back! Not that it every truly went away – the Detroit connection, East Midlands soundsystem types and other ‘usual suspects’ kept putting out decent material. The difference now is that there are a whole host of relatively young, enthusiastic, up and coming producers pushing their own take on deep house. Inlfuenced by recent trends in techno and tech-house, they’re coming up with tracks that take the best of tech-house and add an extra-hot dollop of emotion. There are plenty of sweet melodies amognst the bleeps, blips and hypnotic chords, too.
One label that’s consistently been at the forefront of this belated deep house revival is Hamburg’s Diynamic, home to Solomun (part owner with sometime studio compadre Ariano Troillo), Stimming and H.O.S.H, amongst others. The Diynamic sound is far more warm and melodic than, say, Innervisions, but sharper and brighter than some of the Omar S/Theo Parrish style material. There’s space in the mix, but it never gets too sparse – there’s always some musical element to tug at the heart strings or set the pulse racing. Just look at Solomun and Stimming’s ‘Eiszauber’ – the perfect fusion of deep and techy.
In October, Diynamic will release their first compilation, ‘Saturday, I’m In Love’ (no, we’re not sure what they’re on about, either). As you’d expect, there’s a disc of label highlights mixed by Solomun which really sets out the Diynamic agenda. It rounds up two years of releases, treading a fine line between the familiar (the previously mentioned ‘Eiszauber’, H.O.S.H’s ‘Steppenwolf’) and little-known. Perhaps of more interest, though, is the first disc, an unmixed selection of brand new, unreleased cuts.
It’s here that the comp really comes into its own, alloing each of the label’s now familiar artists – and friends – to strut their stuff. As you’d expexpect, there’s some great stuff, much of it exploring the blurred boundaries between tech and deep house. Solomun and Stimming’s opener, ‘Lemniskate’, is a particularly good example of this; icy, haunting and sparse, yet deep and rich, too. Similarly detached is ‘Your Lonely Nites’ by Trickski, someone you’d always rely on to provide suitably hypnotic fodder. There’s plenty of melodic fare, though, too. Take Solar & Poppcke’s quietly anthemic ‘Night Train’ or Jay Shepheard’s ‘Beast Regards’, a midtempo workout that will please nu-disco heads as much as deep housers. The rubbery synth bassline is particularly good. Then there’s the seemingly impossible to pigeonhole efforts of Oslo’s Ost & Kjex. Their ‘Sicksnack’ is just plain bonkers; vocal house from another dimension, complete with Detroit synths, dub harmonica and satisfyingly old skool drums.
It’s a fitting celebration of one of the most on-point house labels of recent times. It’s also a good excuse for us to talk to the label’s totem, Mladen Solomun himself. He’s not an easy man to track down, but he eventually calls us from his cousin’s house via Skype. “I’m in Croatia,” he tells us enthusiastically. “It’s a beautiful country. Here is where my aunt and cousin live. The water’s so clear and everything is perfect. You must come to Croatia!”
It turns out the Bosnia-born German is on holiday, taking a much-earned break. There’s no doubt that he’s earned it – over the last 18 months he’s gone from a virtual unknown to talked-about househead number one. As well as his material on Diynamic, Mladen has released a string of must-hear 12s on Compost, Sonar Kollektiv, Dessous and Four:Twenty. It’s made him the toast of European dancefloors. And so, we reckon, he should be.
“I don’t know about that,” he says modestly. “It’s great if there’s someone outside who loves it. What is important is that I like it, and I’m not always 100 per cent with a track. You know how it is – every artist thinks he can do it better. There are other people who are better.”
Perhaps, but few have had such an impact on a scene that was, as we have discussed, seriously in danger of becoming stale. At times lately it feels like we’ve been drowing under a mountian of boring, soundalike minimal records and snooze-worthy, prog-tinged tech-house. The Solomun/Diynamic sound has been a thrilling antidote to this – a veritable gust of fresh air.
“Over the last three or four years there have been more fans of this sort of music we are making,” Mladen agrees. “It’s very hard to describe what is happening right now. In every track you have a little bit of techno and a little bit from deep house, but what genre it is I don’t know. Whether it’s a tech-house or minimal or house record, it needs a small hook. A bit more harmony and soul. It doesn’t matter whether it’s house or minimal, it needs that hook.”
“Soul is very important to me – it is the number one thing. It could be a techno track or a house track I am making, but it is always important to me that there is soul.”
Soul is most definitely evident on such quietly anthemic outings as ‘Feuervogel’ (one of many collaborations with his friend Stimming), the string-drenched ‘Samba’ and undeniably big ‘Deadman’. Even defiantly early morning offerings like ‘Beauty & The Beast’ feature an element of funk and soul amongst the rumbling sub bass, aquatic beats and old skool bleeps.
This balance between heavyweight dancefloor pulse, hypnotic rhythms and soulful melody is something Solomun has been working on for a long time, first through years DJing in Hamburg – most notably at his own DIY parties – and latterly in the studio. “I think my sound is a mix of the things I’ve heard over those years, the music I am passionate about and the music I have played. All the stuff I produce has influences from all these things. When I DJ, if it is a good party and I have the chance, I like to play 124 BPM all night. That way there is a lot of space.”
Originally a hip-hop, funk and soul fan with an obsession with breakdance-friendly B-Boy beats, the 32 year-old first fell in love with house and techno in the 1990s after years obsessing over the new wave synth-pop of New Order and Depeche Mode. After re-igniting his passion for DJing eight years ago, he first stepped foot in a studio in 2003: “There was a good friend of mine who had a hjip-hop label. We started working together once a week. At this time I was so full of ideas and I really wanted to produce my own music. For me it was also practice time – I learned so much from my friend. I saved some money to buy my own stuff and from three years ago onwards I spent all my time in the studio to check things out. It was a very massive and important time for me.”
Fired up by spending time in the studio, Mladen teamed up with sometime DJ partner and friend Adriano Trolio to launch Diynamic at the beginning of 2006. Their first release was the ‘Solomun E.P’, a three-tracker featuring collaborations between Mladen, Adriano and Gebruder Ton. Slowly but surely, over the next two years the Diynamic sound took shape, and the label began to grow. More local producers joined the fray, most notably H.O.S.H and Stimming. As well as releasing their own well-received material, each collaborated with the label’s fast-rising front man.
“Working with these guys, it was amazing. Stimming and Hosh are the only people I’d like to produce with, because we have the same opinion about music and the same flow. There are no arguments. It’s my opinion that everything you do in your life, it’s good if you have two or three good friends beside. So I am very lucky that now everything is cool with these guys and we have a nice future altogether. These guys are great - they have the same heart like us and are honest.”
With the compilation due to drop soon, we reckon Solomunn’s stock – and that of friend Stimming and Diynamic as a label – will rise considerably in the next 12 months. So what can we expect, music-wise? “The next release on the label will be a track by Stimming called ‘Una Pena’ with a remix from Argy. After that comes a collaboration between me and Ost & Kjex. It’s also a very funny track. It’s got a Hamburg version and an Oslo version. These guys are crazy. They always have a lot of ideas. Too many ideas for one track!”
And what about you, Mladen, we wonder – is there an album on the way? He’s surprisingly coy on the subject. “I am thinking about an album, of course. I’m hoping next year, maybe winter. First, I need a little bit of a break and when I get back I have some remixes for NRK and King Street, then a release of my own on Diynamic. It is important for us to make the album for Stimming, and we want to do two video clips. I have met some guys who can do it.”
And with that, we let him go and enjoy his holiday – we reckon he’s deserved it.