According to Martin Bisi (producer of Sonic Youth, Swans, Dresden Dolls et al.), TONFANG are the grandchildren of George Clinton and Giorgio Moroder. Felix Kubin calls for the creation of a new genre, referring to their music as “subaquatic dub”. What?!
From the start: TONFANG create collages. They don’t just mix dub, kraut rock, funk, hip hop, big beat, future and electro. They use these different genres and styles like puzzle pieces to create a bigger picture. You can definitely hear the ’90s in their sound: Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, Cypress Hill, the Beastie Boys. TONFANG’s debut album (that is to be released at the beginning of 2017) features heavy techno bass drums uniting the different genres and making the songs dancey. Fat beats are the glue between the variety of sound fragments. Some tracks feature a definite theme: “Bright Exception” is a classic ’80s/’90s hip hop tune. TONFANG mostly avoid using samples and create all their sounds themselves, which is rare in this musical style. Then again, and only to break their own pattern, at least one song is completely overloaded with samples. At times, a drummer and a double bass player appear between the synths, take over and create a new foundation for the piece. Once heard, TONFANG’s subaquatic dub collages remain in your head. They take you by the hand and lead you into the gaps between styles where the difference between warm and cold is absent, where it’s light and dark at the same time.
TONFANG are Patrick Müller (The Beats, ex-Klein, Martin Bisi band) and Uli Himstedt II (Son Turistas, The Beats, Demcker, Niedervolthoudini, ex-Zehn Meter Feldweg) – two multi-instrumentalists and computer musicians.
Patrick founded TONFANG as a solo project at the beginning of the new millennium. In German, the name means “to catch a tone” and derives from the fact that Patrick used to collect countless sounds using a MiniDisc recorder to turn them into music. Uli Himstedt’s entry in 2008 was the logical step to take. The two of them had been part of the same scene for years. In the early 2000s both of them belonged to a small Northern German group of people that used to create music with so-called tracker programs. These grid sequencers are rudimentary music applications that look like Excel sheets in which sounds are generated by putting in numeric values. The passion for details that you can hear in TONFANG’s music is deeply rooted in the band. While Patrick grows up with the record collection of his parents: jazz, rock, soul, and ’70s funk - later he listens to classical music and hip hop, Uli spends his teenage years exploring and making electronic music. In his early twenties, indie rock and songwriting become his major interests. Joining TONFANG marks a return to his electronic roots. In 2013, Patrick and Uli almost simultaneously find their way (back) to techno. This gives the band’s live sound a very distinct character. In many live shows, the band shifts back and forth between songs and free improvisations. The protagonists’ playful enthusiasm is just as contagious as their explosive onstage presence.
Previous releases have been various remixes for Josh Ottum, the EP “The Piss” (2011) and a track on the compilation “15 Years Of Astra Stube” (2015). TONFANG have been working on their debut album from summer 2015 to spring 2016.
Text: Henrik D. A. Schimkus/Anker+Stern, 27 April, 2016