The wrong record at the right time by Øyvind Morken

Untzdag resident Øyvind Morken discusses the allure of certain unusual records, that when played at the right time can have very significant effects on the dance floor.

I’ve been a resident at Jæger for the past seven years. Coming in every week I have to keep it interesting for myself and I’m pretty sure that if you’ve been recording me since the beginning, you wouldn’t hear me playing the same kind of set twice. I’m always bringing new music and the best parties I’ve had at Jaeger are the ones I’ve played all night and could dictate the evening through several tempos and moods; that’s the nice thing about playing a residency, you can develop it in a way that’s personal to you. I didn’t force this in any way, it’s the way I am, and the way I am is the way we all are, eclectic. My record bag reflects this too, and although I always have to carry those records that if I know I’m struggling I can play those records, and I’ll be fine, I’ve never been interested in those. I’m more interested in the records that you have to fit a whole set around. These are the records that might not naturally work at any point during the course of a night, or you really have to tailor them to make them fit. These are the wrong records at the right time.

The wrong speed

It’s something that has interested me since I started playing records at the wrong speed. At the flick of a switch on your record player, you can drop a record down an octave or two in pitch and play it at about three quarters of its original speed. I remember starting to do this in the early 2000’s and I thought I was a genius, because I thought nobody had done this before. But then I read about Fat Ronny, Beppe Loda, Baldelli and Mozart – All these guys were doing this since the late seventies and early eighties, and it was nothing new. DJs have been doing this since the invention of the variable pitch record player, but it’s still something of a lost art in the era of CD players. By virtue of the modern DJ CD Player, DJing now is very tempo-based, with the beats per minute constantly displayed on the bright luminous LCD screen. It’s incredibly hard to ignore. The way I grew up Djing, it was based on the inherent musical quality of the record rather than tempo so I have to think; How can I find a way to bring all this music into a set.

Take André Bratten’s Un Pax / Americana for instance, which plays at 140BPM. I play that it at the wrong tempo around 105 -110BPM and the record suits me better at the wrong speed. It’s a full-on Techno record usually, but at the wrong speed its a chugging, pumping record. It’s what the wrong record at the right time is all about. It’s about playing a record that fits a mood and it’s about establishing the sound of a night. Sometimes I can even play under 100 BPM the whole night; creating a vibe with slow music and that’s why I play the wrong record or the right record at the wrong speed, for the vibe. An artist like André Bratten would probably hate it, but when you release a record it’s not yours anymore; It’s mine and the dance floor’s.

Weathermen – Deep Down South

Not every record sounds good at the wrong speed, and it’s never about just hearing something familiar at a slower tempo. It’s about a record that turns into something completely different from the original, like this Weathermen record. There are two versions, but I usually play the one with the vocal because it’s heavier. In this case I accidentally stumbled on the effects of playing it slower, but often I will actively look for a record to play at the wrong speed, because I love playing in a very psychedelic way. When you get the dance floor in on the slow music, it’s completely different night out. You don’t get tired and it gives the dancer more room to get into the rhythm of the night.

Now, this might be a bold statement, but I think most DJs that play in Oslo are at times cowards. That is not to suggest that they aren’t good DJs, merely that they let the dance floor dictate the music; The crowd controls the music. If you don’t experiment, and you might fail, you’ll never know the limits to where you could push yourself and the crowd. As an individual who’s been on both sides of the booth since a teenager, it’s better to have 15 people in a club having a great time, rather than 150 who aren’t really interested. The common denominator goes down as you bring in more people and there’s going to be more people who aren’t there for the right reasons. If there are too many people that are only half into it, it ruins the vibe.

I am stubborn about music and the mood it sets, and I’ll play a record like this, this way which will give the dancer a more substantial reward at the end of the day; If they don’t leave they’ll get into it. It might take longer, but at the end of the night they might be in for a better night because they’ll let themselves experience something that they haven’t heard before, even if it is something that they have heard before.

Hysteric – Temple

If you play a record at the wrong speed, it’s curious how when listening to it at the right speed, something doesn’t quite sound right afterwards. This Hysteric record can be played fine at both speeds, it sounds like a space-aged Electro record under normal circumstances, but slowing it down, gives it a whole new character, eccentric bordering on malicious. Hysteric is known for his disco edits, and I’m not sure if this is an edit or an original, but in the way it sounds at this slower speed, there’s something unusual about it.   

Everybody has a finite capacity for new things, and I think to be open to new ideas and new music, takes constant work. I look for stuff everywhere. Even so, I don’t think I’ve played a record that I don’t personally like. Playing music should be something special and I don’t want to end up hating it. I buy music (both physically and digitally) every week and I continue to find stuff all the time; it never ends, and that’s a good thing.

It is getting harder though as the market becomes absolutely flooded with people that don’t get record culture. There are loads of people who are into music, but they are not into record culture. Producers still release music on vinyl rather than digitally, even though they don’t buy records themself. They are not contributing to record culture, they are merely taking advantage of it for their own personal gain. I prefer records and artists who in the spirit of DIY culture make personal and substantial contributions to this record culture with records like these. I like the do-it-yourself stuff. I like the whole process of making a record; from designing the centre label to getting it pressed and out there. You can’t think of it as something to make money from; It’s like the guy with the motorcycle, it’s a hobby, it’s costing him money.

Unconformist at the right moment

Tik & Tok – Cool Running

There’s a seven inch version of this track somewhere in Oslo for the more curious amongst you. This is a track I like to play at peak time even though it might not be suited for that. It’s funny with Electro records; While they might work in the rest of the world right now, they are hard to play in Norway and I’ve lost a few dance floors around Electro records across the 18 years I’ve been active. It’s quite a contrast from the rest of the world where I’ve experienced people are more open to it. It has something to do with the early closing times in Norway in my opinion. When I play clubs in other countries where they are open till 8/10 in the morning, people are more open to different stuff early in the morning. When I play a club that runs deep into morning, I can play a crazy krautrock record at 7am in the morning and people could be totally in to it.

You can’t do that in Oslo or Norway because everything closes early, and this has huge cultural implications for our nightlife. Not just because of the problem of having everybody in the street at the same time, but the whole thing about the way people consume alcohol or drugs, it’s so intense in a very short time; It’s not good for the body or the mind. It’s part of the reason I will play a record like this at peak time, because it just counteracts that excessively intense mood. When people have space, it’s a different way of going out. We used to have later nights in Norway, where even though the bar will close at 3am, the club will stay open till 5 or 6 am and that’s one of the things I miss of going out in Oslo today.

There was this club called Potta and they used to play House music when the bar closed after 3am. It was a lesbian club and one of the few places that played dance music, after 3am. I used to go there by myself. None of my friends would go there because it was a lesbian bar. But I didn’t give a shit, because I just wanted to listen to the music.

Concept Neuf – The Path

This is a record that if you play it at the right time, it’s super funny. It’s very dramatic and it’s very picturesque like a movie. It’s library music from a French (or at least French speaking) percussion group, and I love records like this. I found it in a shop in Oslo and the cover immediately resonated with me as that snaking xylophone stretched out into the distance. I’ve always been into percussion music and percussive sounds.  

I’ve played it and emptied the dance floor, and I’ve played it where its exploded into a funny party scene and it usually happens after the extended introduction, where a calypso, party vibe ensues and the dance floor turns into this imaginary scene from a movie of an hotel bar in Acapulco. It’s music that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s very refreshing in the current era of club culture and music. House and Techno music, especially Techno music, takes itself too seriously.

You have to remember that the whole dance floor is a performance and everybody is contributing to something. I just saw Mission Impossible the fallout and DJ Harvey is in it, and they just nailed what club culture is about today; 1000’s of people, standing stock-still with their camera phones trained on the DJ. I think with a record like this it would be pointless facing the DJ, because it would be boring if you don’t lose yourself in it. Something that’s gone wrong in club culture today is the glorification of the DJ. Today people are a name on a poster before they are actually DJs, without the necessary experience or musical knowledge to cater to an audience.  

The unexpected surprises

Francois De Roubaix & Bernard Maitre – Les Onix

I always see people coming in, warm-up DJs playing house records from the first track out, like they are already embodying that name on the poster. I like to bide my time and settle into a night. This is one of those records I like to play when people start coming in. I always start without a beat, usually ambient or library music, because I play to the room, and it is usually empty at the beginning. This is another piece of library music, this time from a French kids tv show recorded between 1972 and 1976 and it’s so different. I would love to have an opportunity to make music for kids television and I know Bjørn Torske has made music for kids tv in the past. I’ve asked him to send it to me, but he’s misplaced the original recordings. I can imagine he would be quite good at it, and I was curious to hear it.

These are just skits, composed of the kind of strange sounds that kids usually love. I have a newborn son and he’s always curious when I’m playing music and the audible effects of a physical action, like placing his hand on the record, or the result of his own yelps in a reverberating room. I didn’t get this record for my son, but like the previous record, I found it a looking through stuff, and thought; ‘this looks interesting.’

Paul B.Davis – Deep Wine

In a similar way I found this record, which is not a record, but actually a CD. It’s not listed on discogs, and much like every other record I’ve mentioned it has that DIY feel to it. It was released by a label called jolly music and the kid responsible for the music is only like twenty years old. It’s a grime track with this dance hall rhythm, and there’s even a bit of Rhythm Is Rhythm in there. I don’t know anything about grime and I wouldn’t necessarily look for music under that genre, but this record shows that if you look in unexpected places you might find some pearls. People look for music in these narrow confines dictated by genre, and they won’t usually find music like this if you look for music in that way. You have to broaden your horizons even if it goes against your personal tastes.

Some of the other tracks are super cheesy and yet it would probably appeal to a few people during this current revival of Trance in Europe, but Deep Wine is the one I always play and definitely needs to be played at the right time. Because of those dance hall elements, if you play it for a bunch of House- or Techno heads, they would just leave. You need to work it for the right moment, and sometimes you might win over one or two of the more uncompromising heads in the room.

Insanlar – Kime Ne

Then there are records too that completely defy categorisation. This is one those records and one that never leaves my side. It was released by Insanlar, which is Baris K’s band, and today it’s a pretty known record, but it was given to me by Baris before it was released, when he played Untzdag years back. There aren’t that many 24 minute records that you could play the full 24 minutes of on a dance floor like this one. The first time I played this one, I had completely lost the vibe on the dance floor, and I was like ‘fuck it’, and dropped this in. Its effects were immediate, it completely reset the vibe and brought everybody back to the dance floor.

I think this is a live recording, from a club Baris runs in Turkey with a couple of friends, called MINIMUZIKHOL. There’s something incredibly musical about it with real musicians playing instruments over sequenced drum machines and synthesisers. 15 minutes in and somebody starts scatting and it just explodes with energy. It ended up being like a riot on the dance floor, even though it’s a slow tempo record.

It’s an amazing piece of music and there are not that many tracks that are this long that you can play through its entirety. This has something extraordinary about it and it’s something I’ll keep coming back to. For some people changing the tempo in the middle of the night would be something totally wrong, but for me it’s exactly what I mean by  the wrong record at the right time.