Berlin Community Radio has arisen as a key outpost for experimental music and a hub for open-minded dialogue in the increasingly busy sonic space that is Berlin. With a focus on “underrepresentedd and marginalised voices,” BCR’s Incubator program is the apotheosis of that approach, offering studio access and professional help to a selection of Berlin-based artists chosen by a panel that includes NTS’ Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura (check out her Astral Plane mix from last October), Truants’ Soraya Bouwier, Discwoman’s Frankie Hutchinson and rising producer/DJ rRoxymore. To date, four artists have been involved in the program (the call for involvement was sent out in early 2016), which provides participants with everything from studio time and a four week radio residency to access to photographers and PR assistance. Rui Ho, a Chinese artist living in Berlin, was one of those participants, laying down four sessions at BCR last year and eventually releasing their debut Ru Meng Ling single through the Genome 6.66 Mbp label.
Part of a growing network of artists pushing pack against techno’s hold on Berlin — a group well canonized in December’s Co-Op compilation — Rui’s music is angular, bright and noisy, difficult to imagine in any sort of traditional dance space while seemingly imagining new ones on the fly. Speaking to us over email, Rui intimated the lack of club culture in China and how that has led to her “musical education” occurring entirely online. This sentiment is hardly new in the loose sector of electronic music we cover, but whereas many artists’ sonic output sounds distinctly place-less, Rui’s releases to date have a distinct psycho-geographic locale, both real or imaginary. A self-described “darkness” intones much of Rui’s work to date, heard in the aforementioned four show run on BCR, the Ru Meng Ling single, which features a suitably schizophrenic remix from Why Be, and in their Astral Plane mix, a contrast-heavy blend of contemporary global sounds that seems to move with a mind of its own.
Relations between the body and self, mind and technology and self and internet all come to the fore in Rui’s mix work, which is manic in subject matter, but usually flows relatively smoothly. Artists like Shanti, Detente, Elysia Crampton and Nunu show up in their Astral Plane Mix, which tends to emit (and emnote) rapidly. Hit the jump for our full interview with Rui and a track list and be sure to grab the Ru Meng Ling single here.
Hi Rui, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?
Hey! I’m good, just woke up to the sunshine in my room in Berlin actually, which is very rare for the winter here but kind of essential to keep one from drowning in the dark energy here.
Introduce yourself to our readers. Where are you from? What is your musical background?
I’m from China where everything seems to be quite different from the rest of the world, so I moved out of China and lived in Paris for 3 and a half years before I finally relocated in Berlin where I feel a lot more relax and I have a lot more space for me to be myself and work on music. I was never officially educated in music but I was always interested and involved in music: school choir, pop punk band and A Capella group, etc, I guess I just knew that my favourite is music and it’s what I would like to get into.
You’re taking part in Berlin Community Radio’s Incubator program. Explain how you got involved and how the experience has been so far.
So this project was already finished with the EP released, it has been really really amazing, I would say basically an introduction for me to the rich and diverse musical world in Berlin. So it was quite simple in the beginning, I just saw the open call for this program, some other friends also sent it to me and told me I should try it out. So I did an application and was super lucky to get selected as one of the winners. The program was really great, I did a one month residency on BCR, had a fun press shooting, spent time working at the amazing handwerk audio studio with their synthesizers and also got to know a lot of nice people who are affiliated to BCR as well.
Your debut Ru Meng Ling EP, out now on Genome 6.66 Mbp, was inspired by Chinese poet Li Qingzhao. How does that literary influence manifest in instrumental music?
I never wanted to do like a direct “translation” of what the poem is saying into a music piece, I guess this track is just a think piece combining me, where I’m from, my musical memories and what I am perceiving as the world is coming into. So this Li Qingzhao is one of the really few female poets but also one of the best poets in Chinese history, I always liked her words better than the others as they are so delicate and brilliantly crafted as self reflections facing the shifting tides of the Song Dynasty. I found it really relevant to what I am going through as a non binary person facing all the changes in the world right now, and as the future is still unclear, I infused quite a lot of dark energy into it.
How has Berlin influenced your music? It’s traditionally a techno city, but there’s a definite groundswell of young artists bucking those hegemonic four-on-the-floor sounds and striving to present a different vision of the city.
Totally! The main reason why I moved here is that I want to have more space and more open minded people who can accept me for who I am and how I use my creativity. In the sense, Berlin really surprised me! I got to meet so many interesting artists and discovered so many new music. I still think the techno vibe in the city is influencing quite a lot of people, like the kind of sound people used here, the general dark feeling in a lot of the music and parties in town. I am constantly figuring out how all of these are influencing me and how do I channel it since I am super fond of melodic stuff and cheerful tunes. My music is full of Chinese influenced tunes as well, so in the end I feel that I am still sitting in the darkness, but my heart is on the bright side, I wish that my music can gives people hope and brings brightness to whoever is listening to it.
I also read that you’re interested in “deconstructive and emotive internet music”. How do you emote honestly online through your music?
I feel that the way of listening to music has changed so so much in the recent years, the way of making music as well. To admit it or not, a lot of the good music has come from the internet and most of the tools that we are using to make music also come from the internet. It’s like a huge extension of our life right now. And for me, because of where I grew up, I was listening and searching for music since day 1. There is no club culture in China, people don’t go to a certain place to listen to music except for concerts or Karaoke. So I got all my “musical education” and musical ideas online. Then since I began to make music, I get to know even more people online, I worked with people, talk to people everyday on the internet, like my label Genome 6.66 mbp, I would never got to know them if it’s not for the internet. it’s honestly a really big part of my life and work now. Then the internet feeds and social media feeds are just so broken down and everywhere. And it kind of became a new ritual and emotional connection for people who are thousand miles aways from each other to get together on the internet to celebrate, to grieve or to simply just connect to each other.
Tell us about your Astral Plane mix. Is there an overarching narrative or concept behind it?
So when I was selecting tracks and recording this mix, I was actually working on my new EP and also watching a lot of classic animation series as well as revisiting a lot of Childhood favourites. So basically I was bored of pure club mixes in a way and imagining a more pictorial way of doing a mix. So I think in the end it sounds really like a soundtrack of an animation or something like that. I love to play with contrasts a lot : fast and slow, ambient and danceable, dark and bright, etc. I also put a few unreleased tracks from the upcoming release and I feel that the general vibe is quite similar to the original materials that I am working on as well. It would be a lot more brighter than the last EP but still quite intense i would say!
Lastly, what do you have in store for the rest of the year? Ru Meng Ling and your track on the Co-Op compilation definitely have us excited for what you’ve got coming next!
I am currently working on new materials for a new EP, I am also talking quite intensely with my label Genome 6.66 mbp. There are still a lot to be done but we are hoping to release it in early April! I am really excited about this release because I am able to convey a lot of new ideas while combining them with what I usually do. Some of the tracks are in the mix so people can already have a bit of taste of it.
Faye Wong – The 100-Syllable Mantra of Vajrasattva (Acapella)
Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Tetsuo
Miracles – GAS ALARM
Veterinara x Yoshitaka Hikawa – SDF
Shanti – Crisis
Sima Kim – Life is too short to use Windows
RUI HO – Unreleased
CLUBKELLY – MITSUKI (Yamaneko’s Firefly 96 Mix)
Elysia Crampton x Nunu – ch’ixi for love of the other
Vague Entity – Bring Da Vibe (Dancehall Darkness)
Was?te – Unreleased
Rose Geller x Missy Elliott – Lose control (RUI HO messup)
Detente-Generation Assassin (refix)
Sima Kim – If You Feel Like Me
Wa?ste – Unreleased
RUI HO – Unreleased
CRIM3S – Stress
Different Sleep – Infinite
RUI HO x Julien – Unreleased
FKOFF1963 – Unreleased
Karen Mok – Shanzi Wu
Nozinja Feat. Mumdance, Micachu and Tirzah – Thinking Of You