Spontaneous Affinity

044. mayilovesummer

| Brooklyn's mayilovesummer (RA) is a long-time pursuer of music turned DJ and event organizer in NYC. Their sound draws from their parallel interests in spirituality, textiles, and sustainability: textured techno and experimental sounds with depth beneath the surface. Their event series, Hybrid Identity, combines psychedelic sounds and visuals in intimate spaces, with a focus on highlighting marginalized genders in a realm of hypnotic techno that still lags on gender balance.

About the mix:

This mix was recorded in the midst of yet another half lockdown in New York last February. It was yet another night that I was spending with a few friends that I grew very close with since corona derailed the usual way of life in 2020. Someone came up with idea to play poker, which was supported by everyone but me. I am not much of a card player.

It was the middle of the night and I was left with 2 options, either go home or entertain myself and others with music. I thought that it would be fun to record a mix while creating musical accompaniment for my friends. I decided to go the moody and experimental route and play tracks that are not necessarily for dancing but more for contemplating. Something slow tempo but still engaging. I set out on this journey with an intention to record and was quite pleased with the experience and the consequential result. The gear I had was 3 XDJs 1000mk2 and Xone:92 mixer.

There were a few tracks that I wanted to situate the vibe around, one of them being "Avalanche" by Monolake from the album Silence (2009), one of the most memorable albums from my first year living in New York. The album came out at the end of 2009 right after I just moved here from Russia. My first couple of years here I was lonely, lost, mostly sad and had sooooo much time on my hands. So I spent quite a big chunk of it on the Internet, chatting with cute strangers online about life and browsing YouTube for music.

It was back then when algorithms actually suggested similar tracks, so it was easy to find true gems. Those rabbit holes were so lovely. One boy I was having musical discussions with commented on one of my posts about the album: “I slept through all spring under Silence.” Romantic and sentimental statement. If my memory serves me well, it was the end of 2010, sometime after I saw Monolake live at The Bunker’s event and I was just obsessed with this music. There is a snowy road on the cover of the album, but the palette is warm, with hues of beige-orange and blue. It is obviously winter, but might be mid spring in the colder climates. I still hear this phrase this boy said in my head, every time I think of this album. So it is a perfect wake-up after winter slumber music for me.

Another track that I do play quite often but I don’t think I situated it well before this mix is "Forever 21/Valium" by Varg and Chloe Wise from Nordic Flora Series Pt.3: Gore-Tex City. I have a soft spot for poetry that is personal, a little bit absurd, and mostly abstract. If there is a slightly modulated impersonal robotic female's voice involved, so it makes it less dramatic, I am so sold. I have one good friend here in New York who I felt like we totally bonded with over this track. A little personal connection I think of when I hear it.

And of course I want to say few words about the closing track. "Я твоя не первая (покажи мне любовь) Show Me Love" by t.A.T.u. from their first album. The title is taken from the Swedish film about two schoolgirls who fell in love with each other. That’s how the whole project of t.A.T.u. was born, inspired by this film. Dramatic pop-song with elements of synthpop. The whole album still holds a special place in my heart since the very first year it came out. It was 2001 I think, my 9th grade. That spring break we had while hanging out with classmates, dancing to these songs, not quite sober for the first time in my life, sweet memories.

Where did you grow up and how did that shape your sound or the way you relate with music?

I grew up in Krasnodar - a city in southwestern Russia. The first ever time I went to a place that can be loosely described as a cheesy night club was when I was 15. No one was checking IDs there that night. Shrugs. I fell in love with dancing to my own reflection in the window to laser lights and maybe even looking cool and pretty in my own eyes for the first time.

I remember few songs from that time, but mostly it was some house/techno acid influenced blur. "Catch" by Kosheen and "Rapture" by iiO were in heavy rotation on the radio. I vividly remember dancing to it in my kitchen while doing some chores. Then drum & bass appeared and I was finally legal age (18) to go to clubs. All the cool kids were into DNB and I was into being around them. Plus, the whole dancing routine. I definitely practiced at home trying to replicate and be ready for my next night out. I could dance for hours straight, not so much anymore, haha. It is quite energy consuming speed. Electro was sometimes VIP sometimes not a small dancefloor which felt even more exclusive. Of course, I had to be there. I don’t think I fit in very much, but I enjoyed dancing to spacy bleeps and mid-tempo speed of it quite a lot.

Generally looking back, some mainstream pop-songs that everyone was into in Russia have around 120-130bpm, so the tempo and structure were taken from whatever was happening in Europe and adjusted to produce a successful pop-song version of it. Гости из будущего (Gosty Iz Budushego) Время Песок (1998) and Беги от меня (1999) two albums are the great examples, if someone wants to check out what I mean. It can be classified as dance-pop, jungle, lounge music. Beautiful poetic lyrics too. And I have always been a big fan of ladies who can make music and sing.

To what extent is your music tied to community, and to what extent is it about individual expression? Can those things intersect?

My musical inspiration tends to get gradually diminished, when I cannot share my obsession with a particular sound with anyone. I think music is very circumstantial, so we are influenced by the music scene that is around us when growing up, songs that are played on a radio, in taxis, coffee shops, YV, clubs. When strong feelings are involved, we are more keen on exploring something that is unfamiliar or new.

So yes, as a social creature, I require interactions, but I like to be in control of when and how much. I feel like with age, I get more in tune with myself, so I know when to go home, not like I always listen to myself in those cases, haha. I must always balance my very introverted nature and the need for human interaction. When I am just too exhausted by the swirling chaos of what New York feels like most of the time, there is a very little chance for community appreciation in me, and it is sad, because we are so blessed with what we have here. I mean, people are the biggest draw for me in this city.

Have you ever traveled specifically to attend a music event? Why do you seek out those experiences?

Certainly. I used to only travel to attend a techno event for some years. Somewhere when no one knows you and you don’t know anyone, the only thing left to do is to dive in and give yourself to the music and the vibe of the party.

I find that even if you are not talking to anyone on the dancefloor, just by the fact that your friends are there, it takes a bit of your attention to acknowledge and be aware of those connections. When it gets too concentrated, I don’t even remember what was played that night. Multitasking is highly overrated in my opinion.

Can you tell us about something you've discovered about yourself through a dancefloor, whether in a single moment or over an extended period of time?

I don’t think I will be original here when I say that dancefloor is a perfect respite for introverts. At least it’s very true for myself. I can be totally alone, dance with my eyes closed, not touched by anyone, and yet surrounded by hundreds of people and feel connected to them at the same time.

On a good night, dancing in the club gives me a chance to take myself on a date and kinda just see some crazy visuals on the back of my eyelids. There is a whole universe inside of our heads, to carelessly fall in there is I think is one of the greatest pleasures one can have in life.

To what extent is utopia possible, and does dance music help us get there?

I do believe that we all exist in our own worlds, and every person's reality is slightly or drastically different from one another, even if they occupy the same space physically. So if people are able to come together and create a magical experience for themselves, perhaps for some it will be a utopia, perfect vibe, one might say. When I got to a proper night club for the first time and saw people who were wearing crazy avant-garde costumes with paper masks, crazy sunglasses, and high platforms, I just wanted to be them, wanted to play a role in this purely artificial fairy-tale with the loud dance music when everything is possible, and moments created that can be played forever in my memory.

What do you think the dance music world needs right now?

Right now and always it needs more femmes. Or rather we need to create more space for them. They are out there, but just widely underrepresented. Dance music world sure needs other things too, but this one in particular I can strongly relate to. Despite all the efforts that the global community have been making in the past years, it is still very vivid, the imbalance in record labels, line-ups in the clubs and other nightlife spaces.

Lots of times when you are searching for a particular genre of techno, it’s mostly a boy's club on Bandcamp and Spotify, sometimes painfully so, like when you look at related artists they are all men. When I started building up my collection a couple of years ago, I decided that besides the music itself, I will be watching out that my collection is not just boys. So I do pay attention to gender balance in the music I own and play. It is shaping my sound in some way I guess, since femmes tend to go more experimental, if I must broadly generalize.

Can you share any tracks or mixes created by someone else that really bring you back to a time or place?

"Fackeln Im Strum" by Grungerman (1997). It is classified as minimal techno. I hear industrial, ominous notes there too. Track that Patrick Russell closed one of the Bunkers in March 2016. I was so entranced with this track. With the sunrise and just a whole Market Hotel vibe (it had just opened after being shut down for years, so that the venue was still quite new to me).

I approached Patrick and asked him what was that track. I sure didn’t understand a word he was saying, even after he repeated himself couple of times. I felt embarrassed and flattered at the same time. My favorite DJ was willing to tell me the track ID, but I wasn’t getting it. So I wrote him on FB and yes, he was so kind, he sent me a link. That was a real fangirl moment for me for sure.

Another track with pretty similar energy is "News (Room 506 Edit)" Ancient Methods rework of Kirlian Camera, also courtesy of Patrick Russell, who played this at the No Way Back 10th anniversary party in 2017 somewhere by the end of his set.

Tangent Gallery felt like the most special and sacred place on earth that night. They ended up making quite a comprehensive documentary about this event. Go watch it if you haven’t already. When this track was playing I found myself frantically looking around for the person who could possibly identify it. I eventually found one, Patricks’s partner Vicky, sure knew it. I was overjoyed. I got myself a “no way back” tattoo a year later to always have a trace of those epic couple of hours that I had there on me.

Share a video or photo that you recorded that takes you back to a moment and tell us a bit about that moment.

And since answering questions for this project took me down Detroit memory lane eventually, here is a picture of me that I took at one of the green room area spaces in May 2018. This moment was detached of any place and time though. I was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I just randomly ran into an old acquaintance with whom we randomly shared a beautiful hour of just stories from our lives. Perfectly spontaneous and memorable. I have not seen that person ever since.

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Published May 2022.

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