Before going on hiatus last fall, Kulturszene raged for nearly a year at the (now) rapidly-going-downhill Dunes nightclub. Every week, the sounds of minimal techno, electro, and experimental music spilled out onto NE MLK, drawing in the stray musically curious passerby to add to an already building loyal following. Tonight the party returns at Rotture's new downstairs space, Branx, with the evening's hosts M.Quiet and 31 Avas, along with guest DJ Adam Sparkles, spinning for your brains and feets pleasure. Last Tuesday, I sat down with Matt Kwiatkowski (M. Quiet) for a quick talk about the new space, the evolution of Kulturszene, and the evolution of techno musics in Portland.
For those of us that missed out when the night was at Dunes, what is Kulturszene?
It's hard to say what it is right now. At that time, it was supposed to be all about minimal techno
. We were crazy about minimal techno; the more minimal the better. We were doing really experimental stuff. Which I think is a hard transition from IDM and 8-bit Portland culture. We started loosening things up a bit. Our
tastes started changing as well. Ava was into more IDM
stuff before then–like ADULT. We would kind of change what we were playing with whatever guest we had. We would have Jerry Abstract and [we'd play] heavy techno. Or, we would have Glass Candy and we would try to do more electro and new-wave.
Was it originally conceived as a dance-party?
It was. Definitely. (laughs) But, we really thought people would get minimal techno right away.
Exactly why I asked...
So, that's was Kulturszene was
. Now, a year later, and after having taken a hiatus, things have changed so much....there's dance parties all over town. A different crowd, not the normal techno crowd. Our vision of it now is more of a dance party than it ever was before.
When it was happening at Dunes, who were the people coming to Kultrszene?
How many people were coming? Were they booing?
It was mostly a techno crowd. We would get people coming down from Seattle. There's a bigger community up there, a bigger techno community.
Do you still think that's true?
I do, at least to use the term techno for purely
But, when people from Seattle do come down, they're always telling us about how Portland is so much of a better scene: ‘everyone's dancing, a no one dances in Seattle.'
Which is crazy. Ava and I used to go on trips to Seattle to see shows–like we went to see Mode Selector up there, and it was insane. But, people still come down saying ‘Seattle's lame; I want to move here.'
Anyhow, Kulturszene is still a techno night. The baggage that has come with the term techno has fallen off a little bit, at least in Portland. Which is great. But, techno itself too has changed a lot since then. When we first started, minimal techno–which had evolved out of IDM–was super super minimal. That's what it was about: the artists were kind of afraid to be too banging in a way because they'd come from these IDM scenes where it wasn't really cool to dance yet. It's more ‘intelligent,' more melodic.
The minimal–the stuff we were playing when we first started–was afraid to break out in a sense and really be dance anthems. Since then, the idea of being of minimal has been out of fashion a little bit. The same artists are still killing, but they're more influenced by Chicago house
and really deep Detroit techno
So, we're playing the same artists, but I think it's a little more palatable now.
Do you have an ideal for dance parties?
Personally, when I'm dancing, I want to hear stuff that challenges me. I like to dance, and I don't want to be challenged to dance, but I want to be intellectually stimulated. I like hearing things I haven't heard before.
Techno music is music that is scientifically made to dance to. It's not a pop song that has heavy drums that can
make you dance. It's music that's scientifically engineered for it. But, there's another level where the best artists take it, make it something more than that. That's where we want to be with what we're DJing. Smart. Sexy.
It's at Branx now, which is afterhours, afterparty style. How do you get
people into smart music in that sort of scene?
It's hard to say. We're really into Rotture's idea of opening two clubs. A European style dance club, where there's two dance parties going on at the same time, and people can just go up and down in between the two of them.
That's bold in Portland.
Is it. But, Kultrszene tied to an already super successful night like, say, Thin Pink Line
, we can both be bringing crowds that will kind of make it an unmissable night.
That's probably the most exciting part for me about moving it to Branx, the give and take between what's upstairs and what's downstairs. We'll see how that works out, but I'm pretty optimistic about it.
Do you have any fears about bringing it to a bigger place?
I don't have any fears about it at all. A: I think Portland is ready, and then, B, bringing it to a place like Branx is that there will be a ubiquitous crowd that's already going. The thing about Dunes is that there's no regulars there. Everyone that walked in that door was someone I know or someone that saw our flyer. Whereas, at a bigger place, there'll
be people stopping by no matter what just to see what's going on.
As far as "bigger" goes, if I had my way, we'd be doing it at Holocene. As big as possible.
Kulturszene on Myspace
M. Quiet's 'space
Photo: M. Quiet from M. Quietspace.