By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
As the cliché goes, nothing is new anymore. But in the music industry, there's always a new artisan eager to add his work to the pantheon. In other words, don't try to ask the newly minted label owners behind Somia Music if its output is similar to the legion of electronic labels that came before it.
Dressed in a black Schematic T-shirt, cargo pants, and a pair of shades carefully lodged in his hair, the Cuban-born, 28-year-old Balbuena is the rambunctious half of what appears to be an idiosyncratic odd couple. He talks in waves, his sentences rapidly breaking down into catch phrases. Sitting right next to him is Court Keeley, a Miami-born 27-year-old of Irish descent who gives long, carefully crafted answers to interview questions, as befits his alternate identity as a second-year law student at the University of Miami.
The two have set up shop in Keeley's house in Miami Shores. Keeley's wife has moved away to London on business, and he plans to join her there in the next several months. Both Keeley and Balbuena have recorded their own music for the past decade, and hope to release some of it once the label is more established.
But for now, there's Miami, and Miad, the inaugural Somia release that compiles several excellent tracks from producers around the world, most of whom Keeley and Balbuena met via the Internet. Exploiting the World Wide Web's status as a watering hole for bedroom producers has yielded the label a few key finds such as France's Subjex, whose edgy, severe "Subslaughter" mines much of the same territory as Autechre; and Russia's Clapan, who contributes the airily kinetic "Shopping Cart RMX." But Balbuena complains that other, more established labels have already approached their best artists. He says that Subjex is talking to leading British IDM imprint Planet Mu, even though Somia has yet to release the artist's EP.
"We have the talent," he says. "[Labels] are jumping on our people, bro. It's really stressing because we don't make enough money to [put out a lot of records by an artist] and some of the [labels] might beat us to the chase."
Speaking of Planet Mu, that company has less contentiously acquired an emissary in the form of Dan "Doormouse" Martin. Though the same age as the Somia men at 28 and ensconced in a two-story apartment on Normandy Isle, Doormouse seems to live in another world entirely. During a recent afternoon interview, his house was overrun by two young girls, his fourteen-month-old daughter Kaya and her kindergarten-age friend from next door, Soleil.
Doormouse looks after Kaya during the day while his girlfriend works as a cognitive therapist. He moved out to Miami Beach in September 2002 to be with her after she got pregnant. Back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he used to own a record store, Massive Records; spin at parties; and make "crazy experimental stuff."
Ah, yes, the music. While Somia is torn between high-minded ambience and low-culture glitch, Doormouse is strictly splatterpunk. He's a Midwestern prankster (one publicity photo shows him erotically clutching a Big Bird doll) who, much like his local counterpart Otto Von Schirach, mashes up kitschy effects, pitter-patter drum and bass beats, and plenty of jump cuts to unlikely samples from the catalog of Count Basie and DJ Quik, into aural theater for TV casualties.
The title of his upcoming album for Planet Mu, due out in the fall, is Stanley Yevshonowski presents Xylophone JBM as the Ridiculator. In the meantime there is his album from last year, Freaked Out Mess, and numerous other recordings issued through his own Addict Records, formed in 1998; the latest release is a compilation, Ye Olde Barn.
After retreating from the shenanigans of the children to his small bedroom studio, Doormouse tries to describe his music in lay terms. "My old stuff, I'd categorize as brutal, along the lines of electronic punk or Slayer. But my newer stuff is all over the place," he says. Then he adds, cryptically, "I don't know whom it's intended for. Whoever's [listening to it] at the time."
Doormouse starts to play one of his tracks just as Kaya walks into the room, and she bursts into tears. Don't blame it on the song -- it's probably because Soleil has just gone home, or maybe it's diaper rash. "That's my routine," says the punk rock dad of his new life, "living inside machines, making weird electronic music, and raising children." In any case, the interview is over.
Doormouse, Dino Felipe, Danny L, Otto Von Schirach, Laundryroom, and several others perform at 10:00 p.m. Friday, May 7, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE 2nd Ave. Call 305-757-1807.