Matt Hali, Sandro Petrillo and Dan Solo express excitement for their new label, Modern Math Recordings.
Michael Grondin/the Gauntlet

Recalculating the formula

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Lights flash and bounce around the crowded room; bodies move and sway with the pumping bass, synth lines and melodies. It’s a party, just like any night at any club in any part of the world. But in Calgary, one collection of underground electronic dance parties that began in 2009 has transformed into an entire community of loyal followers and musicians, moving together to the same beat. This party is known as Modern Math.

After four years of ups and downs, losses and gains, Modern Math is taking their formula to a new level through Modern Math Recordings, a new record label for experimental electronic music made by producers in Calgary, across Canada and internationally.

Modern Math began as a weekly DJ night at various venues in Calgary — beginning with Lord Nelson’s and spreading to the Marquee Room, The Area, the Hifi Club and others. 

Producer and co-founder of Modern Math Dan Solo, a longtime Calgary DJ, says when Modern Math started it was an opportunity to bring a different music installation to Calgary that had not been seen before in the city. 

It was one of the first electronic music nights in Calgary to have strong visual elements and experimental electronic music.

“Modern Math had a different vibe and a different intention that wasn’t happening in Calgary,” Solo says. “We saw a potential for what we were into, what kinds of vibes we were striving for.”

Solo says that as Modern Math gained momentum, its place in Calgary grew as well.

“We had no idea what it was going to be. And the first night — bam — we were sold out. All of these people we had never seen before were super amped,” Solo says.

Its following expanded as internationally-known djs and producers came to Calgary to mix at Modern Math shows.

“A crazy community formed. Those people that came met other people that came, and whole crews, relationships and friendships were built out of this space,” Solo says. “It wasn’t just what we were doing with the music, but a little portal in that room was taking place for a year and a half.”

Modern Math’s regular installment were eventually shut down in 2011 after the city received several noise complaints. After it ended, shows would pop up here and there at various nights in the city. However, for Solo, the legacy of those nights continued.

Calgary producer, dj and co-founder of Modern Math Sandro Petrillo — who djs under the alias Mr. Geography — says that the relationships that formed helped lay a foundation for the future of Modern Math.

“Even now, you see more and more people popping out of the woodwork that are creating parties, making music and collaborating with each other that met at Modern Math shows,” said Petrillo.

The label will profile cutting edge electronic music and will increase collaborative efforts and projects.

Modern Math contributor, co-owner of Modern Math Recordings and founder of Crude Records in Vancouver Matt Hali says continuing the legacy of Modern Math in a new way could not have come at a better time than now, leading to Modern Math Recordings.

Hali said all of those involved with the label complement one another’s abilities.

“We are still in those early brainstorming stages, which is really exciting for us because we’re just going with it day by day, snowballing ideas,” Hali says, adding that his hope for the label is to build Canada into a springboard for electronic producers.

“A main focus of ours is global recognition,” Hali says. “Our country is really coming up and gaining stride, especially in the past couple years, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.”

Solo says a lot of the main Canadian electronic acts achieved success by going abroad to larger cities.

“We want to make it so that guys are willing to stay here. We want to build a community and a scene that can support artistic endeavours and an integrity of taste,” Solo says. “At the end of the day, when you’ve done what you’ve done, you should be happy with what you’ve represented and not feel like you’ve sold out or sold yourself short.”

Petrillo says that he hopes Modern Math Recordings will showcase hardworking musicians and producers in Canada.

“We just want to have an output that we can stand behind and shine on people that are working hard, producers that are our friends and being able to put that music out there on an international scale,” Petrillo says. “We want to do something properly, at least to our standards, by seeing new things that are happening now on a large scale, using them as a bar and seeing what we can do better.”

Modern Math Recordings will make only digital and vinyl releases. Producers Taal Mala and Michael Red have confirmed releases with the label at this time and many more are to come.

“We would like a huge catalogue and various styles of music, but at this point, that’s down the road,” Solo says. “You start one step at a time. Right now we’re starting simple, starting with a manageable model.”

Producers are encouraged to send Modern Math their demos.

“From the beginning, it’s been a lot of hard work, but it was fucking enriching, and it laid a strong foundation for the partnership, the name, the brand and the whole energy behind it,” Solo says. “If it allows us to travel and collaborate with more people, that’s the real positive thing — the people you meet, who you connect with.”