COURTESY (Kulør/Copenhagen, DK)
Najaaraq Vestbirk, aka Courtesy, is a DJ and label owner from Denmark. Pursuing and finding rare success solely as a DJ means she’s invested fully in her craft. Endless hours digging in the more overlooked sections of the world’s record shops while championing the newest music coming out of her Copenhagen hometown has resulted in a unique and thrilling sound. Her sets are as much for the head as they are the body – A place where fast, streamlined stompers sit alongside whip-crack electro and churning, wrongspeed EBM – held together by a common thread of smart and emotive melody.
This multi-faceted, carnivorous approach to DJing is echoed in the various musical endeavours Courtesy has started over last decade. In the mid-2000s she debuted as a DJ in the teenage duo Ung Flugt, before going on to found Dunkel Radio, a podcast, blog and radio show which grew into one of Denmark’s leading hubs for electronic music. Apeiron Crew followed, joined by Mama Snake, Solid Blake and Smokey for 4-headed back-to-back sets across Europe. Then, Ectotherm – a record label run in partnership with Mama Snake which, while ceasing operations after just 5 EPs, did much to showcase Copenhagen’s fresh take on techno to the world. And now, Kulør – a solo venture which continues to shine a light on Danish talent while seeking to push out beyond the music world into art, photography and writing.
But Vestbirk is a DJ first and foremost. In 2018, her recent mixes for Dekmantel and Mixmag are already essential listening, while standout performances at Nachtdigital, Dekmantel’s Boiler Room stage and the closing set of the Marcel Dettmann-curated Klubnacht at Berghain enamoured her with dancefloors worldwide. 2019 looks to continue Courtesy’s relentless pursuit of new and exciting musical adventures, and continue to thrill clubs and festivals worldwide.
Angelica Ottavia Ianniti (Angelica for short) has become a notably diverse DJ, equally adept at specialty sets of techno, Goth, industrial, house, and experimental music as an opener or closer, and just as good at commingling those styles. And at Deeper, which takes place the last Thursday of every month at the Loring Bar’s Red Room, Angelica plays more aggressively outré, oftentimes beat-less records. (That makes a certain amount of logistical sense as well—the Red Room’s carpet isn’t exactly conducive to dancing.)
Angelica, who turns 30 in April, is a Los Angeles native who moved to Minneapolis in 2006 for school. “I grew up in Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes,” she says. “I wanted to be in a city, and I also went to a small, private high school, and I wanted to be at the biggest public school I could find. My mom grew up in Minnesota, so I have some family here. I visited, and was just like, ‘This is what I want.’ I’d grown up listening to punk—Green Day and Blink-182 were the first things I downloaded on my own—and had a lot of friends who played in bands. And then I came here and it was just nothing like what was going on in L.A. Minneapolis definitely has a punk scene, but it’s more of a classic punk scene.”
At the U, where she majored in physiology, Angelica played Variety Hour slots on Radio K and co-hosted a short-lived show there playing “psychedelic, experimental, old industrial music, and a lot of Krautrock.” She also bought her first decent guitar and amplifier. “Now I live in an apartment and have no place to play my really fucking loud tube amp,” she says, with a little frustration. “I fell into it,” she says of her more recent music career. “I’d never thought of becoming a DJ. I got into techno before I knew there was a scene in Minneapolis for it, or knew anyone else [who] was listening to it. I got into techno at the very end of 2011. I was introduced to Sandwell District and I’d never heard anything that sounded anything like that—minimal and maximal at the same time. That stuff had a huge, huge impact on me. Before that, I thought of minimal techno or, like, Vengaboys, and no in-between. I think that’s how a lot of people still think about it.”
Then, in 2014, a friend was moving out of her house. “It was in the process of being foreclosed on,” says Angelica. “She had a PA, and planned this big house party. I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll pull together a DJ set for your party. Who cares?’ I picked out a bunch of music, I practiced, I had a MIDI controller and a laptop, and I brought over basically my boom-box speaker setup—a bunch of tea lights, so I had some mood lighting going. I played in this big bedroom. I wasn’t expecting much out of it or anything to come of it, and people came up to me after that like, ‘Where the fuck did you come from?’”
Her first booking was at Too Much Love at the First Avenue Record Room. “I really wasn’t ready for that,” she says. “It freaked me out. I’m kind of hard on myself. I didn’t feel great about it. But they were super encouraging, and I got asked back. I didn’t have anybody to learn from, and I had to teach myself—I really didn’t know what I was doing. What I was into at that time, what I was playing, was really heavy. When I started, I was just playing techno. I quickly started mixing industrial in: I never didn’t play really dark.”
[Michaelangelo Matos for City Pages, February 2018]