No Kick Drums Please: Vermont In Conversation
In a world full of rigid structures and formalities, two artists are creating something very different. Dipping into the realms of psychedelic ambient and experimental soundscapes, German producers Danilo Plessow and Marcus Worgull have been collaborating since 2014 as Vermont – remodelling the Krautrock sound, establishing a new relevancy for the present day.
Both Danilo Plessow of Motor City Drum Ensemble fame and Marcus Worgull of Innervisions consistently continue to take reworked approaches to modern electronica – shunning their already independently established sounds and bringing something fresh and personal to the table.
Their debut collaboration came back in 2014; a highly anticipated album on Cologne based label Kompakt that featured contributions from Krautrock musicians like guitarist Dominik Von Senger and the recently passed Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit.
Polictical activist and selector Lena Willikens also featured, as well as Irish violinist Dermot O’Mahony. Their second LP is due on February 10th and promises more of the same – more guest musicians, more krautrock-kosmische waves and strictly no sampling.
Worlds apart from their separate productions, Worgull explains how the new direction came about. On one dark Monday night in Cologne, Plessow and Worgull met in Plessow’s studio, just round the corner from Worgull’s old record store. He says ‘we were both really tired, but nonetheless we met, but we said to each other – just no bass drum please’.
‘We switched out all the rhythmic components and made 3 tracks we really liked. But the whole thing, the album, the name – it came much later’.
For two creatives like the Vermont duo, even tiredness shaped great things. Underpinning their process though is a great source of inspiration, taken directly from the environment they call home. Plessow describes the second album as ‘perhaps even more zen than the first’, but the German Krautrock sound is what’s really at the core of Vermont’s output. Although the project started in Cologne, Plessow explains how ‘most of the inspiration for Vermont comes from a city just 30 minutes outside of Cologne called Dusseldorf.’
Home to ‘German Krautrock, experimental, electronic bands like Cluster and Harmonia’, Western Germany bore the sound of Krautrock back in the late 1960’s. Taking experimental nuances from psychedelic rock, jazz, post-punk, minimalism and avant-garde electronica – Krautrock contributed to a new era of Synth-based electronica in Europe, and is now Plessow’s ‘biggest influence in terms of sonic landscapes’. Vermont are now amongst the modern innovators of this iconic sound, integrating the Krautrock sound with advanced analogue hardware and contemporary electronic music.
For Worgull, the inspiration comes from the hardware itself. He tells us how Plessow introduced him to the machines as it was ‘quite new’ for him. He explains that ‘just pressing a knob or a button and it sounding beautiful, or just playing around with this kind of beauty then finding the structure to create a piece of music’ has been the biggest creative inspiration for him.
Although both belonging to the electronic house and techno community individually, both Worgull and Plessow’s separate outputs are running parallel but are characteristically opposite. With MCDE’s focus on soul music and sampling, Worgull’s draws on hypnotic repetition and minimalistic structures. Vermont has come as a venture into something completely different, a means by which both producers are able to learn things from each other to create something new to them both. As Worgull points out, ‘we came from different worlds – but it’s [Vermont] a sum of the parts we both like’.
Worgull explains how Plessow introduced him to analogue equipment he ‘had never seen before’, but Plessow talks about his ‘certain kind of naivety about how things can be very stripped and repetitive’ – something he took away from Worgull in the Vermont project. Plessow explains how Worgull is still the person that comes up with the basic harmonies, the first chords or the first couple of tones – and the major and minor chord structures as inspired by Krautrock. He explains how he was always more into ‘jazz and soul, which is more complex’ and how it was ‘refreshing to see how making things inherently less complicated can benefit in a case like Vermont.’
It’s been talked about before, but Vermont’s first album really began as a ‘loose-jam session with a no-sampling policy’. Plessow talks about his career as MCDE being ‘built around samples’ and he says ‘this was a project where I could step away from this’. He mentions ‘being more confident writing music for Vermont, and being more comfortable playing piano’ – something that’s separated Vermont away from dance music structures. Worgull talks about the duos first collaboration on Gerd Janson’s ‘Music For Autobahns’ compilation, but since then they’ve paved a title as musicians rather than solely dance producers.
Both Marcus Worgull and Danilo Plessow first met whilst DJ’ing, but their new sound is a project they separate from other DJs and producers around right now. Worgull talks about the input of guest musicians from the first album, explaining how they created the whole track from scratch with Krautrock guitarist Dominik Von Senger, and Plessow explains how in the production process ‘if we felt like we needed a certain texture, we would look for a musician to fill in those gaps.’ They explain that Plessow’s flatmate played guitar for one of their tracks, but mention the simplicity of it all was the key element within their production process. Plessow goes on to say ‘if he [Plessow’s flatmate] hadn’t been there, perhaps we would have no guitar on the track.’
Vermont’s core ethos revolves around simplicity. Plessow describes that ‘Vermont is all about simplification – the whole approach is ease of mind’, an outlook that transpires into all of their creations. He describes the music as ‘easy and gentle’, and the overreaching feel is of ambiguous soundscapes, relaxing atmospherics and unpredictable directions that somehow feel grandiose yet simplistic at the same time. Much richer and textured than the overriding electronic music outputs around right now, they explain how it would feel ‘really untrue to show up with a laptop somewhere and play in a club setting’. Plessow says it’s ‘all about the instruments’ – but a live show isn’t off the cards.
The pair have been creating music since their first offering in 2014, and their production process seems constant and ever evolving. Worgull says ‘we start with a little melody or chord structure. Then we play around a bit and just look at each other when we know we’ve found something we need – we’re always doing this’. But perhaps without Cologne imprint Kompakt things would have been very different. Vermont is a project with a thoroughly personal meaning to both artists – and Worgull explains how the Cologne label made things more community orientated, local and extraordinary. Both Worgull and Plessow are based in Cologne, but Worgull describes how ‘it was nice for me because it’s very family. Kompakt is local – it’s not a business relationship it’s more a family thing’ – allowing both artists to take constant inspiration from their surroundings and release with a label that both understands their direction and appreciates the rich heritage it strikingly nods to.
Vermont has entered refined territory by reaching into music with feeling and distinction, but Plessow talks about how unexpected the transition from dance music and the Krautrock essence of Vermont was to them. He says ‘we never had an intention of doing it this way, but turning off all the drum machines felt so good at that moment.’ Staying on a similar path to their first album, The second LP is another 13-track modern capture of the late 60’s and early 70’s Krautrock movement, but Worgull simply concludes by mentioning that ‘what we learnt with this second album – is what feels good is right’. Possibly more experimental in nature than the first, the ‘II’ LP fuses modern analogue sounds, ambient moods and textured noises with the lush musical traditions taken from their hometown in Western Germany. Intrinsically unexpected and regal, Vermont are the break you need from electronic dance music – like they say ‘Vermont is like going on holiday for us.’