Nicolas Jaar’s Clown & Sunset presents Valentin Stip...
April 2011, Montreal
I’m somewhere I’ve never been before. Montreal. Nico, the owner and founder of the Clown & Sunset imprint, asked me to meet his latest signing before the rest of the world does. His name is Valentin Stip and he’s 19 years old. I’m outside his building, shivering. I push the buzzer on the ancient talk-box mounted by the door. “One sec”, a quiet voice, enveloped in the ambient hissing of old machines, asks me to wait.
Val, true to his word, is punctual. His demeanor is formal, but there’s a faint hint of a grin on his face. I follow him up the stairs to his apartment. The walls are worn out, decorated with pre-war flourishes. It is almost all white with dark wooden floors. Instruments and equipment take up one half of the living room. A small sitting area with library books scattered across it occupies the other. Along the wall in the middle of the room is a worn out turntable.
Over steaming cups of black coffee, he talks about how he’s been trying to balance his college studies with finishing the EP. He’s calm but slightly anxious at the challenge. His behavior belies him. “Do you mind?” he asks gently before lighting the first of a half dozen Marlborough Lights he’ll smoke in our time together. We now sit in the smoky din of his living room listening to the record. Distorted pianos, ghostly voices, and metallic percussion fill the room: a witch’s brew.
Born in France, Val grew up with classical piano training in New York City. He received formal lessons, studied in conservatories and had all the makings of a rising concerto performer. When he moved to Montreal in the fall of 2009, Val lost sight of the instrument that defined his adolescence. The regularity of the practice schedule that organized his life was fastidiously turned inside out. It was around this time that he began experimenting with electronic music. Eighteen months later, he is about to release his first EP, Anytime Will Do, on Clown & Sunset.
Val still carries himself with a trace of the famous severity that defined his classical fore-bearers. He’s dressed darkly in jeans and a faded sweater. His shoulder- length black hair is pulled back in a loose ponytail. He smokes constantly. It’s no surprise to hear him describe his music as classically based, even though the influence can at first be difficult to hear. Much classical music is grandiose, while Val’s sound is deliberately modest. It’s spare and full of space.
But Val isn’t after direct translation so much as transformation. He works in mediums popularly appropriated for clubs while looking backwards in time for their future. Listening to his baroque structures sounds like what I imagine Wagner might if his music were deconstructed into fragments. You are aware of the total work, but you only hear its echoes.
Later, Val has finished spinning his EP. The coffee pot sits on the electric heater in the kitchen, almost empty. A half dozen cigarette butts smoulder in the ashtray. We sit together in silence for a moment, taking it all in.
“Through the music, I’m...I’m looking for the soul,” he concludes. If the search sounds like this, let´s hope he never finds it.
— Lola M. has been a journalist and freelance writer for the past 13 years. When not on assignment for Clown & Sunset, she reports as a correspondent for a variety of foreign language outlets. Originally from the Mid-West, she is currently based out of Berlin.
27th July, 8pm – 1am
Nicolas Jaar Live
Valentin Stip Live
28th July, 10pm – 4am
Nicolas Jaar Live
Valentin Stip Live