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Sonic boom boys Das Koolies creating futurist acid house for new generation

12 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Das Koolies (Credit: Mark James)

Jude Rogers

Deep in Cardiff’s industrial docklands, there is an energy pulsing, buzzing, rattling, ready to break out. It has been cultivated by four famously progressive Cardiff-based musicians, a dynamic Cardiff-born multidisciplinary artist, a world-renowned Cardiff-based lighting designer – who was one of the lead creatives behind the Las Vegas MSG Sphere – plus so many other local talents providing hands-on, creative support.

A restless, collaborative DIY spirit is booming in Wales’ capital city. So is the idea of what artistic ambition could look like, sound like and feel like now and in the future. On Friday 22 March, a new era for Cardiff as a music city will take off, thanks to a production transported from the secret HQ of Welsh experimental gurus Das Koolies to a world-leading arts lab by the River Ely.

At the groundbreaking CULTVR, Europe’s first immersive research lab for digital arts, live performance and XR, Super Furry Animals Huw Bunford, Cian Ciarán, Daf Ieuan and Guto Pryce will unveil a unique live spectacular in collaboration with immersive studio 4Pi Productions and Dah Dit Dit, the creative minds behind the group’s groundbreaking music videos.

With support from Welsh Government, Cardiff Council and Cardiff Music Board, as well as initial support from streaming platform Audiotarky, they will take their critically acclaimed debut album DK.01 on an extended road trip through their formative techno, pop, krautrock and psych influences, catapulting their interests in sonic and visual experimentation into new dimensions.

To help, they’re bringing an incomparable sound system into Wales for the first time, explains Das Koolies’ member, as well as screen composer, producer and SFA keyboardist, Cian Ciaran. Built by leading pro-audio manufacturer d&b audiotechnik, it’s more “open, multi-dimensional, and shapes intimate atmospheres”, he explains. “It can connect an audience to the artist like nothing else, and it fits in with the acid house warehouse party tradition – except we never had a sound system like this!”

Live improvisation and bespoke work created just for the night will be a part of the performance – this is genuinely a brand new live experiment for Das Koolies, Ciaran points out. “It’s not a regurgitation of what we’ve done in our gigs to date, and it isn’t a gimmick – it’s about putting in time and experiment and creative endeavour into making something new that could tour as an installation, tour festivals or play at planetariums.”

This brings an element of a premiere to the 22 March show, too. “More than anything, we knew we didn’t want to have four or five blokes on a stage, or what people might have expected from the Furries. We wanted to move on from what we’d already done, learn from that and develop it, and move it into new directions, new realms.” It’s also an ongoing process, he adds, “which is exciting. There’s so much room for it to develop and grow.”

Working with artist Mark James is also part of the Das Koolies’ masterplan, whose stunning work through the years with the SFAs and major and independent records labels led him to his first solo exhibition in Tokyo recently with Wales Arts International. “We’ve been on a similar wavelength with Mark since we first crossed paths,” Ciaran says. “With Koolies, he’s been there from the start, working on how we want things to be perceived, how we want them to be different and new – and he’s nailed it.”

The involvement of Paul Johnson, aka “PJ”, the groundbreaking Las Vegas Sphere lighting designer from Cardiff, has also pushed the ambitious plans for Das Koolies’ stage production, execution and design. “The Sphere was his baby”, Ciaran points out. “He was one of the lead designers in the team that conceived it, one of those Mad Hatter ideas that he’d admit has actually come to fruition! He’s very creative and thinks outside the box. He’s got so much to offer, and has been a great export for Wales”.

But now he’s creating the future from home – and the future is happening here. This Soundscape session kicks off an exciting year, and an exciting future, for Cardiff – in the shape of a capital city production projecting new ideas, sounds and a boundless enthusiasm for innovation into the wider world.

This enthusiasm is something you can feel in the Cardiff air, Ciaran says. “There’s a lot of good things going on all over the city, and the country, for that matter. Hopefully, we’re contributing to what’s already a fruitful and exciting pool of creativity, without me sounding like a w***ker!”

Harnessing more innovation is essential for all artists, he says. “It’s what keeps us interested and engaged, and that’s primarily what the driving force should be – that sense of exploration. The journey’s more important than the destination, you know?” He laughs. “So, yeah. All come along for the ride!”

Limited tickets for DK.01mmersive are now on sale HERE

Discover more Das Koolies…

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