They didn’t need to. The second release on the then-burgeoning Innervisions, ‘Rej’ was the essential driver that gave Âme and Dixon’s brand the funds to go fully independent and totally invest in their sound, gradually developing the multi- faceted organisation that now employs 25 people and encompasses its own booking agency, distribution company, publishing company and studios. At the time, however, the label was a subsidiary of Sonar Kollektiv, Jazzanova’s hyper-eclectic leftfield label on which Kristian and Frank had released their first few singles and debut eponymous album between 2003-4.
“The releases were almost too all over the shop,” Frank recalls. “One time it was a hip-hop record, then a jazz record, then a techno record. It was anything. You didn’t know what you’d get. At the time, Stefan [Dixon] said he wanted to start a house label, so we approached Sonar Kollektiv with the idea of Innervisions.”
The label officially launched in July 2005 with Tokyo Black Star’s ‘Psyche Dance’ as the 001. ‘Rej’ landed two months later. But it almost didn’t land at all. “Jazzanova were good friends of ours, but they never understood the record,” admits Kristian. “We gave them the master tapes and they said, ‘No, this is too minimal, too electronic’. That was the point we decided for ourselves that, in the future, we would make Innervisions independent.”
While it would take until release 006 for Innervisions to go truly independent, the amicable split began here, and the release of ‘Rej’ went ahead with the stripped-back deep house groove ‘Basic Track’ on the B. Across the two sides, the duo’s love for US house and Detroit techno was abundantly clear. The production was far from your standard electronic creation, too. While in-the-box set-ups were becoming more commonplace by the mid-2000s, Frank and Kristian were still very much traditional with their tools. In fact, their set-up was so analogue, the desk had no total recall, and Frank would have to write down the settings if he had to change them for another project. Even the engineer they worked with was old school.
“I think the massive effect of Andreas Schorpp has to be highlighted,” says Frank. “He had a massive impact on it. If you listen to the demos before he worked on it, they’re so different. He made that track.”
“He came from a rock background, and we were the first electronic act he worked with,” adds Kristian. “It was a special combination of those two worlds. Today, a lot of records sound like this, but back then he was the first to put that super wide, spread out sound onto a record like this.”
Here’s where we start to understand why ‘Rej’ had the resonance it did. It didn’t just stand out amid the dominant genres being spun at the time, it genuinely sounded like nothing else at the time. It had a rich, analogue warmth to it and a breadth and full flavour that had been lost or forgotten about as the rise of in-the-box producing was really kicking in with the digital revolution. Either way, ‘Rej’ was picked up by the very top of the house / techno tree the second the promos went out.
“Our first request was an urgent email from François K who was at Yellow Club in Japan, and he said he really needed it,” Kristian remembers. “He’d heard it in Shelter the week before when Timmy Regisford played it three times in one night! I’m not sure how we sent it to him, it was early days with the internet, but we did. This was the first time we heard that people were playing it.”