Sonar Detected

Photo by Kyle Dean Reinford

Manhattan’s Baryshnikov Arts Center might seem an improbable site for the first ever US SonarSound event—it is the namesake of a ballet dancer, no matter his many skills—but for five hours the industrial space transformed four auditoriums into a multi-level audible playland. A States-based preview to the more robust, permanent festival held annually in Barcelona, the event consisted of multimedia, dance and DJs and attracted nearly 1,000 guests, among them Lou Reed. The legendary rocker seemed particularly taken with the ReacTable, a revolutionary new electronic musical instrument and, based on my experience, an ultimate noise “toy.”

While part of a larger exhibition titled “Catalan Days: Music and Media from Catalonia and the Balearic Islands,” two American musicians with intimate ties to the region bookended the event. Oft-New York-based Prefuse 73 opened the night; later Brooklyn-based DJ/Rupture left attendees on a high note with a two-hour spin set. In addition to these NYC natives, music was provided by Fibla + Árbol, Balago, Hidrogenesse, Del Palo Soundsystem (Griffi + DJ2D2 + Aqeel) and d.a.r.y.l.. Installations were provided by Marcel.lí Antúnez (with his show “Metamembrana”) and the University Pompeu Fabra team with the internationally renowned ReacTable. After the show, Rupture (born Jace Clayton) took time out to discuss Sonar and his return to New York after a seven-year Spanish exile.

NELL ALK: So, you’re located in New York now?

JACE CLAYTON: Yes, I live here. I’ve been here for the last two years and before that I lived in Barcelona.

NA: How’d you get involved with Sonar?

JC: It’s an electronic music festival in Barcelona. This is the first time they’ve done it in the States. This is a one-off event called SonarSound. [It’s] a weird, displaced home reunion. The Barcelona scene is invading New York for one night.

NA: What else have you got going on right now around New York City?

JC: I’ve got a crew called Dutty Artz and we do parties once a month at Glasslands in Williamsburg. The parties are called New York Tropical. At the end of June I’ll probably be playing with Jahdan Blakkamoore. You’ll be hearing his name a lot in the very near future.

NA: Your record Uproot, which came out in October 2008, was the first mix you did where nothing was bootlegged. It got an amazing response.

JC: It’s interesting. Everything’s totally cleared legally. The first mix I did couldn’t be licensed legally [due to pulling so much material from other artists, including Missy Elliott]. The idea that gave birth to [Uproot] was this remix [by my friend Matt Shadetek] of the song called “I Gave You All My Love” by Jahdan Blakkamoore. I spoke to a friend of mine, a Scottish cellist, and asked her to compose a string quartet piece to mix out of this track. It was totally beautiful.

NA: And you already have the follow-up lined up.

JC: Right now I’m mixing a follow-up to Uproot called Solo Life Raft. That’s going to be out this October. This is the next step: another mix. After Uproot, I did an album called Patches. I did this with Andy Moor, one of the guitarists in a Dutch band based in Amsterdam called The Ex. He’s really amazing. It’s basically improvised music for guitar and turntables. That’s more about experimental turntablism and using hip-hop techniques in a totally different way, responding to the guitar. It’s great being in a band. It’s really spontaneous. We don’t even talk about what we’re doing, we just get into it. [This album came] out a few months ago. Andy recorded all of our live shows for one of the tours we did, so this was us coming together, choosing our favorite moments and editing it down.

NA: Makes sense in terms of the title, Patches.

JC: Yeah! Little snippets of live shows and the idea of incompletion and stitching together.

NA: Can you tell me about your other project, Nettle? I know a lot of instruments are involved, including violin, cello, banjo, Guembri, not to mention vocals and electronics.
JC: I’m totally excited. I began it in Barcelona. First it was just a duo and now it’s four or five people. You know The Shining? I think our next album is going to be a pre-emptive soundtrack for a remake that doesn’t yet exist. Imagine a remake of The Shining set in Dubai. This is our concept album-shadows fall.

NA: BBC1 Radio’s called you the most “agile and reckless” musician out there. That’s quite a compliment, I think. How do you think they arrived at this estimation?

JC: [LAUGHS] It’s a flattering quote. I like DJing. I like the whole aspect of improvised music. It’s really easy for me to be more commercial, to make things easier for people. But that’s not what I’m interested in. I think that’s the kind of thing [the quote] was leaning towards, this idea of agility. I can do these sets with three turntables; it’s like juggling. I like trying to push people. With a crowd, you try to gain their confidence. Once you have that confidence, a lot of DJs will just play another Madonna remix or whatever. Even edgy DJs are conservative. Once I’ve got people moving, I like to take them a few steps further, out of their comfort zone. [I] keep that momentum going, keep that narrative drive of the mix maintained, keep it moving. A lot of musicians feel comforted by notions of genre; people can get very clannish about it, in a way hiding behind the bigger thing. I’ve never been about that. It makes it harder to explain what I do and what kind of music I make, but that’s all part of it.

NA: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered over the course of your career?

JC: A lot of people consider my body of work more complicated than most musicians’; the biggest challenge is trying to do what I’m interested in. A lot of times I [think to myself] “If only I had simplified this and made it less interesting and dumbed it down.” I would get more commercial acceptance at a very basic level. That’s a part of it. I’m constantly curious about music; this evolution of pulling in new sounds [is] really important to what I do. If I were less about that I probably could go a bit further maybe. Maybe not.