Artist Talk: Opuswerk
Put the word “Swiss” in front of pretty much anything, and it adds a certain ring of prestige to what you’re talking about. So how does it work with music? Swiss-engineered techno? There’s no denying some intrigue, and those giving shape to club sounds coming out of Switzerland include long-time spearhead Ripperton and house music staples Drumpoet Community, to more recently, the ad-lib sounds of Zurich label -ous and Basel’s Amenthia Recordings for smooth-edged techno. Pushing a more club- and warehouse-centric sound is producer Hendrik van Boetzelaer, aka Opuswerk.
Hendrik rose out of the industrial techno boom that swept through the scene at the turn of the decade and gave birth to a whole new generation of producers. And with a run of records on labels like ARTS and Semantica, to his most recent release 'Forms of Multiplicity', Opuswerk’s sound is a classic streak of boomy techno aesthetics. Taking this sound further afield is Hendrik’s HISS:1292 project with French producer François X, a collaboration exploring deeper and sequential sounds for Paris label Dement3d, known for its sophisticated take on ambient-laced techno.
“The goal of Opuswerk from the start was to explore the more minimal aspects of dance music,” Hendrik explains. “Now the sound of Opuswerk is going to be more and more about exploring trance via repetition and minimalism, while also developing contemporary sound textures.”
“I love repetitive and hypnotic pulses,” Hendrik adds, “so this is what I tend to get lost in while playing with my machines.”
“I use Bitwig as my main DAW,” he says. “Everything gets recorded in there, and rearranged there, too, if needed. There’s an Opuswerk 12-inch coming out on Dement3d with all tracks made on Bitwig, just a few months after I starting using it.” A favorite aspect of Bitwig for Hendrik is its modulation system, which means modulators can be loaded into its instruments, audio FX, VST plug-ins, and even control external hardware devices, which can introduce movement to otherwise static sounds. In that sense, Hendrik says, “Bitwig becomes as much an instrument in the chain as a tape recorder.”
“I try to always work in a live way,” Hendrik says, “and after having set up a sequence I like, I jam it and record that performance, both as a multitrack and the master out of the mixer.” “I want to avoid having too many tools and spreading the work over too many platforms or sessions,” he adds. Hendrik says that when he was looking for a change of setup, he remembers searching for, “something that offered a fresh and contemporary approach to what a DAW should be: streamlined, modular, and not a recreation of some vintage synth or mixer.”
“Bitwig was the good candidate for that,” Hendrik feels. “What I find fantastic with the modulation system is how you can interconnect elements,” he continues. “From sidechaining EQs for precise mixing, to also getting very creative using extremely simple devices.” And happy with Bitwig’s handling of latency, Hendrik is able to create, develop, and record his sounds, raw or otherwise, outside of the box while leaving its finer details of modulation to unfold and develop as software inside the box.
“There’s still so much to explore with modulators and FX chains and cross track modulations,” he says. “I love combining a filter with a simple delay, before or after the FX-feedback chain. Add to this slight-and-slow modulation from LFOs and you get some very pleasing ever-evolving delay lines,” Hendrik explains. “My projects are usually very simple, albeit they sometimes become extremely complex due to trying different options and approaches,” he says. “For example, one of the tracks of my EP on Dement3d is literally two tracks: one for a kick drum, and one for a synth line from my SH-101, fed in a custom effect chain.”
“Bitwig definitely makes it easier for me to get ideas from my head to sounds I can record and use,” he says. “The fact you can combine any modulator with anything really transforms the sound design approach to the point where your imagination, and your own understanding of signal flow, is the only limit.”