Noon sharp. Sofitel hotel. Magda emerges. On one of many stops around the globe — last year, she racked up 130 gigs — Remix cornered Magda in Buenos Aires, Argentina before her performance with fellow M_nus all-stars Richie Hawtin, Troy Pierce and Marc Houle at the South American Music Conference (March 9-10).
Her music — an infectious cat-and-mouse game of bleeps and bass — jells with her trickster charm and playful demeanor. A joke here and there, referencing her multiple personalities — it's certainly a lens into her music, which races down rabbit holes, exploring often revolutionary musical innovation.
First encountering the legendary Plastikman at Detroit's Hot Box parties in the mid-'90s, Magda soon became Richie Hawtin's star opening act. She then joined forces with Marc Houle and Troy Pierce, producing tracks as Run Stop Restore before delving into the abstract label, Items & Things.
Born in Poland, Magda grew up hopscotching around major industrial metropolises, including Detroit, New York and Berlin (where she now resides). As a producer, she is equally all over the place — notorious for her re-edit wizardry. Particularly noteworthy is She's a Dancing Machine (M_nus, 2006), a groundbreaking mishmash of 70 tracks, as well as the boisterous bass lines that fuel her minimal, often spooky disco jingles.
But when it comes to definitions, Magda is elusive. Dare you utter that ghastly word “minimal” in front of her, and she'll have your ear off! “I hate this word minimal,” she says. “I think people have such a warped idea of what it is. Now it means nothing.” For Magda, minimal is the stripped-down sound — industrial, new wave — that she was enamored with at her first underground loft parties in Detroit. Now it has become an all-inclusive buzzword. “Minimal stuff today is a bit too busy,” she says. “Ironic, yeah.”
But Magda's tastes have also changed over time. “I always think about what are my favorite tracks ever in the world,” she says. “A year or two ago I was really into the straightforward bass-y stuff, but now there is so much that sounds the same that I'm a bit bored. Now I like much more melody and moody, dark stuff. I really want to find out more about obscure bands from the '80s who experimented with sound, and old acid house. I really like funkier, house-ier techno as long as it's interesting and different. I especially like weird space disco. That's what I really love.”
At On-Musik, though, the re-edit queen is after just about anything that takes her fancy. “It's no different if I find something from 1988 or something from now. If I like it, it's perfect. Then, I can think about, ‘Oh, a little delay here, a little edit here.’” From there, Magda's diabolical powers take over as she recrafts tracks into new jigsaw puzzles of sound.
“All I wanted to do in the beginning was edit records. I'm like, ‘Shit. I love this record, but I don't love this part, and it's too short to play this alone.’ Then Final Scratch came around. I was lucky to get the beta version. That was heaven for me.”
One of the first 10 DJs to use Final Scratch, Magda is smitten with music technology. “If there's technology out there that's pushing boundaries, that does something new and different, why wouldn't I want to take advantage of that? Now you can use Ableton [Live], which is amazing, and play your own loops and mix that with records. The line between DJ and live production is really getting blurred, and it's really cool.”
In the booth, Magda's bag of tricks includes Ableton Live, Stanton Final Scratch, effects units, a loop machine, turntables and an Allen & Heath Xone:92 CTRL mixer. Beyond that, it's up to her ears: “To find the perfect balance between dance music and experimental sounds — that's my search in life.” With that, Magda digs in earnest into the racks of On-Musik.
“We're Rocking Down the House” (Trax)
Wow, I'm glad I found this on vinyl again, and it's not even scratched up. I love Adonis! Chicago classic. I used to play this all the time, especially the instrumental, although the vocal is great, too. These early Chicago records are completely timeless. I love that acid-jack sound so much. It still sounds fresh after all these years. I can't get enough.
“Runout” (Circus Company)
This record has been out for a while now, but I will buy it anyway because it's different. It reminds me of Herbert's project [as] Wishmountain because the percussion is pretty mental. It's got lots of energy and gets crazy, but then this cool, warm melody comes in and breaks up the chaos. The programming is interesting, and I don't even mind the vocal. It's catchy. It's definitely one of those tracks you wonder if you should play, but it works really well in the right situation.
“I Feel for You” (Warner Bros.)
I love this song because it reminds me of being young in Detroit and watching The New Dance Show on TV. It was a continuation of its precursor The Scene, a local weekly dance show on Detroit Public Television. People would get down to stuff like Apollonia 6, Shari Vari, Soulsonic Force and, of course, Miss Chaka Khan in true Detroit party style.
“Trying to Stay Underground” (Abe Duque)
Abe's tracks always sound fat and full of bass. This is such a cool record. One side is a bit more trippy, with a cool melody. And the other is called, “This Ain't Your Momma's Minimal,” and is exactly what I was hoping to find at the record store. Thick acid-house funk all the way! I'm gonna play this all the time.
HEERHORST & MEIΒNER
“Maulkorb” (Kompass Musik)
This is going to be a good track to get the party started because it is a bit more fun and light. The groove and the melody are supercatchy. It is tracks like this one that make a nice contrast to the darker, weirder stuff that does not necessarily work everywhere.
“Kaliber 11” (Kaliber)
This track is really cool. It sounds like some releases on Sahko — this label from Finland that first put out stuff around the early '90s and started rereleasing a bunch of tracks last year — because of the spacey sounds and the dark groove. I think “Kaliber 11” is a bit tougher, though. I really like this kind of harder, stripped-down sound.
Mr. Moroder: the king of Italo. First, I want to know where he got that shirt because I need it. Moroder is a huge influence with things like the soundtrack to Midnight Express and From Here to Eternity. I love the dark stuff. It's so sleazy! My friend played this track on my birthday almost 15 years ago, and I know that melody must have come straight down from space disco planet where I would love to live.
“Anin” (International Freakshow)
This is such a great track. It's got a punchy kick and big, odd piano swoops that add a cool element to this German mini-house tune. It's slightly reminiscent of some kind of spy melody. I think that's why I love it.
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