New York’s techno scene is in a constant state of flux. Like the city itself, there’s this ever-present renewal—new clubs and basement spaces sprout up every day through the cracks in the concrete to replace those swallowed by the city. New DJs move in and old heads move out on the first of every month. Every day some kid is booting up a cracked copy of Ableton for the first time, trying their hand at making tracks for the first time. Point is, this stuff ebbs and flows—there’s always new energy.
This feels especially true at the top of 2019. New York’s year began with the shuttering of one of its biggest electronic institutions—a place which, to be frank, served its purpose as a club for moneyed hedonists but never offered much to me. It seems symbolic at the end of a year that, for me, involved a lot less big club outings and a lot more small parties, thrown with love by and for the community. I will admit no small amount of bias here, of course I’m going to love nights thrown by people I loosely know within walking distance of my apartment, but in the near decade I’ve lived in the city, I’m not sure there’s been a time more friendly to open-hearted listeners of electronic music. There’s cool shit to do and cool people to see every night of the week.
Wyatt Stevens, a producer and DJ who works as MoMa Ready, is deeply in tune with the new energy coursing through the city right now. He’s the source of a fair amount of it. Especially over the last six months or so it feels like you can’t have a long night out in New York without catching a MoMa Ready set. He seems comfortable playing in more or less any context, whether in crowded bars and basement rave settings (on New Year’s I saw him play at 5 am in a cold warehouse space that kinda seemed like a meat locker, shortly after a series of sets from noise artists). In every one he more or less just does his thing, spinning techno, house, acid, and other pulsating sounds united by the feeling that they’ve been scuffed on Brooklyn asphalt.
Those sounds—which also tend to be the sorts that he favors in his productions—just feel alive in his hands. Like his bud AceMo, he has a knack for precisely engineering and playing these tracks without making them feel overdetermined. Synths are programmed with a pointillist’s dexterity, the drums always hit just so, but there’s also a sense that anything can happen. It’s machine music, but it’s free.
Stevens captures this new New York energy and the unique proposition of his electric approach to familiar sounds on this week’s Noisey mix.Over the course of an hour through he roils through a ton of head-noddy house and techno, as well as sounds both more blissed and more broken. Alongside the mix, Stevens also answered a few questions about his upbringing around the rave, and the state of New York scene at the moment.
Noisey: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
MoMa Ready: Hmm thats a tough one, would have to say the best place is wherever the listener decides, I know that’s probably a frustrating answer to receive.
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
I have a visual relationship with music among my other relationships with it so I believe in synesthesia, wouldn't say I have it, at least not apparently as described. this mix feels various shades of purple and dark shades of blue I would have to say.
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
Not a specific concept, I put it together based on energy. That’s the through line, but the only concept is honesty.
Do you have a favorite moment on this mix?
Probably the second to last song, it's an unreleased track by AceMo and myself and it really captures the beauty within the energy going on in our community right now.
Tell me the MoMa Ready origin story. Who are you? What do you do? How did you get here? How did you find the rave?
I'm from Newburgh NY originally, moved to NYC for school. The name MoMa Ready stems from the experience I had as a black kid at a high level creative institution. I attended The School Of Visual Arts, studied filmmaking, had a weird experience that made me question my position on art and what constitutes it as such. Got tired of the pretentious crap I was seeing, needed more honesty.
I come from a musical family, grew up dancing, singing, and playing instruments. My aunt used to rave when she was young, [she] would baby sit me and blast house music, so I've heard 4x4 my whole life. As I got older I developed my own relationship with it through dancing. I dance and that’s my relationship with the music. There used to be an old rave den/indoor skatepark in my hometown. [It] was way before my time and closed before I could attend. But I used to dream about it, and that’s where my curiosity started.
Could you tell me a bit about what draws you to a track as a DJ and listener? Is there an energy or a sound that you feel most connected to?
The only answer I have to that is my emotional reaction to the music. Does it make me feel?. I don't care too much for labels in certain regards. Names aren't the only thing that make music good so I try to look past them. I find music all over because I know it doesn't only exist in one location. Growing up around music probably has a lot to do with that.
It is an exciting time to be a fan of techno in New York. It seems like you’ve really found a community of people with a similar approach and disposition. Does it feel like that from your perspective? Do you feel like “the scene”—insomuch as there is a singular techno scene in New York, I know it is more a series of overlapping communities—has swung in the direction of your tastes?
NY is in rare form right now. I'm happy to have found other artist and DJs that understand this new energy. There are several scenes within the Techno scene in NYC. We've carved out only a small section for ourselves. I wouldn't say it swung in our direction, we made a fuck load of noise where everyone else was whispering. The music was uninspired, and no one was dancing, and it became a circle jerk. I would say we're only part of a new guard that’s tired of being bored at parties.
You tweeted something the other day that struck me about how DJing allows you to deal with the social anxiety of being in club spaces. Could you talk about that?
I've struggled with social anxiety at varying levels my whole life. I grew up in church so it was always awkward for me to develop relationships with my peers outside of my household. I was never really allowed to party growing up, but toward my mid-late teens I'd begun DJing, but I felt like I skipped certain social experiences so being at the party was still weird. So I would hide behind and near the DJ booth to feel like I belonged at the party, like "this is my contribution, this is why I'm here, this is why you should accept me." As an adult i still catch myself doing it sometimes when Im solo at a function. It’s a defense mechanism. All us DJs are just nerds after all.
You make a lot of tracks—and just compiled a lot of them on Body 18 —do you have plans to keep the faucet flowing in 2019? What keeps you motivated to keep working on stuff? What’s next?
I do indeed make a lot of music so I will be releasing more very soon. lately what keeps me motivated is all the people we've already been inspiring. I have an digi LP titled SOFT, HARD, BODY coming early February I'm working on as well as an EP project coming out with AceMo soon. both projects are more focused than Body 18. In the future I’d like to expound upon these ideas I've set in motion, but there are definitely sounds I want to explore. Hard to say what they are now, but they will be apparent soon.