Introducing: AdielJuly 24, 2023
“It’s actually starting to become unliveable now,” says Adiel, referring to the “boiling” July heat currently scorching her hometown of Rome, where temperatures regularly surpass the 40 degree mark. This has been compounded lately by the Charon and Cerberus anticyclones that have gripped southern Europe and caused record highs. “I’ve just installed air conditioning in my bedroom as it was getting really hard to fall asleep… It’s impossible to live without it,” she adds.
It’s 8pm in Rome, and the Italian producer, DJ and label boss born Alessia Di Livio has ventured outside for the first time today to talk to Beatportal via a video call from her local park. Evening has descended on the city, and the surprisingly vivid green grass is speckled with small groups of people no doubt gathering to breathe in the slightly cooler air and relish the imminent arrival of sunset. An occasional hardy jogger slides into view as Adiel reflects on the “ghost town” that is Rome during summer.
“There’s usually a lot of chaos and a lot of traffic; a lot of people in the city, so it’s almost a relief. It’s the most silent time of the year,” she offers. Although she’s not been there much recently, Adiel’s long-standing studio is within walking distance from her apartment. It’s in this “tiny room” with no windows that she has been mapping out her kinetic, shapeshifting techno since 2015, amassing a stack of thrilling, big room releases for her own Danza Tribale imprint as well moody bass-boosted trips on highly rated labels such as Stroboscopic Artefacts and Tectonic.
Adiel first began flexing her studio muscle not long after becoming a resident DJ at Rome’s erstwhile clubbing institution, the 700-capacity Goa Club, which opened in 1995 before shutting its doors for good in 2021. Adiel, who took her first steps on the scene handing out club flyers pre-social media, describes the closure as a “tragic” moment for her community. “The club has been running for almost 25 years and needless to say, it’s been important for three generations of people here in Rome and we miss it a lot,” she gushes.
After building an unshakeable reputation on home soil thanks to her transcendent, acid-drizzled vinyl sets at Goa Club’s much-loved Ultrabeat nights and tripped-out EPs like 2016 debut Anatomia Del Cavallo, 2018’s Ritmo and Cavallina — her breakthrough 2019 collaboration with Donato Dozzy — she began her steady ascent through the ranks of international techno, picking up gigs at Printworks, Amsterdam’s De School, Lisbon’s Lux Frágil, Ibiza’s DC-10 and Hï Ibiza, Dekmantel, and fabric, among many more.
Fast forward to 2023, and Adiel has now closed Berghain three times. These holy grail sets mirror the deftness, quality and tension-building trajectory of her productions, metamorphosing gradually and patiently over the eight-hour timeslot, usually aided by an espresso or two. “Basically that’s me – a real Italian girl. Getting an espresso in the middle of my set,” she quips.
“The Berghain set is really something else, so I try to play with all my records and, you know, sometimes you just have to lose yourself in the music,” she says, noting that she recently dropped Burial (one of her “biggest inspirations”) and “Kotai” by Sucker DJ (of which she owns an original vinyl copy) while adjectives like ‘hypnotic’, ‘deep’ and ‘mesmeric’ are often tagged to her selections. “I’ve always been really attracted to fast beats – not hard, fast – so as to bring myself to a different velocity. Sometimes it’s uncontrollable for me… It’s difficult to play hard techno for me, I don’t really like it. I feel there’s been a change and this change has been very fast. But you just play at the BPM you feel,” she suggests.
Photo by: Sam Ramaekers
Adiel’s love of fast dance music grew from her love of dancing; she spent 15 years devoted to classical ballet before deciding that it wasn’t meant to be, swapping the stage for the sweaty dance floors of clubland. “It’s really hard to try and make other people feel happy if you’re not completely happy,” she says of her career change.
The discipline and stamina required to be a professional ballerina would ultimately lay the groundwork for her future career as a touring DJ. Adiel entered Goa Club as an eighteen-year-old, fuelled by a newfound sense of freedom and with more free time for socialising. She quickly became hooked to the club’s handmade Audio Factory soundsystem and intimate setup, which anchors the DJ booth in the middle of the room.
“I didn’t know much about music at the time, but I remember the first time my head just broke in the middle of the dance floor was with a Shackleton track,” she recalls. “I can just say I fell in love because of how my body interpreted it. I didn’t listen to any techno music at the time, so my very first approach was, ‘Whoah! I really love this, and this really makes me feel something, and of course, the club environment and all the people that were there just made me learn how to experience nightlife in a real way.”
After working as a club promoter for a number of years — later moving onto communications — and taking afternoon DJ lessons in the club, which she refers to as her “school,” she was anointed resident in 2013, and held onto her crown for the next eight years. This immersion in the local Italian scene, coupled with her unbridled enthusiasm for researching full artist discographies helped to sharpen her DJ toolkit and unearth her individual sound. However, it was a Donato Dozzy set at Japan’s Labyrinth festival in 2014 that piqued her interest in production. “Making music with field recordings and also interpreting the music in nature is something that touched me in the beginning when I listened to other artists,” she explains. “Donato really made those mountains peak; it was something really different. I wanted to try and evoke that sound from my studio.”
She was given a Roland TR-8 as a present and began acquiring drum machines and synthesizers, sharing a Korg MS-20 with one of her friends. Meanwhile, a life-changing friendship with the legendary Dozzy was blossoming. “There was a time when I was just sitting on his sofa without my shoes and just listening to my tracks in his studio. If I think about this scene, it still feels surreal,” she recalls.
The seed of the idea for Danza Tribale was planted by Dozzy, who suggested that she launch a label initially as a vehicle for her own productions. “That’s basically what he did when he was young,” she offers. Adiel introduced the imprint’s signature dub techno aesthetic with the aforementioned Anatomia Del Cavallo 12” and a string of her own dynamic cuts before making her outside debut in July 2019 on Kangding Ray’s new label ara with her contemplative study of repetition, the Musicofilia EP, inspired by Oliver Sacks’ 2007 book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. A tricksy collaboration with the experimental-minded Anthony Lidell, “Raso,” followed in 2020 with the subsequent Method EP on Len Faki‘s Figure imprint and a remix of Pinch’s “Get Out Of Here” for the artist’s Tectonic label, both of which would light the way for a bass and breaks-led evolution of her sound. “I almost sent the tracks to Pinch simply out of curiosity. Pinch has been one of the inspirations to that dub sound,” she says. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
February 2023’s Everything in Between EP, also released on Tectonic, turned up the bass pressure further, adding murmurs of IDM and trance to a masterclass in atmospheric techno on “No More Bla Bla” and ploughing through steely, hyper-focussed fare on “Less Distraction.” Released last month, Il Significato Delle Parole (“the meaning of words”) — her latest EP for Danza Tribale, and the label’s fourteenth release to date — finds Adiel diversifying her palette to summon the spirits of downtempo, pop and drum & bass while reuniting with Dozzy and working with another Italian mainstay, Giuseppe Tillieci, who both took on mastering duties.
Adiel has recently been getting to grips with modular synthesis, specifically the Serge Modular System of which her skilled friend has kindly built her a tower. “I’m still not able to play it live, but it’s been nice to record sounds. But that’s one of my goals one day; play a live modular set,” she confides.
Photo by: Caroline Wimmer
Naturally, she’s got a packed summer of gigs lined up and then a record for Dozzy’s Spazio Disponsibile label due out in October. The forthcoming release neatly circles back to Adiel’s foundational creative stimulus: Japan, featuring field recordings from her travels around the country. “There’s some of me just sitting on the metro listening to people talking and children singing. But there’s also a nice ceremony of Japanese singing inside of a park, it was really something unexpected, they were all dressed up. I was there with my recorder and I just tried to assimilate all the flavours in those recordings. And of course, putting them in music makes it more organic for me,” she states.
Speaking to Adiel, you get the feeling that she is an artist guided by the weight of her emotions but one with a strong sense of self. For her, dance music is an embodied and tactile experience; she prides herself on being able to literally ‘feel her way around a record in her collection’ – largely because she’s “really bad” at remembering artist and track names. “I hate this thing about myself because sometimes you just wanna talk about a record and you don’t remember the name,” she says. “But then I have this feeling that I know exactly what track I have in my bag and I can pick it out without lights, just by feeling the cover. That has been something really nice to discover.”
April Clare Welsh is a freelance music journalist living in Lisbon, Portugal. Find her on Twitter.