From every angle: An interview Slangejente

“It’s about the people coming to the parties and coming to the clubs,” says Ida Messel (Slangejente) over a glitching internet call. It’s a comment at odds with the rest of the electronic music scene at the moment; a music and a culture that has developed to favour hubris over inclusivity, with a focus on the individual rather than the community. It’s the type of comment I’ve come to expect dripping in hiporacy and mostly insincere, but in Ida’s case, she means every word of it.   

Ida Messel is a unique character in Oslo’s electronic club scene, committed to proliferating club culture and its music from “every angle.” As a writer/journalist she contributes to some of Norway’s preeminent cultural publications; as a DJ, she’s become a regular fixture in the booth at places like Villa and Hærverk; and as a club promoter and arranger, she’s brought some ingenuitive and intriguing club concepts to the city before the Covid-19 lockdown. Today, she counts recording artist amongst her accolades, with a track called Svart Slitesterk teip rundt Hjernen on the latest Hjemme Med Dama release.

She speaks in measured concise sentences, never speculating about the abstract and often turning the attention away from her own endeavours to talk about the influences of her contemporaries and peers working in the same music. Like the rest of the country she’s working from home at the moment, studying towards a master’s degree in architecture and design, and while there is more music brewing beyond this debut, Ida is not “stressed that much in finishing tracks” for the moment. 

After playing “almost every weekend” in 2019, Ida like every other DJ, is on an indefinite hiatus from the booth on the grounds of the coronavirus, but her commitment to the scene remains unwavering as she continues to write articles for the likes of Natt & Dag on the subject. Alongside the likes of Fakethias, Ida is currently answering the clarion call for Techno in the city, and like them she’s doing it on her own terms. “Awareness is on the rise in Oslo,” says Ida and it’s consolidating a burgeoning scene with DJs, clubs, promoters and music all gestating around a similar approach to Techno and Trance, without succumbing to pastiche or bland formalism.    

Ida’s own interests in the culture and the music came after an interrail experience in 2015. The “more cliché part of the story is that I was stopping by in Berlin while I was interrailing” she continues. “I used to hate electronic music before that, and that changed everything for me.”

Ida had always been “a huge music fan” and had played some drums in various rock bands in her teens, but it hadn’t been until Berlin that a taste for electronic music would start to develop and grow; first into a career as a DJ and now as a producer. In Oslo, she found its own culture, taking its cues from Berlin, but developing them into their own specific sounds, with factions like “Uteklubb and the Danish/Swedish scene they are an extension of” playing a significant role in her own musical development. 

Today she counts Danish artist DJ Ibon as a “favourite DJ and producer” and while she can be regional in her direct influences, she is nothing if not pragmatic about the influence of a larger international scene. “I don’t want to be elitist,” she stresses, “in trying to separate my influences from the general Berlin Techno scene.”  She still finds “a lot of Ostgut Ton is still interesting even though it’s been done too many times” and takes her own musical cues from these and more crossover artists like Arca, Nicholas Jaar and Onethrix point never. In fact it’s her admiration for those artists and “how they work in room dynamics” that has fed directly into her first release, Svart Slitesterk teip rundt Hjernen

There’s something brooding around the edges of the rapid-fire kick drum arrangement of the track. There’s a harshness, subsiding into the sonic calm that gestates a mood in dichotomy. It’s the variation between the densely orchestrated percussive arrangements and the emptiness that ensues in the wake of its absence. “What’s not there is just as important as what’s there” explains Ida. “I think the best part of the song is when there’s just hi-hats and this weird ambience,” she explains, but it’s not only in the contrasts where the track comes alive, but in the very way it sounds through the speakers in the room. 

Svart Slitesterk teip rundt Hjernen is an atmosphere in itself, and as much as it’s a Techno track, it is not, as Ida pans elements wide between left and right in the stereo field. It’s a practise that very rarely cropps up in Techno’s mono-informed habits. From here those outlier influences raise their non-conformist head. For Ida’s work as Slangejente this provides “an exciting way to expand the rules of club music” where she can focus her efforts on the kind of “detailing” that makes a track like Svart Slitesterk teip rundt Hjernen “more special” than what the format of the dance floor demands. “The quality of the production is exciting in itself,” ruminates Ida, “and it’s not just a one or zero on the binary thing; is it good or not good.”

What does this mean for the type of audience that will drift towards Slangejente’s music? Ida believes “people want to go to the club and hear tracks they love and evoke emotions” and she is what she’ll be traversing in her own productions. It’s something that is part of a larger trend, redefining the inflexible barriers between club music and an everyday listening experience, especially for Ida’s generation where an accessibility and profundity of club music has erased the borders that have existed between those two experiences for far too long. “The functional and non-functional distinction is non-functioning” says Ida in a sheepish titter to convey her point.

Ida is not isolated in this approach. Even in Oslo, it’s something that I find is currently feeding into a meta-narrative in Norwegian club culture, where artists like Fakethias and Omfromer are ushering in a new era for Techno and its affiliations in Oslo.

“I guess it’s about Oslo being such a small city,” she considers about its newfound popularity. More so, “a small scene like Oslo is dependent on these really strong individuals and contributors,” and it’s these individuals working within a larger trend that has revived a fairly dormant, very insular musical scene in the city. Techno and Trance in Norway has always enjoyed an audience, and while the late nineties brought some focus on a larger trend sweeping across Europe, it had quickly retreated back into the shadows shortly after. There it’s always enjoyed a dedicated, but small following, who have grown older and less involved with time,  only with this new generation picking it up again. They’ve not only revived, but rejuvenated the scene, finding some serendipity with a wider trend currently sweeping across Europe. 

Besides making her own musical contributions to this scene, Ida has also been a large proponent in bringing it to a wider audience without “necessarily commercialising it” through writing extensively about it. “Writing about music is part of the exchange” she explains and it’s essential in a bigger motivation in Ida’s pursuits to “be a part of building a scene and a culture from every angle.”

What was a pretty secluded scene, featuring what Ida calls “speedy, weird Trance-ish Techno” in a landscape dominated by House and Nu-disco, has now found a bigger audience in large part due to the efforts of Ida and her peers. It has amplified what she describes as the “huge sympathy for Trance and weird Techno” that’s always existed in the region while it evolves simultaneously on an international scale.

Those scenes, which “have not necessarily been included in the more popular clubs,” is now influencing the next generation of DJs and artists in the city, bringing it to the mass consciousness, relatively speaking. “It’s important” for Ida thus “that the distance between the people that book and the music trends doesn’t become to large” as it is inducted into clubs in Oslo, and although she believes spaces like Hærverk and Villa have been doing a fine job in that regard, she has also been making her own impressive strides in the field of club arranger.

She might be modest in suggesting that there’s no “urge to run club concepts if there is other really cool stuff happening,” but making her debut as a promoter in 2019 with the club concepts Simuleringen and Amok : Koma, she has now found yet another aspect of club culture in her perpetual drive to stimulate and proliferate the culture. While  Amok : Koma, saw Ida and collaborator Trym Grydeland “expanding on what club concepts can do,” bridging the gap between artistic practices, Simuleringen was more of a traditional club concept with DJ sets in a club environment.

Between these new club concepts, her DJ sets, her writing and now her music, Ida messel truly is a force in the scene with a definitive altruistic approach, even to her last words on the matter.  “To sum up what the culture is today,” she says as if to emphasise the point of her combined efforts “ it’s not just my initiative, but the whole field that is creative and open. I’m optimistic and I can’t wait for the clubbing scene to get back on its feet.”