XLR8R's Favorites of 2009: Martyn
- Words: Walter Wasacz
- Photo: Shaun Bloodworth
The Netherlands Transplant Settles Into the US and Takes Dubstep on the Ride of Its Life
Could there be an alternate universe of rhythm and sound? One set free from genre and style constraints, where dance music is smart, intuitive, and fun again? Count Martyn as a believer. Maybe this inclusive, universal approach to making music has to do with his backstory: Martijn Deykers' roots are in Eindhoven, a 900-year-old city in the south of the Netherlands, urban at its core but part of a sprawling and culturally diverse metropolitan area called Brabant Stad, home to over two million people. The Eindhoven Design Academy is known for its industrial and interior innovations and has been dubbed "the school of cool." The region is populated with young, educated cultural explorers willing to try almost anything.
"I started raving when I was a kid, maybe in 1992," says Deykers by phone from his present home in Northern Virginia, where he moved over a year ago to be with his American wife. "At first it was all Chicago and Detroit: Derrick May, Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen played some of the first parties I went to. It definitely inspired me, but when I started DJing a few years later I turned to drum & bass."
Deykers helped launch a nationwide D&B club night called Red Zone, first in his hometown and then in Rotterdam, where he lived for five years. When it came time to choose his professional name, he took a conscious but tricky step by simply calling himself Martyn.
"If I call myself by own name, with no alias, I have nothing to hide behind," he says. "Quality control is a part of everything I do. I think hard before I commit myself to something."
Evolving from DJ and promoter to producer in the early to mid-'00s, Martyn first began making D&B tracks, not surprisingly, until they started to morph into something else quite different. His "Broken" b/w "Shadowcasting" 12" in 2007 was a companion piece to other trailblazing works that began to alter dubstep culture from both inside and outside regional power centers in London and Bristol. Its playful-soulful-funky rhythm patterns looked backward to jungle, pushed the refresh button on house, and sounded like the future of techno—all at once.
"I was not a dubstep artist, but I was listening to what Burial and Kode9 were doing," Martyn says. Other inspirations appear to be Detroit mega-talents Theo Parrish and Kenny Dixon Jr. with a twist of the late J Dilla on the 3/4 periphery. Fellow Dutchman Dave Huismans (a.k.a. 2562 and A Made Up Sound) trended in similar directions, as did Leeds-based Hessle Audio's Pangaea, Ramadanman, and Untold; Appleblim, Pinch, and Peverelist in Bristol; and the undisputed champion and nerve center of UK dance music innovation, Kode9's South London Hyperdub imprint.
Martyn's star has continued to rise with dubstep's incremental growth around the world. But still he stands apart. His solo dance twelves ("Velvet" b/w "Twenty Four" and "Natural Selection" b/w "Vancouver") on his own 3024 label, on Applepips ("All I have is Memories" b/w "Suburbia"), and a split release with 2562 on Tectonic ("Yet" b/w "Control") turn heads on massive systems in super-clubs or on personal iTunes playlists. His other collabs and remix product—including work with Flying Lotus, Efdemin, Scuba, Ramadanman, TRG, and Fever Ray—reveal him to be an impressive team player. He can put his foot to the floor or take the backseat; whatever he has to do to make the track stronger.
Martyn's life has shifted to the high-speed lane, moving his 3024 label business to the Washington, DC area, flying to Europe for club dates and festivals, and building a career in North America, now as a newly naturalized US citizen. His first full-length, Great Lengths, was released in April to widespread praise by critics, he has a track ("Megadrive Generation") that recombines his multiple influences into a near-perfect mid-tempo raw funk jam on 5, the fifth-anniversary compilation of Hyperdub, and has just completed a new mix CD—Fabric 50, no less—set to drop in January. The mix includes tracks or remixes (some of them exclusives) by Actress, Ben Klock, Redshape, 2562, Kode9, Roska, and Joy Orbison alongside several Martyn originals.
"I really like working with kindred spirits, people who set their standards high," Martyn says. "You can get something great, something that didn't exist before, when you bring elements together in the right way. It's what I wanted to do on this mix. It's what I try to do on all my projects."
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