It can take a long time to figure out what you want to say about a piece of music, especially when it becomes your default listening.
Antenes’ The Bunker Podcast 142 was released on February 22, though I didn’t hear it for a while after that -- I often catch up with podcasts late and in clumps. The Bunker New York, the city’s best and long-running techno party (and podcast), has since issued six more sets. But I’ve played this edition, by a New Yorker who’s released music on the highly regarded label L.I.E.S.,more times than any other DJ set so far this year.
Though techno can seem overly subtle (to the point of inert) to non-dance ears, Antenes builds her set so carefully that its very construction becomes central to its fascination. And “build” is the operative word, because it takes nearly seven minutes for a beat to arrive in earnest. For 65 minutes, she consistently picks tracks that re-accent or dub down or nearly obscure the beat. The rhythms line up but sonically, the percussion doesn’t. And the rest of the instrumentation follows suit. It’s not an ambient set, per se, but that variation gives the set a shifting quality that’s clearly thought through, and that comes through strongly in terms of line.
The strongest DJ sets have strong through-lines -- of sensibility, of course, but also in style -- and in techno, the quality of “line” is even more defined. Simply put, a good techno DJ can make all those machine squiggles speak complete paragraphs together, whether hammering you over the head with grungy 303s or painting the tips of your toenails with ambient. In Antenes’ case, that means laying out 22 tracks of techno as slow-waking dreamscape, the plangent side of the Detroit-focused side of the music -- it kicks off with selections from Jeff Mills and Meeko, the latter with a track released on the Detroit Underground label. And Antenes’ selections are largely minimal enough to make the long overlays she favors sound even more vista-like.
Yet that bareness is consistently inviting. The ending, for example, is a rather enchanting little bass blob over a pleasantly narcotic basic four by Voices From The Lake (“Velo Di Maya,” also released on The Bunker New York label) that sounds like it’s shimmying contentedly into the next room. That sounds much like the way the set begins, with Mills’ grainy “Indications,” a circularity that indicates just how sinuous Antenes’ line here is.
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set -- often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily -- and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.