There’s one person in Oslo I turn to if I want to something about 90’s Techno and House music. After I’ve exhausted every other resource from books to magazines, scoured the last remaining remnants of cached forums and, out of desperation, turned to Youtube, I ask Orjan Sletner to unlock some of his wisdom from those impressive vaulted memory banks encased in vinyl.
Orjan Sletner is Kompressorkanonen, a DJ, collector and human lexicon of electronic club music that’s lived and breathed this music for the better part of his life. He has forgotten more about this music than I would ever hope to learn and as a DJ he has perfectly honed this wisdom into sets that traverse the breadth of Techno and House in all its variations, in a very distinct style.
There’s always a unique mood or a theme pulsing through his mixes that adapts within the context of the various nights he’ll playing for. Whether he’s playing for an intimate leftfield audience at places like Kafé Hærverk or coercing a Saturday night dance floor to his will at Villa, experience and knowledge has given him a unique ability to accommodate the dancefloor without any concessions to his personal musical tastes.
When he’s not playing alone he is one half of K3 with Joachim Krüger, a DJ duo that blurs the boundaries between the contemporary margins of ambient, Techno, Electro and House and the origins of club music.
After some persuasion and some subliminal coercing on my part, we finally get Kompressorkanonen to the Jæger mix and, like always,he doesn’t disappoint. The mix moves from spacy ambient textures into subdued mysterious Techno over the course of the hour. Orjan takes us on a cinematic journey through a synthesised world, and perfectly balances tension with release, luring over an incipient dance floor to the margins of electronic music, where dark, brooding atmospheres reside.
Shazam comes up empty time and time again, as he shares some of his more obscure records with us for this very special Jæger mix. Putting this mix together like an auteur, combining records (and be assured it’s exclusively vinyl) in a narrative that has all the drama of Lars von Trier film, Kompressorkanonen sets a particular tone with this opening set.
Pressure and intensity build and only by the twenty minute-mark do we get our first glimpse of steady four-four kick drum, but it’s a fleeting encounter that dissipates into rumbling percussion and Electro beats before retreating into the final credit with its forlorn sweeping strings and unavoidable drone.
Welcome Orjan. Finally! I think for those people that might not know who you are, give us an introduction?
I’m a vinyl phreek, ancient raver and DJ from Oslo. Also one half of k³ with Joachim Krüger. We did an ambient mixtape on HMD Records a while ago and have DJed b2b at various different venues around town.
I know you might have had to make room you in your memory banks for all that musical knowledge, but do you think you can remember what was the record that sparked the desire to start DJing?
I was buying records for ages before I (finally) started to dabble in DJing, so I can’t really pin it down to a particular one. I got into vinyl in 1992, but I didn’t really have any desire to DJ at the time, I just bought a ridiculous amount of records and went to raves/clubs constantly. To be honest I didn’t really think that DJing was something I could do either, even if I’d wanted to. The whole mixing thing seemed like a totally esoteric enterprise to me. I’m pretty inept at anything that involves practical skills, so I just thought “there’s no way I can do that”. Several of my friends were DJ’s and played at techno events regularly, and we even bought a lot of the same records, but somehow it just never occurred to me that DJing was something I could do. One of my mates actually sort of tried to guilt trip me into DJing – after all I should give other people the opportunity to listen to my records!
I had a radio show back in 2003 or whenever it was, and they had a full DJ setup there, and at that point I had acquired a pretty sizeable collection as I’d been buying records for more than ten years. And I thought to myself “well maybe it’s a bit daft having all these records and not being able to mix them”. So when the station was off-air and I had the studio to myself I started practicing a little and kind of got the hang of it and realized it wasn’t really that mysterious after all. So that’s how it started. There wasn’t any plan behind it at all, it was more of an accidental byproduct of going to clubs and hanging out in record shops all the time.
As for how I got into electronic music back in the day – I liked synthpop when I was younger, and I always preferred the instrumental bits with just synths and drum machines. Imagine my joy when I discovered there was a whole genre which consisted of nothing else! And then I got pissed off when I found out that it had been around for a few years already and NOONE HAD TOLD ME. I suppose that’s how I learned that it requires a little bit of detective work to find these records…
Anyway, I’m yakking on (as per usual). I suppose the KLF is the answer to your question. It was just a bit of a rigmarole from there until I eventually got to the point where I thought that I could legitimately call myself a DJ! I think I can say that now…. right?
You technically sold the first record on Discogs, and there’s an interesting story behind that. Can you tell the people about it?
That was SP 23 – This Is Trance on Force Inc.
I joined discogs in 2003 – at the time it was a database with a community attached, not a marketplace with a database attached like it is now. A lot of the regulars on there, myself included, would meet up from time to time and go to record shops and get munted and ramble on about records until the break of dawn. It was brilliant. Anyway, these “oggers” in Glasgow organized an allnighter in 2005 that I went to (and played at) – the Summer Sound System. Went crate digging in Ofxam as you do, where they were selling this record for £3.50. I assumed it was more valuable than that (remember – you couldn’t check the discogs value on your smartphone, because there were no values to check on discogs, and smartphones didn’t really exist either – I didn’t have one, anyway). Turned out I was right. I passed it on to another ogger in exchange for a few records, and he subsequently flogged the SP23 on the newly-founded discogs marketplace for £50. So while I didn’t actually sell it on discogs myself, I still think I played a humongously important role in the development of the marketplace. And yet they refuse to give me a considerable portion of their profit! It is an outrage.
I had no idea it was the first record sold on discogs until several years later, when they had an anniversary or something and launched this webpage with a summary of the history of the site. Anyway, I’m clearly responsible for the vastly inflated sums of money that old school house and techno records go for these days. Bring forth the guillotine!
Bastard! I’m still a big fan of yours nonetheless (as you know) and especially your proclivity for a nineties sound. What is it about that era of music that resonates with you still?
I’ll readily confess that I’m a hopeless 90’s romantic but not without a dose of realism, my specs are not entirely rose tinted! My favourite records are from the 90’s, and the parties were pretty unhinged, but there was a lot of crap too, and a lot of muppets. Sure we had UR and R&S and PCP and Basic Channel, but we also had to deal with big beat and Marusha and Ace of Base and Toni di fucking Bart and please don’t mention Scooter because they make me want to gouge my eyeballs out.
I was 13 at the beginning of the 90’s and 23 when they ended – the most formative years of your life, basically. People don’t really change after they turn 23, do they? I haven’t, anyway… I’ve just gone up in trouser size and most of my hair has flown south for the winter.
But people still play these records that are 25, 30 years old and I guess there’s a certain “free spirit” in them which is difficult to replicate now that everything’s been analyzed to death and it’s all a bit jaded and youtube is full of tutorials on how to compress your kick drum. The 90’s were indeed a very strange era and of course it will never come back because it was a different time. The music was new, the scene was new, the internet barely existed, hipsters hadn’t been invented and knowledge travelled more slowly – but strangely enough the music changed much faster than it does now, it evolved at an incredibly rapid pace. And finding out about releases, labels, artists etc. was a pain in the arse, there was nowhere to look it up and a lot of records you had just heard about, they became the stuff of myth. Whenever a copy of Frontpage magazine found its way to Oslo it was a godsend even if it was in German. And the 90’s were a weird little time capsule where all the stars had aligned somehow, the cold war had ended, there was a lot of “zippie” optimism going on at the time which coincided with the development of new technology. The opportunities seemed endless, and at parties it was everyone under the same roof, intransigents and hippies and mental patients and drag-queens and geeks and dodgy as fuck criminals stirred up in one pot and no one cared. It was a perfect storm and it’s not going to happen again.
I think the main reason the best 90’s music still holds up is that a lot of creative people who were tired of the constrictions of existing genres at the time were drawn to electronic music because it gave them the freedom to do their own thing. You could do anything, and some of it worked and some of it didn’t, and when it worked you didn’t necessarily know why, you just made it up as you went along, and then you moved on and after 6 months that record you did which sold ten thousand copies was an ancient relic anyway.
I remember you telling me that you don’t have the capacity to absorb anymore post 1999, but you still buy new records. What do you look for in a contemporary record?
I know I’ve half-jokingly said that but I do remember a few things post-2000, honest! Just not that many…
I buy new records in an old school kind of way now. I go down to Filter and Roland pulls out some new stuff for me, and a lot of the time I don’t know the label or the artist at all. It all comes down to one thing: Will I still like this record in 5 or 10 or 30 years? If the answer to that question is yes, then we have a deal! I don’t care what genre it is or if it’s going to “fit into my set”, I obviously didn’t care about that before as I didn’t play any sets so why change a winning formula? (Ahem). And I’ll continue to buy records after I stop DJing too, whenever that happens, so “personal longevity” is the only thing I care about. I’ve made the mistake in the past of buying records that were in vogue at the time or that I thought I “should have” even if I didn’t really like them that much. Which is pretty stupid when you think about it.
What have been some of your personal highlights to make it into your record collection recently?
Autechre – NTS Sessions 1-4
Versalife – Vortices EP
Ex-Terrestrial – Urth Born
Blind Observatory / Dorisburg / Agonis – SMKMCHN#01
Darling – Sim / Moon Fleet
The Whispers – It’s A Love Thing
Robert Görl – Psycho (Remixes)
Montego Bay – Everything
Edgar Froese – Macula Transfer
Paul Mix & Freddie Fresh – Compilation #001
I know there are always a few records on your discogs wishlist too. What classic records are you currently looking for?
Hmm…. That’s a tough question, must be about 3 million records on that wantlist. OK, anything by VC-118A. He’s crazy talented and he’s coming to town soon. They’re not “classic” yet though, are they? OK then: Jeremy – Semi-structured Life. Delivered by Miles Davis, riding a unicorn. It’s gonna happen soon. I can feel it.
What do you have planned for your Jæger mix?
From ambient to techno and back.
Can you some up the mood of the mix in a word?
It’s a bit dark, like. That’s five words. Sorry.