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Electric Independence

At the end of October last year, Bogdan Raczynski fell from a hotel window in Graz, Austria, and ended up in hospital with two broken heels. Heels-ouch.

Bogdan Raczynski soldiers on in the name of rave. Photo by Wim Van Wambeke

Haswell & Hecker at Cerith Wyn Evan’s White Cube show. Photo by Theydon Boix

At the end of October last year, Bogdan Raczynski fell from a hotel window in Graz, Austria, and ended up in hospital with two broken heels. Heels—ouch. In Graz to perform at the four-day Elevate festival, the mild-mannered rave heavyweight—who slipped off the scene a few years ago but is emphatically back right now with new album Alright!—claims to have little recollection of the incident, which left him in a wheelchair for a couple of months. “The details are both uncertain and somewhat painful to think about,” says Raczynski from his home in Canada. “In short, I fucked up large and my poor wife has to bear the burden of it. I’m not allowed to walk as that’d fack up my heels severely, so I just wheel or push myself around on my butt. it’s like an extremely extended physical hangover, each day being a reminder of my own mortality and utterly hazardous foolishness. “To be honest,” he adds, “I think I was drugged, but I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed that so much worse didn’t happen.” Drugged? But why would anyone bother to drug Raczynski? Unless they wanted to have sex with him, or pinch his mojo. Perhaps he downed a spiked drink that was intended for someone else. We suspect he may well know precisely what happened that evening, and modesty prevents him disclosing further details. Whatever took place, none of it should overshadow the fact that Raczynski’s latest hardcore platter, which was conspicuous by its absence in every single “Best Albums of 2007” list, finds the Pole at the top of his game. On Alright!, his seventh for Rephlex, Raczynski finally perfects his fusion of early 90s Dutch techno and the sinuous grace of Chopin, resulting in gonzo neo-classical rave anthems like “08”, the record’s eighth and final track that’s effectively a dazzling neon caricature of a seven-year-old’s idea of what a gonzo neo-classical rave anthem should sound like. “Yes! It’s a fucking stormer,” he notes. “It drops so heavy towards the end. I have an absolute anti-blackout. The track is fast, hard, melodic, benevolent, healing and fun. My mind does dropkicks when I hear it.” Vice: Why did you take a break from releasing music? Four years in between albums isn’t that unusual, it’s true, but when you put out an album every year for five years, as you did, your absence is going to be noted. Raczynski: I suppose I said all I had to say. I know that everybody’s story is different, but I’m under the impression that doing something artistic doesn’t have to be a life-long endeavour. I try not to feel pressure that I have to be a musician. I don’t want to be tied down to one thing—why can’t I be an epic community builder or comfort cook? At the very least, I really dislike the divide that’s created by people who think you either are or aren’t born with a certain skill. I don’t believe in talent. Nobody gets handed magical hands to play the piano with the finesse of a fucking hummingbird and I’m sure Yo-Yo Ma or Ennio Morricone or Gato Barbieri or Hugh Masekela weren’t born with the skills to evoke strong emotions. What were your consuming passions during this period? Wild combinations of leftover food and creating online communities. That, and trying to get my life in order. Maybe one day kids will be forced to take relationship classes in school. God knows we all could use more help with trying to deal with friends and family more than learning about polynomials and transitive verbs. Oh! I can’t forget about this delicious morning “tea” I’ve been having for a few years now. Just boil up a cup of water, drop in some honey to taste and a snowflake on your hand’s-worth of cinnamon. Stir, let cool and watch your body expand ever so naturally and delightfully. If asked to nominate the one album that carried us through the cold summer evenings of 2007 and freezing winter nights of 2008, without hesitation we would plump for Haswell & Hecker’s majestic and deeply alien Blackest Ever Black. Released on Warner Classics in June last year, and reviewed in Vice at the time, the album documents sound artists Russell Haswell and Florian Hecker’s experiments with Iannis Xenakis’ UPIC computer music composing system. Those craving more from this stimulating project should investigate the pair’s second serving, “UPIC Warp Tracks”, an EP of brand new material out next month on Warp. In December, we saw the duo perform their 14th UPIC Diffusion Session (aka a gig) at the White Cube gallery in Hoxton Square as part of a collaboration with Cerith Wyn Evans. We’ve attended a number of these Diffusion Sessions over the past year or so—you’d be crazy not to—and what’s great about the shows is that, where possible, Haswell & Hecker are situated in the centre of the space, controlling the 360 degree sound diffusion, leaving the audience free to wander around them. The performances which have lodged in our mind include the al fresco session at Faster Than Sound in Suffolk, and October’s bravura demonstration in London’s Conway Hall, where their breathtaking display of industrial light and magic left the crowd deliriously disorientated and drew attention to headliners Pan Sonic’s shortcomings. Compared to these, their performance in the White Cube, which was bathed in brilliant white light from two Wyn Evans pieces, was a mellower affair, like a seance in THX 1138. At some point last year, Florian Hecker mentioned he’d completed a new album that he described as “ultra-minimal” and more or less implied that the extremely minimal nature of the tracks would show all those so-called minimal techno producers what minimal actually is. With Hecker, Höller, Tracks, his new double-LP on the Semishigure imprint, he does just that. Hecker explores the hallucinatory qualities of repetition. Listened to loudly and intently through speakers, the clicks and tics bounce off the walls. Or, to put it another way, when we played the stuttering first track, our housemate thought a neighbour’s burglar alarm had broken and closed his window to shut out the noise. PIERS MARTIN