The Acid Queen
Detroit - Michigan, the cradle of Techno, a myth still alive and vibrant. If its first wave of artists continues to provide us with an industrial futurism, a certain number of artists have taken up the torch. The sound of Detroit continues to make us dance and dream. Portrait of one of the most representative artists of the new Techno scene made in Detroit. Rebecca Goldberg embodies the timeless soul of this music.
Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Kenny Larkin, Stacey Pullen... Some names that can make you dream. A city, a sound, a soul, turned towards futurism. And who says future says relief, renewal and new guard. Among these artists coming from the underground so lively of Detroit, an artist connects the high-level releases these days. Rebecca Goldberg has taken the time to make her mark in the Detroit underground techno scene. For about a decade, she has been performing as a DJ, before becoming more interested in production, with an immense talent, and an (already) rich discography.
Spotted by the excellent label Detroit Underground, she is now about to offer a fifth vinyl release, the story having started in 2017 with the very raw and intense "313 Acid Queen". On it, each track can be seen as an acid exploration of a city location, a sonic postcard far removed from the genre's standards, but terribly effective and inspired.
"I was just learning how to flex with the limited amount of studio equipment I had. I was also learning how to use Ableton and was diving into field recording and sound design. It started as a digital release and a goal I set for myself to release a project. I actually arranged the tracks on some USB sticks to give to some of the artists that were playing at the Movement Festival in Detroit that year, a demo of sorts. It was a very amateur and genuine project, and I'm very fond of that time and the work that came out of it. Kero from Detroit Underground approached me about releasing a 12-inch on his label."
The design of the vinyl is also the work of Rebecca Goldberg, who also works as a freelance graphic designer. The two are ultimately one and the same, and underline the close link between the two arts, and explain the attention to detail she displays on her artworks.
"I have always been interested in music, art, design and the pursuit of a creative lifestyle. Incorporating my passion for the arts into my life and livelihood is natural for me. I have been designing event flyers, posters, album covers and social media promotion for myself and other artists over the years."
Originally pressed to 500 copies, "313 Acid Queen" marked Rebecca Goldberg's entrance into this community of Detroit Techno producers in a big way. The next releases has followed quite quickly, with the EP's "ω-3 fatty acids", "The Record Shop" then "Synthetic World" last year. According to her releases, Rebecca Goldberg explores various facets of a radical Techno by its acid sonorities, but also very close to the emotional side initiated by her illustrious peers of the local scene. Tracks such as "The Moon is High and So Am I" or "Now the Time Is" are excellent symbols of this duality, and allow us to identify other inspirations of the artist, very sensitive to everything that can surround her.
"I am influenced by the world around me, especially nature and the sounds of industry (or what once was). I love exploring abandoned buildings and I especially love the spots where the Earth has started to reclaim the once inhabited spaces and begins to grow again. Luckily, in Detroit we have a very substantial intersection of these two worlds ! My favorite things to record include public transit, sounds in nature, travel sounds, water... the world around me is my audio toolkit !"
As personal as her creations are, the influence of her city remains evident. Detroit is definitely not and probably never will be a city like any other musically, and Rebecca Goldberg naturally embraces this rich heritage as a strength and makes her personal signature completely unique. The myth surrounding the Detroit music scene is also felt from the inside, Rebecca Goldberg's homage to it goes beyond just the music.
"I am inspired by all of the art that came before me. In my graphic design work, you can see very literally the culture of Detroit as an influence. I love color, pop-art, travel posters, typography and the traditional design of the past. I believe as we are all a product of our own environment, and of course Detroit is a major influence in all of my work.
Musically, the Detroit scene is very organic. It's always changing and definitely stems back even further than what beginnings of Techno were. My involvement obviously came after what many people think of when they talk about the "Detroit's mythology". So what you are imagining, I think many of us contemporary Detroit artists are also imagining and sourcing as our inspiration. It's now up to us to maintain a legacy while recognizing the path that has been paved for us to walk on.
Just getting involved in whatever way I could was my entry into this chapter of the scene here. I was interested in DJing, but was also designing at the time. I started by making flyers for house music parties that Bruce Bailey hosted and eventually offered my design services in exchange for some opening slots at his events. Those nights were very formative for me to cut my teeth and be accepted by the real Heads in the underground community. I have learned from artists of all kinds including those who came before me and are currently on their own creative path. My projects are all a reflection of them and their influences on my world. Detroit has such a rich history, musically, artistically, industrially... it's almost impossible not to be constantly inspired here. I've been fortunate enough to have what are, to me, incredible in life altering experiences, directly and indirectly related to music. I've been able to exchange with people who are all at varying degrees of their life's journeys and, to me, the nature of these types of experiences are what drives me forward and inspires me the most."
While the homage to her city is beautiful and vibrant, giving contemporary material to a myth that spans decades, Rebecca Goldberg is also inspired by everything around her, as if she were on the lookout for a sound that could emerge at any moment from her surroundings.
"I am constantly inspired by the world around me and sourcing sounds and ideas in my life and its moments, from the parks of Detroit to the U-Bahn in Berlin."
By becoming a true sound explorer, Rebecca also opens another musical chapter, which makes her universe even more exciting and rich. Beyond her releases on records, she proposes more experimental creations, always playing with mastery on textures and sounds. Her attraction to sound design has led her to publish works of musique concrète, with the series "Activity Of Sound", a series of sounds detached from their context and juxtaposed with electronic compositions played live with recorded samples from around the world.
"It's experimental, thoughtful and reflective of various environments. Both parts of the series were performed live and recorded at an after-hours series in Detroit called BAK DØR. I am so grateful to have an outlet here where I can perform my most experimental work in an underground setting."
Thanks to Rebecca Goldberg, sounds can seem to take on another life, declining their second nature by being deported from their origins.
"Having a suite of train horns take over the sound system at 5 AM to the people meditating in the chill-out room is an unforgettable memory."
Always ready to pull out her iPhone or Tascam recorder to capture a sonic snapshot, Rebecca Goldberg seems to be on the lookout and anything can become a source of inspiration.
"I will never forget the first time, standing on my friend Yoann's balcony in Paris, that I heard the sound of a European ambulance. We were hosting an event the following evening at the Moulin Rouge where I would perform my original score for Le Voyage Dans La Lune. I must say that the experience of hearing the ambulance, for the first time ever, was as exhilarating as the big performance."
This anecdote reveals a third aspect of the artist's rich work in passing. If, like many of her peers, she finds in science fiction and futurism an immense source of inspiration, Rebecca Goldberg has pushed the experiment to the point of proposing sound creations accompanying films. The one evoked for "Le Voyage dans la Lune" by Georges Méliès is a sublime and touching interpretation, which is one with the image, sticking to the futuristic side and the intensity of this 1902 masterpiece.
"I absolutely love this short film, which is widely regarded as the originator of the science fiction genre. After a live performance in Detroit and two cine-concerts hosted by Why So Serious Productions at Silencio and Moulin Rouge in Paris, where we showed the film and performed the music live, it was important to me to make something physically available to commemorate this work. I created a USB stick loaded with all the audio tracks as well as the film mixed with my original music. I suppose a USB is already a bit outdated at this point, but having something materialized in the physical world based on om my productions has been really important to me all along."
Also responsible for a reinterpretation of the music of the 1954 classic "Gojira", Rebecca Goldberg is a live performer who is always eager to try new things.
"After Le Voyage Dans La Lune, I really wanted to score another film, but longer and with dialogue. I had finally seen the original Gojira and fell in love with the idea of re-scoring the film. I trully don't think I knew what I was getting myself into when I started. Aside from the research required to work on such a culturally significant film, the way the audio tracks were recorded was antiquated and posed as a challenge to work with. Cutting out dialogue at times became necessary, the process was full of creative and technical decisions. I created sounds and ideas that I liked as a framework, and also gave myself room for some improvisation. I performed the two-hour piece live against the film in Detroit for about a dozen people. It was very intimate and experiential, and one of my favorite "you had to be there" performances.
I also performed a show of John Cage merged with techno, produced by the Detroit Bureau of Sound, featuring members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. We performed the show at the Red Bull House of Art in Detroit. It was the most unique experience I've had yet and an absolute dream realized to honor an artist of such impact like John Cage."
This absolute dream does not prevent Rebecca Goldberg from continuing to look forward, and the weeks to come will be rich in new adventures. Her fabulous solo work has opened the doors of prestigious and adventurous collaborations, and soon a project in duo and "in-house" will land on the decks. Already available for pre-order, the album "BUILDINGS" produced with the Italian artist SickBoy, also from the Detroit Underground label, will be released on June 20. Rebecca Goldberg puts on her 313 Acid Queen alias, and the association of the two artists will be a nice return to the roots of the Detroit sound, with the particularity of a recording in the covid context.
"The tracks were written during the pandemic and I think both of us exchanged that we were having difficulty getting and staying motivated to complete work during such a unique time in the world. True to pandemic-era form, we worked together from a (long) distance using the technology of our time. Google Translate, Instagram messenger, email, etc. became as essential as our instruments and DAWs. We spent several months sending thoughts and drafts back and forth until our final work was born. The merger of our minds became so fluid that at times when listening back, I can't remember who actueally completed certain parts! It was an amazing and out-of-the-ordinary challenge to work in this way with someone across time zones and languages. I made three DIY music videos and hosted a premiere livestream event via Paxahau.tv to debut the EP. for me, it’s about keeping it all underground and as DIY as possible. It’s important to note that DIY stands for “do it yourself” but I’ve always found the most strength in numbers and lining up the best collaborations. It’s impossible to do this all alone, and why would we want to ?"
No reason, indeed in view of the first tracks available for listening, which confirm this fluidity of creation, and the evidence of a musical complicity between the two artists. The incredible track "STRUCTURE" for example, sounds like a fantastic Techno epic full of this deepness so characteristic of the Detroit sound. As the world gradually returns to a more normal life, this release will come at the right time and - hopefully - will spread to the 4 corners of the globe.
And as Rebecca Goldberg doesn't seem to want to rest on her laurels, new projects will open up to her, always as diversified and open to what surrounds her.
"This summer I will be going back to field recording as I am currently working on a series for the BBC’s Radiophonic Travel Agency project. As the world gets back on its feet after a troubling year, I am very excited to get back to traveling, playing gigs, having experiences with friends around the world and focusing on what’s important right here at home.."
This does not prevent her from feeding herself with dreams, and when asked what would be her ideal project musically speaking, the projected experience seems to be obvious.
"My ideal project to work on is to score a new, original feature film. Both scores I have composed already were such amazing projects to work on and taught me a lot about the process. Gojira was a bit more challenging as its sound design was already so iconic ! I would like to compose for a new film and have the chance to develop a director-composer relationship reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock or Howard Shore and David Cronenberg."
In the meantime, latecomers already have a lot to listen to and discover from Rebecca Goldberg, definitely a beautiful symbol of the electronic vivacity made in Detroit.