Being futuristic – really looking forward to music – has perhaps become less fashionable in some circles. Don’t tell that to people like UK-born Sam Barker, artist and co-founder of collective/label/party Leisure System. Sam is curating music tools and artists with the same electic passion, the same exploration of new sounds rather than comfy, tested nostalgia.
Leisure System, the party, heads to SONAR this week and is atop our list of off-SONAR events, the stuff away from the badges and spotlights. Known for their Berghain residency, Leisure System might make you assume a narrowly Berlin-friendly sound, but the party has hosted everyone from Flying Lotus to Autechre, Venetian Snares to 808 State to Jimmy Edgar and on from there. It’s also a label, and like a lot of the better-liked labels these days, it’s sparing with its release schedule. So that’s reason to pay special notice to Like an Animal.
The EP’s three-track triptych takes each cut to a different world, if each nonetheless orbits the same sun. The titular “Like an Animal,” featuring regular collaborator and Berghain stablemate nd_baumecker (Andreas Baumecker) and whispered vocals by Anete Kirvelaite , is the logical centerpiece. It’s particularly nice to hear a track that’s formally adventurous, beginning with the soft-shoe tapdance of sequenced machines before building to a thicker, rhythmic brew. At full tilt, unabashed, sharp synth sounds slice across crisp, dry rhythms and heavy bass, present and focused as if tuned to the infamously-cavernous walls of Berghain’s former power station.
If “Like an Animal” is dry, “I Feel” is flooded with warm pads, a hot bath with shuffling breakbeats. For our stream, we present the third panel here, “Hot Lover.” It’s half-step music for robots with soul.
The entire, meticulous record gets mastering treatment from Pole (Stefan Betke), one of the most in-demand engineers of the moment, who treats those timbres with the sensitivity they deserve – enough so that even this stream I think can translate.
Sam Barker isn’t standing still. With Andreas Baumecker, he’s working on the continuation of their collaboration, which we hope to catch in greater detail later this year. (An interview, therefore, is best left until that has time to simmer.) The combination is a promising one – having seen nd_baumecker at Rome’s LPM festival, he continues to impress in any setting.
I dropped by their studio – freshly outfitted with some new modular gear – to see what they were up to. Working away in Logic as canvas, they were combining analog and digital ingredients. An iPad running Animoog was looping away behaving for all the world like just another analog sound source. Have a look, and have fun gear-spotting. (Maybe this will be the new system: we let you try to spot the gear, then identify it after the thought. To the winner, we offer, um, the thrill of winning?)