by Lily Williams
With a biography that simply reads ‘Born 1969. Died 1909.’, Rrose is a mysterious figure from the start. The name comes from the pseudonym ‘Rrose Sélavy’ which was used by the French-American painter Marcel Duchamp from 1921 onwards, and perhaps stemmed from the phrase ‘Eros, c’est la vie’ which it sounds almost exactly like. Roughly translated, this phrase means ‘Eros, such is life’ (with ‘eros’ meaning ‘love’), or alternatively people have interpreted it as meaning ‘arroser la vie’ which equates to ‘to make a toast to life’. Duchamp first used the alias Rrose Sélavy in 1921 for a set of photographs in which he appeared dressed as a woman, and similarly the DJ and techno producer Rrose is male yet wears female clothing and makeup in photo shoots and whilst performing.
In an interview with fabric, Rrose helps to clarify the reasons behind this creative choice. He admits that he adopted the name because of ‘the way it looks, the way it feels, and the endless pool of imagery and ideas it suggests.’ He further explains that performing while dressed as Rrose forces both him and the audience not to take his identity and gender for granted, and also makes him feel as if he’s in ‘some kind of weird parallel dimension’ which must surely be a liberating sensation and beneficial to the art of mixing and building a set.
The individual behind this moniker released productions previously to becoming Rrose, yet he is reluctant to associate these with his new identity and so invites those who may be interested to enquire privately if they want to learn more (this can be done through his website or Bandcamp). However, the first record released under the name Rrose came in 2011 with ‘Primary Evidence’: an EP consisting of the two tracks ‘Secretion’ and ‘Bare Hand’ which can perhaps best be described as 4/4 techno but with a difference. Their interest lies with the dark and almost mystical quality that Rrose brings to all of his productions, calling to mind other worlds and moods and journeys. You can really lose yourself and become fully absorbed in the depths of his music and mind.
Other particular favourites of mine are ‘Shepherd’s Brine’ and ‘Waterfall’ belonging to the EP ‘Merchant of Salt’ which was released both on the label Sandwell District and Rrose’s own label Eaux. There have already been thirteen releases from Eaux, all of which display extremely cool and thought-provoking artwork. In fact, to provoke thought, inspire creativity, and break the norm could be seen as one of the producer’s primary aims as he often seems to act with this purpose in mind. For example, his personal website (http://rrose.ro) simply shows a collection of seemingly unrelated pictures of various subjects such as a woman wearing a bizarre wicker-like dress and an odd brass ornament or tool. If you understand this at first glance, you’re a more perceptive person than I am.
Another thing that sets Rrose apart from the crowd is just his insane talent. His mix from Dekmantel last year (which can be found at https://soundcloud.com/dkmntl/rrose-at-dekmantel-festival-2016) is not only deeply immersive but highly textured and well thought out. It is more about the layering, the energy levels, and the swell than the actual tracks, whereas most DJs seem to prioritise the latter. Furthermore, Rrose often renders tracks unidentifiable by slowing them down or distorting them to create a whole new sound which greatly differs from that of their original state. For him, it is all about what you can hear and feel rather than what you recognise. Both he and his productions are elusive, intriguing, and more importantly engaging. If only more DJs prioritised sound and experience over ego, the electronic music world would be a much more fulfilling place.