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Cologne's Techno Queen Ada Speaks Up

We take a look at the techno mainstay's musical path.

by Josh Baines
Jan 29 2015, 8:32pm

Its all too easy to think of techno as impenetrably inhuman. Designed explicitly for purpose and function, a series of contextual cogs that whir and build brutally efficient machines. As Ada, Michaela Dippel has spent the last decade beating back this all-too-inaccurate characterisation.

It was Berlin label Areal that gave Dippel her first break. The imprint, founded by Basteroid and Metope is occasional home to the likes of Tobias Thomas, Fairmont and Sleeparchive. Known for their chunky take on techno they were an immediate and perfect fit for Dippel's early experimentation. 

Her earliest releases for Areal, a string of classic 12"s including "Blindhouse/Luckycharm," "Believer/Arriba Amoeba," and "I Love Asphalt," marked her out as a top tier talent. Perfectly simple constructions, they were thick, gauzy compositions that stripped out all ornament and unnecessary addition. They came from a playful place. "I used to make jokes about getting [Areal] to put out music I'd made on a Groovebox that a pal left in my house," Ada tells me. "They took me seriously."

Based those days in Cologne, the spiritual home of the microhouse movement thanks to Kompakt's tech-house commune, her buddies also took her seriously enough to bring her to the legendary Total Confusion parties where she ended up meeting Tobias Thomas and Michael Mayer from Komapkt. "That was an incredibly useful combination of friendship and location," she jokes. Mayer and Thomas later went on to remix her already deep-blue cover of Yeah Yeah Yeah's indie-cry along anthem "Maps" into an absurdly euphoric slice of dewy-eyed early morning techno pop

That cover was featured on Ada's debut long player, the luminescent Blondie. A lush, rich combination of Baikal-deep synth pads, classic German percussive patterns, and Ada's yearning vocals, it was an instant classic. 

It was "borne of pure enthusiasm for the possibilities I had at my disposal," Ada explains. "I was working with samples and sequencers and really trying to make those things my own. I think the result is really playful, but it's a gear record. That noisiness and how bleep heavy it is was a result of what I was working with at the time." That bleepiness is tempered by her ear for melody. Thick, chewy chords provide ballast for delicately acidic lead lines that give club ready songs like "Livedriver" and "Our Live Never Dies" a trippily lysergic twist. 

Ada largely cast off big-room darkness in favour of a more acoustic approach on 2011's melancholy set of early morning pastoral frolics, Meine Zarten Pfoten. Ada cites feeling more connected to what she was making with prompting the change. 

Personal inter-connectivity and its relationship to and with independence seems to be pretty important for Ada. "I never felt like I was, or really wanted to be, part of any kind of music scene when I was growing up. I didn't have the patience to involve myself too heavily in any one genre. I didn't want to miss out on great records. Its great to have them selected by genre in nice little stores like Oye in Berlin or Smallville in Hamburg." That sense of generic nomadism applies to the other side of her artistic output - her remixing.

These remixes take in everything from cosmically attuned club jams to hard hitting home listening home runs and shuffling indietronica via bass heavy stompers. Each share her characteristic combination of intentional distance, what she describes as an "icy sensuality", and the aforementioned sense of melodically wraught warmth. A recent release on the front, a spectral version of The Notwist's "Run Run Run" is one of Dippel's favourites. "It took me a very long time to finish it though, because I had so much respect for the song, and I tried to handle it with velvet gloves. Sometimes I get an idea right after listening to the first bars, but it can also be quite difficult, to create a nice new outfit for a song that works fine harmoniously. It's definitely something I love doing though."

Having just put out the lilting version of Aaron Ahrends' "Newborn", as heard above, and now flitting between Areal, IRR and DJ Koze's ever brilliant Pampa label, Dippel's set for another year of warming hearts at home and feet in clubs.

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