Wighnomy Brothers: Moving East

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I’m guessing you’ve never heard of Jena, Germany. It’s okay. I hadn’t either, until I discovered the Wighnomy Brothers. But take a moment to locate it on the map–equidistant from Berlin and Frankfurt, it lies 100 miles or so west of Dresden, hovering perhaps 50 miles north of the Czech border. And take a good look at the cities nearby: Leipzig, Zwickau, Chemnitz. Why? Because the Wighnomy (pronounced “why-no-me”) Brothers, raised in the former East Germany, represent a generation of dance music that’s moving east, away from established metropolitan centers like Frankfurt, Cologne, and Berlin and towards regions where dance music, once an unlikely import from faraway capitals, is beginning to mutate into unexpected new forms that are quickly filtering back to the center.

The Wighnomy Brothers–the duo of Robag Wruhme (birth name Gabor Schablitzki) and Monkey Maffia (a.k.a. Sören Bodner)–may not command enough English for an interview, but that hasn’t held them back. Their meteoric rise is astonishing, first releasing deep house on their own Freude Am Tanzen label, then launching the more mechanically inclined Musik Krause imprint, gigging routinely across Europe, and being tapped for remixes by everyone from Trüby Trio to Alter Ego, from Parisian label Tigersushi to Seattle’s Orac.

The Wighnomys have yet to release a proper full-length, but their evolving style quickly becomes apparent from a survey of their singles and remixes. Expectedly minimalist–what German isn’t?–they flesh out their herky-jerky tracks with wild syncopations remembered from their youth as Iron Curtain b-boys, keening pads culled from their deeper house origins, and hyperkinetic, almost Latin sensibilities akin to those of Luciano or Ricardo Villalobos.

Robag Wruhme currently enjoys the higher profile of the two, thanks to his well-regarded debut LP, Wuzzlebud “KK” (Musik Krause), and a slew of remixes for over a dozen labels, but don’t discount the duo’s cumulative clout. On their bootleg label W.B., they rework unlikely classics–Underworld, Kosheen, even Busta Rhymes–into drum-heavy workouts leavened with contemplative pads. And judging from an October appearance at Berlin nightclub Rosi’s, their DJ sets are a model of collaborative synergy.

With each partner swilling separately from an upturned vodka bottle, one Brother manned the decks while the other hammered away at various effects boxes, turning a garden variety set of minimal techno into a relentless storm of echoes and loops. The louder the crowd screamed, the harder they played–and drank–returning again and again to the eerie acappella refrain “something for your mind.” They hardly needed to add the obvious: “…and your ass.” Welcome to the eastern frontier of booty.