ARIL BRIKHA with STACEY PULLEN , KEVIN REYNOLD , DERRICK RAMIREZ at Wallace Studios (258 Wallace), Saturday (April 29). $20. firstname.lastname@example.org. Rating: NNNNN
Traditionally, when the words "techno" and "Sweden" are spoken in the same sentence, you think of hard-banging loop-driven tracks. However, back in 1998, little-known producer Aril Brikha changed those preconceptions with The Art Of Vengeance EP, a sublimely melodic record on Detroit legend Derrick Mays's Fragile label (a sub-label of his Transmat imprint), which became a huge dance-floor hit and launched his career as a Swedish producer.
Brikha's outsider status partially stems from his Iranian background (his family moved to Sweden when he was three), but also from his disconnect with the existing rave scene. He started producing electronic music out of a love for older proponents like Jean Michel Jarre, Front 242 and Depeche Mode, only realizing that he might find a niche in dance music when friends told him his tracks sounded like Detroit techno. When Swedish labels made him no offers, he tried international labels, which is how he caught the ear of Derrick May.
Over the years he's resisted becoming a DJ, preferring instead to perform live, which he's done to rave reviews at clubs and festivals all over the world. It'd be much easier to travel with a box of records than to bring his studio with him wherever he goes, but he's always stood firm in his assertion that DJing and producing are different skills, and that he'd rather leave the turntables to the DJs.
Live electronic P.A. performances used to be a tough sell, but Brikha may have won in the long run by holding his ground against the pressure to become a DJ/producer.
Over the past few years, software developments like Ableton Live have made it much more feasible to perform loop-based electronic music without having to rely on a mountain of aging sequencers and drum machines. The cult of the DJ may be waning, but at the same time producers finally have a way of presenting their art live without having to resort to amateur turntablism.
While some have complained that it's made it too easy, it's also opened up a much larger window for improvisation than was previously possible, and has started to blur the line between DJing and live P.A.s. One person might use the programs to mix together elements of other people's tracks with a precision that turntables can't offer; someone like Brikha can take all the elements of his own catalogue and mash them up into something that resembles a DJ set but is entirely personal and unique.