Cornerstone Tracks
UMFANG channels the spirit of rave

Few techno artists have had a more rapid ascent than Emma Olson over the last few years. Since dedicating fully to music as UMFANG she’s been signed by the likes of 1080p and Ninja Tune sister label Technicolour, the latter of which put out her acclaimed Symbolic Use Of Light album last summer.

Last year also saw her debut at places like Unsound and Robert Johnson, while looking ahead her dates include a first-time appearance with us on 10th March. Though this has all happened in a short timeframe, this recent surge isn’t to say Olson’s a newcomer on the scene. Before her music career took off in earnest she was known as a founder of Discwoman, the US collective focussed on representing and supporting predominantly female talent.

Her discovery of electronic music first started when she was growing up in Kansas City, where local raves and an insight into Detroit’s history both had a clear impact on her tastes. We asked her to run through some of her most cherished records before she plays with us next month, and she highlighted this with a list of US rave and hard house tracks dating back to the 90s.

Feel Real Good – Manix [KMS]

I bought this record at Co-op 87 in NY. It's so fun and high energy, with built-in crowd noise. One of my favourite rave tracks. People freak out on it. Manix is from the UK but this was put out on KMS in Detroit in 1992.

How did you get introduced to rave music in Kansas City? Did Detroit shape your tastes from early on?

I had friends putting on raves in Kansas City which was my first introduction to a big sound system in a warehouse. I knew about dance music from my group of friends and a message board we shared tracks on. I was an Omar-S fan pretty early on, and the more I learned about the history of techno in Detroit the more fascinated I became. I'm still learning.

Doo Doo vs. Wink – DJ Suave & G-Funk [R2M]

My friend Ciel and I went through a huge stack of records of mostly bad trance, but there were a few gems in there including a sprinkling of Latin hard house, a Missing Channel record and two of these South of the Border records by DJ Self on R2M. I get so many track ID requests on this record but it's not on YouTube. It led me to looking in to R2M which is from Texas, and I found this great shuffly number on my journey.

You’re known for being someone that supports breaking talent, but what’s your stance on giving away track IDs? Do you ever get protective over the music you find?

It really depends on the approach. I don't think people realize that it actually feels like harassment to get 50 Instagram DMs demanding a track ID on something I posted casually. I've found that men in particular talk as if they are owed the track ID. First of all, I am terrible with names. I make a lot of playlists in advance because I really struggle mentally staying organized with digital playlists. Records are easier for me because there is an image I can associate with a sound, and my records stay with me longer than digital tracks. I try really hard to post track lists when I'm playing a lot of tracks from unknown or up and coming artists because it can really give people more traffic and recognition. I'm a lot more protective of my old records, for one they don't need the publicity and also yeah, I did find it myself from digging. I'm not a Discogs lurker, and I do feel that digging for vinyl changed my life and my trajectory. I'm happy to talk music with young people, especially women, that show an interest. If someone says “I can't stop thinking about that track, any way you can tell me what it is?”, that feels different to me and I try my best to share.

Let’s Look At The Funk – Voice of the Underground Presents Code 59 [Cutting Traxx]

There’s a Voice of the Underground record I sampled extensively, but I can't find it on YouTube. I would have sworn it was a UK rave record so I was delighted to see that it was on a New York label, International Bad Boyz Records. It comes up like crazy on Google, but there’s nothing on YouTube. I managed to find one Voice of the Underground track on Cutting Traxx. It's a bit cheesy but also great and very much represents the New York house sound. A lot of these records are still around in New York, and I learned a lot about the history and sound from digging here.

How much of your music comes from sampling? Do you often look to older records for material to source?

I don't really use samples any more. Some of the new material I'm working on has random voice memo recordings but other than the sounds that come from drum machines I'm not recording my own samples. My OK album used a lot of intros and exit sounds from old records. I like the moments producers thought no one would pay attention to. If I was better at the MPC that could change, but it's just not a fast work flow for me.

Aw Yeah (8th St. Bootleg Mix) – Chupacabra [Strictly Rhythm]

This is one of the longest standing tracks in my sets. I'm in love with this record. I need to find the acapella but can't remember what it samples.

Can you describe the process of packing your bag for each gig? Does the contents of your bag frequently change?

It depends on the context of the gig, who I'm playing with, and if I'm on tour. I try to make new vinyl sets for my New York gigs because I have my collection here. When I travel to say two shows every weekend for a month I prepare sets for some of the most distinctive gigs, and combine them throughout the tour. I usually only bring about 10 records with me to Europe so I can buy some while I'm away and not suffer too much back pain. I think I rotate tracks slower than a lot of people but I'm getting better at digging on Bandcamp.

Untitled B2 – Punisher [Seismic Records Detroit]

Loved discovering Punisher is a woman from Detroit. Insane combination of melodic and hard.

While you’ve been supporting female artists throughout your career, there’s been a particularly heightened awareness around equality in dance music in recent months. How do you see the landscape changing in the future?

l hope it doesn't go away. It takes a lot of constant effort to remind people not to get comfortable. I'd like to see women in administrative roles, and more bookers taking chances. A lot of people still use money or audiences as an excuse, and although we are existing under capitalism I think we can all work harder to challenge the dominant culture.

Photo credit: Tyler Jones

Saturday 10th March

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