- Zilka Grogan
A chat with Timnah Sommerfeldt
Deeply embedded in the Basel scene, surrounded by good friends with a shared passion for music, Timnah Sommerfeldt’s style as a selector has flourished. From teenage years spent sneaking into her brother’s room to play records, to now sharing a home/studio space with fellow artists and friends, the Swiss talent has moved through many sounds, slowly developing a diversity of taste that infuses every set she plays. Expect selections that traverse a wide tapestry of drum & bass, techno and ambient when Timnah joins Patterns of Perception // Winter Edition this weekend. It’s a sound also perfectly encapsulated in her recent contribution to our mix series. Below, we caught up with her to learn more about her take on djing and to explore the importance of friendship for honing her skills.
You started playing at quite a young age of 17. Do you remember what attracted you to take up DJing at this time? How has your relationship to the craft and to music in general changed since?
Yeah, sure. My brother is a little bit older than me and had already played records at that time. He played only hip hop/trip hop, 2step etc. That was at the end of the ‘90s. That impressed me a lot and I sneaked into his room a lot just to play records, which of course he didn’t like at all. It’s completely different now. We always do events together or visit each other at the events. I think if my brother had chosen a different way back then I wouldn’t make music like I do now.
Musically I was interested in many things and still am. I have trouble concentrating on one thing, too much interests me.
Your bio describes your style as “earthy dance music”. Can you elaborate on that? What do you look for when selecting tracks as a DJ?
I still find it hard to describe my own style myself and I can’t really say what exactly I pay attention to in my selection. But what is very important to me is that I like to have a selection together that doesn’t just consist of one genre. I like to break it. So it’s possible that I go down to 80bpm within a techno set. I really like the diversity of djing and find it exciting to work with.
Was there a particular concept behind your recent mix for Patterns of Perception? How do you approach preparing a podcast or mix, versus preparing for a DJ set?
First I listen to the podcast series and then I look for a style and music. For the Patterns of Perception mix, however, I let myself be guided musically by an older mix of mine because (Patterns of Perception resident DJ) Steve Duncan had such pleasure in the way the mix was done.
We love the concept of Home, the monthly radio show you host with Garçon (from Amenthia Recordings) in your living room. Does hosting the show in this intimate & cosy environment give your guests a chance to play music they might not otherwise?
Definitely! And that’s also very welcome. We have never restricted ourselves to one genre of broadcasting, which is why we always create very exciting music evenings and we never know what’s happening or how the music is gonna be. It’s not as if we only meet for the stream. It’s hanging around with friends, having good food, listening to good music together and having a lot of fun.
As you’ve found your feet as a DJ, what have you learned from, and what inspiration do you take from, friends and collaborators like Garçon and others?
Mainly my friends here in Basel inspire me. And of course also other artists. Over all these years we have raised and experienced so many things together. That alone was a huge inspiration. I’m infinitely happy about what I can experience here. For years we have been living together in a multi-family house with a flat on the ground floor which is only dedicated to music. Varuna has their studio there, and we also have our home studio. It is an enrichment to go to Varuna’s studio after dinner and join a jam session or just listen to new tracks together.
Your early productions were very house focused, but these days your music selections are much more diverse and eclectic. How has your taste changed over the years? Any thoughts on what has driven this change?
In these 16 years I have been through many genres. In this time I have also produced music which I don’t do anymore. I think the taste has certainly changed a lot with the influence of friends. We have always exchanged ideas and played new things for each other. I think it is mainly the dynamics that are created. In addition to that, we have many good producers here in Basel which has influenced me a lot musically.
Electronic music plays an important role in Swiss cultural life. Away from the well-documented scene in Zurich, how is the scene in Basel today?
The scene is constantly changing, which I like a lot. But there are always gaps in between, which balance each other out over time. I don’t think Basel is an isolated case. Sometimes there are too many clubs, then too few again. But at the moment I think it’s very harmonious. It has a bit of everything. I’m very happy with Club Elysia as my home base. It’s nice to have a place that values sound.
Which emerging Swiss producers/DJs should we put on our radar?
Definitely A Walking Contradiction, the label Varuna launched with Simon Lemont & // Suibheallan. Also Cephei, who is an amazing dj and resident at Elysia. The guys running the party label Swim, Mark Lando and Tesdorpf, are doing very interesting stuff, being it events or zines. Somatic Rituals, run by Kombé, Mafou and Mukuna. And last but not least - Baby Val from Zurich :)
Lastly, which three records have you had on constant rotation lately and why?
Healing Force Project - Sideral Escape (Amenthia Recordings) Especially Mechanical Concept in the Mental Fluid. But I like the whole EP. It has just a nice vibe.
Varuna - Metamorph (Amenthia Recordings) Already one of my favourite albums ever. Blind Observatory, Dorisburg, Agonis - SMKMCHN#01 (Smoke Machine) Superb EP, with Blind Observatory’s the Long Tomorrow II song par excellence