Sleeparchive: Keeping Secrets

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"808 and bleeps and noise" is how Berlin's Roger Semsroth succinctly describes his perfectly formed Sleeparchive project. Combining the asceticism of Mika Vainio's recordings for Sähkö with the aestheticism of near-mythological labels like Basic Channel, Semsroth's releases acquire power from their musical and visual reductionism. His debut EP, Elephant Island, was so stripped down as to fuel rumors that it was a collaboration between Pan Sonic's Vainio and Richie Hawtin; a subsequent series of cherishable releases, hand-printed with identical stamps and catalog numbers that read "zzz," further added to the mystery.

A conversation with Semsroth confirms that Sleeparchive is not only his own recording moniker and label name; it also brands the work of a number of collaborators. "Sleeparchive is the name for everything that is coming out [on the Sleeparchive label]," he says. "Most are made by me but there are also tracks made by [four other] friends. They don't want to use their names. We have to keep it a secret."

Curiously, given the dexterity with which he works the genre's palette, Semsroth is credited with having said he doesn't actually like minimal techno. "Maybe this was a misunderstanding," he muses. "Minimal music is actually my first love. It's true that I'm not such a big fan of the music that is called 'minimal techno' nowadays. That's not because I think it's not 'real' minimal–it's just not the music I listen to at home and this is the main reason I buy records."

Given Sleeparchive's strange austerity and isolationist bent, it's easy to envisage Semsroth as cut off from Berlin's music scene and its coterie of music makers. "It's true that I'm not as involved as other Berlin-based artists but I'm not isolated or more independent," he counters. "I'm just not the type of person who parties for 48 hours every weekend. I hang out with my friends; some of them are artists, some are not. Sometimes we go out, sometimes we just have a beer at home."