Obliqand Proud of It

The men behind a new electro label aren't all that interested in dancing.

Anyone looking for obvious hooks may be disappointed by the Obliq offerings--but the performers are quick to point out that mainstream appeal isn't their goal. The cultivated electro set is excited by innovation, not commercial potential, and Holland feels that Obliq Recordings provides that quality in spades.

"Musically, for me, there's a lot of satisfaction in doing what's going on now," he says. "If this were the Sixties, we'd be playing in an improv jazz band. In the Seventies, we would have been playing in a prog-rock band. In the Eighties, we would have been playing in a punk band. But this is the Nineties, so it's electronic stuff. There's a continuity in that that I like."

What Denver-Boulder IDM boosters lack in numbers and visibility, they make up for in enthusiasm. In January, over two dozen local electronic-music-makers gathered at the Mercury Cafe for a meeting of the Institute for Contextual Arts, a fancy-sounding title for what amounts to an informal group of dedicated envelope-pushers. The NoWhere Festival, which the Obliq threesome staged on a remote site in northeastern Colorado between April 30 and May 2, was an even more impressive assemblage of such kindred spirits.

America has long been accused of bandwagon-jumping when it comes to electronica, in part because high-profile artists like Madonna are only now incorporating what was hot in England three years ago. But Holland thinks that's changing. "Denver used to be about two years behind England as far as electronic music, but now the reverse is true," he insists. "Instead of us imitating them, British guys now are starting to come to the U.S. to find out what's happening here, because there is some really cool stuff here that's markedly different than what they're doing." As proof, he points out that representatives of labels he's idolized are now searching out Obliq products: The players recently contributed a song, "foehn," to Cataract Beats, a compilation on Atlanta's groundbreaking Pitchcadet imprint. (A remixed, reprogrammed version of the same track also turns up on a Multicast twelve-inch set for release in early June.)

Local support for IDM is climbing, too. Albums Up is doing well, and Electronic Air, a program heard Saturday nights on KGNU-FM/88.5, is making waves. "It's a strong show on the current state of underground," Holland says. "And they're good about playing local stuff." So, too, is another KGNU program, Live at the Cabaret, which is scheduled to put the Obliq ones in the spotlight at 7 p.m. Monday, June 7.

The proliferation of electronic music is not without its drawbacks; as Jantz admits, "There is an over-saturation of the market with lots of really bad dance music, which furthers the largely misunderstood notion that 'all electronic dance music sounds the same.'" But at the same time, the new egalitarianism has destroyed the impression that an electronica artist can't enjoy success without the backing of a major label.

"Obliq Recordings is very much representative of all the kinds of stuff going on with electronica," Holland says. "It's music for the intelligent techno fan. But at the same time, it's bedroom music. Sure, there's a lot of knob-twiddling, but anybody can do this.

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