Recondite, real name Lorenz Brunner, may very well be techno’s most intriguing antihero. He’s soft-spoken, contemplative and lacks any of the sort of bravado commonly found in his globe-trotting peers. What’s more, he champions a largely laid-back sound — a far cry from the high-energy compositions currently dominating the landscape of the underground. It’s this kind of idiosyncratic artistic vision, however, that has attracted the attention of many of the scene’s foremost tastemakers, like Innervisions, Hotflush and Ghostly International.
Brunner grew up in a small town in Bavaria, Germany, where he spent much of his time alone in nature exploring the wilderness around him. “The way I grew up, there was a lot of room for evolving a certain sensitivity,” he tells Billboard. “When you grow up in the Bavarian forest, it’s different than when you grow up in the Berlin streets. When you grow up with a normal childhood, in an area where you don’t have so many people, you have a lot of room to grow up as a sensitive person.”
It’s this very background that makes Recondite’s sound so distinct. This isn’t the cold, industrial techno of Berlin, but rather something far more organic and emotionally complex. It’s nostalgic and sullen, yet still stubbornly minimal. In fact, the first thing one notices about Brunner’s music is how jarringly empty it is. The arrangements aren’t overtly complex, with only a few elements ever operating at the same time. Every sound serves a distinct purpose, and silence plays just as big of a role (if not bigger) than sound itself. It’s almost as if Brian Eno moved to the forest and suddenly developed a penchant for minimal techno.
Brunner first began dabbling with production in 2006, and by 2011 had founded his own Plangent Recordings and was self-releasing various EPs on the imprint. In 2012, he signed his debut album On Acid to boutique L.A. imprint Acid Test before following up in 2013 with his sophomore album Hinterland on Ghostly International. This was followed by his tremendous Caldera EP on Scuba’s Hotflush in 2014, which topped Beatport’s techno chart and cemented Brunner’s name as one of the most exciting producers of the moment. Two albums and countless EPs later, Recondite has amassed a potent discography that continues to evolve with each release.
All the while, Brunner has been diligently perfecting his live show: a concise showcase in which he performs all original material via Ableton Live. It’s a show that has consistently enamored fans across the globe, even earning Recondite the title of Top Live Act in Resident Advisor‘s 2014 annual poll, and securing him the No. 2 spot on the poll in subsequent years.
It’s not hard to see why his performances have caught on so fervently; in the live setting, Recondite’s music takes on a prodigious quality thanks to its minimal construction. With so few elements competing, each sonic layer engages a sound system to its full potential. Take Brunner’s cataclysmic Hotflush cut “Phalanx,” for instance. On a proper system, every snare hit feels like a tree crashing in the forest; its swelling bass progression pulses with the weight of a raging storm.
Much of Recondite’s music carries this sort of dark, supernatural quality to it. It’s partly what makes his music so compelling. Tracks like “Warg” and “DRGN2,” for example, are downright menacing, while “Corvus” even samples a crow squawking. When asked about the often sinister qualities to his music, Brunner related it back to his time spent in nature. “Sometimes you go alone into the forest, and the weather is really dark,” he says. “The atmosphere is there, and you soak it up immediately, even if you don’t know. It’s like when you look at a dark picture or painting, you get a certain vibe.”
In many ways, this process of absorbing one’s surroundings has become the central axis of Recondite’s creative output. While many artists actively seek out inspiration, Brunner favors a more organic approach, opting to let it come about naturally rather than forcibly.
“Inspiration is something that I really don’t control,” he says. “I don’t even want to really. As long as it comes, and as long as my life is designed in a way that now and then it comes, then I know I can maintain creativity.”
This effortless approach to creation serves as a reflection of Recondite’s entire artistic ethos. Shunning over-thinking for instinct, Brunner approaches his career with a Zen-like trust in his intuition.
“There’s no real big plan of how I would like to be represented or what kind of goal I would like to achieve with my music,” he says. “I think it’s more of a combination of doing what I feel good with, and doing what I like to be represented with — nothing which was planned out from day one.”
To his credit, it’s a methodology which has served him well. With four albums finished and a fifth on the way, Recondite has not only triumphed the daunting rigors of creativity, but carved out a thoroughly distinct artistic style in the process. Ultimately, it’s an identity made all the more compelling by the emotional and philosophical depth of Brunner himself.
Recondite’s next release, Theater II, is due out on Dystopian on July 3.