Abstract Division Talk Making Timeless Tracks

Paul Boex and Dave Miller are modern artists. It’s not the type of arrangement where you can go full rockstar and pass out on stage, these guys mean business… and they mean techno. 25 years of collective experience under their belt, the two have built a rock solid warehouse brand with the project Abstract Division. 

The two test their tracks on the influential dance floors of the Dutch capitol, Amsterdam. Putting our their own tracks through a decade-old label and connecting with the clubs in a well-received event series, Abstract Division have built their own world around refined, yet driving techno. 

AD have built a deep discography by finding the right balance in the studio and behind the decks. Follwing a slew of massive releases on imprints near and far, the Dutch artists have landed on Just This to finish off 2018. After a request direct from boss Hunter/Game, their compilation debut naturally led to an EP. Title track [from the EP] is a subtle dancefloor killer with funky cyclic rhythms and peculiar harmonies, followed by ‘Isolated’, a subdued yet dizzying dose of syncopated drums and crystalline melodic inflections.    

Following release day, we spoke to the guys about the past, present, and future of the Abstract Division project. A busy schedule balancing business and artistry, the two have a no-frills approach to keeping the hits coming. Hear what they had to say and add ‘Aftermath’ to your crate.

The Abstract Division project is close to a decade old, could we start with a quick description of how you see yourself as an artistic outlet in 2018?

AD: 2018 was a very productive year for us. We had releases on Mary Go Wild Black, Attic Music, Black Codes Experiments and on a new Spanish label, Materia Obscura. We also celebrated the 10-year anniversary of our label Dynamic Reflection with a special boxset of 5 EP’s. The last release of the year is our Aftermath EP on the Italian label Just This, where a few months back our track Disconnected came out on a compilation.

When it comes to producing music, we normally don’t sit down with a straight plan of which direction a track should go. We like to produce spontaneously and try to listen to our intuitions as much as possible, which results mostly in a different outcome. Of course we do have some preferences, like the choice in certain sounds or drums, but still we aim to strive for genuinity and don’t want to copy ourselves too much in the end.

In an interview some years back, you both spoke about your complimentary work in the studio. How has your process evolved since first releasing as Abstract Division in 2011?

AD: We still live in different cities, having our computers linked to each other. If one of us starts to work on a track, the other one can start up Ableton and pick it up from there. Sometimes we start working on tracks without each other, but we rather prefer to meet up in the studio and start creating something new together.

Dave: The drum, percussion and synth stabs are mostly done by Paul, while I am more busy with the overall sound design and technical parts of a track. Still this is not a golden rule, as both of us can always contribute to each element individually.

The next EP called ‘Aftermath’ marked your first full EP on Just This. How did you link up with Hunter/Game and eventually join the crew? 

Paul: Actually Emmanuele reached out to our agent Daniel saying that he would love us to contribute with some music on his label. Since the label is very diverse we saw it as a compelling challenge to create something a bit more different then we usually do.

Both originals on ‘Aftermath’ feature ominous melodies that make such an impact without the need for overwhelming percussion. What’s your approach in balancing technical melodies with a dance floor pulse?

AD: As we said before, the process of creation is very impulsive and intuitive, not something really planned ahead. When you have a loop that gives you the impression of sounding constantly refreshing, be it a melody (like in these cases), a soundscape or a groove, you leave it there to dominate.. The balance comes from not trying to force it too much into a certain predefined direction.

We also have a guiding principle that we call ‘kill your darlings’, a phrase which is often used by movie directors, naturally based on the ‘less is more’ principle. Basically, we believe that you need to consider thoroughly which elements you keep in a track and which ones you leave out, even if you like a specific sound very much, in order to maintain a sort of equilibrium or timelessness in a track.

Recently this type of refined techno seems to have been leading local clubs like Shelter and Radion. How how would you describe the sound of Amsterdam techno in 2018?

AD: Amsterdam has many clubs that play electronic music. The demand is high, but the city has also a lot to offer. The genre itself has become very diverse since the 90’s. Nowadays there is hard, industrial, mainstream, melodic, deep techno and so on, and we think that Amsterdam reflects this very accurately.

“When you have a loop that gives you the impression of sounding constantly refreshing, be it a melody (like in these cases), a soundscape or a groove, you leave it there to dominate.. The balance comes from not trying to force it too much into a certain predefined direction.”

How have your label Dynamic Reflection and event series DECODE helped refine the Abstract Division sound over the past eight years?

AD: Actually the vision has always been there, but artistically we did grow closer throughout the years, which definitely had a positive effect on our sets. What not many people know is that until today, we prepare our playlists separately from each other – it is never something that we agree ahead. Therefore our sets are more like random b2b’s as we merge our selections spontaneously during each set. This way our performances always have a sort of surprise factor for ourselves and the audience.

Having said that, the sound of Dynamic Reflection for sure has influenced our taste in music, although the vision of the label stayed the same in the past 10 years. The artist selection for our DECODE event series are partly based on our personal preferences and partly on what we think might be interesting for the audience. We always try to build a specific atmosphere during the whole night by ensuring a harmonic flow in the line-up of the artists.

Peter Van Hoesen and VRIL are on the remixes both taking a cut out of Isolated. How does it feel to incorporate remixes of your own tunes into sets? 

AD: When we are producing a track, we hear it literally over and over again, from scratch till the mixing process. You listen to it so many times that in the end it is very difficult to stay fully objective about it. As a result, we are not playing too many of our own tracks in a set. Since most of the remixes have a significantly different character as the original tracks, we experience them as fresh new versions which makes it easier to integrate them back into our sets. As mentioned above, we can go in many directions during our performances, therefore the VRIL remix is for moments we play a bit more housy, while the PVH remix is a powerful tool for an ascending part of a set.

How do you continue to innovate and what’s next on the Abstract Division agenda?

AD: We are always on the search for new impulses in music. These can come from many places like a fresh new idea, a visit to a good party or a new piece of hardware or software which gives you exciting possibilities. So far luckily we don’t lack inspiration. At the moment we are working on plenty of new stuff, including some interesting collaborations with other artists. We definitely think that the future will be very exciting for us.

Grab ‘Aftermath’ on 12″ Vinyl from Just This