Photo: Lucas Bühler (Polygonia)
Polygonia feels most at home in the deeper end of … well, pretty much any genre. The Munich-based producer and DJ is a member of the the IO collective, home to deep techno and ambient music, and on her two albums and a slew of releases blend organic and lush sounds with subtle yet gripping grooves. Her mix for our Groove podcast radiates with the spirit of the dancefloor without dwelling in the past – get ready for roughly one and a half hours of some of the deepest techno out there.
First off, how have you been doing this past year?
I currently have a lot of projects in the making, so all is very busy. But it makes me very happy since nothing else happens outside. I’d say now is the perfect moment to kickstart new projects and prepare everything for the time when culture can start living outside of the virtual world again!
You are a core member of the audiovisual IO label based in Munich. How would you characterise your approach with the label, or your philosophy?
Since our taste in music is rooted in several genres like hip hop, drum’n’bass, jazz, classical music, metal, dubstep, trap, and many more, we want to mirror all those personal influences in our catalogue. We don’t have this one particular “techno style” in the music we release. Instead we present a colourful array of artists who can fill a whole day at a festival. Some of us create very bright and warm sounds, others express themselves with the darker, much faster side of techno. We also have producers who are very influenced by house. So there is enough material for every mood and every time of the day. We love the diversity of our little creative family and definitely want to underline this with our artworks as well. It is very important for our project to be free of any limits that could potentially go in the way of expression and creation. Of course we only release deep techno and ambient, but there is always a surprise in it for the people. It is so fascinating how much variation you can put into those 4/4 patterns or beatless pieces. I guess if we’d have more time, we’d love to have even more labels with which we represent different genres. That would be a dream come true!
Generally speaking, visual art plays a huge role in your life – you are also active as an illustrator and photographer. How does this intersect with your work as a producer and DJ?
Visual and auditive art are almost the same for me, only translated through different channels of the human perception. It’s very funny because I used to pressure myself with having to decide between music and graphic, because I thought there was only enough time to be good at one or the other. As a consequence of this thinking I failed very hard as I began to study interior design and stopped pursuing my musical activities. I became increasingly unhappy about it and eventually decided to drop out after two years of studying. I immediately began to make music very excessively because I missed it so much and I didn’t feel complete without doing it. Luckily I discovered that training my graphical skills passively develops my musical abilities and vice versa. That shows me that both channels are directly linked and I just have to do all of it to be able to express myself in a way I’m comfortable with. There are so many parameters and rules that can be transferred to the other medium, I think doing both is a full mind experience and I’m very happy that I don’t have to miss one or the other. Synaesthesia is a big topic for me and I want to do more projects in the future involving it! And it is not only about visual art, I think almost all cultural disciplines work like that. It would definitely be amazing to connect my music and art with e.g. poetry, dance, performance art and if possible even more ways of expression.
Before becoming a producer, you were already interested in acoustic musical instruments. What did your first steps as a musician look like, did you receive classical training?
My whole family is based in the professional classical music sector. Music was there all along since I formed my first thoughts and even long before that. Since the family side of my father was specialised in string instruments, it was kind of clear that I wanted to learn the violin. I started with a teacher at the age of seven and one year later I began to take piano lessons, too. My mother is very familiar with this instrument, so I felt the need to dive into playing the keys as well. Several years later I also had a guitar teacher. I attended many orchestra camps and loved the dynamic of a big group of instrumentalists generating sound together. But during school I was lazy and didn’t enjoy the classical training even though I graduated with a focus on the violin. After that I stopped all the instrument classes and discovered that I feel more comfortable in improvising and writing my own music. That was the turning point. I had fun with instruments again and started playing the saxophone as well as singing. I took jazz singing classes until now and I really enjoy how interesting the voice is as an instrument because it creates an intimate connection with your own body and soul.
What finally drew you to electronic music and digital production methods?
As a teenager I listened to a lot of deep dubstep, deep drum’n’bass, IDM, glitch, dub, hip hop, game soundtracks, etc., and always analysed it very intensely. I loved digging up those sub-genres and I guess that never changed. My mother never understood how I could spend so much time in front of my computer sorting all those audio files and collecting even more of them. When I changed school and began to go to the musical high school I got to know many of our IO members. We went to a lot of drum’n’bass parties even though we were too young and not legally allowed to be there. That was the moment when I understood how amazing it feels to let the soul get stroked by those loud grooves. Many of my friends from our circle started producing at the age of 14 or 15 and I always told myself that this couldn’t be so complicated and that I could do it, too. But I didn’t start because I was the only woman to think that and I always had the feeling that something prevented me from doing it. I watched several of my boyfriends and friends producing their music but something magically held me back. But after quitting my interior design studies I bought Ableton and used my whole time to produce music and create artworks. That was exactly the moment when we also launched our label. At first I just thought that I would create the artworks for them. I didn’t have the plan to produce any music for it because at that point I enjoyed creating experimental hip hop beats and stuff like that. But some months later we went to the Freqs of Nature festival where I had the honor to listen to Cio D’Or and Rrose. This changed everything. I eagerly began producing deep techno and ambient. I love to make other genres as well, but for my main project Polygonia, my focus lies on this specific direction. I am very happy that I started creating music with DAWs, because now I am also working as a professional sound designer. That would have never happened if I would have gone the conventional way of education I first chose.
Nature is a recurring theme not only in your track titles, which also seems to be reflected in the sounds you use in your music. How would you describe your relationship to nature both as a person and a musician?
Nature is extremely important for me. I have so many plants at home, I can’t even really count them. There are three animals living together with me, so I have the whole package, which connects me to nature as much as possible during this point in my life. Since we have big issues in our society to protect the environment, I think it is even more important to transport the love of nature in my body of work. I want to remind the people that humans are part of nature, too. I think electronic music is a very nice medium to send this message, which seems a bit weird because it seems too synthetic and doesn’t have an obvious connection to nature at all. But as I dug in deeper it was so inspiring to see that you can build any natural atmosphere and animal voices with simple synthesis, which shows how thin the line between technology and nature really is. I think we have the big mission to find a more healthy intersection between these two. Apart from that I draw big inspiration from being outside in the forest, in the mountains, at a lake or elsewhere. This is what makes my head clear and my mind happy. I visited tropical forests in my childhood in Malaysia. I will never forget the smell, all of those beautiful fascinating sounds and the visual impressions. I will remember these trips forever.
Your latest EP was fittingly called Sottobosco, “underwood.” What themes or sounds were crucial when you started working on it?
Before producing this EP, I created many tracks which had a lot of harmonic elements in them. But since I love musical diversity and I want to create sounds for every occasion and emotion I feel, I had the plan to develop darker and less tonal sounds for this release. I felt that this one should be very deep and a bit more unsettling than the others. You can imagine it like the dark part of the forest where the sunlight doesn’t touch the ground. This area is the home for joint-legged invertebrate animals like spiders, scorpions and all of those animals most of the people fear a lot. The word for those creatures is “Arachnida,” the name of one track on this EP. If one wants to explore that place I describe musically, he’d have to bring some “Incandescence,” a light object, to discover this shadow world. I am sure that one will get some scratches from the “undergrowth” he has to walk through. It can happen that all this experience can cause the “Theft of Mind” if one is not careful enough.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I created an organic journey with a deep and smooth start to give the listener a nice introduction. This atmosphere is changing over time and the sound develops into a scenery full of suspense. It goes into the clubby direction but it is still meant to be listened to at home. It enables one to feel the spirit of the dancefloor without having to dwell in the past. The constant tension is meant to represent the current situation in our society and ultimately ourselves in which we can feel the emotional strain every day. I wanted to record a set that transforms this distress into relief. Music helps me a lot to cope nowadays and hopefully, even if it is just online, this is something all of us can share to feel a little bit more connected to others and ourselves.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
I will proceed to work on a lot of creative projects and I am really looking forward to share the floor with people again. Right now I am learning Max/MSP which is a very interesting way of working with sound and visuals. With this software it is possible to fulfill an intense wish of mine to connect data science, plants, and club music.
Stream: Polygonia – Groove Podcast 298
01. Nigm – Night Moans [Circular Limited]
02. ASC – Triton [Modern Cathedrals]
03. Hanna Maria & Mattia Onori – Stimme (Feral Lysergic Vision) [Melantónia]
04. Valentin Ginies – Namaka [11001 Records]
05. Dycide x Delusional Cicuits x Polygonia – Pins and Needles [IO]
06. Olorun – Aroüagues [Whispering Signals]
07. Imprea – Deimos (Floating Machine Remix) [Aarden Records]
08. Dorisburg & Efraim Kent – Bubblebad [Tikita]
09. Polygonia – Coleus [Forthcoming on Sure Thing]
10. Translate – Arcnex [Float Records]
11. Michal Wolski – Polymorphism [Inpureform]
12. Strom (UA) – Confluence [Øbskure]
13. The Plant Worker & DIAPO – Grogrott [Dynamic Reflection]
14. Polygonia – Tartaros [Forthcoming on Secuencias Temporales]
15. Viels – Y [Non Series]
16. Motion Symmetry – Rotation II [N F E R E E]
17. Knay – Albedo Reflection [N F E R E E]
18. Giuseppe Falivene – Parallel State [Subosc Records]
19. a n j e – Stuck [KVLTÖ]
20. Rise 1969 – Dimethyltryptamine (Hogeko Remix) [Artscope]
21. Anders Hellberg – Crispholeya (Notzing Version) [Northallsen Records]