Oh man, where do I even begin with this one. For one, I am bias. Stimming, is by admission, one of my favorite producers. Since I was introduced to his song “Una Pena” years ago, which samples the eternal Violetta Perra — a Chilean revolutionary folk singer who ultimately took her life during the totalitarian Pincochet era — I was hooked. His lush productions, mixed with his intricate understanding of the entire sonic field (which can be seen with his work with 4D Sound), has sent ripples throughout extroverted club kids and introverted headphone listeners alike. Minimalist piano, bells, subtle glitches, and hauntingly emotional vocals accent a style of house and techno that is wholly Stimming’s, where unconventional song structure and syncopated percussive styles have a way of surprising listeners with an unexpected snare on the downbeat of a phrase, or a hi-hat that leads where a kick normally would. In other words, every note in Stimming’s architecture seems deliberate, while never feeling stale. And he brought no shortage of this to Club Vinyl on Saturday, September 22nd, 2018, where he performed a set of exclusively his own production.
While Stimming’s set only lasted about an hour and a half, over that course — to a backdrop of high definition, symmetric, organic visuals by the venue’s video jockey — we were treated to a set of unconventional minimal dance music. I wish I had a more intimate detail of song names, so I could give you a tracklist, however the show was good enough that I felt the desire to not Shazam anything (the songs that were played were somehow one’s I was not familiar with. No Una Pena, no Bright Star, no Close These Curtains. I believe there was a Ferdinand, and a Die Luft, however).
I only took one video of the performance since I was so preoccupied by it, which I posted, not to immerse readers in the show, but to comment on the quality of sound at Vinyl. Last week, I posted a recording of what a good quality sound phone recording is, capturing a minute or so of Jon Hopkins’ Open Eye Signal. This is because Grandoozy hired a professional sound engineer to do it. It was crisp, and you could absolutely tell what song was playing, with little lost to the medium it was recorded on (with concessions to the fact it’s a phone). Vinyl’s sound though? Not so much. Stimming, while a great sound engineer — due to the fact that he was listening to monitors backstage — could not have known that the sound pumping onto the floor was a maesthma of displeasure, considering by all measures, that their Funktion 1 sound-system is world class. What is not world class is that they thought that they could buy a 30+ thousand dollar audio system, and it would somehow sound good on its own. That is not how this works, Vinyl. A tool is only as good as its operator, and it appears you have none, at least while the show is in progress (that or their main resume qualifier was that they have stuck their head in hundreds of speakers in their lifetime and killed their ears). And this is not an isolated incident; it’s pervasive. I have been to upwards of 20 shows there in my life, and every time — save for Max Cooper — it has sounded like it was playing low quality, Youtube mp3 rips, with key frequencies being abused by a lack of care. And this doesn’t just apply to the speakers downstairs, the speakers up on the rooftop are embarrassing as well. Vinyl, I’m sorry I have to be so harsh on you in a public setting, as I love who you book (plus other aspects I will mention later), and have given you close to a thousand dollars in my lifetime. However, enough is enough.
I have been to dozens of clubs in developing countries, with a fraction of your budget — and no Funktion 1’s — that sound multitudes better. Even at these venues, the highs and mids come in clear, the bass is not overwhelming, and yet nobody would say the music is quiet. You know the remedy for this? Hire someone, or find an intern to monitor the levels. If it is sounding harsh, adjust. You charge the same for tickets as a venue that has to actually set up a multi-piece band on a timbre by timbre basis, rather than make sure the .wav file outputted from the CDJ’s/mixer don’t distort, so I’d speculate that you can afford it, or at least can afford to find someone passionate enough about it to do it for experience.
Now, I don’t want this to be a Dave Matthews’ tour bus sized dump on Vinyl, because, besides sound, you are an excellent club. For one, your staff — from the doormen to the managers — are kind and accommodating. You truly believe in customer service, and it shows. Two, your drink prices are not unreasonable by any means, and there is almost never a line at the bar, which means you staff well. Three, the decor of your place is trendy, and the upgraded visual system is a gem to behold (your video jokey is also solid as well). And finally, you book stellar talent that we won’t see anywhere else in Colorado, due to the niche you have. And for these, I do thank you. However, fix your sound… holy god damn bat shit Batman, fix your sound, because the reason why these artists are so good is because they are innovative musicians who aren’t just instrumentalists, they are world class audio engineers.
Don’t believe me that your sound is unfulfilled? Compare the video recording posted to the video recording posted of Jon Hopkins’ set, where the speakers were set up outdoors on a golf course, surrounded by 3 other stages with booming sound. If you want more examples of good sound recorded with my phone, I am happy to post that too, including clubs in those developing countries I told you about, in order to show it’s not my equipment, it’s yours. Just send me a message, and I will.
To Stimming, you’re spectacular, and I can see why you are considered one of the most innovative, forward thinking electronic musicians of this era. Praise be, Martin Stimming, praise be.