OK, I’m a little late on this one. Shame on me… Our homie Kai Hugo, aka Palmbomen dropped this album Night Flight Europa off NON Records late last month and I’m really in love with it… like, in a creepy way. The album includes his previously released single Black Safari along with ten other lo-fi analog synth pop gems. Hugo has developed an amazing and distinct style that sounds like a combination of Moroder and Wendy Carlos with contemporary pop sensibilities. … MORE
Autumn is a time of transition as the sweltering heat of summer tappers off, giving way to cooler days, longer nights, and for those of us blessed to be close enough to the land, a period of natural bounty. Alas, this past month has been quite magnanimous for Nightdrive and her fans. While SBTRKT, Thieves Like Us, and our Mission to Mars went off without a hitch, we still have that rag-tag cohort of digital psychonauts known as Azari and III to look forward to in the coming weeks! … MORE
Ahhh, how does it feel everyone? Miami music week is over and I know some of you are probably still recovering from the marathon of pre-gaming, post-gaming, 72-hr raves, boat parties, Ultra, WMC, after parties, hotel lobbies… good times for all.
As some of your may or may not know, here at Nightdrive we have a number of ‘special’ diplomatic relationships with foreign and domestic actors, primarily of the musical variety. Some of our favorite friends from abroad are the lovely guys over at NON Records.
I found myself wandering the Chinatown streets of Amsterdam in search of the one they call Marius. Marius is one cool dude who recently released remixes of his stupendous Things We Did EP, a hodgepodge of new-disco, electro-boogie and all things synth oriented.
After some brief confusion, I found him sitting outside the Cuba Café (Miami holla!) sipping on artisan Belgian beer, smoking French cigarettes and basking in sun on what seemed like the best week of weather I’ve experienced in the last 3 months of living in the Netherlands. With these variables in mind I sat down, ordered myself a cold one and began asking the tough questions.
Lets start at the beginning. What inspired you to do music?
First of all, playing in bands. They were kind of electronic… I can’t really say, I don’t know what kind of genre it was. We only had two guitars and a drummer. We also programed some stuff on computer but there was no bass. The plan was always to keep people moving and dancing. We wanted that combination so the audience doesn’t just stand and look at us but focus their energy on dancing. We never remembered anything or got anything down, we were only jamming.
What was this band called?
It was called Artic. It’s funny that you ask that because that was waaay back. We never released anything officially or anything, just messing around.
The Things We Did Remixed is fresh take of your first EP released in September. Are both EPs sample-based or real instruments?
NO SAMPLES. In one interview some guy said something about sampling and some how now I’m sample-based but I never sample. No samples… NO SAMPLES!
So did you play all the instruments while recording the album, even bass?
Yeah, of course!
Yes, like Prince! Nowadays, when you are a producer, you have to do it all on your own. I play guitar and I record it, I loop it, I export it and run it thorough equipment and it becomes a sample and you can use it again. You create your own samples but it is not sample-based…
You’ve been playing a lot of DJ sets recently, are you planning on doing a live tour?
Yeah, I am DJing a lot and doing some live stuff but I need time to develop the live show with visuals and what not. Not sure what it will be like. It will be finished in September along with my first full length. It’s going to be a cross over between Salem, Miami Bass, and Fever Ray so… by then the live show has to be finished.
So far I have played with bands, never alone. The main focus is to make it danceable so people aren’t just staring at the stage. If you listen, some of the tracks on the EP are headphone music, for the bedroom. I try to keep enough space in the music so I can do interesting things live. You get to a point where you get a feeling from the crowd and the live show becomes unique not only for the audience but for myself as well.
I can understand that. You see groups like Justice who more or less press play and flash a cross and everyone is screaming and then you get bands like Caribou who can go beyond the album and make the live experience special.
People like Neon Indian and Toro y Moi… His [Toro y Moi] first albums where recorded in the bedroom then it went to the studio. It’s a development. He earns money by playing, he got signed and now he has more space to focus on the live show. With Things We Did I was trying to find a personal sound and for the album I guess try to make something more suitable for live sets.
What was your impetuous to do the remix EP? Where a lot of people asking to remix your music?
Renkas wanted to do a remix because he really liked “Staniel Cay” ,that was the first step. Later, we got to know people who liked our music (In Flagranti) but also through our own nights (Jimmy Edgar). We decided to remix every track and picked people who we really liked and who weren’t competing with my sound.
In Flagranti took “Flamingo Isle “, which has a softer sound and he is a disco guy so he brought his skills and made it his own after I remixed one of his tracks called “Interdisciplinary“. We had a long list of people who wanted to remix but we wanted to link the right people to the right tracks.
NON is very new, isn’t it? The remix EP is only the 9th release but it seems like the label is starting to take off.
NON Nights are quite successful, like at Paradiso in Amsterdam over 800 people showed up and it’s still growing. We have enough people on the label to fill a whole evening… it’s a great setting.
So many beautiful girls at NON Nights … almost too many!
Yeah it’s not only guys who want to talk to you after the show to see what kind of software your using.
How did you find the label or did they find you?
I went to art school with Renkas and Bear (Damen) as graphic designers and then we moved to Amsterdam. Bear had the Idea to start a record label, which was a great idea! I was released on a previous label, but it was nothing special.
People are coming out to your shows because you guys are filling a void… people like all kinds of music but NON is the only record label repping this particular kind of throwback sound in the Netherlands.
People make music but they don’t find the label, if you want to release music there aren’t that many labels, except maybe Clone or Rush Hour, those are great. We started off with a NON Night at Melkweg every two or three months and they were like, “Who are these guys?” None of us are from Amsterdam and we came to claim our space here.
I was speaking with the guys from WhoMadeWho and I asked them this question. They are from Denmark, similar to the Netherlands in that it is smaller and more laidback than Germany. They were always signed to Germany labels and only until recently were more popular outside their homeland. Do you feel like the Dutch are receptive to your music?
Yes of course, but we are not only focusing on the Netherlands. In Germany you can focus on the underground like Warp. did back in the 90’s… you have a large underground scene in Germany while in the Netherlands the scene is a lot smaller.
You need to go abroad, you need to. Naturally you feel like you want to go further than your own borders. We are trying to get our music out there to some bigger venues instead of like squats…. It’s a middle ground. Fortunately, we are going to Paris next month, then Moscow some time later on so that will be cool.
What does Marius do in his free time?
I am a freelance graphic designer by trade and every spare hour I have I play music. I turn in my assignments on deadline but otherwise it is music, 50/50. I work at home and make music at home so it is perfect!’
There are so many different talented artists at NON, any possibility of collaborations between artists?
It’s happening haha! I made some tracks with HyperHyper for a fashion show. I would like to collaborate with more label mates but its all ideas at the moment.
How do you like Amsterdam? It seems like a pretty awesome place to live. There is nothing quite like it in the US or anywhere I’ve been.
I don’t really know what to say but it’s great for sure. If I need to DJ I do it all by bike, it needs to be compact! It’s great here, truly. Lots of bars to chill and relax and also lots of smaller venues that are more conceptual but still fun to go to.
There are labels like DFA or 4AD who though appearing ‘indie’ are actually subsidiaries of the largest music corporations like EMI and Universal Music Group. Is that the holy grail for independent labels?
That’s not the goal right now. It’s a different world in that they [big corporations] focus primarily on selling. We want to make money of course, but it’ more important to make your name and let the people get to know your music.
Last question: Who does those super cool grindhouse-eque voiceovers for the NON Records Trailers?
Bear! It’s a chain of effects that distorts his voice. You haven’t heard the voice lately… he quite doing it but he needs to do it again for sure!
If you want enjoyable yet debilitating synth-induced seizures , click here
By Laurence ‘pucho’ Henriquez
If there is anyone who embodies the saying “you are your own worst critic” it is Bear Damen of NON Records. The multi-talented owner/producer/videographer/
Das Pop – Skip the Rope (Bear Damen’s Broadway Remake)
Bear Damen – Failures And Wins
GUEST POST BY JONATHAN KORNMAN
The Non Records family seems to be growing and expanding by the day. Nightdrive has had a very nice friendship with these guys since our WMC show with Palmbomen at bar last year, so we’re always thrilled to hear about their new releases and latest projects. The label’s overall sound is extremely original, pleasant, smart, and somewhat nostalgic – all characteristics that will guarantee a post on our blog.
Today I’m particularly excited about Non because Marius is releasing a vinyl version of Things We Did E.P.!
If you’re reading from Amsterdam make sure to catch him live tonight at Paradiso with Com Truise. For those of you unfamiliar with Marius please check Non’s short description of him:
“The layered sound Marius produces is the result of a calculating approach to creation. His electro sound strives to embody a narrative quality, avoiding traditional pop structure for instead more linear results. His use of samples from instrumental tracks conjure scenes of cinematic proportions, wavering somewhere between 60s era James Bond and cult classics such as Kill Bill. The rippling sonic delight of NON’s wonder-boy avoids traditional categorization with powerful results.”
Anyway, if you like what you just read and have now become a Marius fan, we invite you to participate in our Things We Did E.P vinyl giveaway. Mind you it’s going to take a few weeks for the package to get here from across the pond (Amsterdam), but if you want an awesome Non Records release please follow the instructions below:
2. Answer this question:
Which artist charted “Marius – Staniel Cay” last week? (hint: answer is to be found on his facebook)3. Go to the Nightdrive’s Facebook FAN page. We’ll have posted a “Marius vinyl giveaway today on :::NIGHTDRIVEMIAMI.COM:::” status update…. please post the answer as a comment under this update._4. We will be giving 2 copies away so spread the wurd – Winners will be chosen at randomCONGRATS TO CARLOS AND DENISE!
I have two adds involving palm trees, and this one’s Dutch” I remember Laura explaining to me at one of our weekly Music Director meetings last Fall. It was my first time hearing Palmbomen – the analog-obsessed mad professor of a musician whose electro pop sounds I found immediately captivating. Even on the muffled speakers of Laura’s MacBook (no offense, I still love the bird stickers…), the “Moon Children EP” had me wanting more after just one listen.
Where I found more was at NON Records – the Amsterdam-based label that is the home of Palmbomen and other equally enticing retro-minded electro fanatics. At the time of my discovery of the label, having the opportunity to meet the genius behind Renkas, Bear, HyperHyper, Marius, and other artists from this up and coming tastemaker wasn’t even a thought. To live in Amsterdam and WORK for such a label? Absurd dreams destined to never become reality.
Through fate in the WVUM studios (and an honest rec from my partner in Music Directing crime), I managed to become an intern for NON and gain experience in the music industry of immeasurable value. In particular, my participation in the very release I am posting about remains a quite memorable effort. I’ll start with a little back story on what became “NON Records Compilation Vol. 1” – originally created as a birthday present for Busy P (Ed Banger Rec anyone?). I was given the mix as an informal intro to my new job, and thought after one listen… why isn’t this released to the public? Well, now it is. Busy P and myself are not the only ones who get to enjoy these gems from the vaults of NON that I’m convinved will someday be beloved rarities in their own right. And for those dying for an introduction to NON just like I was, there is no better way.
Free: (right click on link or cntrl click + save as)
I think I’m in love with Renkas’s sound perhaps because of all the 80s Euro pop I grew up listening to and loving so much. Renkas’ latest tracks sound like an updated version of the style of music that inspired Vamos A La Playa. According to his bio (quoted below) Renkas grew up in the USSR in the 80s, which many of you know was a place plagued with political and social instability. I remember visiting the area during that time and thinking man, this is almost crazier than Colombia (where I lived – it was around 88).
It seems to me while most people in the US were listening to New Edition and The Cure those in Europe in South America had bands like Righeira and Miko Mission. I’m by no means comparing Renkas to anything italo or disco but that’s what his über original sound associates with in my head (also maybe real new wave). I’ve been rocking his new Christabella E.P. at almost every DJ gig lately and people seem to dance to it without knowing what it is….so rare for Miami. I’m seriously impressed with the guy and can’t wait to hear a full length. Below is his bio delivered fresh from Non Records’ staff along with a blurb from Renkas himself.
“Renkas is a neo-romantic on Amsterdam’s NON Records. His music is something out of the ordinary, yet extremely contagious. In his oeuvre, a serious sense of melancholy resides behind a see-through curtain of catchy melodies, resulting in a unique mix of emotion-driven music. His songs are about heavy Kiev summers, corruption, grey buildings and love. June 2011 Renkas released “Christabella” EP on NON Records, a 4 track EP, which is about restless youth and wasted love. It’s available for download on iTunes (a.o.) and on vinyl in your favorite record stores.”
As for Renkas on ND, here is a quote from Sasha on his release:
“Inspiration for the EP came from beautiful and often painful and tragic experiences from the turbulent teenage days. First teenage discoveries of the night, love, drugs and lost in the summer. The most sounds of the EP come from an 80s synthesizer Roland Juno 106, I built a personal and deep relationship with during the many nights going back to when I was 17. I grew up in the late 80′s USSR. It was a crazy, beautiful yet horrifying time. In the near future I am going to do live shows and dj sets around Europe. Then I am going to a hippy trip to Italy with a lot of adventures on the way.”
<3 <3 <3
Photo by Nick Lapien
We’re all looking forward to tomorrow’s live performance by Amsterdam’s Palmbomen at Bar here in Miami. We’ve been in correspondence with the folks from NON Records for a while now and it’s definitely been a pleasure working with this young label. We featured Palmbomen months ago when we discovered him on the latest Kitsunè compilation. Now we’re getting a bit more personal with an exclusive interview with the man behind the palm tree, Kai Hugo.
ND: Tell us about yourself. How did you start producing music and what are your influences?
Hugo: Hey! Ok, so my name is Kai Hugo, producer and musician. Producing music came very naturally for me, I started out when I was very young when my mother bought me a small Casio keyboard, a few years later I found myself collecting all kinds of synths and gear. My main musical influences, at the moment, vary from 60′s pop and early eighties italo disco. Always have been actually, but in between I’ve made a lot of safaris through French house and all kinds of danceable music being out of the ordinary, something else that always has been very valuable to me and my friends at NON Records is Dutch electro, such as Legowelt, I-F and everything associated with The Hague’s Bunker Records.
Posted by Patrick
Palmbomen: Palm tree in dutch. Also, a one man Drone Wave act from the Netherlands. “Amsterdam’s Kai Hugo makes tracks that reside somewhere between italo disco and 60’s pop. Hugo cuts a striking figure, performing surrounded by synthesizers and a lightshow, and his refracted vocals, desolated synths, and noises that sound straight out of the Amazon make for a danceable live act.”
Truth is I’ve got this guy on repeat on my ipod, car CD player, and in my head. His song “Moon Children” was recently released on Kitsune’s Maison 10 compilation although he’s signed to Non Records (home to Renkas, Bear, and Dallas). I highly recommend you guys check this guy out…. SOOO GOOD!
Posted by: Laura Sutnick (L of M)