premiere: afrodeutsche techno, made of heritage + emotion

Henrietta Smith-Rolla’s innate love of music was apparent the whole time she was growing up in Devon, on England’s southwest coast, playing piano at her friends’ houses. But it wasn’t until years later, when she moved to Manchester — and began exploring the personal identity that led her to her artist name — when she started making music. The electronic composer/producer and NTS radio DJ is unequivocal when crediting the city and the people she met there with giving her the courage to finally become a musician. Just as she’s equally blunt that it’s been the search for her father’s roots — he was Ghanaian, with Russian ancestry and a German background — which paved the way for her life as Afrodeutsche and for Break Before You Make, a debut album of thoughtful, Detroit-inspired techno that doesn’t forget to bomb with bass.

“I come from two different ways of making music,” Henrietta says. “One is completely emotional, a purge, something that I have very little control over, where it will just happen. And other times, I just want to dance.”

“Hiaea,” a track she recorded in the throes of a break-up and the first steps of rebuilding her life, features some of each. Conceived as she was putting together a set of IKEA shelves (one of the synth lines is “me crying all the way through this track,” she says), it features a pair of rolling beats that switch between electro pulses and handclaps, and a three-note counterpoint melody that her inspiration, film composer Bernard Herrman, would approve of. It’s a journey, and a wonderfully stark piece of music, pointing to a future built from an avalanche of feeling.

Afrodeustche’s Break Before You Make is out on SKAM Records in late May.