With a back catalogue at Lex Records that spans half a dozen studio LPs as Boom Bip, plus another two as one half of electronic pop duo Neon Neon, Bryan Hollon has already made a name for himself as a Mercury prize-nominated producer and multi-instrumentalist. Equally impressive are the credits to Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa’s name; she’s contributed percussion to albums by Kurt Vile, Cate le Bon, Courtney Barnett, Sharon Van Etten, and Kim Gordon, among others. But as improvisational techno duo Belief, the pair make music that harkens back to ‘90s acts like LFO and 808 State – artists that indelibly, but near-anonymously, altered club and rave culture, mostly identifiable by clean, bold logos on 12” sleeves.
Hollon met Mozgawa just after she joined Warpaint, when Boom Bip shared a rehearsal space in Echo Park with the band. The two quickly bonded over a love of early Warp Records, drum breaks, acid house, and Y2K-era rave flyers. They swapped playlists and ideas when Mozgawa played drums for Neon Neon’s 2013 West Coast tour, but due to busy schedules, it would be another three years before they packed every piece of gear they collectively owned into Eric Wareheim’s Absolutely Studios for an initial jam session. Instinctively playing to each others’ strengths and whims – and recording the session to build on later – allowed Mozgawa to explore a style of music she’d long considered a dark art, and pushed Hollon, known for his meticulous planning in previous work, to be more spontaneous. Improvisation became key to the heart of the band’s development. They found pockets of time to revisit the project over the next four years, taking every opportunity they could to throw 303s into the mix. They played some early shows where they billed themselves as ‘Beef’ – a comedic wink to the project’s pulsating minimalism.
While it was all in good fun, more reverent threads began to emerge as they began finalizing and recording tracks with a more enigmatic and soulful nature. When they’d hit on something during a performance, they’d make a note to record it; samples they’d used as placeholders were reworked with the duo’s personal touches; Mozgawa tapped bandmate Emily Kokal to record some vocal textures during Warpaint studio time; Hollon chopped, looped and arranged the jungle breaks Mozgawa had recorded from memory; and finally, the two returned to a mostly complete album during pandemic downtime to flesh out and warm up some of the cooler machine-like tones, an invaluable final step.
Governed by the central question – What Would Mark Bell Do? – Belief pays homage to the pioneers of techno, while deferring to their own instincts and experiences to avoid creating anything too derivative. Instead, born out of an oddly divine foresight the duo share, they’re adding their own creative mark on the music that initially drew them together, ultimately gracing the musical universe with the synergy of two devout tastemakers building a shrine to inner peace and outward pleasure.