It’s fitting and unfortunate that Floyd Lavine’s record label is called Nomadiq Music – especially for anyone writing about him. It’s unfortunate because it’s so fitting – ‘nomadic’ is perhaps the best way to describe him, and now any mention of the world immediately sounds like a bad pun.
Lavine has his roots anchored across the dance world’s biggest locations and styles, and yet still manages to deliberately sidestep the big room EDM carnage we’re all hoping (or constantly prophesying) will end soon – or any other sort of commercial predictability. Even in a South African house scene that’s ripe for the taking if you play by the rules, Lavine has remained popular, but always just under the radar. It’s surprising, until you look under the hood and see the machinery powering his career.
Of course, like anyone else growing up in South Africa, house music was always going to be a foundational part of his musical upbringing. “Basically the kind of stuff I grew up on was always Vinny da Vinci, DJ Fresh back in the days and also the Africanism stuff from Oskido. Those things have obviously stuck in my subconscious” says Lavine. Those DJs, though, had always done a good job of importing international house styles and re-contextualising them for a South African audience. This meant that being into that scene also entailed hearing a lot of the world’s best house music – curated by for you by legends like Fresh.
While Cape Town often claims Floyd as a native, he’s been as slyly international as those early Fresh House Flava records. Years in the UK were foundational for him as a producer, and Berlin is where he holds residencies as a DJ. That he left the UK an even more devout follower of house and techno styles shows his love for dance music. London is well known for being the birthplace of a number of underground electronic styles, yet only one of these caught his attention.
“For me during the time I was in the UK the big sound was minimal [techno]. I was mostly into the [US] West Coast and South African styles of house, and all of a sudden I was opened up to this whole new sound – acts like Ricardo Villalobos and Richie Hawtin. London gave me a platform to explore that kind of house”. No matter the starting point, all roads lead back to one place with him.
In his native SA – where house music is considered pop and it’s DJs superstars – the type of exploration London lent itself to wasn’t replicated. This makes sense, as the more money riding on any industry the more pressure there is to formularise success. “When I first came back from London, I was focussed on looking for more underground styles of house music. I found that it’s very difficult within certain scenes which are geared towards radio friendly sounds” says Lavine.
Of course Johannesburg embodies a large part of this – after all it’s not by coincidence that it’s residents call the Joburg brand of smooth house ‘Expensive Music’. Cape Town would always feel like a more appropriate home for him, musically; “It just felt natural for me – it was big enough, yet small enough for me to have an influence there, and I felt like I could see the way I would like to operate in a city like that”
Floyd Lavine’s releases too, have had as many homes as he. Dogmatik, Lower East records, Murmur, and Just Move records have all hosted projects of his. This is also not to mention the releases on his own imprint, Nomadiq, which also serves as a travelling event for on-the-nose dance music. “It started off as just some friends getting together and creating events.”
The best parties thrown between friends barely ever stay that way – and soon Nomadiq was releasing music from a range of artists, playing the curator’s role for an audience of in-the-know consumers. It’s a role predicated on trust, trust which is guarded keenly by Lavine and the team. “In the beginning we [released music from] people close to us, and now we’re really taking our time in deciding. We really feel like the next sound should define what’s been happening in South Africa, and what could happen 20 years from now. It’s difficult to find a sound that can be both”
Representation is an important topic of discussion for any artist primarily operating abroad. This is even more so for Lavine when in Berlin – where he’s a resident DJ at an ‘African’-inspired club night at Watergate, called Rise. It would be a precarious position were it not for his naturally sincere pride in his roots and pursuit of future sounds. His key task, then, is bringing people along for the ride, riding the line between danceable and didactic.
“When it comes to DJing, it’s always about trying to create a feeling – and there needs to be a simplicity in your expression for people to understand your message. Everybody’s got the same records and everybody can mix, so you need to have the ability to express where you come from, firstly, and where you wanna go, and how you connect with the people around you”. It’s a philosophy that has served Lavine well in his various travels.
In a way this makes him seem more like an international spy than simply a nomad – he’s as hardworking and pervasive in terms of output as he is geographically elusive. This could also be the reason behind the mood-blending forms his music takes – rooted both in the emotionally distant worlds of techno and the overtly feels-based world of deep house.
“You have to have a fusion” says Lavine. “Sometimes you can play a really cold track after a really warm one, and it takes the cold one to give the warm one extra feeling”
Maybe trying to pin Floyd Lavine down, beyond the fact that he believes in dance music, is futile. The mystery and ephemerality in his movements, sets and ideas is an essential part of why he remains an exciting fixture in the local landscape. That he plays his part in this scene with such earnestness also doesn’t hurt.
At the inaugural Muse Festival (9-11 December) he and Nomadiq Music have curated the Saturday Night where Lavine himself will play a set, alongside the team’s favourites, Rob Toca and Diggin4Dodge. The almost-complete lineup of that brand new fest – co-curated with Black Major Selects, Wax On and We House Sundays features some of the heaviest hitters of the community those promoters serve, including DJ Lag, Fever Trails, DJ Kenzhero, Pierre-Estienne, Christian Tiger School, Julian Gomes, Card On Spokes and so many more.
For his set at Muse, Lavine shares, “I’m looking forward to playing what I’ve been into recently. I feel like my sets now are getting more personalised, so it’s gonna be nice to share with people the music I’ve been getting into,” sounding so much like a host inviting you into his home.
Tickets for Muse Festival are available below and everything we know about it is here.