Paris-based producer Dissemblance is the newest member of Alessandro Adriani's Mannequin Records' family; her debut album is a hypnotic introduction into her hauntingly beautiful world. Over The Sand, which is set for release on 29th November, sees Dissemblance - real name Mathilde - work with pop songwriting structures, bass and drum machines to craft DIY bedroom electronics with 80s coldwave sensiblities.
This interest in the darker side of electronic music is something she shares with fellow producer and DJ Pasiphae. Based in the Hague since 2013, Pasiphae has been carving out a name for herself both in the city and further afield, holding down a monthly residency on Intergalactic FM and notching up releases on Interstellar Funk's Artificial Dance label and alongside Intergalactic Gary on Rotterdam imprint Bio Rhythm.
After crossing paths several times through mutual friends, it became apparent that their musical interests were aligned... Here they catch up and quiz one another on local scenes, routes into music and production and what the future holds.
Dissemblance: Hi Fotini, good to catch up with you! One of the last times we saw each other was at the IFM Festival in The Hague. It was always a pleasure to talk with you about music and see you DJ. It made me curious to ask you what took you to this path in music, specifically this very obscure strain of dark electronic music. I know you grew up in Greece. Was there a scene for this kind of music there when you were younger? Or is it something you discovered later on in life somewhere else?
Pasiphae: Hi Mathilde, it is certainly nice to get ahold of you too! So, I was born and grew up in a fairly small town in Northern Peloponnese. Dark electronic music was and still is almost entirely absent from the area and that applies to the majority of the countryside really. No clubs, festivals or concert venues, nor radio stations you could tune in to listen to it. You had to really dig for yourself or take long travels. But this is not the case in mainly, the two most populated cities in Greece, Athens and Thessaloniki. The dark electronic music scene was very vivid there since the late '70s with bands such as “Παρθενογένεσις” that later formed “Forward Music Quintet”, “Slow Motion”, “Film Noir” and “Alive She Died” to name a few. Some of them were touring at times around the biggest cities of the country.
Overall though, dark electronics and anything almost literally underground was not and still is not popular in Greece. In a Mediterranean country full of sun and blue skies the majority of people are basically spending more time outside while listening to "feel good" music. As for me, I started discovering how magnetizing darker electronic music was for me in my teenage years but that was more music from the '80s instead of the '90s or early '00s. My "escape" from the endless folklore or overproduced pop music leading almost every means of transmission back then, was basically the Internet. That is how I started discovering new genres as well as different and exciting music that made me finally connect with, made me feel and relate to. I guess, realizing the significance of value all this had to me was what made me want to follow that path later on in life. That was so liberating, almost revolutionary.
Pasiphae: But, how about you? How did everything start for you? Was there a pivotal moment that made you want to follow that path?
Dissemblance: My taste for music has matured over time. When you are young, you thirst for discovery, and you multiply the experiences. With age, you are better at what you love and what you are looking for. I grew up in Annecy, Haute-Savoie, France, very close to Geneva. There was not much to do either in this landscape, a lake surrounded by mountains. If you wanted to listen good music, you had to get moving. And I moved a lot, and many times alone because only few people had the same passion as me. From being a teenager with a strong taste for alternative rock, indie and lo-fi, I began to be a youth particularly with the discovery of this Swiss radio broadcast called the "Métissages” on "Couleur 3". You could hear very varied and sharp DJ mixes that we were quickly recording on tapes and exchanging. With my driving license in the pocket, I was going to conventional events like Montreux Jazz Festival and at the same time, to some other ones, completely illegal like rave parties. From the woods of my region to the south of France, I discovered the iconic Spiral Tribes and I was blown away by Oliver Ho and Adam X's techno sets. As for clubbing, it was in Geneva, Lausanne or Zurich that I could see numerous great DJs and particularly the members of Underground Resistance. Also, I'll never forget this memorable set of Claude Young scratching techno records with his elbows. Then, I discovered another field when I bought my first vinyl when I was a student in Lyon. I started to be more specific in a way. From Trip-pop, Reggae-Dub, Soul-Funk-Disco, I have collected more electronics and darker styles when I arrived in Paris, 17 years ago.
Dissemblance: What made you take your passion for music and move it into the world of production and DJ?
Pasiphae: It took a good long while till I stepped out of my shell and started playing out for crowds I didn't know. Some of the closest experiences to what I am doing now that I can recall from the past and will share in a bit, I guess were the ones that sowed the seed in my head of wanting to follow that direction at some point in life. I started as that kid that played music in birthday parties and informal gatherings with friends, so mainly for people I already knew. It felt like a "safe place" to be myself and share my passion. It has always been a great pleasure and deeply fulfilling to seeing people enjoying themselves, expressing and interacting with each other while dancing to the same music I was equally enjoying playing and dancing too. It was a real force of nature what that did to me then and still does now. Later while studying, I used to work as a barista and was happily the one that would take care of the music that was playing at the cafe, but no one could tell since I was preparing the playlists at the beginning of every shift or even before I started, usually next to a big cup of coffee I would enjoy before I’d take over the coffee machine. I was making sure to prepare playlists for the other shifts too. Around the same period, I made an attempt to start with a radio show at a local radio station. It is a funny-not funny story since the people owning it, were considering themselves very alternative and forward thinking and in fact they were the ones who invited me to curate a two hours weekday show, but after a while they considered the music I was playing way too obscure for the small town radio, so that never flourished really! I guess that subconsciously became one of the reasons why I kept the passion I always had for music to myself for a good amount of years after that. That's why till then I was mainly playing music for people I knew. I am only DJing and releasing my music for less than 3 years now. When it comes to production though, I think I knew I wanted to create my own music since I was really small. I will never forget how thoroughly occupied I was with a toy keyboard once during a visit with my family to some friends that I was even punished later for not socializing with everyone else. It must have been a full evening of me playing that kid keyboard, playing my own melodies and trying to reconstruct parts of the music that was playing on the background. I was approximately five years old then - the punishment was not that big, but even if it were, that would be all worth it! Later on I started messing with a free to download but limited version of Pro Tools and a midi keyboard. I only got some basic piano lessons but nothing more than that. After I graduated from university, I was working a lot during the struggles of the already visible austerity, years before the economical crisis was even announced and left the love for music aside for a long period of time. Moving to the Netherlands in 2013 brought that passion back big time! I started buying affordable second hand music equipment that was quite easy to find and started experimenting with the machines. I was recording midi notes at an old version of Cubase at the time and then basically arranging the track and recording it all at once with the drums and all in one audio track! No clue about the importance of having individual audio stems yet! Beginner's attempts like this actually resulted to my first "real" music tracks though.
Pasiphae: I know you are good at playing the bass guitar. Was this what planted the seed in you of learning to play other instruments and start making your own music?
Dissemblance: It is true that on this first album, 8 songs out of 10 contain bass guitar. It was important for me to mix this instrument played live with more synthetic sounds coming from samples and virtual sounds. I learned this instrument 10 years ago in a self-taught way, playing over songs from ESG, PIL, Talking Heads or Kid Creole. It wasn’t so hard because I practiced cello at the conservatory from age 7 to 14. So I had rhythmic fundamentals, a good ear, and certain agility in my fingers. I quickly started a rock band with friends. We played concerts in bars without ever making a record. The experience was intense and short and in a few years we went in different directions. That’s when I needed to do my solo project. It should be remembered here that I had previously approached composition in high school during an electroacoustic music workshop. I had found it exciting to be able to create music from sounds coming from our direct environment, to act on them by treatment with all kinds of effects and with meticulous arrangements. We were using Pro Tools that I re-installed later to record things. Afterwards, and even before the bass guitar, I had the opportunity to buy a prophet-600. It is this synth that makes very dark pads with for example, beautiful snowy textures. It has been particularly used on techno records. I used it a little in this album, and I find important this mixture between a live pulse on bass or vocals and an experiment on sounds with synthesizers and drum machines. I also do a lot of precise editing work that takes longer than the rest. That's why I would like to free myself a little bit from this and spend more time jaming and playing. Maybe in the near future, by finding the time to practice more in the studio!
Dissemblance: I have noticed a sample with French vocal on your last EP on Artificial Dance in 2018. Where does it come from?
Pasiphae: Before I reply to your question, I'd like to take advantage of the conversation and congratulate you for your forthcoming LP on Mannequin records. It's pure magic, like an emotional roller coaster, which is exactly what IMHO makes an album extra special. All 10 tracks are undeniably beautiful, each one for its own reasons. Some are pretty intense and others as if one's listening to a soft-spoken person reading a fairy tale with an unknown ending. So well expressed and with so much character, I am really looking forward to the physical release. So, yes, on my first solo album, the tracks are inspired by the mid-50’s French movie "Les Diaboliques". Since I first watched it I was utterly mesmerized. I love the “film noir” era and aesthetics. I have a soft spot for mysteriously twisted, allegorical or eye opening movies. The whole enigma, intrigue, fatalism and unpredictability of the protagonists' behaviors was truly exalting! I couldn't help but layering the vocal sample with music that felt relevant, at times brain teasing and mean, other times melancholic and gloomy.
Pasiphae: On your album, there is this track “L’Aigle Mort” where the lyrics are inspired by Eric Copeland words. How did you get the idea and why specifically him?
Dissemblance: Exact. Eric Copeland was a member of this late 90s legendary New Yorker band, Black Dice. I remember having a blast every time I was listening to their experimental rock unique style. I had the chance to see them live in Paris more than 10 years ago. Eric became a friend and I am deeply touched by his work. To me, he is a complete artist, performing his own intense music, painting some stunning raw art pieces, publishing books that come out of his inventive brain and I cannot refer everything he does. He is a real source of infinite ideas because he’s expressing himself in his own and radical way. I chose a short passage from his book “Pidgin Coup”. He made it out of letters that he cut one by one and pasted them all together to create this weird story.
Dissemblance: Is there a specific process you use when composing a track? Is there a specific idea you start with or is it free style? Is there any specific musical inspiration that help push you down your path?
Pasiphae: When it comes to composing, I cannot say I have a specific way I do things. I like trying different ways of working. I guess that’s because I am not following any specific technique or procedure at the moment. Currently I am trying different things out, changing the studio setup and trying to figure out some new machines and what works best for me. Especially when it comes to modular synthesis, it feels like there is a whole new world there which I have just started experimenting with and I would very much like to explore further in the future. The procedure I follow in order to start with a new track is not always the same. Often I have an idea I try to translate into a melody, other times I just jam and follow the path the music or current vibe leads me to. So far I have experienced both ways and they are perfectly fine, each one for its own reasons, as long as there is enough time and no rush. It is not that feasible for me to enjoy the process of music making when I have strict deadlines I have to make in order to deliver new tracks or remixes and I get the feeling that some amount of rush comes out to the tracks, if that makes sense. Time pressure might work wonders for some composers but it is not something I would choose for myself. I guess everyone needs to find a good flow that does it for them. IMHO, doing various things simultaneously prevents from giving our full attention to something that could be very well done if it had gotten the amount of focus it required. No wonder though, living in a world with so many distractions and things that consume time non-stop, we have the constant need of always doing something. And if we won't, we are left behind while the world moves on and our work gets stuck up. Between all the traveling, digging for new music, preparing for gigs and other everyday life's requirements, I find myself spending less and less time in the studio. Currently I have ideas I want to work on, the equipment I need and a good deal of inspiration but not enough time for composition. Time management is something I found myself struggling with lately but I am working on it and it seems to start getting better now. The paradox here is that some of the reasons preventing me from having the time I need in the studio are the ones that keep me inspired at the same time. Like getting to play in various countries, learning from different cultures, meeting people and witnessing their genuine joy and appreciation for the music and overall experience, especially in parts of the world where alternative electronic music is less accessible. To me this is truly priceless cause that is exactly where I come from as well and I do get it.
Pasiphae: Let’s take a look now into the future. Are you preparing any live performances? I would very much like to see you perform live - but you knew that already! Curious if you are working on something at the moment or have any other future plans.
Dissemblance: You know that I would love to play my music live! I am working on it right now but it takes time to think about the best way to perform alone. This is the third looper that I am buying, after sending back the other two, in the idea to be able to play bass and control it with foot pedals. Also, I need to practice enough before to feel comfortable to play to an audience, but it is exciting! Working on new tracks too by using my direct environment samples and transform them. Maybe this would take a longer form but it is in progress, moving slowly, changing often.