Grim music is very much in vogue these days – the tell-tale sign being washed-out back and white photos that seem to have escaped from the liner covers of horror movie soundtracks, among other giveaways. But it can get carried away. You might sometimes wonder if producers were being paid by their reverb plug-ins in exchange for lengthening delay times.

Milena Kriegs aka Milena Głowacka, however, is some blissfully frightening music I feel is worth listening to. Straddling darker, deeper techno and adventures into more ambient/experimental territory, this Warsaw-based artist is at the center of a growing amount of finely-crafted electronic shadows.

And she’s a particular aptitude playing live. What I’ve come to appreciate about Milena’s work is its economy and extraordinary restraint. Each move is subtle and slow, each sound – and yes, each reverb tail – necessary. As such, I think she’s a nice introduction to a network of European artists making these sorts of sounds.

Głowacka is a relative newcomer to many of the parties she plays, having begun playing only in 2012. But she has quickly established herself on some high-quality lineups. Her October set from about blank is a standout of recent live PA sets that have crossed my way. (That event included resident Silva Rymd in her wonderful ZEROIZE series alongside long-time electronic music mainstay Heiko Laux.) Fluid, each sound a consistent thread:

Głowacka tells me she’s an Ableton Live performer, and here there’s minimalism that to me even nicely echoes even early Monolake, though with a gentle, cool-headed sensibility entirely of this music.

The live set is good stuff, but if your oxygen supply doesn’t run out, you should take a deeper dive into her recent soundscape for the aptly-named Abyssal Podcast. This is truly a journey in a submersible onto the yawning chasm of an abyssal plain – you know, in kind of a fun way.

Chilled-out ping-pong rhythms do eventually emerge with some sense of relief, but there’s a delightfully long expedition to get there.

If you like that, also worth checking out from the same podcast is Manchester’s Stephanie Sykes, for more murky, hypnotic techno:

Głowacka’s work is out on Semantica Records as well as a stunning debut on Reaktivate Records, and she organizes Poland’s Behind The Stage series, which last weekend saw her playing with Italy’s terrific mod21 aka Manuele Chiaravalloti (not a household name, maybe, but watch Prologue Records.) She’s also recently played alongside Headless Horseman and Ancient Methods. It’s also worth noting that audiences seem to be slowly but surely growing in places like Warsaw, whereas once those communities might have headed elsewhere, leaving only more predictable parties behind.

Here’s Manuele’s music:

Want more?

Well, I guess my tastes are much in line with Silva Rymd’s and ZEROIZE on this. The next program, set for this weekend, features Czech-born Tigerhead aka Tereza Rabenkrähe. Her live techno is also meticulous, full of nicely bleak grooves – fashioned over time into live sets like this one from December:

On that same program is yes-you’ll-see-her-again-on-CDM Electric Indigo – her Morpheme AV work didn’t disappoint at CTM, and she continues to play techno for discriminating dancers.

If a lot of this programming does tend to revolve around Berlin, I do think that the style itself is international – and that gradually, audiences are starting to flourish elsewhere. It also represents a pathway forward for techno, in that the musicians here are finding new ways to be inventive – restrained as I said, but imaginative. I also think it’s non-coincidental that the music is live. By playing these sets live, there’s still more opportunity to find new templates, rather than play a predictable record crate on endless repeat.

Appropriately, Milena is involved in live gigs that look beyond only the club experience – for instance, next up in Warsaw I hear is the series Why So Silent?, a live-only electronic event that pairs musicians with silent films. Below, from a previous installment, Blazej Malinowski, pictured by Jagna Szaykowska.


I’ll be listening for more.


Image, top: Abyssal Podcast.