With its refined production and audacious artists, the Romanian scene has become well known within the minimal techno and microhouse community. Amongst this effervescent group, the electronic music producer and founder of the Ada Kaleh Romania label, Iulian Cuculea, stands out for his emotionally charged and exotic techhouse music, which lends itself equally well to domestic listening as it does to the dance floor. Faithful to the metric aspects of dance music, yet singular in his breaking of its conventions, Ada Kaleh disrupts the codes through elements borrowed from other genres. Released on his label’s limited imprint, Introspectie1 bends the techno genre by balancing nervous but sober repetitive processes with the deployment of a dramatic melodic sequence.
Composed of continuous flows and associative jumps, this new track from Ada Kaleh makes for a highly affective set. Echoing its title, Introspectie can be envisaged as the inner monologue, navigating from surface contacts to abyssal undulations. The track opens with a grainy, floating echo that suggests a field recording. Dressed with muffled notes from a series of consonant intervals, these granular fluctuations recall a certain physiological state, and even the foreshores of the unconscious, they offer a basis, then, for the emergence of distinct expressions. In its opening seconds, Introspectie offers up wonderful promises of a great project to come. The pattern emerges under the quickness of a disjointed rhythm, and the loud beat asserts itself, dry and massive, caught up in its step by an earthy, syncopated bass. Each stroke reverberates with one of the rhythmic timbres, and the bass maintains the bar in the infinite false start of a stripped-down and emaciated groove. A cut hi-hat inserted between each stroke sets the techno structure in place. Short rhythmic and melodic events appear, leading, or not, to new situations, referring, or not, in different ways to what comes before or after: bursts of crash cymbal borrowed from post-rock set off the rhythm; a synthesized cello note reaffirms the harmonic background; a tonal event seems to interrogate itself, and the beat stops.
Developed in several layers and in the same harmonic movement, intervals from a long and dramatic phrase install the strata of an amazingly deep set. These layers, whose timbres simultaneously recall those of the organ and the oboe, or the muffled aspect of clarinet, give the impression of an electronic choral trying to assert itself with a brightness that is generally muted in techno. The shifting character of the harmonic filtering means that previously heard elements ceaselessly reappear, reshaping the listening experience each time. At the second break, the lightness of the phrase crescendos into a climax, before almost all layers disappear with the return of the beat, only to make a fragment briefly reappear as if feel tingly lit up by the beacon of a lighthouse. Remembering these harmonic “moments” after they have faded, the listener briefly encounters the unity, albeit vanished, through a furtive movement of the memory.
An omnipresent beat (marking time whilst simultaneously its own invariability is diluting it), and the evolution of loop timbres (that vary during gradual process), are both classic features of techno. But here, rhythmic elements are set against a moving harmonic set construction, whose unique application strongly contrasts techno’s more machinic aspects. In this way, Ada Kaleh retains the repetitive structure, albeit reduced and characterized, whilst surprising us with a gestural work full of spontaneity. It seems Ada Kaleh wants to make the process speak, and to make it speak with an awareness of its environment, therefore affected, filled with emotion.
The dramatic sequence is not juxtaposed as a sample, but instead emerges from within the set, which prepared its deployment from the major third intervals in the opening seconds. Melodic development induction differs from repetition in that the latter does not imply its element as the result of what happened previously. But here, as harmonic support is continually active and moving, it can make the melodic phrase a part of repetition. Ada Kaleh builds Introspectie on the ambiguous relationships between two different and opposing times, which he seeks to reconcile. He affirms at once the verticality of techno and at the same time accentuates the linearity that suits the consonant intervals and chord construction.
Ada Kaleh highlights the contrast between two temporalities, at the same time as he explores the conditions under which these a priori heterogeneous elements could be interwoven. Introspectie, with its hints of neo-trance, twists the repetition, opening up the “temporal vanishing” experience of the techno genre to the harmonic and tonal blossoming of western tonal music. Dance music is invested with a symbolism that is no longer exclusively machinic, but also affected: here the listener finds an organization, whose functionalism remains a powerful representation of emotional movement. The contrast between the anticipation of time in techno and in tonal harmony leaves a room for manoeuver that escapes from the “sign-posting” of a unitary structure. Listening becomes intermittent, not only in the attention given to a particular graduation, but also in a mixed relationship between the listener’s absorption by the beat, the differentiation of rhythmic timbres, and the affecting situationism of harmonization. There is like “backyard air” which passes between each of these aspects, and the listener is suspended in a form of fictional drama, whether they are covered in sweat and dancing to the bass of a Funktion One sound system, or sitting on a fold-down seat in a subway car.
Through his use of a kind of harmonic emulsion, Ada Kaleh twists the erosive nature of differentiated repetition, opening up a plurality of modes of listening, so that when listening the beat can put intermittently its reactive function at the service of dramatic environment. It is important to note that Introspectie took four years of work from its conception to its production, massively exceeding the average turnaround of club edit tracks.
Ada Kaleh experiments with the ambiguous limits between two listening experiences : the more reactive one encouraged by the recurring time of techno, and a more active and memorable one that suits tonal organization. Situated on the frontier between these two listening types, Ada Kaleh proposes to experience their porosity. With Introspectie, he deploys exacting references to both, and for the sake of ergonomics – the discrete grammar of western harmony and the undisciplined paganism of repetition – to create a unique and exotic track.