Techno Titan Marc Houle Talks New Releases and Iron Maiden


It was front-page news in 2011 when Marc Houle, Magda and Troy Pierce announced they were collectively leaving Richie Hawtin’s Minus label to develop their Items & Things imprint, originally a sub-label under Minus’ auspices. The trio of serial collaborators’ reason for departing Hawtin’s camp was rooted in their wish to build their own musical future together. Almost three years later the threesome and Items & Things have been slowly realizing their dreams on their own terms, quietly redefining minimal techno one blip at a time. Houle has kept particularly busy, taking part in a series of collaborations in 2013 with Miss Kittin (Where is Kittin? EP), Click Box (Razzamatazz EP) and an album with synth-pop act La Folie.

“I love making music with other people because it’s such a great feeling when they add stuff that you wouldn’t think of,” offers the Berlin-based Houle. “I’m not sure if it’s had an impact on me but it’s a nice change and anything new in the studio is a good thing.”

This month Houle presents his first solo release since 2012, the Fusion Pop EP. The release features two original minimal cuts and remixes from Magda and I&T artist NYMA. His latest effort arrives during a period of extensive touring, which finds him crisscrossing the world nearly every weekend.

“Traveling around a lot gives you lots of time to think about things, so I’m always making notes to reference when I get home and start working again,” he explains. “Also when you’re away from the studio for awhile you just can’t wait to get back in and make lots of music. So I’m doing this interview right after three crazy shows in Argentina. I’m pretty exhausted from all that partying but it was a really great time playing for people who love music a bit weirder than normal. It’s such a crazy country!”

Houle’s one-man live show continues to evolve in tandem with his forward-thinking and often unconventional production style. His performances leverage the diversity of his DJ sets by utilizing an array of hardware to create a unique experience. “It’s been a very slow change over the years,” Houle says. “[The live show] became more energetic over time and definitely more eclectic. I’ve learned to play different feels and styles depending on the people dancing in front of me. Over the years I’ve brought different pieces of gear with me — synths, drum machines and now microphones — to enhance things and give me more options. I think these days you need to be flexible. In the future, I think I need to concentrate more on the visual aspect of things. It’s almost becoming as important as the music.”
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Album Review: Marc Houle / ‘Undercover’ (Items & Things)


Marc Houle develops an appreciation of ’80s electro and house, paying homage with vampish tactics and stirring in his own ingredients, so as to retell the tale of ‘in the beginning there was Jack.’ Having shifted from long-term employers M_Nus, the Canadian connoisseur in club basics has tracks backtracking toward standard synthesized shock and awe. The title track is of a pointed cleanness staring right through you, and “Under the Neath” pushes electro-techno headfirst into the abyss, while the authentic excellence of “Juno 6660” reopens warehouses from twenty five years ago. Roule is also hypnotic before you can exclaim so, with a sense of the improvised to the swirling rhythms of “Very Bad.”

Under another selector’s tutelage Undercover, whose scope and execution is actually cautious to the point of being stifled, could have been a throwaway case of dance floor stealth. Plugging in, powering up and a lot of the time playing pilot rather than personality, Houle gamely adopts presets more than turning away from them, but maximizes with 45 minutes of the highly jackable. Through ping-pong rhythms and elevated beeping and squeaking (the childlike rummages through the tool and toy-box of “Bink”), it’s a true understanding of the man-machine alliance.
File under: Rosaire Argyle; Run Stop Restore; Click Box