Mort.domed on Clubbing in America as a Minor

Denver techno producer mort.domed
Denver techno producer mort.domed @derandl3
Mort.domed is the techno alias of Denver-based producer Jack Oertli. So what in tarnation is a mort.domed, you might ask?

“Well, ‘mort’ was this slang word we had back home, and as with most slang, there were a couple of definitions," Oertli explains. "But essentially it served as a substitute for ‘fuck,’ so mort.domed can more or less be translated to ‘fuck-brained.’”

Back home is Austin, Texas, where Oertli found a deep obsession with leftfield electronic music at a young age. But unlike the vast majority of teenagers in the U.S., he was not only listening to this music, he was also experiencing it, partying at clubs years before he was legally able to.

“At [the age of] sixteen in Austin, I started reaching out to progressive artists like Fehrplay, Jeremy Olander and Eekkoo online and was getting into these clubs underage. I guess they were stoked on young peeps reaching out. In a handful of instances, I’d get their manager’s number and have someone from the club pull me backstage with the big X on my hands," Oertli recalls.

"Me and my homie Travis — the producer Point Reyes — then started giving our DJ mixes to guys working at those spots, and we got super close with the guys who ran Kingdom nightclub, because it was absolutely the spot for 2016 Drumcode-style techno. And back then, we were your kids for exactly that," Oertli continues. "The wildest part was just seeing the club scene at that age. I think that was my first introduction to the concept of NPCs existing in life.

But "after less than a couple of years, I’d gotten very sick of the club scene," he notes. "Over time, it boiled down to grimy people wearing all black, doing bumps to look like a deer in headlights, and an odd prevalence of pretentiousness, all for some really predictable music.”

This predictability doesn’t mean that Austin completely lacks interesting music, says Oertli, explaining that Austin's scene is more diverse, creative and energetic because of its DIY attitude and lack of business-focused entities holding the funds, infrastructure and creative decisions. However, Denver's commercialization does allow for a higher standard for DJs, he says, even if that is sometimes at the expense of DIY amateurs.

“Denver’s infrastructure objectively brings down bigger names. ... It’s also better to have a bigger scene because there’s generally no shortage of people, and as a party-goer, things can be less clique-y, collectives aside," he says. "The [Denver] scene is just big groups of friends. And quite frankly, the size of Denver's scene also allows there to be a general standard for a DJ’s skills. No one here will get a gig if they can’t actually beat-match or recover.”

Oertli started making music at age twelve, when his neighbor showed him the ropes of sound design. “When I started producing for myself, I was really into progressive house and shit like that, but when I was thirteen or fourteen, I’d discovered WARP Records," he says. "With their influences, I was really focused on how to make a 2010-sounding software synth sound like a physical — hopefully damaged — analog synth would. After I came to Denver, I intentionally stayed out of the club scene due to a distaste and a serious interest in listening-oriented music, like braindance. I was focused on writing music, but never put anything out.”

That changed in 2020 with his debut EP, Titled, which was released on Ukraine’s Navidu Music. Since then, he’s released fourteen tracks that cover varying degrees of leftfield techno. These releases gave him quick recognition both in Austin and Denver: In the past year, he's played a Red Bull-sponsored party in Austin, has a slot at the Larimer Lounge and has performed as support for international touring artists at festivals like RESET and clubs like Bar Standard. Now he has an upcoming headlining show at Club Vinyl on Saturday, January 8.

True to the nature of his music, Oertli has always been attracted to the eccentric corners of myriad genres. Artists like Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, Tommy Wright III, Squarepusher and Chuck Shuldiner and their idiosyncratic approach to composing and arranging music have influenced how he sees composing all types of music, not just his own.

"My main inspiration is normally finding tracks I love while knowing if I’d made it, I would have done some stuff differently," he explains. "Pretty much every style of electronic music has been made and played out by this point in time, but there’s still a huge lack of a particular flavor in every genre. Stanislav Tolkachev and Blawan are decent examples: They’re producing techno, which is by no means new, but their own takes on it are very unique and don’t sound as played out as the genre itself.”

The beautiful thing about electronic music, he says, is that as a producer, there are no limits. If anything, electronic-music composers are often limited by having too many options rather than too few, he says.

“With electronic music, you can actually do anything you put your mind to, so I don’t think the vocabulary of electronic tracks has been totally and thoroughly expressed yet. No one is taken aback by the idea of a synth itself anymore, but a lot of artists still provide new contexts for these instruments in ways that are unpredictable even now. I tend to separate music in terms of textures more than I do genres, and I feel there are still lots of coherent expressions of texture and attitude to come forth from new artists in all these types of music,” he concludes.

Mort.domed plays at 9 p.m. Saturday, January 8, at Club Vinyl, 1082 Broadway. Tickets are $15.
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