FACT Rated is our series digging into the sounds and stories of the most vital breaking artists around right now. This week John Twells talks to Berlin-based techno vanguard rRoxymore, who went from DJing in Paris to writing genre-blurring dance vignettes for Bristol’s Don’t Be Afraid.
From: Montpellier, France
Must-Hear: Thoughts Of An Introvert Part 1
For Fans Of: Kassem Mosse, Planningtorock, Karen Gwyer
Released earlier this year on the Don’t Be Afraid imprint, rRoxymore’s Thoughts of an Introvert Part 1 is one of 2017’s most unique techno records. Built around shifting, synthesized rhythms and fluttering melodies that curl around the barrage of drums, it’s an unassuming set that creeps up on you slowly, but with purpose. The title track burrows into your skull, its woozy, plucked lead warming the dancefloor for the well-placed finger-snaps that follow.
“I wanted to do something really organic,” Hermione Frank tells me at this year’s MUTEK Montréal. “The [title] track had been written in the winter, and winter in Berlin is very … you go through introversion. It was really a rough time, with politics and everything, so this is a reflection of what I’ve been through during the winter.” Frank is reserved but confident in her responses, despite speaking in a second language. She grew up in France, Montpellier to be exact, before moving to Paris where she became obsessed with the growing dance scene. “I was really hypnotized by DJing,” she laughs. “I was fascinated, I had some friends who had a pair of Technics and started. I wanted to mix organic stuff and electronic, so I would start with disco or a jazzy thing, then funky, playing trip-hop maybe and finishing on house. I always wanted to melt things like this.”
“In Berlin, dance music is in the DNA of the city.”
When Frank started to produce her own music, she honed in on a similar interplay between organic and electronic sounds. “The person who introduced me to production had a hip-hop background,” she says. “So that’s how I learned.” This interplay is most evident in her early catalogue – for a while she offered “sequencers and a bit of synth” to experimental world music act Ekova and added electronics to Speed Caravan’s 2008 album Kalashnik Love full-length. But it took an exodus from France for Frank to allow herself the space she needed to explore her own unique voice.
“Moving to Berlin helped me to connect to the scene,” she admits. “I’ve always been doing music, but it was the right move for me to be connected to myself, with my own work, and indeed to be connected to the dance music scene – in Paris I was not so involved with that. In Berlin, it’s in the DNA of the city, so you don’t feel weird doing electronic music. In fact it’s like the opposite, it’s actually boring.” She giggles as she catches herself; certainly, the city has been crucial to her development as a solo artist. Frank has been releasing records as rRoxymore since 2012, first linking up with with Planningtorock on the ‘Patriarchy Over & Out’ / ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ 12”, and then issuing a string of well-received mixes and 12”s, including a boundary-pushing collaboration with Paula Temple, Oni Ayhun and Planningtorock.
Last year, she linked up with the Bristol-based Don’t Be Afraid label, releasing the excellent Organ Smith EP. “I just wrote to Benji [Roth, aka Semtek]. That’s it,” she assures. “He answered me an hour later like, ‘Yeah! Welcome!’ I’m really happy, it’s like a really nice house for me.” Frank has already notched up two EPs on the label with another due in 2018 – Thoughts of an Introvert Part 2 – and an album further on the horizon. I wonder what we could possibly expect to hear from this forthcoming material. “I’d like to do something totally synthetic,” she says, smiling. “I love pads and maybe I should try something… I would like to try to do something else.”
John Twells is FACT’s Managing Editor. Find him on Twitter.