The first time I heard the music of Giraffe, it was on the cusp between late night and early morning at the Meakusma Festival 2017. Smoke lingered in the air as the heavy-lidded, meditative crowd collectively took a trip piloted by Vladimir Ivkovic and ML, who laconically steered the ship from a sofa with their dashboard of low lying record decks. In the red-lit fog of the 4am reverie, the noirish selections unfurling from the speakers reached out like tendrils, mixing with the ganja fog to create a seductive, soporific tonic that matched the mood perfectly.
Through this haze drifted the sound of spacious, yearning drums tumbling out over a warm bed of droning instrumentation. The percussive work on “Climate 1” cavorted through the space in an expressive, freeform array of tom fills and cymbal splashes that massaged rather than instructed. While there was certainly a hint of rhythm guiding the sounds, it was more suggestive, lending the drums a textural quality. Meanwhile a swirling brew of melodious clamour rose patiently from down below, occasional fluttering pitches quickly reverting back to one purposeful harmony. As with all good drones, it was hard to tell where additional players were feeding in and out, and just when they were adding new notes into the stew. It felt like flutes and clarinets were swaying drunkenly in the distance while a twitchy guitar twirled in from stage right, only to become another layer melting into this breathing mass. All the while the unbound drums abounded, rising in intensity but never at the cost of delicacy.
Of course much of that description is aided by revisiting the piece in the cold light of day – the experience at the time was more abstract and sensorial – but the impression the music had on the time and space was utterly tangible, no matter how blurry the hour. Things would have felt very different had ML chosen to play “Climate 2”, the second piece on Giraffe’s 12” for Marmo Music. The drums equally shimmer and shake, and the tonal elements huff and heave with the same languorous pace that befits a soundtrack, but here the ranging, pastoral balm of “Climate 1” is replaced by a clangourous swell of discord, all metallic resonance and submerged, synthesised interference. There were plenty of moments in the DJ set that did veer into such territory, and so the reverberating horror tones could easily have set an uneasy tension in the room and been equally powerful. With the power of choice and hindsight, it feels like the shapely hum of the opening piece was the preferable experience.
To accompany these two wonderful exercises in live band ambience, Marmo called upon Marco Shuttle to deliver a remix. As an artist somewhat entrenched in the Berlin techno machine, Shuttle stands out for his use of exotic sound sources and bold, evocative atmospheres, largely shunning the formulaic tendencies of the scene he orbits. He can however still deliver those necessary ingredients that a techno experience requires. In keeping with the more explorative nature of his albums, particularly his most recent Systhema, Shuttle takes on the rich material provided by the original recordings and channels it into a thrillingly original dancefloor proposition.
His “Moody Samba Treatment” takes a particular drum hook from the excellent percussion material and creates a snaking hook around which to play out different pad-like tones with a whiff of Angelo Badalamenti about them. Such noirish fantasies make for immersive experiences in a club, like a kinetic cousin to the original’s smoked-out splendour.
For context, if you want to check out Vladimir Ivkovic and ML’s DJ set, you can do so here.
Released November 6, 2017 (vinyl only)