Navigating the technosphere with Ø [Phase]: a pre-Movement discussion
An enigmatic persona exists deep within the techno rabbit hole. Using the moniker Ø [Phase] (né Ashley Burchett), the stalwart DJ and producer has made his mark on things dark, atmospheric, and downright technical. His productions are as hypnotic and diverse as his sets, covering a mélange of stylings that range from subdued and almost tribal, to acidic, to deep, to sinister and driving. He refuses to be boxed into any one category, which is why he’s remained firmly at the cutting edge of his arena.
Ashley’s expertise has been cultivated over quite an extended period of time; over two decades, to be exact. As a mastering professional and a budding musician inspired by the new, innovative sounds imported from Detroit, he soon found his way onto Steve Bicknell’s Cosmic Records imprint before moving onto his primary home label of Token. Techno, with its wide range and malleable structure, was particularly appealing to his sound engineer’s ear, and he has certainly taken this notion in stride with his production MO.
The word “techno” stretches beyond a mere genre, however. It’s built to be paired with the right setting, atmosphere, and mindset. Nuances within it demand appreciating subtle musical details, and an environment that allows for full focus on these aspects.
Who better to dive into the nitty gritty of techno than Ø [Phase]? Given his imminent arrival to Los Angeles, and later, to Detroit’s iconic Movement Festival (where he will be making his debut), we nabbed him for a chat on the sound and the scene. Additionally, Ashley shares his excitement for Movement, and offers a little taste of what to expect from his set at the Underground stage.
How do you think your career would develop/be if you started out today rather than two decades ago? Do you agree with people saying it was ‘easier’ then to ‘make it?’
No I don’t think it was necessarily easier, it was just a lot different. Changes in technology have altered things beyond measure for good and bad. On the one hand you have social media and the internet which make it so much easier to reach and connect with potential fans, while on the other the ability to make electronic music has become much much cheaper and easier. This means there’s a far wider pool of competition for new artists. I still believe despite all that that if a piece of music genuinely is great it will find its audience eventually.
Who are your favorite artists at the moment, or ones that you’re finding particularly cutting-edge?
Well, if we just stay within the bounds of straight techno; I’ve been listening to Randomer in a lot of detail recently. Blawan’s approach to production and dynamics and his general originality – to me – stands way out in front. Actually Jamie was kind enough to send me his forthcoming album ahead of time. It really is superb. Stanislav Tolkachev is also a long standing favourite.
What place would you say has the most underrated scene? We hear so much about Germany/Spain/Argentina etc, but we want to hear more about places like Lebanon/Georgia/Croatia.
Techno in Georgia is thriving yes (in fact its thriving a little TOO much according to ‘certain factions’ as we’ve recently seen) and has gained a lot of international attention for it so I’m not sure I would class it as underrated. To be honest, these days I find it hard to pinpoint specific cities or places because it feels as if the scene is constantly connected through the internet. It’s almost as if manifests itself when the conditions are right and certain clubs and promotors have nailed the setting and presentation – Kompass in Ghent is a good example. Drugstore in Belgrade another.
Space/setting as important as music itself – how do you go about choosing places to play through the year? Do you turn down gigs, or do promoters approach you that you’d generally work with in the first place?
I work closely with my agent regarding the shows we do and don’t take. It’s a mixture; there are some clubs and promoters we have worked with on multiple occasions – sometimes going back many years – but always new opportunities to be discussed and considered. There’s no set pattern.
What are the details, exactly, of a perfect techno party, and how can we find that in the States?
I touched on it above and have said it before; to me this kind of music requires good sound, low lighting and minimum distractions. Over the top lighting just doesn’t work as far as I’m concerned. It’s should be an immersive experience.
I’m still discovering the US so can only really speak for the places I’ve played so far. Obscure in Chicago was a great underground vibe. The Synthetik Minds/Compound guys in LA have a perfect attitude and approach to what they’re doing. Output club in New York is very cool too.
Do you have a specific starting point when making a track? Ex: making a perfect low-end before adding samples and synths.
No, I’ve always worked in a completely unstructured fashion.
You’ve said in the past that the influx of new music is a blessing and a curse. what is your MO for finding the good stuff?
I wish I had one! I currently have around 1000 unopened promos in my mailbox because I simply can’t keep up with the release rate.
Finding good stuff is always a challenge. Ultimately it just takes time and the gathering of knowledge.
What are the sonic elements that make a song click for you?
It’s difficult to say. It might be an arrangement it, might be the baseline, the hook. It might just be wildly original. It might be dynamically perfect or dynamically inventive… Maybe all of these elements together and you’re close to a hit.
Name a piece of music people wouldn’t expect you to be keen on.
Bert Jansch – The Waggoner’s Lad
You’re about to play Movement Detroit – how do you like the city? What excites you most about Movement?
Again, I’ve only visited Detroit once before at last year’s Movement so can only speak within those terms. I got the feeling – through talking to people as much as actually being there – that the city is changing for the better and I think Movement has had an influence on that. I could feel a sense of creative energy lurking amongst the concrete. I’ve no idea whether that was just because it was the festival weekend or if that’s a permanent vibration. I expect it’s the latter. Either way I’m looking forward to returning next week.
What can people expect from your set there?
Expect pace! I’ve been pushing the BPMs a lot in recent months.
Any interesting things in your pipeline?
I have a fair bit of new material I’m currently testing but no set release schedule as yet. Also one or two remixes lined up. Besides that I’ve been in the studio with Underworld at various points in the last year; that is still a work in progress at present.
Feature Image Credit: Radlibb
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