If “techno” as genre is making you feel stifled, maybe you just need some different techno. Leisure System’s Sam Barker has our cure.

There’s a certain beauty to constraints. For me like a lot of people, going back to the early techno innovators, I’m always struck by how much variety and groove is generated by such minimal means. Working in that framework, like working in any compositional etude, can be empowering.

But surely techno doesn’t have to be limited to that – any more than “jazz” has to mean only “Giant Steps” in twelve keys and not Sun Ra or Cecil Taylor or John Zorn. And if techno has a regular place on CDM, that should be why – that combination of futurism, musical-technological innovation, and radical societal context, bound together by pulse.

Mr. Sam Barker.

Sam Barker is a great guide to strange, wonderful, nerdy, radical techno. He’s at the helm of the label series and party Leisure System, which has always been a Berghain oasis for people who care about discovering new music above all, as well as I think a stunning high quality imprint. His own productions are also equally intelligent and inventive, alone and with frequent partner nd_baumecker, in a nice English/German coupling. He music and mixes alike also for me hit that rare “headphones and shoes” test – they are equally inspiring to dance to or to get lost listening.

Sam tells CDM what this no-four-on-the-floor mix for Red Bull Radio is about:

There is a healthy spirit of diversity and open mindedness implicit in dance music, but still a lot of people have a fixed idea about what techno is, and I’m always trying to challenge that, as I believe purism is a bad concept to apply to any creative work. Thankfully I’m not alone and there’s a handful of great labels challenging the perception that techno is dull, formulaic, repetitive and predictable, like houndstooth, Ilian tape, whities, livity sound, r&s..

Trouble listening? Red Bull Radio’s audio appears to be region coded. They presumably can’t recommend you do this, but I can – VPNs get you around this, like this one.


SØS Gunver Ryberg / Aïsha Devi / Rrose / Paula Temple – DR2-2 [Noise Manifesto]
Pris – Reef (Stenny Remix) [Resin]
Mike Parker & Donato Dozzy – Stegosauria [Spazio Disponibile]
Kevin de Vries – Time Traveler (Farceb Remix) [Extrasolar]
Tobias. – Blind Mass [Ostgut Ton]
UVB – Enlightenment [Mord]
Aquarian – Hamburglar Helper (Aquarian & Deapmash’s Deap-Fried Mix) [Hanger Management]
Raär – Careless [Renascence]
Peverelist – Further Inland [Livity Sound]
Laksa – Camo Trousers [Illian Tape]
Andrea – Choral [Illian Tape]
Sciahri – Atonement [Illian Tape]
Amandra – Derviche Roba [Obscura]
Barker – Untitled [Unreleased]
Second Storey – Barrel Roll [Houndstooth]
Special Request – Adel Crag Microdot [Houndstooth]
Tenebre – Tenebre_Technique m2 [Unreleased]
Tim Xavier – No Bad Man [TMM]

And can he play these out? “As much as I can get away with,” Sam replies, “– really depends how far an audience is willing to go!”

It’s all great listening – and this track listing is a perfect starting point to discovering the artists and labels doing interesting things, starting straight away from that SØS Gunver Ryberg / Aïsha Devi / Rrose / Paula Temple superband.

What you get is weighted rhythms, grooves that gain additional forward motion because of their irregularity, new polyrhythms. You still never lose the sense of where the four on the floor would go – meaning you won’t be tripping over your feet. (That solid, grounded duple beat I think matters for that reason. That techno feeling should have your feet looking for the physical floor and moving on each quarter note.) But that pulse gets internalized, as the other arrangements keep you moving forward.

This is important from a technological standpoint, too, because instead of really feeling a groove or constructing a compositional idea, it’s too easy for all of us to see the technological interface as a sort of machine for outputting easy, regular patterns. We can apply the right instrumentation and effects, and it sounds kind of like techno – but it can be soulless.

It’s a great starting point, I think, to finding some new energy.

Let us know if you have more listening for us in this vein (including your own) – and what you come up with.


Barker Baumecker

Image at top: Ilian Tape.