Podcast 735: Amélie Ravalec
Dark, industrial electronics from an elusive Parisian.
Podcast 735: Amélie Ravalec
Dark, industrial electronics from an elusive Parisian.
Amélie Ravalec, a London-based artist, is known most widely for having directed and produced music documentaries like “Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay,” (2015) and “Paris/Berlin: 20 Years Of Underground Techno” (2012). Away from film, though, she’s an avid record collector and DJ, playing industrial, experimental, post-punk, and soundtrack music in studio mixes and intimate spots across Europe. Her latest project is “BUTŌ: The Recurring Torments of the Pugilist,” an experimental film and photo-book that captures the intensity of the human body in motion, featuring the lithe bodies of dancers Max Cookward and Paul Scott-Bullen colliding against the power of boxer Andrew Downer. The soundtrack features the work of Adam X, Grebenstein, Matriarchy Roots, and Bossa Luce.
Born and raised in central Paris, Ravalec discovered electronic music through clubs like Rex, and her love for the genre took her to many of the major music and techno festivals across Europe. “I became obsessed with it, spending all my free time discovering music and buying records,” she tells XLR8R. “It’s such an exciting time when you’re young and everything is new, each artist and song leading to another into an endless rabbit hole of discoveries.”
As her tastes hardened, though, she fell in love with the “harder and more industrial side of techno,” she says, which led her to Berlin, where she began DJing and directing music videos for techno artists. Inspired, she built on these foundations by making a feature-length film about the history of electronic music in Paris and Berlin. She was still only a teenager when she released “Paris/Berlin: 20 Years of Underground Techno,” interviewing her favourite musicians and label owners including Laurent Garnier, Ancient Methods, Regis, Adam X, Terence Fixmer, Nick Höppner, and Tama Sumo.
It wasn’t long, of course, before Ravalec wanted to curate her own events and label, which is why she founded Fondation Sonore, a vehicle through which she throws industrial techno parties across Brussels, Belgium and releases the music she loves. At the Fondation Sonore events, held in underground train stations and abandoned gardens, she encourages her acts to play as “hard and uncompromising” as they can.
In celebration of “BUTŌ,” Ravalec has compiled a special XLR8R podcast, showcasing the experimental electronic music that has caught her ear recently, coming from Coil, Current 93, Nocturnal Emissions, Alva Noto, Blixa Bargeld, OAKE, Regis, SPK, Nigh/T\mare, and Restive Plaggona, to name a few. As with all her studio mixes, it’s the product of many months of work, during which she carefully compiled the records she wanted to include and sequenced them for maximum effect. The result is a fascinating sound world that’ll incite all sorts of wonderfully weird emotions.
01. What have you been up to recently?
I’ve just published two photo books and a series of photographic prints alongside my experimental short film “BUTŌ,” which will come out in the Spring. Since the start of the pandemic, I have also released a few other photo books and I have been directing and producing two self-funded art documentaries that are currently in production. The first one is on Japanese avant-garde artists from the ’60s to now, and the second is a collaboration with the prolific French artist Stéphane Blanquet and the United Dead Artists Collective. I’m also co-developing a virtual reality museum!
02. How was your 2021?
The pandemic meant I had to conduct my film production entirely remotely across three continents, so it has been challenging. The highlight of 2021 was shooting my new experimental work, “BUTŌ.” For a while, I’d wanted to go back to my early experiments in filmmaking. I felt like making an experimental work without any boundaries or commercial expectations. I had the concept so visually ingrained in my head that I had to go and shoot it! It was fun and exciting to make.
03. What have you been listening to recently?
I have had Hypnopazuzu’s Create Christ, Sailor Boy album on repeat. It’s a collaborative project between David Tibet and Youth, one track of which I play in the mix. It’s a fantastic album, very intense. I’ve also been really enjoying Restive Plaggona’s music, and his other aliases Leftina Osha and Matriarchy Roots. Another current favorite is Die Wilde Jagd; I had Sankt Damin on repeat a good few hundreds of times and I’m yet to tire of it! And, of course, Coil, my favorite artist; I’m still yet to find any other musicians that will surpass their work.
04. You’re about to release “BUTŌ: The Recurring Torments of the Pugilist.” Can you please tell me about it?
Japanese avant-garde artists, performers, and photographers of the ’60s have been a huge influence on me, and butoh, a form of Japanese dance theatre, is one of the themes covered in my upcoming documentary. I’ve never particularly been into dance but butoh performances are so striking that they exist on a whole new level. I’ve also been doing boxing training for the last five years, and the idea of “BUTŌ” dawned on me one day while I was sparring in the ring with my coach—somehow a very meditative form of exercise for me. The idea just landed fully formed into my brain; I could picture it as clearly as if the scene was unfolding in front of me: a butoh dancer and a boxer performing together in the ring. At first glance, it looks like the two disciplines couldn’t be more different, yet they share an intensity that is quite unrivaled by other forms of athletic performances.
05. When and where did you record this mix?
I recorded this mix at home in London over the winter, and it has been a pleasurable distraction from my other work. I usually spend a couple of months working on each mix: I do about 20 versions and keep changing tracks until I’m finally happy! When I DJ out I always play records only and I love it, it’s very spontaneous, never perfect, but that’s just how it should be. But when I record a mix I want to be 100 percent happy with it because I know I’m going to listen to it for years to come!
06. What setup do you use?
I do my music selection, then record each record individually and make the mix in Adobe Premiere Pro. I’m a filmmaker and video editor so that’s my tool of choice. My mixes are also more about layering and key mixes than beat-matching, so Premiere Pro is more appropriate than other DJ software like Traktor or Ableton.
07. How did you go about choosing the tracks that you’ve included?
I usually have a small selection of tracks in mind at the start of the mix—current obsessions and new favorites, and an idea of the overall mood I want to build. Then I go through my record collection, choose tracks I like, and listen to B-sides and forgotten records to try to discover new songs. A new mix is also a good excuse to order a couple of new records and go digging!
08. Tell me about this mix: what can the listener expect?
I wanted the mix to be very ritualistic: hypnotic chanting and moodily atmospheric, heavy, slow industrial beats. Beautiful strings and military drumming. With intense vocals.
08. What’s next on your horizon?
I am still at the editing stage for my latest film, “Pioneers of the Japanese Avant-Garde.” Over the last two years, we’ve shot 20 interviews in Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, and London. Due to the pandemic, I’ve not been able to travel to shoot, so the interviews were all conducted remotely with my great Japanese co-producer and local crew filming. Shooting a film during covid without speaking a word of Japanese has been enormously challenging, so sitting down to edit the translated interviews now feels like the best reward! I’m also really excited to start working on the film soundtrack, I will be collaborating with the enormously talented film composer The Secession, who will create the score from scratch. The Secession also contributed amazing music to my most recent film “Art & Mind” which came out in 2019.
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to hear the podcast offline you will need to subscribe to our Select channel to listen offline, or subscribe to XLR8R+ to download the file. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
Full XLR8R+ Members can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R+ member, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Coil “A White Rainbow” (Eskaton)
02. Gross Net “Shedding Skin” (Felte)
03. Nocturnal Emissions “Vegetation Flesh” (Earthly Delights)
04. Buried Secrets “Affliction of the Absent” (Inhalt Der Nacht Remix) (Soma Quality Recordings)
05. Todesfuge “Rose Resistance” (Cønjuntø Vacíø)
06. Restive Plaggona “Beautiful Hands Around Neck” (Noiztank)
07. ANBB “Ret Marut Handshake” (Raster-Noton)
08. Apoptose “Warrior Creed” (Tesco Organisation)
09. Hypnopazūzu “Christmas With The Channellers” (House of Mythology)
10. OAKE “Toturden Giit Chreteen Dwe” (Downwards)
11. Primitive Art “Recall Your Bones” (Arcola)
12. Private Pact “Purity” (Mass Media Records)
13. Bisclaveret “The Pilgrim” (Unreleased)
14. Regis “Epidaurus Live Extract 1” (Downwards)
15. Nigh/T\mare “Doomed to Struggle” feat. Prophän (Thrènes)
16. Dominion “The Queen’s Chamber” (Tragic Figures)
17. SPK “Invocation” (Side Effects)