Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
Mikkel Metal is an artist who first caught my attention back in 2006 with the excellent Victimizer album on Kompakt. A record of stunning depth, I enjoy losing myself in its bass-infused sounds to this day. Further releases on labels such as Echocord, Tartelet and Semantica cemented his place in my affections and are rightly revered amongst those with a love of what has been loosely termed the ‚dub-techno sound‘. By JOHN BITTLES
This May sees Mikkel Meldgaard return to his spiritual home Echocord with the deep electronic grooves of his Just Enough Light mini LP. Composed of six spacious, atmospheric tracks, the record is a meticulously crafted album which successfully merges elements of ambiance, techno, dub and house into a gloriously heady trip for both mind and feet. Made to be listened to in one glorious whole, this is hypnotic electronic music full of intelligence and soul.
The soft bass swells and bleary synth tones of opener Awake make for a gorgeous statement of intent. Containing the merest hint of a beat, the track has a subtle, uplifting air which will sound wonderful when heard in the presence of a slowly rising sun. Next, Bregnan ups the pace slightly with a classic sounding dub techno groove. Profound and mesmerising, the song sees Mikkel Metal use a minimal sound palette to create a six minute aural masterpiece which you can’t resist playing on repeat. Other picks include the hazy ambiance of Jech, the Echospace style deep electronica of Include and the dub flavoured crunch of Restore. Every track is essential though, which means that choosing favourites is like trying to decide which flavour of ice cream I like best.
With Just Enough Light setting up home on my stereo these last few weeks I couldn’t resist finding our more. In the resulting interview we discuss the new record, loops, Kenneth Christiansen and Echocord, the city of Copenhagen, and lots more.
So, upgrade your headphones, check out Just Enough Light here, and let us begin…
For those who have never had the pleasure of hearing your music before, can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
I’m a Copenhagen-based producer who’s been producing and composing music for more than 20 years. Initially playing nineties shoegazer/indie I later replaced the guitar with the sampler as my primary instrument. Since then I have released a lot of music under the moniker Mikkel Metal, mixing elements from the genres dub, ambient, techno and more. People always want to put artists into boxes and categories. My “category” has been “dub-techno”, but personally this doesn’t matter so much to me. My musical aspiration and production is much more than dub-techno.
Your new mini LP Just Enough Light is out on the 4th of May. Why do we all need this record in our lives?
Because if offers a good variety of deep personal sounds.
If someone only had time to listen to one track from the record, which should it be, and why?
I guess it would have to be the track Include, because of its melodic qualities.
Opener Awake is gorgeously atmospheric and does a great job of setting the mood. Was this always going to be the opening track?
Actually not. The tracks were produced over a longer period of time and not with a complete release in mind. A few tracks slowly grew organically to become a mini-album.
One of my personal favourites is the dub heavy, hypnotic groove of Bregnan. What’s the secret to creating music which sounds so deep?
This is a classic dub-techno track, where a lot is about the small details and the interplay between frequencies and delays. You start with a basic loop that you keep refining, until you feel you get it right (or rather, as good as you are able to make it at this point in time). If the loop is right, then you don’t need much to happen.
Another fave is the comparatively light and airy Include, which opens the second 12” in some style. Can you tell us a bit about how this track came about?
I’ve always had a weakness for melodic loops, and this track basically grew from a simple string loop. Once the loop was in place I tried to build a flow around it, so it didn’t feel too static.
The album, like a lot of your music, has been released on Copenhagen label Echocord. How did you first hook up with the good people there?
This is a good old story. I met Kenneth (Christiansen) when he was working in a really cool record-shop with a clear techno and electronica profile. Somehow I found out he was planning to start a label, he heard some of my demos which later became the first release of the label. Since then we have kept the connection. I appreciate the fact that Kenneth and I know each other so well, and have been working together for so many years.
You’re also based in Copenhagen. What five places in Copenhagen would you recommend for visitors to check out?
Copenhagen has a nice mix of history, water and a dash of urban life. I love to explore the urban nature of Copenhagen, be it Amager fælled or the area around Christiania, but I also enjoy some of our city’s old buildings like Vor Frue Kirke, Marmorkirken etc.
When you look back over your previous releases can you think of a thread, idea, or a sound that unites them?
That’s an interesting question. A short answer could be “integrity”. At least that goes for the best of my tracks. I’ve never seen myself as a very skilled producer in a general sense. I’m not sure I would be very successful in producing music for other people. But I do believe that I, through my sonic palette, manage to offer a personal take on the genres that I work within. Alternatively you could describe my music as underplayed melodies in a grainy production.
If people could learn one thing from your music, what would it be?
What five records should everyone hear at least once in their life?
This is no ultimate list, but here’s five records that I have listened to over and over again throughout the years.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless.
Pole – 3.
Rhythm and Sound – w/ The Artists.
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.
The Smiths – The Queen is Dead.
What does the future hold for yourself?
This summer I’m moving with my family for the first time in 13 years. I’ve always produced from home, so I’m very much looking forward to getting new surroundings (and living with a sea-side view). Perhaps a new environment will inspire new processes and sounds?
Do you have any final words for our readers?
Watch a good movie, instead of the next episode of your favourite series. Beware of digital distractions – reclaim your decisions power…
Just Enough Light is available now from all good record stores including Kompakt and Phonica. Do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a copy now!