In the mostly wordless world of club music, finding the right words to describe one's sound can be frustrating. It's a problem Berlin-based DJ and label head Camea Hoffman, better known simply as Camea, encounters frequently.
"Even when I'm just trying to write, like, a one-sheet for a release, I just feel so repetitive," she says. "I start going through thesaurus.com trying to find more creative ways to describe it."
New Times spoke with Camea on the phone while she was staying with her parents in Seattle. Between a set here in Miami at Heart on November 26 and a brief tour that took her to tropical locales such as Bogota, Santo Domingo and the highly exotic city of Tampa, she’s taking a Thanksgiving rest in a less forgiving climate.
"Last night when I arrived," she recalls, "the clouds were so thick I couldn't even see the city lights until about six minutes before landing. It was like, yeah, I'm home."
It's a home the DJ left for New York in 2002 before leaving once again to Berlin in 2007 out of a desire to be closer to the international music scene. She felt so at home in the German capital, with its own dreary climate, that she never left. The gray skies of Seattle and Berlin seemed to have an impact on her production style too: a moody, minimal, yet heavily layered brand of techno that resists easy categorization as much as she does.
"I don't think the English language has enough words for music. We end up just saying, ‘Oh, it’s techno,’ and that’s such a broad thing. It doesn’t really define anything. You can go to a techno party and hear hundreds of different types of sounds of what people think techno is."
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That's part of why Camea enjoys techno so much, because of its creative freedom as well as a lack of melodic elements that can clash together if handled poorly. She has no shortage of DJ techniques she likes to try out on the decks, such as panning from speaker to speaker and layering sounds together, all in an attempt to cultivate a dark, trippy atmosphere inside the club. Of course, like any accomplished DJ, she incorporates many styles into her live sets and records. On her EP Signs, due out December 8 on her label Neverwhere, the vibe feels mysterious and tropical on one side and robotic on the other.
"I'm kind of all over the place," she admits.
Asked what she's been listening to over the past year, Camea runs into the same scattered dilemma.
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"I was answering this question to somebody just yesterday who was asking me about my favorite records this year, and I couldn't. It was really hard to think of even one because I thought of, like, 30 off the bat."
Indeed, 2016's incredible wave of new music is the one thin thread that's kept it from being a uniformly abysmal year from beginning to end. But amid the torrent of newness, Camea found herself appreciating the classics.
"I've actually been going backwards and listening to things like Drexciya and Rhythm & Sound, even Nina Simone," she says. "I think analog production has become really popular again in the last three years. And so you'd go back to these original artists who were there at the beginning, and it's so exciting to listen to them now that you actually know what they were doing."