Electronic Tuesday: Magda & Marc Houle- Detroit, MI

Words By Stevie Tee

In support of their recent LP releases, Magda and Marc Houle set out on a multi-national tour together, gracing intimate club venues from Detroit to Japan. Both producers are members of Richie Hawtin’s Berlin based M-Nus records, but they met through the party scene in Detroit in the 90’s. Marc Houle’s new album “Drift” is a very personal and thematic album with a bit of a somber tone that is heavily guitar centered. While the sounds of his productions are very techno influenced, basing the songs mainly off guitar playing brings a new-wave, shoegaze sound that really distinguishes itself from run of the mill techno releases. Houle is quick to point out in interviews that he does not DJ at all and that his performances are live PA sets of his entirely original music. Magda’s new album “From The Fallen Page” is her first LP and shows that she is poised to change the face of minimal, electro, disco and more. The tracks are mostly dark and groovy with sexy back beats that swing just a little bit loose. All of the songs sound and feel warm, from the kick drums and heavy bass lines to the high pitched scary movie sounding samples. They frequently seek each other’s help when they are working on a track and this tour seems like a fun trip for two old friends who love music and love to play music together.

We arrived at The Works around 11 and caught the end of a live set from Ataxia in the smaller front room. The front room staged a number of local Live and DJ acts as a second room of music throughout the night. I didn’t catch enough of Ataxia to thoroughly review them, but I will say they delivered some very tasteful original techno that had the relatively small early crowd coming down with boogie fever. The back room of the club is the main performance room and dance floor space. In the back corner of the room there are two DJ stages set up on top of each other like bunk beds with white projector screens wrapped around them. The screens left a hole in the middle where you could see thru to the DJ on the main level, while constant streams of visuals whizzed away all around the performers. Detroit local John Johr was warming up the main stage crowd in the back room to add to his list of recent high-profile opening gigs in Detroit (Deadmau5, Booka Shade, etc.) Also didn’t catch enough of Johr’s set to review him properly but he had the crowd filing into the back room and moving to his set the whole time. Enjoyed most all of what I heard him play, in particular the new tune “Walk and Talk” by Benoit & Sergio.

Marc Houle – Live PA Set

For such a creative and exploratory new set of material that Marc Houle was touring with, I was shocked to see how well the tunes translated to a club setting. Techno back beats pulsed and weaved through the set while the guitar samples drove the melody and formed many other textures in his music. Electronic music production software and resampling expands the sonic capabilities of guitar playing with guitar sounds in Houle’s set ranging from explosive, wonky and off time to polished, ringing and contained. He used guitars to quietly and patiently build tension not unlike a post-rock band, or to alter the groove and destroy the metronome, locked in rhythm sound, and even the bass lines mostly sounded like guitar that had been resampled and transposed to lower octaves. During one of the last tracks he performed there was a particularly prominent and heavy bass sound that the song was mostly built around that got a huge crowd reaction and was one of the more psychedelic parts of his set and the whole evening for that matter. It was a very wild bass sound that was swinging and panning all across the club and would ring out then slowly detune by semitones. As mentioned above, Houle is not a DJ and the seamless, fluid performance was all his own originally produced material constructed into a live set. Houle played his set from the “top-bunk” stage set up and all you could see was his head and the edge of his laptop. It looked really cool but made taking photos a challenge and kept me from checking out of his equipment set up. The whole set was gorgeous and spanned a wide variety of moods and borrowed from different genres, but never failed to keep the now packed club moving. I’d highly recommend checking out his album “Drift” if you’d like to check him out or if you are into techno, new wave, shoegaze.

Magda – DJ set

Since her last triumphant stay in Michigan where she headlined a night at the Made In Detroit Stage at Detroit Electronic Music Festival and played the Paxahau-sponsored after party that was held on the Detroit Princess sailing the night away on the Detroit River, Magda has remained very busy. She completed and released her debut album that she has been working on periodically for the last two years, did BBC Radio 1’s Essential mix program, and hasn’t stopped touring and hitting festivals along the way. Her new tracks are elegant, sexy and creepy at the same time and above all else they sound new and refreshing. The new original tracks do much to expand upon Magda’s vision that she’s started to form with her masterful DJ performances and studio mixes. Clearly she isn’t just a master of the mix tape as her productions sound unbelievable and have a very unique new sound.

She took the stage at about two in the morning and played a set that had the same slow, sexy feel of her recent essential mix, but contained many more tracks from her album “From The Fallen Page.” Magda appeared on the “bottom-bunk” stage and proceeded to tear it up into the wee hours of the morning. My friends and I left shortly after 4 in the morning when we were all tired and Magda was still spinning her heart out. Though her set was a DJ set, Magda DJs mostly vinyl, mixes phenomenally and has a whole arsenal of MIDI controllers and gadgets at her disposal that she uses. This kind of DJing blurs the lines of DJ and Live PA performances to me, especially with all the new original material Magda was rinsing out. Tracks from her new album with the swagger and human looseness like “Doom Disco” and “Little Bad Habits” show how Magda has really gotten out of the box that many perceive techno and minimal to be in. Even the simplest beats have such a personal groove with bass lines that slink and strut, creating this dark disco, techno swing that is present in most of Magda’s originals and many tracks from other artists she chooses to play. Though we left early, it was because we had been there for the last five hours not because we were dissatisfied with Magda’s music or the show in general. Both of the headliners were phenomenal, sounded great in the crowded club and were a joy to dance to. Let’s hope both artists return for Detroit Electronic Music Festival 2011.

Music Links:

Marc Houle sets

Magda’s Essential Mix

Magda’s Mix for Resident Advisor Podcast

Other Magda sets


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