Aquarian: Objekt is Dance Music’s “Most Surgically Precise Machine Conductor”

With Role Models, we learn more about today’s most exciting acts — and the artists who inspired them. This time, Aquarian explains how Objekt’s “wizard-like” compositions continue to encourage his musical growth.

8 min
Aquarian Beatport
Mar 30, 2022
·
By
Cameron Holbrook

Hailing from Canada, DJ/producer Aquarian has spent the past ten years building up a sterling dance floor reputation in underground circles around the globe. Living out the first six years of his artist career in New York City before relocating to Berlin, the artist’s potent and breakneck studio concoctions that weave through dark techno, leftfield bass, jungle, drum & bass, electro, and more have earned him a loyal and rapidly growing fanbase.

In addition to running his Hanger Management imprint, Aquarian’s sound has been picked up by labels like Get Physical Music, Ghostly International, and Bedouin Records, which released his critically acclaimed debut album, The Snake That Eats Itself, back in 2020. Most recently, Dekmantel Records‘ UFO imprint has released the first part of his thrilling two-part EP series, Mutations I & II — a collection of euphoric and propulsive broken beat techno constructed with immense club sound systems in mind.

Having achieved such a head-turning feat with this latest EP package, we wanted to learn more about who he looks to as one of his primary sources of sonic inspiration. His answer: Objekt.

Check out Aquarian’s ‘March 2022’ playlist on Beatport.
Aquarian Beatport 2
Objekt Beatport

Who has most inspired you on your journey to becoming a DJ/producer?

One of my all-time favourite producers and DJs is Objekt, who continues to inspire me to this day.

How did you first discover them?

Definitely hearing Objekt #1 — probably “The Goose That Got Away” out at a club somewhere or on in a mix or a rinse FM show. I was immediately hooked, and even more so when Objekt #2 dropped.

What made them someone you wanted to emulate?

Objekt is one of my favourite producers of all time and his dance floor EPs have always blown my mind. Everything from his sound design to mixdowns to his writing style is so meticulously considered and complex yet dynamic, weighty, and more than anything, memorable.

Every element in his tracks — his melodies, drum patterns to sound design choices play off of each other in this intertwined call and response relationship; each discrete element, down to the swing on a hi-hat, the modulated reverb tail on a snare or the filter sweep on a “throwaway” synth squelch feels like its own breathing, living organism possessed by the funkiest, most surgically precise machine conductor.

Compositionally, most dance music (including my own) tends to build and release tension in a linear fashion, but I find that Objekt’s best tracks really do this in multiple dimensions — it’s almost like watching a 2D cartoon and then experiencing VR. His tunes are often these sprawling, narrative arcs that gradually evolve, invert and weave back into themselves across a number of parallel yet intertwining threads. If that wasn’t enough, there are always these incredible interventions that tend to puncture whatever tension that’s been building — non-sequitur one-shots and drum flourishes that will explode into the track, decay out, and to reappear unexpectedly in a different form later. Or hooks that will mutate and take on a life of their own in a later section of the track.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without the marriage of wizard-level arrangement and engineering — his sense of space allows for such complexity to exist, but restraint and patience allow each group of elements to shine at the exact moment it needs to.

His production is so detailed that years later, listening to his tunes over and over again still reveals new things. Unlike a lot of dense or “complex” music out there, nothing ever feels random or arbitrary, or complex for complexity’s sake.

That being said I can’t say that I’ve been at all successful at emulating his style — I’m a lot less restrained and technically adept. On the other hand, it’s something that I’m okay with — you don’t always need to imitate your heroes!

Have you ever met them in person? Or worked with them?

TJ was one of the earliest people that I reached out to by email (also with zero to no expectation of receiving a response) and he not only replied, but he did so with extremely detailed feedback and encouragement. I’ll never forget that. Since then we’ve been quite friendly and hung out a bunch over the years. We haven’t worked together before though!

Did you have any other mentors along the way?

Gingy (also of Gingy & Bordello) is one of my best friends and has been a mentor to me for as long as I’ve been producing. He’s literally listened to every demo I’ve ever written in the last 10 years. Dean Grenier is also one of my closest friends and has also been a huge mentor to me in the last four or so years. Both of them have mixed down my work before and I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.

Other people I’ve also looked up to along the way are Sepalcure (Braille and Machinedrum), XI, Jubilee, Martyn, Paul Woolford (aka Special Request) – there’s been too many to name!

Why is representation so important in the music industry?

It’s encouraging to see diversity in race, sexual orientation, class, represented in the industry – to reinforce the fact that it should be a place for everyone.

Do you hope to one day serve as an example for the next generation?

In TJ’s case It’s possible to be a complete genius and still be incredibly humble, kind, and generous — not saying that I’m on his level, but if I can embody that attitude and pass it on then that’d be pretty cool. 

Aquarian’s Mutations I: Death, Taxes and Hanger EP is out now via Dekmantel. Check it out on Beatport.

Mutations II: Delicious Intent EP drops Friday, April 29th via Dekmantel.

Cameron Holbrook is Beatportal’s North American editor. Find him on Twitter.

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