V – Labels
Room to let: welcome to Vakant.
At least since the Sex Pistols, "vacant" has been, well, not so pretty a term, signifying the empty, the shallow, the vacuous: the hollow men, with holes for hearts and heads. But Berlin's Vakant label gives the word a new meaning. Like so many electronic l
Room to let: welcome to Vakant.
At least since the Sex Pistols, "vacant" has been, well, not so pretty a term, signifying the empty, the shallow, the vacuous: the hollow men, with holes for hearts and heads. But Berlin's Vakant label gives the word a new meaning. Like so many electronic labels—Kompakt, Warp, and ~scape among them— Vakant refuses to take space at face value, choosing instead to put a kink in the works, a kick where you least expect it, a cold compress on an 808 heatwave.
At its simplest, "Vakant" might stand for the spaces left between the beats. This is, after all, a "minimal" label, where melody's a thing less glaring than glanced at, where every beat is bracketed by another, be it brother, ghost, or doppelgänger. You groove to the 4/4 inevitable, you glom to the handclaps on the 2 and 4, regular as Greenwich Mean. But the swerve is in the spaces left unsaid and the hiccups that make a ritual out of happenstance. (Classical music has its accidentals; techno, born of African drumming and cranky machines, takes the idea into a new, rhythmic realm, and Vakant's riding shotgun the whole way.)
But Vakant is also—and more importantly—a label that leaves that crucial space for the very idea of "minimal" to develop, that recognizes its place in a lineage (after all, we've been doing this minimal thing since Rob Hood, people; since Baby Ford, since "Baby Wants to Ride"). "Minimal," the descriptor, is already wearing out its welcome, wrinkling under overexposure—how do you spread SPF60 on a nonentity? But Vakant's one of those labels that still realizes that minimal is a strategy, not a tag; a way of linking all those micro-events and incidental sounds into something coherent and moving and yeah, still quite surprising. A way of spinning peaks and troughs into something warm and fuzzy as a cat's purr (or, for that matter, as final as a crack in the ice underfoot). So yeah, Vakant: on closer inspection, all those empty spaces are pretty damn rich with detail, the connectors buzzing white-hot. And no wonder, because Vakant, on reflection, is all about connection; the label is part of a new crop of labels and creators from Berlin in beyond who are intent upon pursuing minimal techno's pinprick sonics to the absolute apex, the perfect punctum. Vakant knows that in the end, it's all about family. So not only does it trade talent and remixes with conspirators like Freude-Am-Tanzen, Soma, Lan Muzic, Dumb Unit; its feelers are extending through the whole network of synapses of contemporary dance-music culture to help realize the ultimate goal: Rave Strikes Back, one party, one 12", one perfectly sculpted drum at a time.
A postscript: Vakant's new website heralds the new era in dance music, with its entire catalogue of MP3s downloadable straight from the site and available to all listeners and DJs, no matter how far they live from a record stores. Free DJ mixes (like the live party sets from Onur Özur and Mathias Kaden) are the cherry on top.
And two new offshoots promise even more open-ended possibilities. Vakant R is the new remix division of Vakant; the sublabel will feature Vakant artists remixing each other in a Round Robin of beats and borrowings. And with VX, Vakant enters into the audio/visual realm; it's an open platform for artists working in experimental music and fractured visuals.