Anthony Obst speaks with the Brazilian producer and 2016 Academy participant about creative reinvention, boring techno and DJing in a strip club

Brazilian-born producer Vinicius Duarte is at his most eloquent relaying his thoughts on music as a more advanced form of language. “An oral language requires one to obviously learn the vocabulary and the alphabet. One needs to be specifically conditioned in order to be able to start to communicate something,” he says over a fuzzy Skype connection from the quiet corner of a Piccadilly bookstore. “With music or sounds I don’t see that kind of barrier. Intrinsically, music has this universality which I think is a more advanced form of communication. It transgresses the barriers of meaning.”

Duarte spent 11 years in London after finishing high school in São Paulo but recently moved back to his home country. He produces experimental techno, most prominently under the name Thingamajicks, but has also put out fast-paced, gritty acid as Dieckmanns as well as house-leaning productions with Greek producer Iakovos as Deemonlover. Hearing Duarte talk makes it clear he’s the type of musician who obsesses over his craft, and his education confirms it. While living in London, Duarte acquired a bachelor’s degree in sonic arts at Middlesex University, studying European electroacoustic music under Pierre Schaeffer expert John Dack and focusing on hardware-based experimentation with noise-oriented collage music.

Elements of this schooling in noise and musique concrète are still present in Duarte’s music today. On the Poison Pills EP, released in 2014 on his own Subsubtropics label, he wraps up skewed, wonky techno rhythms in dense layers of grainy ambiance and guttural reverberations. EP standout “Sloterdijk’s Wig” sounds pneumatic and coarse, as if coaxed out of a tattered V8 engine. But there’s a distinct knack for the delicate in his work, too. Tracks like “Pico” and “dp” sound like potential dancefloor weapons muffled through a silencer, lending them abstract and atmospheric qualities.

I was like, ‘I want to get rid of everything and start with just this one thing.’

Even though Duarte’s interest in electronic music dates back to his time growing up in Brazil — more specifically, the time he heard Amon Tobin’s remix of a Tom Zé tune — drum & bass nights at Bar Rumba and The End in London are where he got his first real fix. Duarte had already been dabbling in producing drum & bass on Fruity Loops back in São Paulo, but seeing the effect of electronic music on people in London’s nightclubs made him want to dive further into the craft. Duarte’s first few years in London also saw him score a short, ill-fated gig as resident DJ at a strip club.

“I was working at this music store at the time but the money was better there,” he recalls. “I didn’t really need to mix. They just wanted a fade out and fade in every three minutes so they could count the lap dances. That club was like a meeting point between Jamaicans and Pakistanis, and later I learned that the guy who opened it was a middleman for drug dealing. They were dealing heroin in there. About a year later everybody got busted.”

Tom Ze - Curiosidade (Amon Tobin Remix)

If nearly being implicated in a drug ring wasn’t enough to dissuade Duarte from a career in DJing, seeing Theo Parrish’s mastery of his craft surely was. “I started going to Plastic People and watching Theo Parrish a lot. I had some incredible nights there, but it also made me not want to be a DJ. I don’t call myself that, especially after seeing Theo play. There’s just too many DJs around.”

Instead of spinning records, Duarte focussed his energy on making more serious inroads in the production game. Inspired both by Demdike Stare and La Monte Young, his productions derive from a similar less-is-more approach. After getting into Ableton in 2012, he decided it was time to give his toolset a trim. “I had some hardware and stuff because of the noise thing I was doing at university, but I was like, ‘I want to get rid of everything and start with just this one thing.” The software has been his most trustworthy production companion ever since.

Duarte’s shift away from hardware paid off shortly after. In London, he linked up with the Bliq label for the release of his dreamy Patrick’s Last Trip EP, while also gathering a group of Brazilian producers around him to launch Subsubtropics. Besides putting out an extended single under his Dieckmanns moniker —a grainy breakneck ride into acid territory, which is now being released on vinyl for the first time — Duarte stood patron for fellow Paulistanos like Raquel Krüger, Seixlack (who also produces under the pseudonym Innsyter), and RBMA alumnus Zopelar. Their joint output on Subsubtropics is a testament to the talents of a burgeoning cast of characters working to remap the sounds of electronic music from São Paulo.

However, Duarte feels ambivalent about the recent hype around São Paulo’s techno community. “There are quite a number of very interesting producers in São Paulo,” he says, “But in terms of a ‘scene,’ I don’t think it really exists for the kind of music I’m making.” He cites Rio’s Novas Frequências festival as a better example of high-quality electronic music in Brazil, alongside synth maverick Savio and 40% Foda/Maneirissimo, the label run by Guerrinha e Lucas Paiva. “The techno scene [in São Paulo] is the kind of techno that I’m not interested in usually,” Duarte adds. “It’s more for rich kids. They just listen to boring stuff.”

As Thingamajicks, meanwhile, Duarte continues to dive into the oblique corners of electronic music, avoiding the more well-trodden paths of his peers. His 25-minute “Aliens & Anorexia” jam is a drone-y, free-form piece that sheds the notion of club playability altogether. Drawing inspiration from the tape music of William Basinski, the piece is a psychedelic vortex of motifs that repeat themselves until being swallowed by a different sonic turn of phrase. It points towards a future of sonic experimentation for the Brazilian producer, where anything goes, as long as it’s not boring.

By Anthony Obst on February 17, 2016

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