Found by Fahad Ahmad, known across the techno circuit as Measure Devide, Format christened its third year in underground periphery with headliner Rrose, all chords within the shadow-dwelling spectrum landing in key. The energy throughout the night materialized within a continuous state of comfortable eeriness, where sinister and dim social cohesiveness arrived in perfect alchemy. For a veteran in Toronto’s scene it was perfection down to the bare bone- talent, programming, sound and visuals. Yet most important, setting the event apart from others in the city these days was the crowd. An eclectic tribe of intellects well presented, channeling energy towards the artist as opposed to its social circles.
“Quite a few people have approached me with positive words about my persona. I cant say how many of them are sexual minorities, though it seems fairly mixed. I’m a bit of an outsider in that I don’t directly identify with any “sexual minority” group, but I hope that I am at least raising some important questions and giving more freaks a license to come out.” Rrose interview, secretthirteen.org, interview by Jusinas Mikulskis
And so we begin to understand the mystery behind the single most discussed question that could be heard at any given point while eavesdropping throughout the course of the Format 3 Year evening– The listener experience, being the force to grow the concept into its fruition, and the concept itself spreading mystery amidst the crowd like wild fire. A primordial curiosity regarding Rrose’s sexual orientation, carried through discussion among artists commonly referred to as “He”.
Becoming fixated on a small group of females that I had been observing, I watched as they overcame a judgmental and slightly squeamish level of uncomfort, only to have completely and whole heartedly fallen in love with the artist and his message. There is a level of mystery intended, which sets the show separate from a tyipical live set-artist-to-crowd connection. This masterful performance à la Rrose, creates a platform for self-growth. Perhaps squeamish and slightly uncomfortable in the beginning, morphing into an end result where as all that really matters is the music.
The message played out loud and clear across the course of the night, Format parties are about the music. All who have been in attendance were fully enthralled 10:0. With an opening set from Berlin resident Matt Kowal going into a live set by duo Frederik Hatsav & Joe Fredricks, followed by Measure Divide, Rrose, then a closing set by Michael Krochak.
I found the line-up to be diverse in its sound. I thought it would be interesting to speak in brief with the artists in order to get a better idea of their unique time and space. In my initial walk into the DJ booth I had noticed what looked like a vintage synth peaking out from under a piece of tarp. Naturally my curiosity had been sparked and the mission for the evening crystallized into finding out who was set to operate this bad boy.
So I began the mission by catching up with Matt Kowall a.k.a. Mats Wel, opening DJ from Berlin, Germany. A regular patron at Berghain, Matt says Rrose was by far his top pick of acts which he has had the pleasures of experiencing at the techno staple club. “Rrose was the most incredible act. You can imagine what it must have been like to experience such talent at the Berghain. It was a breath of fresh air. He came in and played an intelligent forward sound, different from everything else. His set allowed me to get lost into a proverbial black hole”. Kowall who has just finished school for audio engineering at Berlin’s dBs, played a set consisting of some spacey sounding washed out techno, going into a sort of rave/broken beat trance type. Unique to what we are hearing regularly here in Toronto, more or less according to Matt, the sound in Berlin at the present time.
Scene change. As Frederik Hatsav & Joe Fredricks walk into the Populous artist cage (formerly known as Toika) the tarp came off from the sexy piece of synthesizer vintage and all hell brakes lose. Underneath the magical carpet of deception was a Pro-One, effects and analog step sequencer, skillfully driven by multi-talented sound engineer Joe Fredricks. Command central for duo talent lead by Frederik Hatsav, responsible for operating the AbletonLive aspect, utilizing full tracks over dubs, loops, and effects. It was quite honestly one of the best live techno sets I have heard over a span of twenty years being a part of Toronto’s techno underground. Kicking off the journey on a somewhat goovey techno note going into some heavy percussion rhythm binding sound. Worked into the mix, some organic layers over top, bass heavy break downs with just the right amount of glitch. Riding it out on the break tip, delving into deeper shades with droney atmospheres, the vibe was carried into an industrial stand still, then right back up into a perfect danceable techno groove. Pure unadulterated “outside of the box” techno, it was fucking brilliant! And to my complete and utter shock I found that this was in fact the duo’s first time playing out live. Hearing this I was somewhat dismembered.
There could only be one promoter in this city with the sort of experience and skill set capable of putting on a show as such. Quite honestly, and I rarely like to give my upfront opinions so straight forward as I am about to, Format 3 Year celebration was one of the most properly adapted underground events I have been to so far. I use the term “adapted” because it seems as though there has been a century long evolution process having taken place in order to amalgamate such alchemic perfection. As we know, this movement is lead by Producer/DJ Fahad Ahmad, better known across the global techno scene as Measure Divide, one half of Subfractal. It was something special to witness a Measure Divide set on this night. Not only was he at his usual perfection of four track mixing, but it was special given Toronto’s leading techno Producer/DJ/Promoter shines on stage bearing absolutely no ego, a trait deeply respected amidst a scene in any given city today. As a native to Toronto it makes me proud to see the same hands which had touched the decks of Tresor continue to share the experience with his own city right here in Toronto.
And then there was Rrose (Born 1969. Died 1909.)…
The purest of magic. In the transcendence between passing and life, Rrose collects the most sensational moments in music and society and enchants the crowd with a sort of sex driven journey and comfortable conviction. Managing throughout the course of a bar or two to morph a steady 4/4 into broken beat, without perceiver awareness. A technical mix genius and craft magician. Rhythmic alchemy. And if it weren’t for the highly evolved level at which Rrose executes his act the message would not be received in the sharply outlined fashion as such. Rrose (name referenced to Marcel Duchamp’s alter ego, Rrose Selavy, Eros, C’est la vie)
Closing the night was a captivating set by Michael Krochak, an amazing up and coming artist truly grasping the attention of the crowd. I look forward hearing more of his sets to understand what makes him tick. Great close to a perfect evening.
“Well, the word spirituality… I don’t use that because I think that word has too many strange connotations. I stay away from that word. It’s just a loaded concept. Ideally the music would not be entertaining at all! I struggle with that word (entertainment) even more than spirituality! (laughs) like I said, I want people to be really focused on the music, on performance. I don’t necessarily even want it to be fun. I want it to be intense and enjoyable but also challenging in some way. I think of entertainment as a distraction, and I don’t want it to be a distraction. Entertainment to me means something that distracts you, an escape. I think of music as taking you to a place that forces you to confront reality, in a way”.
QUESTION: like you said, it kind of faces you to confront reality. It seems like your connection to Rrose is quite an emotional one.
I don’t know if I would call it emotional. I’m trying to get away from the specific emotions that we put words to, especially when it comes to making music. I’m kind of trying to do something to people that they don’t really understand… I’m aiming to feel like there’s an idea behind my music even if you can’t describe it, even if I can’t describe it. You feel something, you don’t know what it is, but you know that it’s something. That’s what I do when I’m making music.