Anstam’s reappearance at the beginning of 2011 – in a constant process that jumped from three records to an entire album on 50Weapons, “Dispel Dances” – was one of our reasons for toasting to the eternal health of electronic music that doesn’t settle for the strict manoeuvres of club music. Berliner Lars Stöwe admits that besides being a producer who likes to spend long hours shut up in the recording studio, he is also an artist with a strong sense of colour, fluidity, and conceptual focus. This aesthetic ambition – which implies going beyond music and generating a complete, complex and changing experience – is what we finally hear on the albums. We apparently have a project where we can glimpse electronica with plenty of fat, boasting twisted bass in which frequencies of hard techno, twisted dubstep and irregular IDM are melted down. Seen from a wider perspective, what we have is a man who doesn’t want to repeat what has already been done; who conceives of music as something more than a cut-and-paste of sounds on a computer screen.
Anstam is a long-lasting project begun in 2007 with a series of three records released in collaboration with the record shop Hardwax. Lars steered the sound along with his brother, bringing the algorithmic rhythm of Autechre to the depth of post-Detroit techno. When they reached the end of the vein - at least as they saw it - they called the project to a halt; only to take it up again two years later. This second generation version is what has currently allowed them to raise the bar in terms of the rigor and importance of Anstam’s material. Coinciding with the release of a new 12” titled “First Sprout EP” (which went on sale Monday), possibly the most twisted title in Anstam’s trajectory, we offer you a mix by Lars Stöwe. Here we can see his DJ technique and his refined taste as a selector of complex electronic music.
First, I’d like to ask you about the evolution of the Anstam project, because back in 2007, when I bought the first two 12”s, there was the idea that Anstam might be two people. Who was Anstam back then, and what was the driving idea that brought you to produce electronic music?
Anstam started out as a name for a vinyl series. It never was meant to be a band or a project or even people, just a series of 12” vinyls. I studied contemporary art and my brother is an illustrator - so the best way to describe the first Anstam idea is to describe it as conceptual fine art. There was a space, or let’s call it an institution, which was Hardwax, working as the distributor, and a topic or a theme we worked on, which was the 2005 – 2006 phase of 140 bpm music that swept over from the UK.
What was your link with the Hardwax shop? Did you work there, or were you just a customer?
We never worked there. We constantly bought vinyls there, but the reason for the collaboration was that we went to school with some of the Hardwax staff and my brother became friends with them in the early Hardwax days. So we had always a good relation to Hardwax, especially to Torsten (T++). At some point there was the option to put out something through Hardwax and we did Anstam. In this case Hardwax as a construct, what Hardwax stands for, was an essential ingredient of these three 12” vinyls – “Aeto”, “Brom” and “Cree”.
What was (and is) your approach to rhythm?
I play every instrument like a drum...
"I spent nearly half of
my youth in my dark
living room listening
to music with my
really is carrying on
Is the club an environment you think is crucial for Anstam, or just bedrooms and headphones?
These are two formats which I love equally. I love being and playing in clubs to feel the raw and honest impact that music can have on people and me. But I consider myself much more as a composer, so the real important work for me happens in the studio. I am obsessed with details and you can only recognize that layer when you really listen to the music. I mean really, really listen to it. With all the sacrifices you have to make. I spent nearly half of my youth in my dark living room listening to music with my headphones. Anstam really is carrying on that tradition.
Between 2007 and 2009, you released three 12”s, now very sought after, on your own label. Then there was a two years hiatus, until 2011. What happened then? Why did the label disappear and the project go mute?
Three 12” records simply were enough. It was all said. And because we didn't have something like a label, we could afford the luxury of simply ending it. That was and still is really important. We were not interested in having something like a label. My brother and I are both are artists and we are only good at making art. The whole other stuff is not very interesting for us. In this case, to be able to work like this it is very important to have a distribution system that will work for you the way you want it to. First that was Hardwax and now it is 50weapons.
What brought you to Fifty Weapons?
Again, personal relations. Moritz (Siriusmo) is a good friend of my brother and me and he was the first actual citizen of the Monkeytown / 50Weapons cosmos. Gernot and Szary (Modeselektor) have followed Anstam since the first “Aeto” release and Gernot is a good friend of Torsten (T++), too. That is why Anstam played as a supporting act for the first Moderat concert in Berlin back in 2009. There was always a loose social intersection. Then we stopped working on Anstam and worked much more on other projects. But Moritz really liked the idea that Anstam would join the team, and he always kept the idea of Anstam joining 50Weapons alive till it became a reality.
When Anstam reappeared in 2011, what had changed, besides the label you’re now on?
At that time the last Anstam release was about 2 years old. It was literally like reanimating the whole idea. So, basically the main question was simply: Why should we do it? At that point we decided that Anstam 2.0 only made sense if we did it right and proper. That is why now I’m in total control of the music and the conceptual decisions and my brother is working on his own visual projects, but is still responsible for the album covers. The most interesting point for me in working with a label like 50Weapons is the possibility of continuously releasing my work. That leads to a precise documented expedition diary of my journey deep into the heart of Anstam.
The sound in “Baldwin / Carmichael” is harder than the previous one, it’s like Anstam had gone “techno” in a more classic sense than before. But the sound is still complex. What do the names of the tracks mean, and what idea of sound did you have for this?
The first three singles on 50Weapons, “Albert”, “Baldwin” and “Carmichael” were tactical releases. It was a pretty long time gone since the last Anstam release and the singles were a kind of experiment on how the public would react. The songs are very different from each other. “Albert” is basically a hyperactive drumbeat, “Baldwin” is a lush old-school jungle stomper and “Carmichael” is a concentrated black funk techno number. The idea was to cast nets in different directions and wait and see what happened. For me the main issue even at that time was the Anstam debut album “Dispel Dances”.
In “Dispel Dances” there’s openness in the sound, there are traces of dubstep and classical music. Is this album a result of listening to new music, or of finally having the maturity to insert bits of music you didn’t dare to before?
The funny thing is that the “Dispel Dances” album sounds much more like the music I did before I started Anstam with my brother. The three Hardwax 12”s were a reaction to other music or to a musical stream made by other people. The Anstam material on 50Weapons is much more discrete. It did not have to be something specific anymore. Anstam is more and more an umbrella term for all the music that I will put out in that area of sophisticated progressive electronic club music. There will be no self-restrictions anymore. It is like Anstam slowly transforms from blues to bebop.
How was remixing Radiohead?
The really important thing about remixing Radiohead was not really the songs that came out or that there was big media recognition about that whole project. For me the most important thing was the approval from Thom Yorke - the fact that he is really into the Anstam stuff and that he has proved it even in public more than once. Since “OK Computer”, Radiohead has been one of the most influential bands for me and one of the very few rock bands to have slipped into contemporary electronic music with style and knowledge. So, to get positive feedback from Radiohead really compensates for the more ugly parts in my life as an artist.
What was the idea for the mix you’ve put together for us?
Most podcasts I had done before were really conceptual - like the FACT mix - simply because I always saw podcasts in the tradition of radio shows. This mix I did for you is a pure DJ mix. I really love to work on my DJ setup now and I will play many more DJ shows in the future. So the mix gives you a good sense of the atmosphere and momentum that I like to raise through my DJ sets.
What are your future plans?
I've just released a new EP on 50Weapons, the “First Sprout EP”, which is reminiscent of the band Prefab Sprout, and I am working on the next Anstam album under the working title “Endemic Endings”. Besides that, I do a lot of non-Anstam stuff, which is basically writing material for film and theatre.
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