I don't know where the rumors that Sleep Archive is really Richie Hawtin (or Mika Vainio, or a collaboration between the two) got started; Google proved fruitless on that front. It is not, however, either of the two; despite the sonic signature. Sleep Archive is Berliner Stefan Metzger, formerly of Düsseldorf. He lives and works in Kreuzberg and as his distribution and sweatshirt will show, he's tight with the Hardwax crew. (Must be really tight: Saturday night, after the above photograph was taken, he was performing in a Hardwax t-shirt.)
But the above isn't the whole truth: Metzger may or may not be a stage name; before becoming Sleep Archive, he ran a label called A.D.S.R. and recorded under the alias Skanfrom for labels like Suction, Morr, and City Centre Offices. (Metzger wanted to keep the connection under wraps, so that listeners wouldn't unduly read his IDM past into his techno present, but discogs.com already uncovered the link.)
To make matters more confusing, Sleep Archive may or may not be all Metzger. If "Infrared Glow," the most recent EP, sounds different from the first three, well, there's a reason for it: it's someone else. Who, exactly, Metzger's not saying. "Another shy guy from Berlin," he says, laughing over his apple pie.
There's no doubt that Sleep Archive is going for a particular kind of throwback identity: the sound of the records, obviously, goes back to Vainio's arctic techno and Plastikman's sparsest moments. But the rhetoric behind the label as well — not a total anonymity, but a veneer of it, plus the hand-stamped sleeves — evokes a moment where faceless techno bollox was something to be prized, strived for. (Working in the shadow of Hardwax, run by the mysterious Basic Channel crew, obviously makes this image easier to keep up.) And in an industry full of self-promoters, Metzger is refreshingly cynical without being bitter. He believes that remixes have more to do with marketing than aesthetics (while he's done several now, for Regis and Monolake, among others, he won't offer up his own tracks for remixes); and he claims that Sleep Archive will never release outside the Sleep Archive label. (He hedges a bit when conversation moves to Jeff Mills: he would, he admits, release on Axis, if asked.) Even if the ultra-autonomous, DIY, slightly suspicious-of-the-world stance feels, at times, like a contrivance, I'm glad he's pursuing this path. Techno's too glammed up as it is; it needs a little more anonymity, a little more mystery. Metzger hints at a coding behind the coloring of the Sleep Archive vinyls. When the palette expands beyond the current clear, black, and blue, we'll know that more mysteries are in store.