Obscured by the posh clubs and world class DJs for which Miami is known lies the Florida city's minimal synth scene. It's a small crew, from what we have been told, but one whose passion for analog gear is apparent in the music of artists like Opus Finis, Staccato du Mal, Ronin and Nina Belief. The latter two outfits will be performing their first LA shows this Saturday at M/R/X/-Wolfpak, held at Roberto's in Chinatown.
For followers of the increasingly influential Wierd Records label, Ronin may be a familiar name. The duo of Carlo (Vajra) and Tushna appeared on Wierd's stellar four-LP 2008 compilation (other material from the band appears on the German label Kernkrach). Nina Belief is Tushna's solo project with a more straightforward song-oriented approach based on her experiments with analog equipment. Last month, Nina Belief released a five-song, 10″ vinyl recording through new German label No Emb Blanc.
This Saturday, Ronin and Nina Belief will have a homemade split box set available exclusively for this gig.
We caught up with Tushna by phone from Miami before the two musicians headed west.
Could you tell me a little bit about the Nina Belief and Ronin box set?
It's a split box set featuring six tracks from each group. It's all homemade, so none of it is professionally mastered and factory produced. It's designed by us and assembled at home with a lot of love and TLC. It's basically homemade electronic music, homemade packaging, original artwork. It's stuff that's earlier work for us, stuff that we wanted to put out there, but didn't want to put out in mass quantity. It's specially made for the show at M/R/X, so for people are interested in taking something home with them.
It really fell together smoothly. We had the original idea to do it and it was so much fun that we kept going and going. One thing lead to another– “Let's get these boxes and use these logos.” Just because it's homemade doesn't mean it has to look cheap. We wanted it to be tasteful and delve into some of the concepts that we're tied into. Hopefully, people will like it.
What's the difference between working as half of Ronin and as Nina Belief?
Nina is all female vocals, Ronin is Carlo and I, so he also sings on the tracks. Nina is more fantasy based and my exploration of the gear, getting to know certain instruments and being really influenced by them. Ronin is more conceptual. We deal with darker undertones. I think because it has Carlo in it, he brings another element to the music.
The darker element?
I would say so. Sometimes Nina can be more poppy. I'm very comfortable with that.
Is Nina a character as well?
It's basically a persona that manifests whenever I play. I'm highly imaginative and that's who takes over when I make music. Everything comes back to me being very influenced by what comes out of the instruments.
What instruments do you use?
They're all analog instruments, focusing on '70s and '80s, early-'80s to mid-'80s, everything from Roland to Moog to sequential circuits.
What attracted you to analog equipment?
I originally liked the simplicity of most of them. I think that we both appreciate the simplicity and the connection that we have with the instruments, not having to go into sound banks and use the mouse and go into a computer. It was more like rhythm boxes, we could throw it on and the beat's right there. It's been educational for us and probably taught us more about sound and modifying and intensifying sound. It's given us an opportunity to learn about being musicians.
Both Nina Belief and Ronin are associated with German labels. Does that make it more difficult for people in the US to become aware of your music?
I don't think so. If you're into the sound, everyone is going to the same places to get it. With the technology we have, it's so easy for anyone to find everything. Even if it's only on a small label, if they want it, they'll get it. It's probably easier than it's ever been in history.