As Bergsonist, Selwa Abd’s distinct artistic ethos has made her an essential figure in New York’s ever-changing, mercurial underground. As founder of multidisciplinary label Bizaarbazaar, the Morrocan DJ, producer and curator has spent a decade championing forward-thinking electronic and club-focussed sounds from herself and others, utilising the platform to release two stacked V/A compilations, as well as sharing interviews and track premieres from affiliate artists including Thoom, Tristan Arp, DeForrest Brown, Jr. and AirMax ‘97.
Both Bizaarbazaar comps have found Abd and her peers on formidable form. Boasting a total of 64 tracks of intensely rhythmic techno and absorbing sound design, both releases were thematically rich and aesthetically inventive. Where the first, released in 2017, came packaged as a double cassette and zine as a way of combating the ephemeral and unpredictable nature of digital hosting, the second, released in February 2019, found its artists responding to the themes of ‘Sonic Fragments,’ and ‘Rhythmic Weaponry’. Released by way of a t-shirt tied to a unique download code, as well as a live broadcast on NTS, the comp not only showcased a plethora of exciting music, but showed its platform to be a fiercely creative force in a sea of failing formulas.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Abd describes her own musical evolution as “multidirectional and chaotic”. Having first fallen in love with seminal electronic records like Glass Domain’s ‘Interlock’ , Otto Luening & Vladimir Ussachevsky’s ‘Tape Recorder Music’, Sub Rosa’s ‘Anthology Of Noise & Electronic Music / Second A-Chronology 1936-2003’, and Unit Moebius’ Bunker 001, Abd’s approach to production is one characterised by curiosity and defiance of convention – as demonstrated on releases for labels like Börft Records, Always Human Tapes, Where To Now? and TRAM Planet Records, not to mention a recent self-released split EP with her husband Greg Z.
“As I age, I’m developing a rebellion toward learning new techniques,” she tells DJ Mag. “I like to be childish in front of machines and just have fun while figuring out how they work. I think as a producer and DJ, I’m far better now than when I started.”
Having first started raving as a student in New York, Abd’s love and dedication to the art of DJing has seen her make considerable strides in the past year. 2019 has found her touring Europe and North America, playing parties by Room 4 Resistance and Omnidisc, and bringing her mum along to a Gamut party at Paris’ La Station De La Gare Des Mines.
“Touring allowed me to practice all my sets and feel comfortable while I’m playing,” she says. “It made me also realise how much I love playing music to a crowd. I found myself crying with no reason while DJing. It’s just such a privilege to play music to people and make them voyage through feelings.”
“I used to be naive and not really focused,” she adds. “Now if I play a show or DJ I know exactly what I want to play, want to achieve. Even if sometimes I don’t know how to do it, I find my own means, which can be very odd and non-conventional.”
A visual artist as well as a musician, Bergsonist’s recent self-released EPs have featured eye-catching artwork made up of 3D digital adaptations of Arabic letters. The digital EPs form the bulk of Abd’s project of distancing herself from dubious streaming platforms like Spotify, working instead to ensure all her music is available to purchase on Bandcamp, where remuneration from one’s art is infinitely more possible. Finding new ways to facilitate actual sustainability in the arts is central to Abd’s ethos, and has also led to her developing a project called PickUpTheFlow with Stephen Decker AKA NODE. With a website set to launch soon, the platform will serve as a network for musicians to share resources and facilities for their work.
Looking to the future, Abd has a lot in the works. Having started a new party series, 3AFAK, co-curated with her friend Sanna, Bergsonist also has an LP landing soon on Optimo Music as well as an EP on Hypercolour. With plans to tour Europe again, she is also heading back to Morocco for the first time in four years, intending to make the most of the trip by working with local artists and capturing field recordings to use in her music.
As for Bizaarbazaar, plans are open-ended for the platform that Abd describes as being built on “intuition and honesty”.
“I always try to feature music that simply touches my heart,” she says. Music from friends or from amazing artists i find online or in real life. It’s just a tool to share all the sonic discoveries to friends and beyond while amplifying important artistic voices. Who knows what the next project will be? I only react when I feel a need to do so – maybe this last comp shirt is my last project. I really can’t predict the future, although, I wish...”
Bergsonists’s Fresh Kicks mix is an exhilarating race through classic house, percussive techno and otherworldly electro. She describes the mix as a “reactionary gesture” recorded in response to the faceless, moronic commenters that reared their ugly heads under a recent live streamed set of hers. “I love DJing,” she says. “And nasty comments won’t stop me from doing what I love.”
Nor should they. With mixes as good as this, Bergsonist puts doubters well and truly back in their place. Check it out below.
Last track that blew your mind?
“Boy Harsher ‘LA (Original Mix)’”
Last film you watched?
Last DJ that blew your mind?
Favourite album to relax to?
“Coil ‘Time Machine’”
What record is top of your wishlist?
“None. If I like something I immediately buy it”
What's the best club you've played at?
Soundsystem wise, I would say Output”
Photo credit: Sam Clarke