A newcomer to the scene in Montreal, Human Pause is hosting a party featuring techno stalwart Abdulla Rashim at an undisclosed venue this Friday. We got a chance to sit down with one of the founders, Bilel Benzeman, for an in-depth analysis on his vision for the Human Pause concept.
Artistic expression can convey and elicit the entire spectrum of emotions. The duality of these emotions can be summed up as either positive or negative - joy and sorrow, hope and fear, pride and shame. It is through emotional experiences that we foster a fondness and attachment for a particular piece of art. In a way, art is the language of emotion, allowing the artist to communicate with their audience, sharing their innermost desires and frustrations in creative form. In turn, viewers conceptualize the work on their own terms, inducing a subjective emotional response. Human Pause presents dark techno music to promote a dialogue with audiences to share moments of deep self-reflection through the use of darker emotions.
In his large but sparsely furnished living room, Bilel Benzeman sits nervously as he elaborates on the direction of Human Pause. "At the beginning, a friend, who was interested in design, and I shared an artistic vision for dark feelings," he says. It seems almost paradoxical to bring focus to such emotions, as they are anathema to the wishes of the human condition. In our hedonistic society, so many of us exhaust ample time and effort to escape such morose feelings to indulge in the simple joys of life. Yet, Bilel insists, "It is through these dark emotions that I connect with my art."
Upon meeting Bilel, a calmness pervades the room. Tall and lanky, he kindly directs his guests to their seats. He is accompanied by Peter Bunzinelli, a friend and fellow DJ, who casually shuffles between tracks on two CDJs, discretely stationed to the side of the room, as the limelight refocuses squarely back on Bilel. "This feels kind of strange. I've never been interviewed or recorded before," he says, quietly. Cautiously apprehensive of the attention, he offers his guests a few beers before delving deeper into the details of his own backstory.
After lurking in the shadows of Montreal's electronic music scene for many years, Bilel caught his break when summoned by Adam Solomon to mix, as June XXVI, at Basic Theory 001, a burgeoning series of techno parties. In the years prior, the landscape of music in Montreal has mutated beyond recognition. The genre du jour was deep house, and there was simply no room for JUNE XXVI or his techno-minded peers to make a meaningful impact on the scene. Instead, they opted to host their own parties by inviting close friends, which afforded them the opportunity to hone their craft as DJs. Human Pause was conceived directly from this time spent experimenting with dark techno music and the emotions it spawned.
There is a certain beauty that exists within the realm of melancholy and sorrow when manifested as art. It remains that many of the greatest artistic endeavors attributed to man encompass these negative emotions - from Edvard Munch's The Scream to Shakespeare's Macbeth. These works, amongst others, grip audiences and strike a chord deep within the human psyche. They present us with our true fears, force us to think deeply about ourselves and paint an honest portrait of society. These are but a few of the numerous reasons why people revisit these tragic works, time and time again. Human Pause intends to replicate this same essence.
"Some people like to listen to happy music and hope to be happy all the time," JUNE XXVI insists. "It just isn't my thing." Sadness and other negative emotions may be characterized as more complex and insightful than the simple feeling of joy. For example, the naive pleasure accompanying a serene walk along the beach pales in comparison to the profound anguish which afflicts a mother grieving over a deceased child. Or the harrowing torment of a terminally ill patient staring death at point blank. The dark sounds and eerie atmosphere of a typical Human Pause mix are a bastion for negative emotions. Listeners are forced to come face to face with these inescapable potent feelings, inspiring unique and unforgettable experiences. "Whatever the field of art is, for me, it's about pain and the reality of pain," JUNE XXVI says.
No one is immune to the lows of pain and sorrow. Through the experience of art, however, we can empathize with the artist, and find security in the notion that we are not alone. "I want people to connect emotionally with Human Pause through the music," Bilel says. He hopes for attendees to indulge in the same dark spaces that he occupies, to understand what he understands and feel what he feels. The journey shared between artist and audience can have esoteric but deep impacts on both parties, and JUNE XXVI says, "This is an intelligent way of approaching art, and a way to get the purest emotion from it."
Art also serves the purpose of narrating the history of society and culture. It does not mask the naked emotions of the realities of the world. Having traveled extensively, from France to Tunisia and now in Montreal, Bilel has lived through a diverse set of cultural norms. "Seeing the things that happened in Paris and North Africa, and comparing it to Montreal, I realized that life is not as good as most people get the chance to see," Bilel says, shuddering transiently. He has witnessed acts of violence, the struggle of life and the tears from pain that can instill horror in the most jaded of souls. "I try to express these ideas in my art," he says.
"Within the tears and pain, there is a great light," he clarifies. Suffering and pain are ubiquitous in all of us, and offer a glimpse at the frailty of humanity. The grim music of Human Pause acts as an embodiment of the harsh realities of life. He notes that, "These things ensure that you don't lie to yourself and make your art pure and authentic." At the same time, to JUNE XXVI, his art exemplifies a rebellion against callous societal injustices. "It is a way for us to reject what society has chosen to give us," he explains.
Through these negative emotions, the Human Pause concept seeks to provide audiences with the time and space for introspection. "I feel that it is through these dark feelings that you get the chance to know the most about yourself," he says. The experience of sorrow, anxiety or sadness asks us to recall dreadful times in the past, and helps us grasp an understanding of human nature. The underlying complexity and maturity of these emotions encourages an increased breadth with which to examine ourselves. He explains, "I want people to leave their comfort zone, and experience something new."
To amplify the effect of music, JUNE XXVI states, "Human Pause has always been an audio and visual concept." The implementation of the visual dimension adds another tenor to the Human Pause experience. The synchronicity between the two elements heightens the senses of the audience and reduces the two separate mediums into one. "We are working with a new VJ on the scene, Okia. We meet up very often to discuss our vision and place great importance on the visual component of the concept," he says.
In the end, the Human Pause story is one of struggle, pain and a dedication to the authenticity and honesty of art. Montreal desperately needs a new faction to bring a fresh perspective to electronic music. The ennui persistent in this scene, brought on by a complacency from local organizers, can be displaced with the invigorating energy from Human Pause. As they prepare to drape a blanket of darkness over the city this Friday, we can only aspire to reciprocate with an equal measure of fervour.
Familiarize yourself with a recent podcast done by JUNE XXVI for Why We Are Here:
- Anh Nguyen