Cool Israeli DJ Leaves L.A. Behind to Chill in Berlin

Mor Elian is enjoying success as a deejay thanks to her eclectic music tastes. Now she's spinning off into producing house and techno.

Mor Elian. “Tel Aviv is amazing. It’s very dance music-oriented.”
Sash Seurat Samson

Mor Elian is a deejay, radio presenter and producer of house and techno. She released her latest EP, “Drum Vortex,” on the British music label Hypercolour a month or so ago. Now the native Israeli is coming home to launch it with several events across Tel Aviv: Tuesday night at The Breakfast Club; Thursday at the Beverly record store in Beit Romano; Friday at the Lost Panda club; and on August 26 at the Block Club.

Elian left Tel Aviv when she was 20 and moved to Los Angeles. She tried to create art, film and photograph gigs on the lively local music scene and played some eclectic world music as a deejay.

Her first actual experience performing came in 2009, when she began singing in a female choir (the L.A. Women’s Choir) that performed original songs with an indie-psychedelic vibe.

Los Angeles is not associated with either house or cold, metallic techno. Detroit and Berlin are the cities where these sounds grew and developed.

The City of Angels, which is shamelessly influenced by Hollywood glamor, is usually associated instead with pop music and big mainstream parties. In recent years, though, things have started changing.

Mor Elian's "Drum Vortex" (Joey Anderson Remix) Hypercolour/YouTube

“There were about five good parties every weekend,” Elian tells Haaretz. “That may sound like a lot, but in such a large city it’s just not enough. The biggest names in the world came in and it was very special – a kind of combination of this music and the wonderful L.A. weather.”

This kind of music and weather is also found in Tel Aviv, so why do you think the music caught on here and not there?

“Tel Aviv is amazing. It’s very dance music-oriented. Without even noticing, our entire childhood was based around clubs and dance. And throughout our youth, we moved from the Love Parade to the Gay Pride Parade and among entertainment events in dozens of clubs that never closed. Israelis have to let go, and it seems this is the only music that makes it possible.”

There are good aspects to this ‘letting go,’ right?

“In Israel, there’s this thing that you get drunk and suddenly there are no limits. It may be connected to the Israeli sense of family, which also has nice aspects, but it feels as though there’s no distance. There’s a kind of vague sense of permissiveness.

“There was one party I played, and when I came down from the decks toward the bathroom, some guy grabbed my hand and started hugging me. He said, ‘Come over for a minute, come on. What’s the problem? I only want to talk to you.’ Or when I play, people come up to talk to me at the decks. Something like that would never happen in Los Angeles. There, people respect other people’s private space inside the public space.”

Elian has an impressive record collection and one it’s rare to hear on the dance floor, ranging as it does from Iranian disco to African psychedelia. She also plays music from her collection in a monthly, two-hour slot on the veteran Dublab online radio station in Los Angeles.

“It was the first radio station to give a platform to different music genres that you don’t normally hear,” says Elian. She hosts a different deejay every time, with Tel Aviv DJs who have appeared on the show including Amichay Matyas, Danny Vak and Kiril Cherikover.

She began producing her own music in 2011. Without any prior knowledge, she tried, slowly but surely, to acquire the language and rules of electronic music production. In 2014, she released her first single as a free download via the well-regarded music website XLR8R. “That was the right way to start – without asking for payment for my music,” she says. “Then I had the drive to continue to grow and develop.”

Last year, she released an EP on the Prime Numbers record label that belongs to British producer Trus’me (a regular visitor to Tel Aviv). Since then, her music career has really taken off. Her days as an amateur deejay are long behind her and she’s done paid gigs in San Francisco, New York, Berlin and Tel Aviv.

Her new EP has a cohesive and mature sound. In a very unique way, she’s managed to traverse the gap between the drumming, mechanical sounds of house and the cool beats of techno.

Her extensive use of percussion and rhythmic beats is evident from the very first hearing. Meanwhile, her collaborations with well-respected producers Markus Suckut and Joey Anderson (who both play at The Breakfast Club this Friday) add depth, prestige and glamor to her tracks.

She’s been living in Berlin in recent years, playing the large clubs but still having difficulty acclimatizing to the European weather.

“In Berlin, they’re still living in a postwar reality,” she says. “The young people remember life under the Wall, and the adults remember life in a wrecked city. That’s why you’re not allowed to be arrogant in Berlin, you’re not allowed to boast about what you do, or talk about money or your desire to make money – it’s the total opposite of Los Angeles.”