Crescendoll slides into the New Year by premiering a rare (if not one and only) psytech short film to showcase her ‘Chasing Rabbits’. The short is masked as a dark escapade that syncs perfectly with Crescendoll’s psychedelic ear candy, yet truly underlines an ethical message.
Crescendoll is a co-founder of LA’s only dark minimal techno, psytech label Shadow Wulf, and an alpha with sister label Wulfpack.
She has been booked in Western Europe, Australia, and across North America and published her tracks on her labels such as Alula Tunes, Subios 7, AlpaKa MuziK, Rubik’s Recordings, and Evil Flow. and has collaborated with notable artists: Peter Groskreutz, Egomorph, TiM TASTE, Maksim Dark, Bendtsen, Lampé, Electrypnose, I Speak Machine, Ian Cris, among others.
As you start exploring Crescendoll’s circle it will be easy to be gripped while winding down the dark minimal techno and psytech rabbit hole.
Crescendoll shares about the sound design for ‘Chasing Rabbits’:
I remember putting a lot of pressure on myself to get the track just right because I have such love for the original.
I had a particular focus on making the track very psychedelic and utilized a lot of LFO automation on the mid-bass to achieve that, along with acid synth leads, psychedelic ear candy in the FX, and minimal charging drum rhythms to keep things energized.
My friend, Leah Ludwig, was a classically trained opera singer, and she expressed interest in doing the vocals for the track.
I’ve never worked with a live singer through the studio process, so I knew this would be a challenge. I had to creatively guide the vocals to fit what I was imagining. I also created two variations of the track in which one has a larger portion of the vocal lyrics and the other is more focused on the groove than the vocals.
Premiere: ‘Chasing Rabbits’ The Short Film
The film’s Director and Writer, Arash Afshar, shares on the message of the short film,
It is a story of temptation. The main character, Bunny, is an amalgamated projection of Erin and I navigating the entertainment industry. Bunny enters her journey being driven by the faceless Thin Man.
In the house, she meets and is tempted by Fame, Fortune, Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll and is finally presented with a choice by the Jinn. She chooses herself and is reborn as The Phoenix.
The message being a reminder to ourselves to fortify our own inner core being, to not succumb to pressures and temptations from the outside world.
Alongside the short film premiere for Crescendoll’s ‘Chasing Rabbits’ to launch 2023 we continued our conversation with Erin aka Crescendoll and interviewed the interviewer behind the staple electronic music community podcast who has hosted loads of revered artists within Burning Man’s ecosystem on the, Burner Podcast as well as the lead film’s creative, Arash Afshar, where we discovered insight, behind-the-scenes photos and more content or, an elusive, shining crack to the underground.
Crescendoll on the Record
What was the first record you ever bought? How about the most recent?
I’m not sure I can remember the first CD I ever bought (I’m a child of the early 90’s). It was probably something embarrassing. However, I do remember the first vinyl record I ever acquired and it is still one of my favorite records of all time – Daft Punk’s Discovery.
As for recent – some months ago I was gifted a recently recorded vinyl record from a band called Making Movies of their new album Xopa. The vinyl was a “thanks for the great sound mixing” I did for them at their show – I work at a local music venue in my day job…
Ahh, so I guess that is where Crescendoll comes from… ‘Chasing Rabbits’, what rabbits have you chased down the rabbit hole?
Depends what you mean by rabbit hole… 😉 I’d say one of the best rabbit holes has been my experience in the studio as a producer and how completely absorbed I get working on a track when the creativity is flowing…it’s truly amazing how in those moments the music just completely sucks me in.
I can be in there producing for 8+ hours sometimes, without pause…it’s completely nuts. And before I know it, it’s 8AM and I’ve been in there all night and I have no idea what happened…If I created fire or if it’s absolutely terrible (any producer will know this feeling). It’s sometimes a bit disorienting hearing the track the next day with fresh ears.
Psytech has to be one of the best genre as it can peak at the psy-trance BPM but holds a proper techno air. For you, what defines Psytech? And what defines dark minimal?
I would describe psytech as if psytrance and techno made a baby together and slowed the tempo down to under 135 bpm (however, the genre is by no means defined by a tempo).
The techno elements provide the foundation — the drum sounds, kick, synth leads, FX… How far it leans towards more techno or more psy differs from producer to producer really…
The main difference it has from standard techno (which I find to be more rhythmically focused) is a more dynamic bassline and lead melody. The tracks are really built around and focused on the bass synths.
Lots of “ear candy” in the FX and rhythms, and the psychedelic FX and the little LFO twists on the bass and leads really drives the psy element home.
I love creating it because I find it’s really fun composing the musical story within each track.
The sound of minimal techno is characterized by the stripping back and creating of more with less – often this results in much more minimal drum sounds and lead sounds, a softer kick, etc.
“Dark” minimal is a title we have been pushing to define the obvious focus on darker melodic elements – bolder bass sounds, minor keys, detuned and dark FX on vocals, and synth call-and-answer stabs, among other elements –
all of which make up a darkly sexy sound that is far from scary or aggressive and leaves plenty of room for all of the sounds to breathe, groove, and shine.
What are some production techniques you like to experiment with?
Oh, there’s always tons of experimentation going on in my laboratory. I mostly enjoy experimenting with my live synths, especially my ASM Hydrasynth and all of its many different synth parameters. I’m always tweaking bass sounds trying to get the bass just right…you know, getting it to sit in the mix and feel how I want it to, or to move the track with more groove.
I love rolling bass lines. I also love creating sounds from scratch on my MS-20 modular synth – that one is a really fun toy. But the thing I’m most excited about right now is the development of a new live performance element with new gear that I’m in the process of learning and practicing (of which I’m aiming to reveal sometime in the summer 2023).
When was your very first set? How has your sound developed over time?
My very first set was back in 2010, a local party back when I was in my college years. I was mixing drum and bass and deep UK dub back in those days. Since then, obviously my sound has transformed quite a bit, with the transition into techno in 2013 and then integrating psy trance in 2017, and therein began the medley of the two in the burgeoning sub-genre of psytech.
Even though the genres between where I started and where I am now are quite different stylistically, I feel the dark and eerie mood and the driving rhythms and psychedelic features have always been present.
I honestly think the same elements drew me into deep UK dub and dnb back then, and they still do with techno and psytech today.
What are a few timeless records you have been mixing into your sets?
I often joke that many of my favorite producers begin with the letter M. Case in point – I love bringing back old Marc Houle tracks, he’s one of my all-time favorite producers and continues to impress me with his sound design and live performance. I also love playing old Maetrik tracks. Those are timeless to me and never fail to get me in the zone.
What are some of your favorite clubs/events in LA and the rest of the world?
I definitely discovered that my favorite club in the world thus far is Sisyphos in Berlin. Wow, what a cool club! It really raised the bar for me in what the club experience should be like. Clubs in LA, in my honest opinion, can’t really line up. LA’s underground scene is where the music really lives here.
I really enjoy making the rounds at some of the local underground techno events and parties. There aren’t any that are entirely focused on dark minimal and psytech yet – but we at Shadow Wulf are building one called Darkside in collaboration with our friends over at Soulestial Carnival, and we just threw our first iteration of it in October. We are looking forward to bringing more in 2023 and continuing to spread the sounds of both dark minimal and psytech here in LA.
What is your biggest responsibility as a label boss?
Artist relations / communication, definitely. I do all of our A&R, and it’s always been very important to me to make each of our artists feel valued so that they keep coming back to work with us on future projects. I’ll be honest, maintaining communication with so many artists all the time can be tricky. I am juggling bigger artists with longer lead times required on projects, while simultaneously making room for bringing in younger artists / new talent, and planning out a release schedule that builds momentum for the label and works for everyone involved.
I typically have 50+ conversations going with artists consistently throughout the week with projects being developed, remixers I’m reaching out to for adding to projects, and dozens of demos that flood our email inbox every week — Not to mention the messages we get on our socials that require attention.
I love doing A&R, and I take my role in it, as well as my role as label co-founder and boss, very seriously.
What is the mission or direction for the labels you manage, Shadow Wulf and Wulfpack?
Our two labels share the same intentions: connecting artists both in the U.S. and abroad with diverse releases, underground shows, and collaborative social efforts.
Wulfpack is a bit more expansive stylistically as a label, and predominantly work with local talents in house and melodic techno along the west coast. Shadow Wulf is laser focused on the styles of dark minimal and psytech and has the aim of working with artists on a more global scale.
While Wulfpack has an active DJ collective element in addition to being a label, Shadow Wulf focuses on just the label element.
Arash Afshar on the Record
Can you elaborate a little on the creative process?
My primary intention was to create something abstract and up for interpretation which simply compelled the viewer to keep watching.
This was the most free flowing synergistic video project I’ve ever worked on. I brought the idea of collaborating on a project to Crescendoll a couple years back. Techno and electronic dance music in general does not lend itself well to the traditional music video format so Erin and I knew we wanted to make something together it would be more like a short film inspired by a track. When she decided on ‘Chasing Rabbits’, we started throwing ideas around about the kinds of imagery we were attracted to. We drew inspiration from Stanley Kubrick films (The Shining specifically) and the supernatural LA goth vibes we loved growing up like the original The Craft and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I then researched supernatural entities and myths from various world cultures. From that long list, Erin and her team selected the handful we’d like to see in the video based on what inspired them stylistically. The idea was to subtly evoke the entities’ energy and backstory with modern fashion and stylistic choices. I then took their list and wrote a Hero’s Journey story incorporating all these characters. We pinged back and forth on casting based on the evolving ideas of wardrobe and availability.
Leading up to shoot day, I created a shot list and a schedule for the day. One thing we absolutely knew is that we had a single Saturday to pull this whole thing off. The final nail was the availability and interest of my cinematographer Jake Stanier, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to pull off the level of professional quality I wanted. We met at 6am and shot through 10pm.
Are there any specific details or easter eggs that hold a deeper meaning?
The Woman in White fascinates me to no end. Variations of this particular myth exist in cultures the world over. In addition to Bunny’s Hero’s Journey, we’re playing with ideas of femininity as a driving force of creativity but also the violence done to the feminine in the industry.
So it was an intentional choice that a pregnant Woman in White saves Bunny when she falls under the spell of The Sirens and The Succubus.
What is a rabbit hole you like to go down?
My challenge is there are no rabbit holes I don’t want to go down! It’s why I meditate and journal and have such a robust spiritual and self care regimen. So I guess I do my best to not go down every rabbit hole that’s presented to me on a daily basis by going down the main one that colors everything I do, that of the exploration of consciousness.
As of the late, who have you interviewed for the Burner Podcast? What have been some of your favorite conversation topics lately or interesting stories/points you have heard?
The most recent episode was an interview with Buck Down who wrote an op-ed piece about why Burning Man was so freaking hard this year. Buck is also a prolific LA based musician and artist.
Of this second, I’m editing to upload interviews with two subjects who have been on my wish list since I started this show years ago. Trey Ratcliff, who is probably the most famous Burning Man photographer, and the spectacular architect and designer whos work is seen all over the playa, Greg Fleishman. That episode is massive as it will include Lee Burridge’s three hour Robot Heart sunrise set from this last Burning Man.
A recent interview I recorded was with the executive team of DanceSafe is probably one of my favorite interviews ever. We discussed dance music culture and drug laws and policy in detail. They’re an amazing crew doing important work for our dance music community.
A fun recent one was DJ/Producer Reda Briki. I was in Playa Del Carmen in Mexico and had brought my equipment to record an interview with the founders of a major Burning Man camp who live in Tulum. But their car broke down on the way to meet me. But then the stars aligned and I happened to run into Reda outside of a pizza place. We’d never met but I was aware of him because we’d featured one of his sets on the podcast a couple years back. He turned out to be a fascinating individual and we recorded a lovely interview for the show.
Any introspection or interesting encounters from this year’s Burning Man to share?
Burning Man, for me, is a pilgrimage. No matter how fun or how hard it gets, I can’t imagine not returning every year. This past year was the hardest one ever and this is a statement most burners have been in agreement on. But we did it anyway. Leading up to this past burn, I was a bit lost on what my next step in life was going to be. But being there in Black Rock City, and experiencing first hand the impact I’ve had on the culture with this silly little podcast I do really reminded me of why I do any of the stuff I do.
It really hit me how amazing my community is and that it was something I’d built by being the best possible human being I can be.
I was reminded of my personal mantra which I’d forgotten: Walk the Earth tall and proud, with an open heart and an unshakeable ethical compass.
I’d gone down a rabbit hole that previous year that had made me forget my own North Star and being on playa reminded me the get back on track. So I’ve come out of this last Burning Man with more focus and clarity about who I am and where I’m going than ever before.
Behind-the-scenes photos by Ariele Baragona