Published Apr 24, 2019"I don't think techno purists would even bother listening to our music," laughs Ashlee Luk about InDreams, the debut album from Minimal Violence, her electronic duo with musical partner Lida Pawliuk. "We definitely don't come from that scene."
Yet, the Vancouverites have crafted one of the finest techno albums of the past 12 months — simply by ignoring the scene's tropes.
Coming together in 2015, Luk and Pawliuk began Minimal Violence with no real connection to electronic music: "I play in another band called Lié, that's kind of a punk band, and that's sort of where I came from," the former tells Exclaim!; "And I don't have a musical background, so this is kinda new to me," adds the latter.
Without a playbook to follow, the duo began to carve out their own community. They started Sacred Sound Club, a showcase for the city's up-and-coming electronic sounds that included musicians like Broken English Club, Posh Isolation, Schwefelgelb and Siren Collective.
Ashlee and Lida's legendary live performances and unique style of recording — "We'll write an hour-long set that's comprised of 10 or 11 tracks and kinda feel it out with the audience's response," Pawliuk explains — gained the attention of record labels like Vancouver's all-female imprint Genero Records and the UK's Lobster Theremin, who put out the duo's early singles. Minimal Violence then caught the ear of iconic techno labels Ninja Tune, who will release their full-length debut April 26 through their Technicolour imprint.
The nine-track LP finds Luk and Pawliuk issuing waves of raw, visceral and relentless instrumental electro that often harkens back to Vancouver's celebrated industrial scene of the early '80s.
"I do think that's something that Vancouver really shines in," says Luk about the comparison. "There are a lot of interesting acts from the post-punk and industrial scene that are coming into techno now, a lot of people who sort of stuck around with that darker scene, they're into a more industrial techno sound now because they're coming from more of a punk perspective than a purist perspective."
But despite the fact that the duo are known for crafting club-friendly techno, Minimal Violence aren't exactly scene-hopping extroverts.
"Coming from a punk band, prior to this, I found that shifting to the type of sound me and Lida are making has actually made me more introverted, "confesses Luk. "It's a very secluded process."
Pawliuk, referencing Vancouver studio masters like Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly, adds, "Maybe we're extroverted in that we play out a lot more than the original bands had."
Playing a slew of shows around the city in the past four years has opened the door for the duo to lend their support towards local musicians.
"We created the community we wanted… or we helped create it," says Pawliuk. In addition to Sacred Sound Club, Luk is the co-founder of a feminist electronic music symposium for women and non-binary artists called CURRENT.
"Electronic can be more introverted, but it's more supportive than any other genre," she explains. "There's a huge community around electronic music, especially for young producers who are coming up, where they can reach out and be like, 'Hey, I know nothing about how to produce music, can you teach me?'"
Minimal Violence are quickly becoming an important part of Vancouver's rich electronic scene, but the duo seems determined to keep their outcast DIY roots showing. Or, as Pawliuk sums: "We want to have fun and want people to have fun too. But we don't want to make tracks that are just following some perfect techno formula.
"You know," she adds with a smirk, "techno, that thing I just learned about recently."
InDreams is out April 26 through Technicolour.