Intergalactic sounds with Alienata

Alienata occupies a unique space in the world of Techno with an all-encompassing approach that encapsulates everything from IDM to Electro. She’s thrived in the culture’s underground corners since taking to the decks in 2004, where she’s carved out a sound in sets that span “obscure electro, ACID, dub, IDM, dark disco, jakbeat, hypnotic techno, industrial atmospheres, break beats, cosmic jazz , UK electro, Detroit and Chicago” influences.  Traversing the outer regions of club music, Alienata truly channels an inter-galactic language through her musical tastes.

Originally from Spain, Alienata has been residing in Berlin since 2011 where she joined the Killekill (Krake festival) family on her journey to become one of the city’s most dedicated figures. Admired for her approach to club music, her sets pulsate with the energy of the dance floor as she pushes the dynamics across the whole spectrum of club music.  From the furthest recesses of Techno’s reach where artists like Aphex Twin reside to the functional club constructs that motivates movement, Alienata has a very unique approach to her selections. 

It’s not often that Biosphere and Neil Landstrumm are mentioned in the same breath, but like her sets, Alienata is both, not obvious, and distinct in her musical designs. It trickles down from her sets, to her production and her label, Discos Atónicos, where she has channelled her musical tastes into an equally determined platform over the last 5 years. Although versatile, she maintains a unique sound which is hard to pin down to one specific element and it’s through this that she stands out in the larger Techno landscape. 

Ahead of her appearance at Jaeger tomorrow night, we caught up with the DJ, producer and label honcho for further insight into her musical tastes and her approach to DJing and music. 

Hey Alienata. Where are you at this moment and what are you listening to right now?

Hello : )

At this moment I’m enjoying touring a lot! I’m having great experiences & connections in all the places I visit. In terms of listening 

I’ve read somewhere that you’re a fan of Biosphere. That obviously resonates with us here in Norway. To me, a record like Patashnik is one of those perfect records to play after a night out. Do you have a record like that; something you like to put on after a particularly good night?

Yeah, I deeply love Biosphere!

And regarding your question I think Substrata is that record I always found perfect to listen to after a good gig (or even after a bad gig! haha) Another one: Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin. 

I often hear Aphex in your sets too. Where is the crossover between the music you listen to at home and the music you play out?

Well, when I’m at home I tend to listen to slow beats, downtempo, I love that flow so much. Obviously “that flow” influences me when I make my musical selections. 

Versatile would be an understatement when considering your music and DJing and yet there’s something there that ties it all together. What is that fundamental element in your musical tastes in terms of making and playing music?

I think that fundamental element is a mix of galactic sounds, a sense of funk & groove & and a touch of psychedelia.

What first planted the seed for these musical tastes to develop and when was that? 

I used to help a friend who distributed records to most of the DJs in my city. First in a record store and then he would do it from home and I would give him a hand. I spent all my time listening to all kinds of music. I didn’t care about the genres or styles. were being trained without my realising it.

Has it always been about electronic music or was there a point or event that initially brought you to the sounds of synthesisers and drum machines?

Let’s just say that I have always loved rhythm and atmospheres, since I was a child. I used to listen to classical & psychedelic music all the time when I was about 12/13 years old. It was a kind of therapy for me. Through sound I was inspired to write and build parallel worlds where I could escape from reality. There were a lot of problems at home and I needed to transcend them in some way. Music has always had that “magic” component in my life.

Was there a big community of kindred spirits in Valencia when you were discovering this music and how did it influence your own evolution from fan to DJ? 

Totally! Actually I am originally from Murcia (not Valencia!) and yes, I have always had the good fortune to surround myself with spirits who were quite advanced in every sense of the word. Not only in electronic music, but also in krautrock, post punk or wave. Let’s say that when I discovered the language of music I did it almost in a shamanic way. 

How did you get into DJing and what do you remember of those initial experiences behind a set of decks?

It all happened when I was living with my friend who I was helping distribute records (I mentioned before) He had a brutal collection of vinyl, all kinds of stuff. We were all the time listening to music. And my curiosity grew and grew, so when I was alone at home, I used to sneak into “the magic room”, pick up records randomly (because I knew I was always going to discover something interesting) and start playing. And I would practise for myself, without anyone knowing it. It was almost a ritual for me. 

Were you exploring those bridges between IDM, Electro, Techno and EBM right from the start and what did you establish in your approach to DJing even back then?

I never had any barriers when I started to play music. Everything that fit or caught the attention of my ears had a place in my initial sessions. I didn’t care about styles. I could fit in the same session some Neil Landstrumm with Miles Davis’ Doo Boop and many other things in between. The music, beyond the styles, had a strength, a way of telling stories that in my way of understanding the sound at that time fit in. A bit mystical I would say.

Has it evolved in any significant way since then?

Of course, it has evolved in terms of knowledge. But the spirit is the same. 

I assume Djing remains your first love.

I deeply love to play music, from the deepest part of my heart. It’s the language with which I have learned to communicate with the world. Sometimes complicated to explain in words!

…and Discos Atónicos a close second?

Discos Atónicos is my baby.

I was previously involved in other record labels with my other collectives but in the end I was always left with the feeling that I couldn’t do 100 percent of what I wanted to do.

So after years and when I felt the time was right, I started with Discos Atónicos, Being my own boss and having all the freedom to edit whatever I wanted to edit. 

When you do make a track or remix something, is there an instinct to try and express a similar sound or mood in these pieces and how would you describe that mood or sound?

If I’m honest I don’t usually have a certain mood in my head when I make music but it’s true that there are certain patterns that I repeat: the broken rhythms, the atmospheres a bit dramatic, the bleeps and… I love pads! I need depth in some way. 

In an interview from 2019 you said you were in the process of re-inventing yourself. What was the reason behind this re-invention and what did it entail or lead to?

I believe that in the end, life is a process of reinventing oneself all the time. I have a terrible fear of boredom! I could say now, in 2023, that I am still in the process of reinvention and I hope it never ends! I say this with all the positivity in the world. 

When I think of Techno (and maybe this is just a generational thing) I tend to think of the kind of music people like you play. But Techno’s popularity has brought new, not always positive connotations to the genre. What are your personal experiences in the scene regarding Techno’s popularity today?

It is a bit confusing at times. Suddenly you hear “techno” everywhere. in clothing stores, on buses, at the dentist’s office! Even my mother suddenly has techno notions!  It has become something “popular” indeed and with it has come mediocrity, banality & sometimes pure entertainment.

I guess the popularity of the genre is certainly beneficial to everybody playing or making the style, but in general terms it seems to have marginalised the original counter-cultural spirit for the sake of a business model. As somebody that represents the former to me, how are you able to find  your place in this paradigm shift today?

Of course it has its benefits, at this moment in my life I can make a living from it, something that would not have been possible in the past. For me the most important thing is not to lose one’s own essence.  Don’t sell your soul. Keeping real for real. Keeping curious. Sometimes I get the feeling that it is almost an extravagance to say that but it is crucial. I feel it’s almost a kind of mission, to educate the ears, the fantasy, the magic of rhythm. I want to share everything I have learned (and am still learning) along the way. 

Where do you see it going, because at some point I think we’ll have to start making a distinction, by the time Beyoncé brings out a Techno LP at least?

Techno is like Pop Music, yes. Even writing this sentence I find it hard to believe, but it’s true. To be honest, I am a bit confused about this… but at the end of the day I always find originality, hybrids and fusions of styles which, although in a more accessible way, still seem interesting to me. 

What does this all mean in terms of finding new music or do you find yourself turning more to older records and re-issues?

I always check all kinds of music. There are a lot of current sounds that I love. I think that in the middle of all that we were talking about, there is quite a lot of quality, at least if you know where to look for it. And the reissues are also good, and of course, I always keep an eye on them, you always rediscover things that you might have missed at another time!

Quality is the key, old, new, whatever!

It seems more important than ever now for labels like Discos Atónicos to exist. What are some of the challenges of releasing a record today in the contemporary landscape and how do you overcome them?

It is definitely becoming more and more complicated in terms of economics and waiting times.

Especially for underground labels. In my case there is even an extra complication because I self-distribute it. Prices have risen sharply since the pandemic times.Shipping costs have gone up. 

Everything has become more expensive, shops are buying less copies… it is a loop. I am currently considering releasing more material digitally and limiting the series on vinyl. After all, as a consumer I use digital a lot, I love bandcamp. 

What keeps you motivated in terms of releasing records and keeping the label going?

My motivation is always to share music that somehow feels timeless, fresh, with quality.

Things that I would immediately play and that I will never get tired of listening to.

One way or the other, I’m always lucky to find what fits in my label. Sounds that give me goosebumps. Tracks that are like little movies. Artists who I admire so much or new artists that I just discovered and I can feel their potential and I want to give that opportunity.

So you create a kind of small family.

And playing this music to an audience?

That’s a fantastic feeling. When you know something is good and you can’t wait to share it!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Elena. One last request. Can you play us out with a song?

Ohhh only one???

Then my choice is Underground Resistance – Death of My Neighborhood

A beauty. 

Thanks for having me!