Most DJ mixes sound like they were constructed out of common building blocks. The shapes and colors of individual pieces may vary slightly, but there is never any question that any and all of them would interlock snugly, in just about any configuration. But not this one. This is something else. Something special. This Is™ Sander Kleinenberg.
"I have always battled the idea of genres and labeling that goes on in today's world," says Kleinenberg. How does he do it?"By trying to be versatile. Versatility makes a DJ strong. It makes it easier for a DJ to adjust to different rooms, different countries, different atmospheres in general." The internationally renown Dutch DJ and producer certainly knows how to do just that, having captivated audiences at venues including Pacha (Ibiza), Ministry of Sound (London), Crobar (NYC), Redlight (Paris) and Panama (Amsterdam).
A great DJ is a filter, using his or her taste and experience to cherry-pick the best of literally thousands of tracks unleashed every month. Winnowing down, reducing, distilling, until only essentials remain. "In my case, this means you wind up with a bunch of records that potentially could have nothing to do with each other – unless you put them in a very particular order," he admits. Which is what he has done with This Is™ Sander Kleinenberg.
Although it reveals itself in a shockingly organic manner, like a rare flower blossoming, the two-disc mix was anything but intuitive to compile. "It's like a puzzle: You have 28 pieces, and somehow, you are going to make it all work together." Chilled, neoclassical piano ripples into finger-popping disco ("Flok I Farta"), vibrant colors pulsate ("Loosen Up Children"), warm breaths waft over deep house beats (the Phonique mix of "Anymore")… and that's just in the first ten minutes. It has moments of minimalism, others that are dark, hard, and very sexy, and ones that point towards the new wave and underground club grooves Kleinenberg absorbed in his youth.
Even the points of intersection – like the co-mingling of the primal, pizzicato "Moscow Never Sleeps" with the sultry "Dancing With Strangers" – can take on a unique character. "The transitions themselves have an identity as well," Kleinenberg concurs. "That is always good, when you put one and one together, and it ends up being three."
As that equation suggests, Kleinenberg is not the sort of artist content to operate on only one level. As his sonic spectrum has diversified, he has also challenged himself by integrating and producing video content exclusively for his sets, pioneering the use of DVD technology in a DJ set. "With only music, it is more and more difficult to stand out. Adding video allows me to really enhance the experience. A few years ago, as soon as Pioneer announced the launch of the DVD-DJ deck, I thought, 'I need to be involved in that.' I need to take that dimension, and add it to my palette, and do something constructive with it."
Now, rather than rely on an in-house VJ, Kleinenberg and video producer, Oliver [TK] create custom video content, and improvise elements of light, color, and texture, controlling the visuals themselves, and maximizing the overall entertainment experience. As in the music, there is plenty of room for spontaneity and inspiration. "When we are in clubs, about a quarter of the visual material it is pre-programmed DVD content, and then the rest is done on the fly, working with a color or a vibe we mutually agree on."
Embracing video alongside audio is both art and a survival skill. "Every artist nowadays has a very strong visual identity. That is a big part of our culture. I'm just growing with that. Bringing together these two aspects, marrying them, just feels like the way things have to be in the future… or now. It is inevitable." Merely looking svelte and handsome in a cool T-shirt, smiling under spotlights as the music plays, isn't enough anymore. And this is only the beginning. "There is a higher level," he predicts. Down the road, Kleinenberg imagines a day when this combination of elements will continue to diversify and enrich his sets, requiring more original input as a producer and musician, as well as a visual artist and original DJ. And as Pioneer improves and expands its DVD-DJ components, Kleinenberg has been happy to serve as a very vocal consultant.
For over a decade now, Kleinenberg has also marked out his own territory as an original producer. Following early tracks for European imprints including Superstition and Wonka Beats, in 1996 he broke out with the international anthem "Y.D.W. (You Do Me Wrong)," on Strictly Rhythm. His trilogy of "Four Seasons" EPs, and cuts like "My Lexicon" and "Sacred," subsequently reiterated his desire to craft music that cannot be easily date-stamped, raising his profile with fans and colleagues alike. More recently, Kleinenberg founded a new label, Little Mountain, home to his hits "The Fruit" (2004) and the mammoth "This Is Ibiza/This Is Miami" (2006).
As what Kleinenberg does continues to evolve, so does the manner in which he presents it to the world. A few years ago, he started throwing parties and making mixes under the umbrella of Everybody, an all-inclusive word chosen as a rejection of the narrow-minded, cliquey attitudes he felt DJs, promoters and even listeners were allowing themselves to be limited by. With the This Is™ events and releases, he continues to move further away from the idea of genres and trends. "This Is™ is a concept that is about now, about people living in the present. I'm at a point in my life where, for maybe the first time, I am really happy with who I am." This Is™ reflects a desire to embrace and share that vibe, and celebrate the moment.
"I want to move forward, and push the scene forward, even if it is just small things," concludes Kleinenberg. "I see too many DJs who are enjoying their success, but they are so far away from being relevant anymore. And if I want to be remembered for anything, in forty or fifty years, it was that I was relevant. That I continued to reinvent who I am, and what I do. Because that is what this music is all about: Progress, moving forward, being fresh and innovative. Merging genres and creating new ones." This is not just a dream. This is an aesthetic, a philosophy, a way of life. This Is™ Sander Kleinenberg.