In Depth: Marco Shuttle Reflects on the Meaning of Techno

Marco Sartorelli is part of a small circle of artists known for their hypnotic style of techno. Like all of his closest Italian contemporaries, his records are characterised by a deep, immersive quality, where ghostly sounds organically surround the listener. Sartorelli grew up in Treviso and currently lives in Berlin, and first became involved in electronic music during a lengthy period spent living in London. After moving to the capital to study in 2002 he became a part of the fresh East London scene of the time, attending parties and holding down residencies at respected parties Süd Electronic and Café 1001’s Guerilla Lime & Soda. Sartorelli has always been aligned with a specific strand of abstract techno, although it’s with his most recent work that this has become a particularly distinct characteristic of his music. As some indicator of his direction, later this month his forthcoming LP Systhema drops on Spazio Disponibile, the label run by Italian techno luminaries Donato Dozzy and Neel. Ahead of his forthcoming appearance alongside Peter Van Hoesen in Room Two this Saturday (where Ricardo Villalobos will also be playing in Room One) Sartorelli spoke with us via Skype to discuss his musical inspirations, what techno means to him, and his forthcoming record. Sartorelli first moved to the capital to study a masters degree in fashion at St Martin’s in 2002, and opted to stay in the city to work as a fashion designer after he’d graduated. He’d also broken into DJing around the same time, holding down residencies at East London institutions Süd Electronic and Café 1001. By 2007 he’d put out his first record, and his increased profile meant he was also playing out increasingly often outside of London. With his productions becoming increasingly well-received and a busy touring schedule, he was faced with choosing between fashion and music. “I’d been juggling the two for many years, but I got to a point where if I wanted to move things in a certain direction, I had to dedicate myself into it fully,” he says. “I wasn’t really happy with what I was doing in fashion either, or the projects I was getting. But at the same time, the music was just growing.” ‘Growing’ is one way of putting it. Sartorelli now runs his own label Eerie Records as an avenue for his abstract productions, his music got spotted and signed by labels like Clone and Peter Van Hoesen’s Time To Express, meanwhile his touring has taken him to institutions like Berghain and Japan’s mythical Labyrinth festival. His 2013 appearance at Labyrinth was particularly significant: it was here that he first met the two members of Voices From The Lake, Italian techno masters Donato Scaramuzzi and Giuseppe Tillieci (or, as they’re also known, Donato Dozzy and Neel). It’s difficult to think of a more apt setting than Labyrinth for Sartorelli to cross paths with Scaramuzzi. Hidden in the mountains around 90 minutes train ride from Tokyo, the landmark festival is maybe the most recognisable in the world for pushing a style of deep techno played by both Sartorelli and Scaramuzzi. The pair have come closely linked on a personal and artistic level since meeting at the Japanese festival, including a joint project Anxur on Shuttle’s label.
“Club music involves entertainment, but the music itself has no boundaries.” – Marco Shuttle
“We constantly share what we do and consult one another,” Sartorelli explains. “So this kind of reciprocal contact somehow influences, refines and improves what we do. Not just in working together, but also exchanging other music, or suggesting new music to listen to. It’s an ongoing source of inspiration on many levels. We are very much connected and although we don’t live in the same city, we speak to each other on an almost daily basis.” Donato Dozzy might be the best-known artist associated with this deep style of techno, while in the same sphere Neel, Peter Van Hoesen, Svreca and Sartorelli are all known for playing a similarly trippy sound. The best description for what exactly this sound is has always been quite elusive, but that might be because of the far-ranging list of influences all of these guys draw from. “I don’t listen to techno as much as people might expect,” Sartorelli says. “I guess more and more I listen to music that’s not techno related, but has similar elements to those found in my production. Of course I listen to techno, because I play and love it, but also the deeper I got into production, the more I became attracted to a wide range in my research and record collection. Whether it’s jazz, industrial, ambient or experimental, it’s always to do with depth and cerebral approaches. It’s more about looking for the same thing across different formats or genres.” Sartorelli’s open approach to music is more striking than ever on Systhema, his forthcoming LP on Donato Dozzy and Neel’s Spazio Disponibile imprint. Drawing in ethereal, reverb-drenched soundscapes, it shows him drawing from the same cinematic sound design that characterised his 2014 album Visione. Even Olga, the album’s standout moment, doesn’t so much as take you anywhere, but uses whirring meditative chants to lull you into a deep hypnosis trip. ‘Album’ says a lot about Sartorelli’s intentions for how Systema should be interpreted – and this is more or less the same idea with the rest of his recent output. “I think with an album, the format is the perfect platform to dive into less club oriented music,” He says. “It’s more of a chance to show different sides of your music. I wanted it to be something that works for a more absorbing listening. It’s a chance for me to develop more music in that direction, of being more of an electronic music artist rather than a techno producer.” Sartorelli’s formative tastes in electronic music speak a lot for his interpretation of techno. He was first drawn to Detroit techno and US acid house, before taking inspiration from the UK’s IDM sound of the 90s. The key outlet for Sartorelli was almost certainly Warp Records, with experimental artists Aphex Twin, Autechre and Boards of Canada among his biggest influences. The impact these artists have left on music obviously needs no mention, and their experimental approach to manipulating electronic sounds was key to their lasting appeal. Sartorelli has tried to embrace this experimental side in his own production. “It’s my idea for the future to make more music that’s purely ‘synthesizer music’,” he says. “It pushed me to change my approach. And just play with oscillators and synthesizers without thinking about it.” This might, in fact, be the secret to Sartorelli’s music, and what exactly his perception of contemporary techno is: it’s about how he’s making these sounds, not what they are or where they should fit in. “I’m more inclined to think of electronic music purely as a way to make music,” he says. “It’s just a way to make music through sound, rather than really being a ‘type’ of music. Club music involves entertainment, but the music itself has no boundaries. It has no boundaries: in its soul, or in where it can go.”
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