"If house is a nation," exhorts a sample on Efdemin's Chicago-indebted "Just a Track," "I want to be President. If you vote for me, I promise I will deliver you even more bass, even more soul, longer hours on the dancefloor, DJs who believe as we believe."
Such brash promises seem out of character for the Berlin-based artist (born Phillip Sollmann), whose previous releases for Hamburg's Dial and Liebe Detail labels have seemed more atmospheric than despotic. Like label peers Lawrence and Pantha du Prince, Sollmann has–on tracks like the poignant "Jean" and "Bergwein"–generally trafficked in tear-jerking techno and heart-rending house.
Sollmann's sound is highly influenced by his studies at Vienna's Institute of Computer Music; throughout his three years there, he made many of the field recordings that underpin the tracks on his eponymous debut album. During his first 12 months in Austria, Sollmann mainly focused on sampling the sounds of insects and small animals to generate drum-like hits. In his second year, he archived the city's traffic noises and urban soundscapes, including the children that can be heard on the record's closing track, "Bergwein." Album opener "Knocking at the Grand" contains recordings of Sollmann banging on stone plates at Vienna's Museum Moderner Kunst, an experience that will beget a series of related installations over the next few years.
Vienna's greatest impact on Sollmann was its sense of seclusion. "I could isolate myself from social stress because I didn't know so many people and, in Vienna, nobody cares if you don't call them," he says. "I had a lot of time for myself. I didn't really finish much music during that time but I started tons of processes and concepts that I can work on during the next few years."
Conversely, relocating to Berlin–where he's acquired a residency at techno hub Panoramabar–has been like a shot of caffeine to Sollmann's system. "Meeting all these people in the art and music scenes really made me wake up," he says. "So many people from different places had moved here that when I finally arrived it felt like a strange kind of homecoming."
Sollmann describes his sets at the near-legendary Panoramabar as "one long trip through Frankfurt, Chicago, Detroit, Hamburg, Berlin, and back to Detroit." "House [is always] involved, even if it feels like techno," he explains. "House will pick you up when you feel down. House got me into electronic music and I will always refer to that."