Why Delsin is my favourite techno label

Karen Ka Ying Chan on the Amsterdam label that has been releasing exquisite, emotive, timeless electronic music for 15 years.

26.10.11

I spent one hot, humid night in Barcelona attending the unofficial Delsin Records label showcase during Barcelona’s Sonar festival. It took place at Moog, a club that hides on a narrow alley just off Las Ramblas, the Catalan city’s central tourist drag. That night was pretty exceptional; I was taken on a trip to explore the sub-aquatic, groovy techno sounds that suit the erratic, Gaudí-built cityscape of Barcelona. Label associates Mike Dehnert, Delta Funktionen and Newworldaquarium were on the decks that night; the music was dark but not gloomy, throbbing, intense but not lung-crushing, ecstatic but not unhinged. It felt like techno and summer should belong together. It also reinforced my belief that Delsin, an electronic label that has operated out of Amsterdam for over 15 years, is one of the most exciting and inspiring labels in our time.

The music was dark but not gloomy, throbbing, intense but not lung-crushing, ecstatic but not unhinged.

Emphasising feeling and groove over dancefloor thump, and combining ambient, broken beat, house, electro, techno and experimental music, Delsin is one of the most genre-defying label I’ve come across. The Amsterdam-based label is owned by Marsel Van Der Wielen (who might be better known as his alias Peel Seamus) and has released of Newworldaquarium’s dubby, jazzy techno ‘Trespassers’ EP back in 2000, Shed’s deeply soulful and Detroit-flavoured ‘Soloaction’ collection, and $tinkworx’s electro house ‘Ain’t-Chit History’ album. More recent releases include A Made Up Sound’s sultry, twisted, dubby ‘Rear Window’ EP, Delta Funktionen’s dark and upbuilding techno ‘Silhouette’ EP, D5’s elegant, breezy and rippling ‘Floatation Tank’ EP, as well as Redshape’s sci-fi-esque, progressive ‘The Dance Paradox’.

There are a few Delsin-released records that caught my ear this year. The new and forthcoming ‘Inertia’ EPs that will drop on Delsin imprint Ann Aimee, featuring tracks from Skudge, Cosmin TRG, Sigha, Area Fourty_One, Delta Funktionen not only are thrilling, but also display Delsin’s excellent choice in selecting their artists. Though Mike Denhert’s ‘Framework’ and Conforce’s ‘Escapism’ are both terrific, ‘What We Have Learned’ by Morphosis, released in April, has to be the most affecting among them all.

This debut full-length by Lebanon-born, Venice-based producer Rabih Beaini (aka Ra.H) under the alias Morphosis is also co-released by the man who made it on his own Morphine Records, as well as by close associate Aroy Dee’s M>O>S. What captures me is that although it is a techno album, its free-flowing, almost jazz-y structure, richly layered textures and the lack of repetition set free the concept of a techno album, complete in itself as a truly singular and unconventional record. Immensely sombre, deeply emotional and raw, its loose, ever-shifting melodies form a record that sounds self-consciously provocative and operates its techno/ambient/jazz elements and rhythmic structures to explore the boundaries of different genres. It gives across an eeriness, a tension; its highly atmospheric soundscape sounds like a 21st century soundtrack to a Hitchcock movie, but never is it daunting. Morphosis has established an emotional timbre in ‘What We Have Learned’ that is as exciting as it is imaginative; he has also achieved a minimal amalgamation between the pulsating, dancefloor-centric music and the shimmering, anytime listening material. A curious mix on paper, perhaps, but it is exactly this comfortable adoption of creativity in his approach that fits perfectly in the new, evolutionary territory of dance music, and in the Delsin family.

John Beltran’s ‘Ambient Selections 1995 – 2011’ compilation is another exceptional Delsin release – a perfect example that displays Delsin’s vision as a label, to focus not purely on dancefloor-oriented hits but also aware of the importance of releasing music that will endure over time. Although it was Beltran who approached Delsin at first, considering the influence his music had on the label’s current most notable artists like Delta Funktionen and Redshape, it’s no surprise they agreed with the suggestion. But what is essential and relevant here is the timelessness of the music, and its endurance over time.

But what is essential and relevant here is the timelessness of the music, and its endurance over time.

Delsin’s extensive 3-LP reissue is an open love letter that declares their admiration for music veteran Beltran, who once said that ambient – although a slight departure from his techno roots – is actually his identity. It seems that the inspiration of this compilation is to do something new, but kind of in the same vein. It’s not simply a revisitation of Beltran’s old tracks; also featured are two previously unreleased tracks, and a remix EP with reworks by Kassem Mosse and Sven Weisemann that serves as a prelude to this collection.

Producing timeless records is especially important today, in our high-tech digital world. Warm, natural, emotionally stimulating; honestly, it doesn’t matter which genre the music belongs to, what we should really investigate is what the music does to us internally. This is the most essential, most powerful driving force to music journalists, well, to me at least, to write about the very best music. Essentially, we hear music, we don’t ‘feel’ music; but if it doesn’t touch my heart or move my soul, personally, I don’t think I’d be able to write a single word on it. Deeply meditative and evocative, ‘Ambient Selections 1995 – 2011’ elicits a bizarre sense of awe and admiration within me; it is the sparse, melodic yet heart-rending soundscape that captivates. The first track Collage Of Dreams opens invitingly into Beltran’s world of rich harmonic textures using the simplest ingredient. (You may find yourself familiar with this track if you’ve seen Six Feet Under – it’s used as the theme song to the HBO series) The soothing, swirling synth strings have transcribed the basic human condition into music – the oscillation between the states of joy and gloominess. This is self-evident not only from the music itself, but also through the feeling it gives across; the many times I listened to it and felt an emotional grey space between blissfulness and melancholy. Being exposed to different senses and sensations invites me to discover and redefine my own emotional constellation through the whole album. And achieving that makes this a special piece of spiritual art, one which will truly stand the test of time.