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Be A Man You Ant – 10 years of André Bratten

We go ten years back in time to the release of André Bratten’s debut album to look at the lasting legacy of Be A Man You Ant before he performs live in our basement this week

There was a time in Oslo where you couldn’t get away from André Bratten’s Trommer og Bass. It seemed to be spilling out of every DJ booth in in the city, the sheer force of the track decimating every track that had come before or after it in the same set. 

Its impact couldn’t be overstated. Even before it was released Jennifer Cardini, who had sent that track to be mastered for her Correspondant VA, quickly understood its power. “The sound was so powerful; the sound was so big,” according to Jennifer Cardini. “When we got Trommer og Bass, I wrote to him (André Bratten) and asked; ‘hey can we get a pre-mastered version, because the version you sent has a compressor and limiter on it.’ He wrote back to me saying no it hasn’t, ‘that’s the premaster actually.’” It says something about André Bratten’s mastery of the studio as an instrument, and the complete nature of his music, but that alone doesn’t count for the sheer appeal of the record. 

It was a Techno record with just enough of that Norwegian melodic nature to make it appeal to a broad audience, while finding its own lane in a scene that would soon be dominated by the draconian influence of Berlin. It could be played at a peak time House set, and be admired outside of the club context. It was a big room track with all the trappings of a dance floor hit that would reaffirm the name André Bratten in a new sphere of club music. He put the track out again on Math Ion Ilium after it appeared on the Correspondant VA in a move he thought would be “smart to do” and which offered the bridge into new sonic possibilities from his previous LP, and debut Be A Man You Ant.

Trommer og Bass took from that album’s more demanding Techno inclinations and expounded on it, but it was the striking debut that had enshrined the name André Bratten in the electronic music scene in Norway and beyond. Be A Man You Ant hit a nerve with Disco riding a tidal wave of popularity across the globe and the album quickly found its own sweet spot just ahead of the curve. 

André Bratten was not unknown by the time Be A Man You Ant saw the light of day. He had carved out a name for himself in Oslo as a member of the delphic Hubbubbaklubb with its quixotic melodies and its mechanical rhythms. As a founding member of the group, he was instrumental in the early success of Hubbubbaklubb, playing a significant role in their breakout hit Mopedbart. Most would have been content as a lynchpin in that group, but such is André Bratten’s personality, that he is always looking to explore new worlds and new sounds in music.

He had already established himself in a studio across the hall from Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas and as the younger upstart amongst these relatively older heads of the Norwegian Disco scene, Bratten set out on his debut LP, tongue firmly in cheek.

“(M)y first record sort of started over dinner with Prins Thomas.” recalls André in an interview with Deep House Amsterdam from 2015. “I was just being a little kid trying to prove myself, and we were talking about this whole space disco sound, and I was bragging like ‘Making a disco record is easy!’ so I made a disco record even though he was obviously much better at writing disco than I was.”

André Bratten might not have the same prowess as Prins Thomas, but he definitely made it his own. His mastery of the studio would prove to leave no stone unturned in his approach to music and Disco too would not be left unchallenged. “I am a technical geek,” Bratten once told Electronic Beats during an interview and this fascination with the technical aspects of music has cemented in an impressive arsenal of vintage synthesisers and machines which are often talked about in venerated and covetous tones. Using these old machines seemed to play in Bratten favour when he was recreating the sonic signatures of this retro-fitted music, emphasising their inherent character which in part laid the foundations for the original genre. 

Happy arpeggios flit through dramatic soundscapes that contain all the drama of a Disco anthem without sacrificing the danceable beat. The opening- and title track paints by numbers as syncopated beats echo through vintage effects while euphoric bass-lines dig towards the centre of the dance floor. In a happy dichotomy however, there’s very little tying the record to compatriots like Prins Thomas, Lindstrøm and Todd Terje, who had already planted a flag. Bratten’s sound was bolder, and more striking and when you get to a track like Aegis other elements start coming to the fore in a serious divergence from the national tropes. 

“Aegis was a more Techno-ish, more British, more border community kind of vibe,” André Bratten told us in an interview with this blog. With just a “twist of Techno”, he produced something that sat outside the Norwegian Disco trends, and yet couldn’t be completely extrapolated from it either.  “I had to think a little about politics, I couldn’t do a super weird Techno record first,” he said, but elements of what was to come in the following EP was already there. It’s true that most of Math Ilium Ion was created and produced before his debut LP, but like everything else, Bratten’s approach was nothing but a calculated response to what he was hearing around him and finding his own niche within that. 

He didn’t want to be compared to Lindstrøm, an easy task for the media, who sought nothing else to pigeonhole him with his studio neighbour.  “It’s hard not to becauseI share studio space and use analogue synthesisers and drum machines,” he told Electronic beats, but Bratten was intent on making his own mark, and used tracks like Aegis, and his singular approach to the studio to make an indelible mark. 

There’s something more stark and at times abrasive to Be A Man You Ant and even when dealing with uplifting melodies, it’s clouded in a perpetual darkness. “You can’t make music that is not personal, sure, but that’s my arena, and it’s not for anyone else,” he said when we talked about the mood he creates on tracks like Aegis and Trommer og Bass. Whether he’s being manipulative or aloof is unsure, but he’s less inclined to talk about these “feelings” behind the music. “I don’t want to be a dictator of what people feel. I find people that need to talk about the personal input in their music need to see a shrink.” Yet, even to an uninformed listener they are ever-palpable in his music. 

Later in the André Bratten catalogue records like Gode and Pax Americana would emphasis and enhance the emotional depths the music can flow to in pronounced soundscapes orchestrated around melancholy electronica, but for Be A Man You Ant, they are very much subverted for the overall estascism of the Disco beat. There’s a depth there that belies the happy-go-lucky nature of the Disco formula as chirping synthesisers clash with dissonant harmonic movements, infusing the music with a sense of drama that only somebody like Arthur Russell could achieve. 

It was a brief dalliance with the Disco genre, but its impact some ten years on is no less significant. While André Bratten would go on to make everything from wavy pop-electronica to warping bleep Techno, Be A Man You Ant would be left to its own devices in the artist’s catalogue, a hermetically sealed slice of perfection for its time and beyond.

Bratten moves on quickly in terms of music, and you’ll never find an artist repeating himself in the studio. At times this even makes it hard to pin-point the results with any kind of artistic identity, but each record, including Be A Man You Ant has tis time and place in his wide arching catalogue. When we spoke to him back in 2015, he said;  “I think the Norwegian scene is missing a proper Techno guy, so I’m trying to be that guy.” For a while he was that guy, playing blistering live sets and making uncompromising Techno on records Math Ilim Ion or skiddish broken Electro on records like Valve, but what he established on Be A Man You Ant remains intact. Ten years on it’s a modern classic and a record that still garners some fanfare whenever it comes on.