Russell E.L. Butler’s Distorted New Techno Track Explores Societal Contradictions

The Oakland producer linked with artist Ian Colon to make the audio-visual single, “MANIPULATE.”

Russell E.L. Butler’s Distorted New Techno Track Explores Societal Contradictions Russell E.L. Butler   Photo by Alex Kacha/Moogfest

Oakland producer Russell E.L. Butler has been through many musical mutations over the past few years, from heavy synth jams as Black Jeans to reflective techno melodies under his own name. More recently, his sound has taken on a disintegrating quality, with notes pushed to the point of distortion. His new one, "MANIPULATE," is a deeply evocative audio-visual single that was made in collaboration with artist Ian Colon.

With layered video clips and increasingly anxious sounds, Butler and Colon build a picture of "the sense of contradiction and frustration that we feel as people of color living in the Bay Area working for institutions engaged in societal change." Watch below, and then scroll down to read a full statement from the two artists, download the single, and check out upcoming tour dates.

"MANIPULATE" was created to capture the sense of contradiction and frustration that we feel as people of color living in the Bay Area working for institutions engaged in societal change. By contrasting the spaces we regularly inhabit, we wanted to show how jarring it feels to exist in these seemingly contradictory environments and create a true representation of our daily lives.

Inspired by paper collage, we’ve layered the seductively calm imagery of shopping malls, museums and nature, with frenetic street protest imagery. What interests us most about these seemingly disparate scenes, is how time rather than space separates them. How the potential for social upheaval or collective joy is always present in both places.

The fragile balance between these contractions is best represented by the chaos and tranquility of nature. Nature’s peace and ruthlessness have parallels in the day-in-day-out grind of urban living. Just as we submit to routine needs like paying bills and getting by, plants have a “me-first” mentality fighting for precious sunlight and choking out their neighbors while still acting as part of a harmonious whole.

Nature is also where we’ve had the most discussion about how we spend our time and what we’re doing with our lives. Just as nature can hold fragility, voraciousness, and sublime beauty all at once, it sometimes feels that music and protest serve as society’s pressure release valve keeping everything from imploding under the rhythm of just getting through the moment.

Tour dates

May 18 - Moogfest, Pinhook, Durham, NC
May 28 - Holodeck Records Showcase, El Club, Detroit, MI
June 8 - Intersection Featuring Xango, The Legionnaire Saloon, Oakland, CA
July 8 - Lights Down Low, Monarch, San Francisco, CA
July 28 - Intersection Featuring Fela Kutchii, The Legionnaire Saloon, Oakland, CA
August 12 - Interesection Featuring Odi Me, The Legionnaire Saloon, Oakland, CA
September 9 - Room 4 Resistance, ://About:Blank, Berlin, Germany

Russell E.L. Butler’s Distorted New Techno Track Explores Societal Contradictions