100% SILK //

100% Silk is the dance-orientated offshoot of LA based underground label Not Not Fun. Led by Amanda and Britt Brown, this month 100% Silk showcases a cluster of artists who epitomise the ethos, aesthetic and essence of this label by taking them on tour across Europe. The music that’s released via 100% Silk is in love with its own heritage, yet each artist on this tour is committed to breaking barriers.
The torchbearers of the tour will be LA Vampires, Amanda Brown’s versatile project that features her partner Britt and fellow LA avant-garde musician Nick Malkin in its live guise. LA Vampires melt dark psychedelia, dub and drone and rough it up even further with that chopped n’ screwed tape sound. Amongst a list of notable collaborations, they released a murky witch-dub album with Zola Jesus and an EP of fuzzy, warped and fucked up beats with fellow Silk artist Ital. LA Vampires and Octo Octa’s recent Forever 2K album sees Brown emerge from the distortion to embrace a euphoric classic 90s house feel which delivers on 100% Silk’s early promise. Then there’s the music of Ital – a unique kind of rugged but emotive techno composed with a deconstructive, art-rock sensibility. Also on the line-up is Magic Touch, whose hyperactive and hedonistic disco-house bathes in irresistible 80s references with a manner of postmodern mischief. Finally, Maria Minerva is a 23 year old London-by way-of- Estonia producer who makes glossy and fluid lonely-girl bedroom pop and no fi disco. She’s also cooked up our latest Crackcast mix.

Speaking to Crack, Amanda Brown expresses her passion for hearing the music in a live context. “On the 100% Silk East Coast tour there were some nights where I danced through all six sets, non-stop, in front of the monitors, through DJs and all. I do it sober, so I’m absolutely engaged, present and aware of the artist and audience around me.”

There’s this perception of the American club scenes; that in terms of underground dance music, us Europeans are comparatively ahead of the curve. It’s impossible to make such a claim without generalising (a lot of the evidence seems to be based on hearsay about tighter drinking laws in the US, ludicrous street prices of ecstasy, that whole bottle-service thing and the overwhelming popularity of Skrillex). But whether it’s true or not, Amanda feels it’s important to communicate with European audiences and the responses of a UK crowd is something she buzzes off. “UK audiences are thrilling. There are stereotypes that the English are stiff, but I’ve seen far stiffer and much less welcoming Americans throughout my musical journey. On one side, I see an intelligence, a depth, and a academic response to what I do. On the other side, I see a sort of spirited, hedonistic club culture that really embraces nightlife and dancing.”

100% Silk emerged at the beginning of 2011 with release Ital’s Theme signalling a transition to more beat-focused music than the fodder Not Not Fun had been putting out. To leftfield music fanatics, Not Not Fun is considered something of an underground institution. Since kicking off back in 2004, the label has been putting out the weirdest, most experimental indie, lo-fi garage, ambient and drone, releasing the likes of Abe Vigoda, Sun Araw, U.S. Girls as well as Amanda’s now defunct transgressive dub outfit Pocahaunted. With an open-demo policy and a diverse catalogue, Amanda and Britt have never had a problem attracting interesting artists, but despite the label’s open-minded reputation, for some reason there was an absence of dance-orientated demos amongst the piles of mail. Amanda had been on a dance tip for some time, having this burning passion for classic house and disco and she felt a drive to create and release euphoric beat-driven music that people would want to dance to til sunrise.

In recent years, there’s been a wide trend of US based underground indie and musicians with punk and art-rock backgrounds who’ve been incorporating various fragments of dance music into their sound. When the idea of 100% Silk began to buzz around in Amanda’s mind, it turned out that she wasn’t the only one in her network that was feeling a similar instinct. Many of the artists she’d become affiliated with on the underground circuits had been experimenting with beats for bedroom projects. Amanda liked what she heard and it made sense to give it a platform. “I was hearing a new strain of electronic music that seemed under-represented to me, and I felt compelled to support it”, she tells Crack. “I believed deeply this type of label was lacking. Mix that with the semi-know-how from previously running a label and a real passion for the vibe, art, and sound, and 100% Silk presented itself to me like a blessing.”

100% Silk is a label that invites artists to experiment with variations of dance music without imposing the strict templates that might limit their expression. And because a lot of the artists on the label are from hardcore, noise, experimental and art-rock backgrounds, 100% Silk gives them a chance to escape the expectations of their native scenes, which might treat the perceived care-free hedonism or the mass-crowd appeal of rave culture with suspicion. Amanda agrees that putting stuff out through 100% Silk can be a liberating experience. “This label is a great place for artists who want to alter their image, transform, or try something they’ve never tried.”

A close friend of Amanda’s who has been a driving force of 100% Silk since its inception is Daniel Martin-McCormick, known as Ital. McCormick’s work is informed by his fixation with Detroit heroes such as Omar S and Theo Parrish. In addition to the 12” he’s put out on 100% Silk, he released an album this year with Planet Mu (how’s that for a ‘legitimising’ gesture?). He’s also one half of noisy dance-punk band Mi Ami, who he formed after the dissolution of his Dischord-signed post-hardcore band Black Eyes. McCormick’s deranged cover ofRhythm Of The Night, recorded for his Sex Worker project, unexpectedly aroused the attention of Scuba, who ended up sticking it on his DJ Kicks mix.

Ital is present on the 100% Euro tour alongside Magic Touch – aka Damon Palermo, the other half of Mi Ami. Mi Ami’s last album Decadesaw the band incorporate elements of four to the flour deep house to their raucous sound, and under the Magic Touch pseudonym, Palermo embraces a much sexier disco vibe. Amanda explains that she’s been behind these guys every step of the way. “Damon and Daniel have evolved significantly over the seven years they’ve been in a band together. I’m not sure everyone supported their transformation away from disco-punk into experimental house, but I sure did. They’re close friends in addition to being some of my favourite musicians and I’ve loved watching them grow and change. I was beyond honoured to release their recent album, which I think is brilliant and a good fit for the ethos of 100% Silk.”

Not Not Fun has a commitment to the underground which is admirably ideological. In the post-internet struggle of the music industry, the stigma attached to corporate sponsorship is diminishing, but let’s not forget the classic subculture ethos: if music is too marginal and uncompromising to be snatched up by the big evil corporate machine then it’s free to exist as an authentic, dignified expression of human emotion. So how do these values transfer when making that crossover to the world of ‘dance’ music? Alongside the subversive experimentalism that 100% Silk’s been putting out, they’ve also been messing with a 90s commercial house sound with tunes like Magic Touch’s Clubhouse or LA Vampires and Octo Octa’s collaborations capturing a feeling of floor-filling pop and a hands-in-the air atmosphere that’s deliberately attractive and as inclusive as it gets. So we ask Amanda what she thinks; are those old distinctions between underground/mainstream and credibility/commerciality slightly less defined in the sphere of club music? “In some ways I think that’s true”, she replies. “With dance music there’s just an aspect that’s a practical agenda – your goal is to make a track that will move people’s bodies and make them feel connected to themselves rhythmically. In the most obscure esoteric realm, this is true; and at the most famous, expensive, big money level, this is also true. With more experimental music, like the NNF roster, this divide is more defined.”

So the 100% Silk ethos doesn’t seem to hold those elements of elitism or snobbery that certain underground subcultures might have and neither does it seem concerned by the templates of established genre categories. What 100% Silk artists intend to do, and what they achieve, is to evoke the sensual ecstasy of a deep house rave, the sexy groove of Italo-disco or the intense adrenaline of techno, whether it be by creating these sounds in their literal form, or connecting us to the essence of that music in unorthodox ways. But a characteristic that’s particularly unique and inspiring about the personality of 100% Silk is the way they’ve retained the DIY ethics which earned Not Not Fun such a credible reputation. The artwork and videos are created by an in-house team, the shows are often self-organised in unconventional venues and the music itself is self-released, recorded and produced. Even getting in touch with the artists for this interview involved a direct line of communication with the artists themselves – no negotiations with managers or a PR team. So what motivates Amanda to such a commitment to this DIY culture? “What else is there but doing things yourself? I don’t know that we could live a day of our lives without that simple ethic”, she responds.

“And yet when it comes to our art we look to big business and corporate commerce to help us along. If they want you, I don’t see any problem with it. But if they don’t, or if they don’t know they want you yet, then you have to propel yourself forward. You have to find innovation, passion, inspiration, joy, rewarding hard work, and push it – make your own momentum. I’m proud and ready to do it myself if necessary. And for those of my artists who feel that way but want the support, and a bit of cash, then I’m here to travel the road with them.”

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ARTIST PROFILES:

LA VAMPIRES / AMANDA BROWN


Tunes: Freedom 2K, A Woman is a Woman w/Ital.

The LA Vampires collabs with 100% Silk artists like Ital and Octo Octa are much more dance-orientated than most your previous stuff. Will the music you play on this tour emphasise those elements of your sound?

Absolutely. Those Octo Octa tracks are the meat of my set. When I perform it’s essential that I provide a non-stop dance atmosphere, because that’s what I want when I go out to shows mostly. I want the joy, the ecstasy, the body connection.

Which kinds of contemporary dance music are you vibing off right now? 

Future Times, Soundstream, L.I.E.S., Heatsick, Miracles Club, Suzanne Kraft and Invisible Congo People.

What upcoming releases from 100% Silk can we look forward to? 

Cassettes by Just Black and Andy Sangria. 12”s by Jonas Reinhardt, Octo Octa, Roche, EZLV, and Roland Tings. Should be killer.

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MARIA MINERVA


Tunes: Gloria, Ruff Trade, Disko Bliss.

How was it putting together the Crack mix? 

What are the sounds and vibes that you’re exploring in the mix? Well, fun! It’s pretty chilled out, innit, but with its upbeat moments. I travel through time, drifting between disco, electric funk and dreamy house.

From a producer/artist’s perspective, what’s exciting about releasing stuff through 100% Silk?

Mainly the fact that you can get away with all kind of weird shit! The label has never asked me to change any of my tracks or anything like that.

What projects are you releasing this year? 

In August NNF will release my sophomore album. Later, mine and LA Vampires collab – we finished that one like last week and it sounds really weird, house-inspired but has a weird new wave/post punk sound to it.

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MAGIC TOUCH


Tunes: I Can Feel the Heat, Club House.

What do you love about releasing music through 100% Silk? 

Openly working with the label, and having the opportunity to play shows and DJ, see old friends at shows and make new friends.

What’s your live show going to be like for this tour?

Lots of extended jams with two samplers and a low pass filter.

What dance tracks are inspiring you right now?

New Bookworms on L.I.E.S, I:Cube - M, Lovelock - Burning Feeling, Aaron ‘Fit’ Siegel, new tracks by Bobby Browser and Roche.

In terms of releases, what do you have planned for the rest of the year? 

Magic Touch / Sapphire Slows collaborative (not split) 12” on 100% Silk in the fall, and a Magic Touch EP to follow

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ITAL


Tunes: First Wave, Queens, Only For Tonight.

From a producer/artist’s perspective, what’s exciting about releasing stuff through 100% Silk?

Mainly I think it’s provided a space for a lot of people from all sorts of backgrounds to experiment with dance music and try out all sorts of crazy shit. Everybody on the label has their own take on what they’re doing, whether it’s ‘serious’ production or more art-damaged. The conversation between all these different artists and then also with the larger dance music community is very vibrant and intriguing.

What are your live performances going to be like on the 100% Silk Euro tour? 

Raw.

Which kinds of ‘dance’-orientated music are you vibing off right now?

A bit of disco, a bit of heavy dark techno. Whatever’s clever.

In terms of releases, what do you have planned for the rest of the year?

Another album on Planet Mu, a split 12” with Magic Touch on 100% Silk and hopefully one or two more things.

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Catch the 100% Silk Tour at:

The Motorcycle Showrooms, Bristol – June 8th
Birthdays, Dalston – June 9th

Download our exclusive Maria Minerva mix here

http://www.listentosilk.com

Words: David Reed

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