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The disarming simplicity of Bougaïeff’s musical style belies the use of unconventional structures. Rooted in 90s rave music, contemporary classical and electroacoustics, Bougaïeff’s productions meet the self-imposed challenge of harnessing avant-garde techniques at the service of individual and collective dancefloor ecstasy. It’s been a long winding path that led Bougaïeff to embrace a personal sound, but patience and perseverance have paid off. In the past few years his sound has crystallised; an amalgamation of brutal distortion, playful melodies and textures suggesting off-kilter fantasy.
His Cognitive Resonance 12″, a prime example of this new sound, marked the 2017 relaunch of legendary British label NovaMute and was followed by widely praised debut album Principles of Newspeak on his own label Denkfabrik. His second album Les Sauvageries in 2018, a sonic embodiment of confrontational hedonism, combines modernist cello improvisations with industrial techno and was performed live at Berlin’s infamous KitKatClub. A busy touring schedule blossomed, taking Bougaïeff to Berghain, Fabric, and cities across the world between Los Angeles and Jerusalem. Recent projects include a live audio-visual show in collaboration with video artist Itaru Yasuda and music for Obectra’s 2018 fashion show.
Bougaïeff grew up in small-town Quebec. His first releases date back to 1997 via early netlabels and he played his first live show at a rave in 1999 using tower desktop PCs. After flirting with a career as a pilot, impossible to pursue due to colour blindness, Bougaïeff worked on a land oil rig to pay for music studies in Montreal. He completed a composition degree at the Montreal Music Conservatory, quit his job doing sound design and music for video games and in 2008, armed with a few dozen demo tracks, moved to Berlin.
The move to Berlin was pivotal for his development, opening his eyes to a cultural world which encouraged new reflections upon his own artistry. Diving into the city’s nightlife led him to reflect upon the deep architecture of the music he was making. Before long, Bougaïeff had completed a PhD on minimal techno at the University of Huddersfield, designed the controllers for Richie Hawtin’s Plastikman Live tour, and co-founded Liine, the company behind landmark music app Lemur used by astronaut Alexander Gerst on the International Space Station in a live jam with Kraftwerk.
An experimentalist in the truest sense of the word, Bougaïeff follows an empirical approach to discover what works. His insatiable musical curiosity led him to produce in countless styles and attracted the attention of a wide swath of industry players. Bougaïeff’s wildly eclectic discography includes numerous experimental and electroacoustic works, a bombastic trance EP on Armin Van Buuren’s Armada label, melodic techno on Traum Schallplatten in collaboration with Max Cooper, the Dust EP on Cooper’s own label Mesh, minimal releases on Trapez that borrow techniques from Steve Reich and Schoenberg, deep house on Maceo Plex’s Ellum, as well as a series of new wave and house excursions with synth-pop project Private Agenda on Tusk Wax and International Feel.
Nicolas Bougaïeff is not only paying homage to the past, he’s spearheading the techno avant- garde.