The music of Animistic Beliefs is hard to define. Although previously described as a fusion of IDM intricacies and Detroit feelings, it’s difficult to pin down what their sound actually resembles; their music constantly reincarnating into another form of life. Their previous two EPs were enough to gain them a cult following being asked to perform at a secret rave for designer label Gucci, an experience they describe as luxurious but ‘really DIY and underground.’ Mindset:Reset is the title of their new album, telling listeners to clear all preconceptions of their work and reset their minds for a completely new flow of melancholic yet quirky set of tracks, proving that when it comes to electronic music the west is truly the best.They sit down in front of me to talk about their new album and reminisce on the good days playing in sweaty basements, their opinions on the changing arts and culture scene in the city of Rotterdam and the future it entails.
-Prior to Mindset:Reset, you have released two EPs in the past. You have built up quite a reputation as being at the forefront of underground electronic music from the west of the Netherlands and the album was highly anticipated by many. As a duo that never quite settles, what sort of images and inspirations did you have for this new album?
Marvin: One of them was actually a movie from Japan, ‘The forest’ but it was mostly inspired by dreams. Not really anything in particular. It was a bit more personal but also about technology like AI and facial recognition.
-You also have a song about this, An eye for AI.
Marvin: And a music video. We tried to explore more mythical themes like animism and that also inspired the Mindset:Reset video.
Marvin: I think just stuff we are interested in but there was not something specific where it was based on this book or this movie. I think we take a little bit of everything and combine them all together.
Linh: Because we had an idea for doing an album but we were just making a lot of music and then we curated and looked at our sketches. It’s not like we sat there for three weeks and said we are going to make the album right now.
Marvin: And the themes just come naturally.
-The music videos for the tracks on the new album depict a sort of dystopian underworld. Do you have a clear visualisation of your music when you create your tracks or is visualising the music something that comes after ?
Marvin: For me, it really depends. When I make something, I sometimes already have an idea of something that I want but then it can change during the process and you will look at your work and think, “what does this mean?”
Linh: Indeed, because sometimes you have something in mind but then it also evolves throughout the process. And you try to find a different meaning behind it
Marvin: And we just play around a lot and improvise a bit. We are not conscious about it every time we make it .
Linh: Yes, exactly. It’s more about intuition. We go with the flow and see what comes out.
Marvin: A bit like what Mindset:Reset means as well. Reset the way you think
-Mindset:Reset is the title of one of the songs as well as the name of the new album. Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to call the album ‘Mindset:Reset’?
Marvin: The main reason at least for me, is because we wanted people to listen to it without thinking too much about the music we had already released. We wanted to do what felt good at that moment and wanted people to come along with us. So that is the reason why it is called Mindset:Reset. To not think about “oh this isn’t really electro or this and that” but take us as we are.
Linh: Also for ourselves. To clear our minds every time we start something new.
Marvin: We would like to have it that way. Instead of having the expectations of people saying ‘oh it’s not like the other one.’
Linh: When you make music, you always think about the audience a little already. And we try to not do that.
– Your sound is constantly evolving.
Linh: Yes, exactly. We hope that people understand that it could be a little bit in a certain mood but we evolve with our sound and with our interests. Our projects will go along with that.
-The new track ‘Reflections of a language’ is different from the others because you wrote lyrics and sung them yourself for the album. What was the inspiration that made you want to add new elements such as vocals into the tracks ?
Linh: I always did that kind of secretly on other tracks as well. Some people think it is a sample, but it’s actually me singing
Marvin: But this is the first time we released a track that was song structured
Linh: Yes, exactly. Because the other ones have my vocals but not really lyrics and sentences.
Marvin: We just wanted to try something new. I cut out text and rephrased them to make new sentences out of it.
-Where was the text from?
Linh: It was from your book? Like an engineering book.
Marvin: I studied electrical engineering and I had one textbook about circuits or something. We printed it out and cut it up and she arranged it to make it about something else.
-Your new album was released by SolarMusicOne, a record label that was also founded by one of your influences, the Exaltics. How was it to work and release you first album under a person that you looked up to musically and how did you both meet?
Linh: It was a really modern thing. I approached them on Facebook saying ‘hey, I make music. I’m from rotterdam. Would you be interested in any demos?’ And he wrote back saying ‘actually we are just starting a new sub label and you can send it to this email’. I sent the email the next day and got a reply the day after. He replied and said, out of the six I sent him he wanted five of them. Just let me know whenever they are ready. It went really fast.
Marvin: We were lucky with the timing because they were just starting their sub label.
Linh: And searching for new artists. We just happened to approach them at the right time. We were rather spoilt to have this as our first release because it went really fast. Most releases take about a year or more because everyone has a big waiting line scheduled already. After the first EP, Rob from the Exaltics said we should do an album. We just had our first release so we were sort of anxious.
Marvin: But the concept is different to an EP when you release an album. Now we can do more weird and less standard stuff.
Linh: I get what you are saying.
Marvin: We didn’t know if there would be people already waiting for the album
Linh: We were saying maybe we should release something before the album, like another EP.
-So he kind of pushed you guys a little bit.
Linh: Yeah, a little. I really like Rob. They are really supportive and they allow us to do whatever we want to a certain taste of course. But they really like our sounds and our vision so we could basically do whatever we felt like doing. That felt really liberating.
Marvin: Super free. We were able to do our own artwork as well.
Linh: I prefer doing albums because you can decide how it is going to look.
Marvin:Because sometimes they have a house style and a view of what the album should look like but for this one we could do something totally different.
-The album art was created by you, Marvin?
The photos was shot by a different person but then I was the creative director so I did the rest of the artwork. The label and stickers as well.
-What inspired the album art?
Marvin: I really wanted to have some symbols on it but other than that, I was playing with colour and doing something funny with the label. I wrote funny sentences on them.
Linh: I wonder if people actually noticed the sentences written on the label or not?
Marvin: I don’t know. I bet they didn’t. But I wrote ‘thank you for listening and hope you sleep well tonight. What are you dreaming about?’ and so on.
-Animisitic Beliefs have played in multiple different venues by now, including a secret rave hosted by Designer label Gucci, to festivals in Lithuania and Amsterdam. In terms of performing do you both still prefer a smaller and cozier club as opposed to a bigger venue?
Linh: It doesn’t necessarily have to be small but more about the vibe. With a lower ceiling you get a more cozier feeling. But a huge basement, I like that a lot too.
Marvin: I also like it when you feel as if no one is looking at you and you can just blend in.
Linh: Like a sweaty basement (laughs). Because if it is too open the attention is more on you. I like it when everyone does their own thing. When it is a smaller venue, it’s more inviting for such moods.
– Could I ask more about the Gucci rave? How did the collaboration come about?
Marvin: Gucci was doing secret raves in different locations and for the one in Switzerland they collaborated with this woman who asked us to perform there. In each city, they paired up with a local promoter who recommended new and upcoming artists which they thought would be cool and we were one of them that were picked for the rave in Switzerland. That was how it happened.
Linh: The party itself was really cool as well because we expected it to be really posh and gucci logos everywhere but actually if you were there you wouldn’t have known it was a Gucci party even. It was a rave and almost semi illegal in someone’s basement.
Marvin: They put black curtains up and it was only a stroboscope. But the people were really fashionable. All of the artists that were playing had to have Gucci on. That was the only hint that the rave was hosted by them.
Linh: What was funny was that we mostly wear dark clothing. Not today but usually we are. We picked out our outfits which were all colorful and we went there and everyone was wearing all black and nude colors. We stepped out of the car and everyone was looking. We were like ‘oh god’. But it was really cool.
Marvin: The rave itself was really DIY and underground but we did have a penthouse suit and a chauffeur that drove us around so it was a fashion experience for us too..
Linh: Yeah, a big contrast.
You mentioned Dutch electronic musician Legowelt as one of your influences and have collaborated with him in the past. As he is from the Hague, can you tell us why you think a lot of experimental and fresh electro artists come from the west of the Netherlands?
Marvin: I think it’s because of the history of the Hague and Rotterdam. In Amsterdam and Hilversum, there will be more commercial stuff. Before when I used to say I lived in Rotterdam, people would ask me why I lived there because it was still a very dangerous area and not nice to be there. The music scene and art scene is different in terms of that too.
Linh: Its more raw and industrial.
Marvin: I think you can hear it in the music too. People are more free to experiment and not really about making pop music.
Linh: You make what you want and it’s a more punk approach. Working with no budget and with cheap synthesizers.
Marvin: Just doing it because you love it. When people do it, it attracts others making them move closer to those who are similar.
Marvin: I think it was cheaper to live here so artists would move in too.
Linh: Cheaper than in Amsterdam for sure.
-Is it still here though, the underground music scene?
Marvin: I feel like the scene itself is still very strong. A small community that is making art and music but I do feel like there are more tourists now and it is getting more gentrified.
Linh: Yes, it is. I see that happening.
Marvin: But there is always a counterculture.
Linh: Yes exactly. It is starting to fade a little but small things are still growing.
-So constantly moving around and evolving but still here .
Marvin: Yeah that is kind of how I see Rotterdam ever since I started going out. Going somewhere, there would be a really cool club but then a few years later it would be gone and something else would pop up.
Linh: There is never one area that is really concrete, but I think it is impossible for something to stay in one place for the whole time. It needs to renew and remake itself.
text Ayana Waki