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Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012

Stacian Builds a Synth Community, Slowly

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Over the last few years, Milwaukee’s music lovers have been treated to an increasing amount of quality electronic music, particularly of a sort that’s as challenging and rewarding to listen to as it is easy to dance to. That’s largely due to regular events like the Demix-hosted MELT series or Night Flight at Quarters—put on by synth maestro and WMSE DJ Stacian, aka Dania Luck—which have established the kind of vital infrastructure that bodes well for a budding scene. Their consistency means that local artists (and just as importantly, touring acts) always have a place to play, and also that fans and newcomers alike know where to find them. But while there’re definitely signs of life, things can be slow to coalesce.

“Emphasis on slow,” says Luck, not with an air of frustration or resentment, but with the thought of somebody who sees the possibilities and is excited to watch them play out. “I’ve been discovering more and more people who are into this kind of music, the cold wave and the minimal electronic music that you can find tons of in other cities, but here it’s hard. I think there’re a lot more people out there who are really interested, but I’m just not reaching them.”

At least she’s not the only one working toward that goal, especially when there are so many subgenres (synth wave, dark wave, all kinds of waves) to represent. “I think people presenting it more is certainly helping, like MELT,” she says. “It’s a different aesthetic than mine, but I’m really glad they’re there.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a scene without recordings being released, and Stacian’s latest, Songs for Cadets, soon to be released on Chicago label Moniker Records, is a doozy, 30-plus minutes of shimmering surfaces, jerky-yet-propulsive rhythms and disembodied astral voices. It’s clearly a meticulously constructed affair, but there’s a fluidity and ease to it that makes it seem fitting that Luck describes herself less as a creator of music than a conduit for it.

“Honestly, I don’t even take credit for my own material; I kind of attribute a lot of the music I do to otherworldly spirits,” she explains. “That sounds really weird, but when I’m playing, I don’t feel like it’s really me, and when people tell me ‘good job’ or something, I feel like I don’t really deserve it. I’m just there.”

While its sound is icy and metallic in a pleasingly futuristic way, it’s got all the warmth and presence that you get from old-school analog synthesizers. But unlike most albums these days, the tracks didn’t reach a computer until the mixing stage, which Luck tackled with help from Brief Candles multi-instrumentalist Kevin Dixon.

“All of my gear is analog. I recorded the whole album on a four-track tape player,” she says, before pointing out that it was more a matter of access than anything. “It’s really because that’s all I had. It’s not intentional, like I only want to use a tape recorder; if I had the know-how and the equipment to do digital, I would, but I haven’t even been able to use a sequencer yet.”

The official release show for the album takes place at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn on Friday, Oct. 26, and while Luck put the show together, she points out that it’s a Stacian show and thus sports a slightly different vibe than her monthly Night Flight showcase of regional and national acts (“I like to keep the two on different planes of reality”). But that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of exciting music. In addition to a live Stacian set, there will be performances from local groups The Trusty Knife and Moss Folk and music from DJ Erik Void. To Stacian, the show marks the payoff of more than a year’s worth of writing and recording and perfectionist tinkering.

“I’m still not even satisfied with this album,” she says. “If I could still go back and change it, I probably would. But you can’t wait forever and a day to release stuff.” And nor should she want to; considering the energy in the city’s scene these days, there’s never been a better time for it.

Stacian’s album release show at Linneman’s begins at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26.

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