Andre Bratten has been taking his time.
When the Oslo producer spoke to FACT last August as part of our investigation into the city’s changing club scene, he told us he had a new EP due that autumn, a follow-up to his 2013 debut album Be A Man You Ant. He lied: it took another seven months for him to pare down his massive stash of recorded material and tweak it into the tidy six-track release that arrives in a few days’ time.
Math Ilium Ion is a pointed departure from Bratten’s first record, where the squelchy melodies and laidback grooves he coaxed out of his modular synth were infused with the signature space disco of his label boss Prins Thomas and studio pals Lindstrøm and Todd Terje. Since then he’s found himself channelling a harder, more European strain of dance, influenced by his love of German techno and UK labels like Border Community – a reflection of his experiences as a DJ working the floor at Panorama Bar and Fabric.
Rather than rattle off a few club 12″s, Bratten has delivered a tightly focused EP for local label Smalltown Supersound, where he feels comfortable as the techno operator on an eclectic roster that includes Neneh Cherry and his old mentors Prins Thomas and Lindstrøm. Kicking off with his best known track ‘Trommer Og Bass’, which appeared on Erol Alkan’s recent Fabric mix, it’s a cohesive and carefully crafted record that’s as thoughtful as it is big-room-ready.
Math Ilium Ion is out digitally on May 31 and in physical formats on June 1 – stream it below and read our Q&A with Bratten underneath.
When we spoke last August you said this EP was in the pipeline, so it’s taken quite a while to come out.
Yeah, it took me a year. I had to see if I wanted to do the straight-up techno stuff or if I wanted to do it like an album with techno tracks on it.
It’s definitely a club release.
Did you have a lot of tracks to choose from? ‘Trommer Og Bass’ is quite old now, so are these taken from a long period of recording?
Yeah, I think ‘Trommer Og Bass’ was recorded two or three years ago, and every track on this EP is like two and a half years old. I’m constantly working on music, so I always have a big private back catalogue where I can just find stuff.
Does the music on the EP represent what you’re working on now or do you feel like what you’re already changing?
I think that for me it’s about always trying to do something different. The first record I made was more like trying to do Norwegian space disco with a touch of English techno vibes, but now I try to [work] without any compromise, doing exactly what I want – techno, darker stuff, without being too melodic like the typical Norwegian music with happy-go-lucky major chords.
People who are new to your work but are interested in Prins Thomas and Lindstrøm will find that your music is much more influenced by European techno. Where did that come from? Are there any producers you looked up to away from the Norwegian scene?
I’ve never been very interested in the Norwegian scene actually, so for me I remember it was Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno… Then I remember picking up Boards of Canada, and because I’m quite interested in movies I also liked [Chris] Cunningham and then I got quite interested in Autechre and stuff. And it’s easy to go from Autechre to the Border Community stuff, James Holden, Luke Abbott and Nathan Fake, and I’m also very interested in German techno like Ancient Methods, Marcel Dettmann.
And is that something that’s happened since you’ve been a DJ?
I think it’s because of my touring, because I was always trying to find more intense and… boring music for the dancefloors! When I went out touring, especially in Germany, they always play techno stuff – if there’s a disco night there’s always the vibe of techno, because they’re so strict and rigid.
Erol Alkan included ‘Trommer Og Bass’ on his Fabric mix, which he said was designed with Fabric’s room one in mind. I was wondering what you thought of him including it, and if you write music with any particular spaces in mind?
It’s of course really flattering, but in the end I tend to work on instincts so I don’t think of one club when I do music. But I think maybe this EP has a few more of the big room tracks on it, more than previous, it’s more about soundscaping and sound engineering. I wouldn’t think that Erol Alkan would pick it up, but he did and it works, the Fabric mix is very nicely put together.
What does the title of the EP mean?
It doesn’t mean anything, but when I have to figure out the name for something I’m very into the rhythm of the words. “Math, ilium, ion” has a certain rhythm to it which I found pretty nice, and it sticks.
How do you think the EP fits in on Smalltown Supersound?
Yeah, me and Joakim [Haugland, label boss] are kind of like Biosphere or Per Martinsen [Mental Overdrive] on R&S records in the early 90s, it’s like him and me who are doing a more international, European style, not like typical Scandinavian space disco. When I wanted to find a new label I had quite a lot of interest, but it’s important for me to meet the label guys and talk and drink coffee, you know? And Smalltown Supersound is not like a typical label that puts out one type of music, it’s like jazz and it’s everything, and for me releasing something different on that label is much more powerful than releasing techno on the typical techno labels.
I was wondering if you might start to do more straightforward club 12″s now – it’s quite unusual that your debut release was a full-length album.
I think I’m never going to release a common 12″. I think everyone else does it so I don’t know. I tend to spend like two years [on] each release. I’m very conceptual, so this EP has a very live approach, everything was recorded really live and the next thing is a bit more mellow and ambient.
Tell me a bit about that live recording process and what kind of gear you’re using.
I work with a contemporary musician, we record insane amounts of violin tracks, insane amounts of tracks, and it’s a lot of mixing, a lot of automation, a lot of details. I wanted to pick out a few machines and just record tons of music straight to the mixer, and then try to mix that as well as I can, on the go, instead of spending a month on post-production.
So you’re getting away from the screen a bit.
Yeah, absolutely. Staring into my computer bored me for a while, so I needed to do something else, so this is just me doing something else.
When I last spoke to you, your DJ career was taking off quite quickly. Where have you played lately that has made an impression on you?
In the last year I played Panorama Bar again, then Nuits Sonores last weekend, and XOYO and Fabric. The Fabric night was very fun. I played room two but the sound there is super in-your-face, and the people there were into that kind of music so it wasn’t difficult to give it all. If I play in a smaller club, like in Austria or Spain, I have to be a little more careful, but in England I can do whatever I want.
Have there been any changes in Oslo over the past year?
No. I think if you’re coming back it’s the same, exactly the same [laughs]. I tend not to go out too much, I’m typical Norwegian – mostly at home watching movies and reading books.