Danilo Plessow—AKA Motor City Drum Ensemble—and Marcus Worgull open up about escapism, trance, and their sophomore album on Kompakt.
What exactly do DJs and producers do during the week, when they've not got gigs lined up? Buy records for their next set, maybe? Spend the days listening to track after track in preparation for said next set? It's not always that easy, though—if you work round the clock playing records you might not always be in the mood to sit around listening to them in your spare time. Somehow you've got to find the kind of music that's perfect for the moments when you don't want to listen to music. Just like Vermont do.
Danilo Plessow—AKA Motor City Drum Ensemble—and Marcus Worgull released their first album together as Vermont in 2014. The eponymous LP wasn't the simple two plus two equation it could have been, not simply MCDE's delightful disco riding over Worgull's excursions into silky smooth deep house. Instead, it was a record that nodded towards the cosmic end of ambient music and Krautrock.
Vermont are still dwelling in this aural universe on II, their second album for Kompakt. With titles like "Hallo Von der Anderen Seite" or "Norderney," the listener is sucked into a world of wanderlust and escapism from the everyday. Vermont, the US state they're named after, is a place to forget about life's worries. To discover more about this universe we spoke to Plessow and Worgull.
THUMP: Danilo, Marcus, to me the album sounds like an ode to escapism, even in terms of song titles and the artwork. Is that intentional or am I over-thinking it?
Danilo Plessow: People hear different things in music. But the whole album is a very spontaneous thing, so if such a meaning is evoked then perhaps it came from us subconsciously—you can't express it in words.
Marcus Worgull: It isn't totally arbitrary: there aren't any songs named after footballers or anything, but again if it sounds escapist to you, that's up to you.
Whether it was intended or not, many listeners have those kind of associations with your music. Why do you think that is?
Worgull: Our music is very melancholic, and clear. That's the result of what happens when we work together. We're not interested in showing how well we can play solos, or worrying about what drummer we're using. And that's a state that pleases us. Danilo once said that we make music for moments when you don't really want to listen to music.
So it is a form of escapism...
Worgull: Yes. Escapism takes many forms. With us, it seems to head us towards peace.
Plessow: Speaking on a personal level, I practice escapism from the job I have as a DJ. I have been very concerned with a form of escapism, that I again seek my escapism by drinking tea and making this kind of meditative music. This has a healing effect that I can take with me. Every time Marcus and I have made music, I went back to the weekend recharged, and ready to dance again.
Worgull: I'm doing it just as much. You could go for a walk in the woods, but we just make music.
Is it also about processing other musical influences?
Plessow: Definitely. I needed Vermont because I found that I couldn't make music in the I had been. I was overwhelmed by making club tracks during the week, and was making music that I wasn't satisfied with. That's also why I've got a few months this year without any gigs lined up.
Homesickness is the opposite of wanderlust. How does it affect you as a DJ, and is Vermont a way of processing that feeling?
Worgull: Homesickness comes into play when you're at home and then have to leave, to go. I do not know if that plays a role in our music.
Plessow: When we meet the positive stress of the weekend is always behind us and we fall into the hole of the week. We fill that hole with the music we are making together. Maybe the melancholy of the music comes from that.
Why, then, is it this kind of music precisely?
Plessow: It's interesting, because Marcus and I are completely different with our individual projects. Vermont is what we can agree best on. I infected it with jazz, and Marcus is more electronic, maybe a little bit more repetitive. I don't know what to call it...
Worgull: Trance! Trance!
Plessow: Thank you for saying that, so I didn't have to.
What do you make of the supposed trance revival of late?
Worgull: Trance is more like Paul Van Dyk and the like, so I kind of use the word as a joke. Older trance, I have no problem with. The trance I hear now, though, is the stuff coming out of a silver Golf GTI at the traffic lights.
Plessow: When I say trance, I mean music that is characterised by a very long repetition of certain melodies, as in the cosmic music of the 1970s and 1980s. A kind of reverb was created and worked with minimalism. So I mean that. Theo Parrish is trance.
What makes you say that?
Plessow: Because of the endless repetition. Over twelve minutes he gives you the same eight bars, varied very minimally. After four minutes you realise how awesome that is, and then you don't want to hear anything else. First you think, "Fuck, is anything going to happen," and then it's "Hopefully not!" That's the effect of positive trance.
Vermont's latest album on Kompakt, II, is out on February 10th.