Photo: Marie Staggat (Kr!z)
What does it take to run a successful Techno label for a decade or more? In Token’s case, the answer to that question lies in a dedicated roster of artists whose music ranging from blinding techno belters to more adventurous sonic experiments. For the ten-year anniversary, label founder Kr!z has brought them together for an extensive compilation – literally speaking. Momentum comprises nine tracks, all of which were produced in tandem by old and new faces. While finishing up the release, the Token founder talked us through his ten personal favourites. Not an easy task, as he readily admits. “A lot of people asked me before what my favourite Token releases are and as you can imagine it’s hard to pick ten when we released almost 100,” says Kr!z. “I still stand behind all of them. So this is just a selection of highlights.”
10. Ø [Phase] – Morodem
This was the track that made me want to sign Ø [Phase]. I really loved everything he had released by then on Cosmic and Inceptive, so when I had the idea to start the label I was looking for artists I liked that I wanted to connect to Token. It was still the MySpace days so I looked him up on there and this HTS mix of a track called “Morodem” was on the player on that page. I completely became obsessed by that track from the first play.
When I contacted him – if I remember well – he was quite reluctant to the idea of signing it to Token. The track was very special to him and of course he had never heard of me or the label. But TOKEN1 by Inigo Kennedy had already come out and it was a success, so he sent me other tracks, which ended up on the Mass EP (TOKEN3). Maybe it was him testing me, before letting me release “Morodem”, see how I would do. Anyhow, the Mass EP did very well and I think we started planning the “Morodem” release soon after that. He had a lot of versions of this track, but the HTS mix was and still is my favourite. It’s a techno classic.
9. Various Artists – Aphelion
When the idea of this compilation started forming in my head and I wrote down the list of the people I wanted involved, I remember thinking to myself “this is probably a bit too ambitious.” No way that all these people would agree on delivering music for this project or let alone find the time to do it. But they did. Everyone was pretty much down from the beginning.
I think Surgeon was the first one to agree and from there on, I knew it would be easier to get the rest on board, by just mentioning that he was going to be part of it. I was a bit worried that the core Token artists’ tracks wouldn’t get as much shine as legends like Planetary Assault Systems, James Ruskin and Surgeon, but the quality of all the material was so high that the most successful tracks in the end were by Inigo Kennedy and Ashley (Ø [Phase]), who did deliver some of their best work to date with those tracks. We also went on quite a big tour with everyone involved on the compilation and it was just a very nice experience.
8. Inigo Kennedy – Vaudeville
One of my proudest moments in the last 10 years. Inigo Kennedy really was in a special place for this album. In hindsight we both don’t know how he managed to deliver this in time, because his son had just been born and times were of course pretty hectic. We also had a very tight deadline, which resulted in some stress on both ends. He did work really hard and fast and for some reason it resulted in this amazing album. He even did one track with his baby on his lap! I spent a lot of time myself on the sequencing of the album and trying to make it all gel well. The two biggest tracks for me are still “Plaintive” and “NGC5128”. That last one just had to be the closing track, I knew that after the first listen.
7. Ctrls – Two Worlds
Troels really pushed himself to the next level with this record. Most of his music before this release didn’t really have melodies like this. I was waiting (or hoping) for something like this at some point and I was so happy when he sent me the first version of the track. It didn’t have any drums. If I remember well, our first idea was to use it as an intro to the EP and keep it beatless. We both doubted if it would work to add drums, but I think it’s safe to say it did. It’s such a warm track, but it still has this ice cold Ctrls vibe to it. “Onto Them” balanced the EP out perfectly, with its darker tones, as opposed to the brightness of “Two Worlds”.
6. Ø [Phase] – Binary Opposition
I remember when I heard the first version of this. I was dancing in my chair and I immediately knew this was going to be a big record for both Ashley and Token. I remember Ashley not even realising that himself when he sent it, but I had goose bumps after the first listen. It came out January 2012 but I sent it to a few people like Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann just before Christmas. I remember Ben telling me that it was the biggest record of his set when he played it at Berghain on NYE. And after it came out it really became an anthem there. Somehow it opened the doors to a whole new audience, which was a bit surprising as Ashley wasn’t really doing anything crazy different compared to what he’d done before. Like most of his music, it has a very timeless feel and both sides of the record still rip up a dance floor to this day.
5. Sigha – Our Father / A Better Way Of Living
I was very happy when James reached out to me to ask if I was interested in doing a Sigha record on Token. I had been a fan of his work for years and I was so curious to hear what he had for me. The record – both tracks – surpassed all my expectations. I think he said the same thing somewhere: this record was one of the easiest ever on Token. He sent the tracks to me, it blew me away. No edits, changes, discussion needed at all. He just nailed it. “A Better Way Of Living” is the “banger” here but “Our Father” is still my favourite. It has a touch of Inigo’s style but James really put his own spin on it. And even though we were cool with each other before this record, this record really resulted in a friendship which has only grown the last years.
4. Tadeo – Terra Incognita
I love the weirdest sounds. And Miguel does too, I like to believe. But he can actually create them. He’s a real scientist, able to sculpt these alien sounds. This record is a great example of that. “Deep Space” is the one that made convinced me to do the record. I lost it when I first heard that. It’s so loud, piercing, distorting even. He did try new and cleaner mixes of the track but it totally killed the crazy original vibe, so we stuck to the original mix and I’m happy we did. It’s a stand out track, that gave me a lot of goose bump moments in my sets. Another of my absolute Tadeo favourites is the “Mind Possibilities” track. He’s a master at building these cinematic-like scenes. He obviously studied Mills very well but has found his own unique identity. He’s the best at what he does.
3. Antigone – Cantor Dust
Antigone’s debut for Token. After I heard his As I Walk to You EP for Construct Re-Form, I was playing with the idea of asking him for a record. He had been on my radar since a few years before that, but that record was next level for me. A few months after, he released The Day the Sky Fell In on Indigo Aera and that blew me away, majorly. That was my favourite record that year!
I contacted him immediately after that and he I found out he was a very modest, humble guy and most important: very funny. We had a good click from the start and he sent me a lot of music. I was a bit overwhelmed by all of it and couldn’t really choose what I wanted for the first record, so the idea of a double EP came up. To this day a lot of some people see it as an “album”, but it’s definitely not that. It’s just a big EP. He was obviously on a roll in the studio and I didn’t want to spread it over two EPs. Also we talked about a long term connection of him with Token quite early and he was up for that, so I thought it would give an even stronger signal of confidence if I’d release a big double pack.
The EP was a showcase of the wide range of style he’s capable of, there’s heavy and dark floor tracks, Detroit-style melodic tracks, ambient, minimal techno tracks and just a lot of texture across the whole thing. It went on to become a big success which felt very rewarding.
2. Sterac – Scorp
I spoke a lot already on Steve Rachmad’s influence on myself as both a music lover and a DJ. He kick-started it all for me, my first techno experience. I’m an avid collector of his work and believe me: the catalogue is huge. So many monikers & styles and he excels at all of it. There’s only a handful of artists capable of what he can.
The Scorp moniker was one of his toughest and straight forward efforts. It was really what made me fall in love with techno in the late nineties: very percussive and hypnotic rhythms, but with only a handful of elements. I only discovered Robert Hood after I discovered Steve, but when I did, I felt that Steve had mastered what Hood was doing and took it to the next level. This reissue project made things come full circle. It was an honour to have Steve be part of what I was doing. He was so humble and easy about it. They say you should never meet your heroes, but I couldn’t be more happier to have this connection with him now.
1. Inigo Kennedy – The Darkest Valentine
“Obsidian” is my favourite Inigo Kennedy track ever, hands down. I will not even try to describe the feelings I (still) have when listening to it, as it wouldn’t do it justice. We both knew this was something really special. It was quite different to all the records I had done before on Token, but I didn’t care. The music really touched me and it still does. I feel absolutely blessed to have met Inigo. When I’m writing this I’m listening to demos for his first EP of 2018 and I still feel honoured that I can put out his work. He’s part of the DNA of Token.