Minimal Violence is a punk band. Sort of. Born from Vancouver’s underground punk community out of an eagerness to mix records as well as play in bands, the duo of Ashlee Luk and Lida P have clung to the DIY and outsider ethos of their scene with resolute talons since coming together in 2015. It is in the rawness of their roots that the appeal of their incendiary electronics lies.
As part of the broader Sacred Sound Club, a collective who’ve championed experimental, noise and darkwave sounds in the city, the pair learned their craft through improvising on whatever bits of equipment they could get their hands on – “A few din-sync linked synths and drum machines alongside a sampler and a casio we found next to a garbage can”. The results were rough, uncontrolled and irresistible.
From there, the noise flourished, and the duo have gone on to release on labels like 1080p, Jungle Gym Records and Lobster Theremin as well as putting out a fearsome remix on the legendary R&S. Becoming known across Canada and further afield for their cathartic live shows, they have just released their latest double-edged single on Ninja Tune’s Technicolor imprint. As on previous cuts ‘Now!’, ‘Acid Lakes’ and ‘Houses’, ‘MVX / U41A’ combs chaos with a sort of cavernous introspection, an injection of anxious euphoria. This time round however, the sense of release that bursts from the tracks is heavier, more abrasive, as though the further into the electronics the pair delve, the more dedicated to a punk ideology they become.
“I definitely think we have evolved to a significantly heavier place than we started,” Luk tells DJ Mag. “Which is funny since it has always been such punk approach from the beginning but maybe from a softer angle.
“We’ve always worked out of our home prior to this which has required constant attention to volume,” she adds, having recorded this EP in Vancouver’s Deep Blue studio. “Being able to just blast it while jamming lends to conjuring a vibe during the creative process, would like to imagine that vibe was successfully transmitted in these recordings.”
Of course, releasing on Ninja Tune or a Ninja Tune affiliate label is no small feat, and it is certainly not something the duo are taking for granted.
“Working with Ninja Tune has been a really great experience so far,” they say. “We were drawn to them based on some of their recent releases with the Technicolor label, they seem to be picking up on a lot of new artists who are creating works outside of traditional dance structures.”
And it is, as expected, the artists who defy traditional structures that Minimal Violence are kindred with. The pair, along with Josh Rose and Spencer Davis of Vancouver post-punk outfit Cowards, formed Sacred Sound Club as a response to the lack of experimental electronic and dance music events taking place in the city. It has since expanded, with a new wave of experimental, DIY electronic outfits and collectives rising with it.
“It was just a natural progression that we would start throwing parties in order to bring out artists that we wanted to see,” they say. “It’s been about three years now but it’s really cool to see all of the new life that has sprung up in Vancouver since, with collectives like S.M.I.L.E and Nuzitaking risks on bringing artists to the city that we would have never imagined a scene for years before.”
“S.M.I.L.E, whose collective includes artists like x/o, J.S Aurelius and Baby Blue, has been building a scene locally for artists with a more experimental/deconstructed approach to club music,” they add. “Something that was not really embraced in Vancouver until recently. Also Nuzi collective, who started up just last year, are really exciting. They self-describe as a movement dedicated to increasing the presence and visibility of black women, women of colour and gender nonconforming individuals within the Vancouver music scene.”
Luk still plays in her dark punk band lié (she’s on guitar and vocals) and is precise when specifying the links she finds between the clamorous spirit of that outlet and the more dancefloor-ready edge of Minimal Violence.
“I feel like when people look for the links between electronic and punk they often look to the actual sound, which is not where I see the connection,” she explains. “I think it is in the ethos, and the approach. The use of instruments and machines in an unconventional way; I feel like you can hear the difference between electronic music played by someone who has taken a formal path to learning how to produce VS someone who had just picked up pieces of gear and figured out how to use them to the ends of getting whatever sound they want to achieve.”
In terms of pieces of gear, in a live setting Minimal Violence have developed their set-up to be centred around the MPC1000 sampler and branch it out from there. “We send different sequences to the Virus A and Blofeld while just sending clock over to our drum machines (707/tr-09) which are independently controlled and run through some pedals and filters. Also gotta toss some acid in there.”