As a collective focused on audiovisual performances, Montreal's susy.technology were the perfect choice to play the opening night of this year's FORMS, a new Toronto festival centered around music, art installations, and urbanism lectures. Playing from behind a triple-screen projection of intense imagery flooded with text and abstract animated visuals, their dark, brooding sounds were interspersed with moments of groove, including member Teodoro Zamudio's driving new experimental techno single "Calculator."
The amorphous group grew out of collaborations last year between three key members, Zamudio (aka T), Xavier León (aka Witnessing), and Milo Reinhardt (aka /||\||\). The latter two were longtime friends who both currently attend Concordia University in Montreal, studying electroacoustics and digital technologies respectively, while the former originally hails from Mexico City and is the co-founder of design firm Freyja & Zamudio.
We recently sat down with León and Reinhardt —best known for their work as post-dubstep duo Sibian & Faun—to discuss their musical evolution, how the forthcoming technological singularity inspired the collective's latest work, and more.
THUMP: To start, can you tell me who's in the collective and how you divide tasks?
Xavier León: There's about six of us who identify as part of the group, but it's pretty open, there's a few other people on the fringe. It depends on who has interest in doing a particular project, who has availability, and we just do it under the susy.technology banner. It's a very natural way of working between us that grew out of our friendships, and the way we're always constantly collaborating, talking about each other's music, and giving advice, helping one another complete projects.
Milo Reinhardt: There's a lot of back and forth. For example, Teo's a designer first, but also a web developer, artist, and musician. So all of these skills just naturally, through osmosis, transfer to people he's working with. The same with Xavier and I. The point of working together is to inspire each other, but also to share technical understanding.
How did you find the transition from Sibian & Faun to the more experimental work you create now?
León: As a progression it felt so seamless. Personally, it had to do with what I'm interested in listening to and what I'm surrounded by. Back then I was really into the whole post-dubstep thing and bass music, as were the people I was surrounded by. Now I'm listening to a lot more experimental sounds.
Reinhardt: I think that phase—releasing music on [Glasgow-based] Numbers and making more club-focussed tracks—was a brief period that received a lot of attention, but we haven't really stopped making dance music in-between all the experimental stuff. I think a lot of those influences show through in moments of the performances we put on as susy.technology, and the tracks we make during off days in the studio.
In studying art at Concordia, at some point I started making distinctions between what I was playing out on a Friday night—weird left-field club tracks that people couldn't really handle, and then realizing maybe I want to push it a little further. It made me think that maybe it's more the avant-garde and experimental stuff that I actually need to find a voice in. I'm trying to make techno, but I keep just making huge, harsh, really noisy weird shit. I just want to make cookie-cutter, really smashing techno, but I'm always doing something way weirder.
Conceptually, the piece that you performed at FORMS brings up themes of technology, paranoia, and hacking. Was that your intention?
Reinhardt: Since last year's MUTEK performance, I've been a little focused on this moment of singularity and the idea that we're approaching that. To me, it's a lot to do with a tenuous feeling of 'interference' and I want there to be a sense of duality between our digital experience and our lived experience. The whole idea of doing these really big presentations with immersive sound is to get one step closer to that, or at least be able to critique it and think about it.
With the text, which is mostly screen captures, we're trying to use aspects of our online experience. It made sense to incorporate the idea of web browsing into the mix as that's kind of how we exist these days. It's not literal or strict but more of a fluid, amorphous presentation of that stuff thematically.
What's coming down the pipeline for susy.technology?
Leon: We've been discussing pursuing community-oriented projects, which would open up our studio to facilitate people who maybe have an interest in electronic music, but either find it daunting or don't have any resources themselves. It's something that's really important to me as I work for Head & Hands, a nonprofit that runs a studio for teens, and it's such a huge part of my life. I'm trying to merge as much of my politics and bring my humanitarian, community philosophies into susy.technology. I think it's a really good extension for all of us to provide support and help people who might not have a platform or resources.
Reinhardt: Yeah, and be open to collaboration with everyone and anyone who is able, willing, and interested. In a way, it's about establishing a safe and positive environment, and not just facing inwards. Xavier took the lead on this one. He followed me into the dark, noisy pit of hell, and now he's gonna guide me out of it.
Vincent Pollard is on Twitter.