High techno

‘Make It New’ turns three, plus Hauschka at the Goethe
By SUSANNA BOLLE  |  October 30, 2007

For the past three years, a prime place to go if you wanted to hear cutting-edge and classic techno from Germany, Detroit, and beyond has been “Make It New” every Thursday at Middlesex Lounge. The night was founded by four DJs: Billy Kiely, Erik Pearson (a/k/a Baltimoroder), former Phoenix contributor David Day, and Mike Uzzi (a/k/a Smartypants). Although each had his own take on the finer points of four-to-the-floor, as Kiely describes it, “what we had in common was a love of techno music with a capital ‘T.’ ”

The line-up has changed a bit: Uzzi moved to New York, and now Day has left for San Francisco. But the night, like techno itself, has proved adaptive and resilient, with each personnel change adding new elements. The current residents are Kiely, Baltimoroder, veteran DJ Alan Manzi, and Icelandic newcomer Baldur. “When Alan Manzi took Mike’s place,” recalls Kiely, “he added a whole new dimension to what we play. Alan’s style is more rooted in Chicago and Detroit techno. And we’ve just taken on Baldur once a month, and he’s an Icelandic DJing machine — he loves to rock a party!”

To celebrate turning three, “Make It New” has a couple of special guests coming in November, adding to the number of techno luminaries — Isolee, Morgan Geist, and Akiko Kiyama, to name three — who’ve passed through over the years. For the anniversary proper, which falls on November 8, New York DJs Sasse and Holmar Filipsson will return, and there’ll be visuals by Cambridge photographer and video artist Ricardo Delima. “I’m assuming it will be stellar,” says Kiely. “The last time those guys played, they tore the roof off. And on November 29, we have [Scottish minimal house producer] Alex Smoke, which should also be off the hook.”

So, what’s enabled “Make It New” to make it this far? Kiely thanks the Middlesex for its support and also the loyal revelers who come out every week. But he thinks the night’s success is also a reflection of the strength of techno as a whole — from minimal to house to electro — and the passion that the residents bring to it. “We’re all music heads, you know? We try to keep it fresh and do what we do with integrity. And I guess that counts for something.”

This Monday, November 5, Goethe-Institüt Boston will host a performance by the pianist Hauschka (a/k/a Volker Bertelmann), who is also in town opening for Múm at the Somerville Theatre the night before. Located in a turn-of-the-20th-century Back Bay mansion, the Goethe is one of Boston’s more distinctive — and wonderfully opulent — spaces for live music. Shows there are rare, but the Goethe tries to bring innovative and unusual musicians from Germany a couple of times a year.

As Hauschka, Bertelmann plays prepared piano, inserting various objects between the instrument’s strings as well as on its hammers and dampers to alter pitches and create a rich palette of metallic sonic textures. It’s an approach most closely associated with avant-garde composers like John Cage and Christian Wolff, but Bertelmann uses his preparations to quite different effect, generating sounds akin to the clattering percussion of lightly experimental (and very melodic) electronic listening music. Opening is local multi-instrumentalist (and Berklee student) Keith Kenniff, who as Goldmund uses the piano (sans preparations) to create unabashedly lovely music. His evocative compositions allude to jazz, electronic, and folk, as well as to Japan’s Ryuichi Sakamoto and former Talk Talk frontman Mark Hollis.

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