Some of the best techno and electro of recent years has come out of Casablanca. Henry Ivry dials up the scene's poster boy.
Before Benjelloun finishes saying "Vincent," his voice trails off and I see him do some quick mental calculations and real-time fact-checking. "To be honest, I'm not sure where DJ Qu is from," he tells me with concern as I hear him quickly typing. "Ah. I'm not wrong. DJ Qu is from Jersey City." His sense of relief is palpable.
Our dialogue is pockmarked with these types of moments. Benjelloun offers disclaimers like "I can only speak for myself" or "from my perspective." This precision is only trumped by his moderation. Beyond scrolling Discogs to ensure he has release dates and birth cities right, he also avoids talking in hyperbole. "I don't like being extreme," he tells me flatly.
Precision and restraint, as well as being part of his personality, are two qualities that describe Benjelloun's music as Kosh. His debut to the world was a track on a sold-out compilation EP on Casa Voyager, a label run by his close friend Driss Bennis, whom he affectionately calls "the mastermind." Bennis founded Casa Voyager to showcase a fledgling Moroccan techno scene focused on analogue-crafted grooves that made waves beyond Casablanca, from dance floors like Berlin's Club Der Visionaere to Closer in Kyiv.
Benjelloun's contributions to that EP are case studies in moody, emotional electro. More than just softness in the pads, the basslines and kick drums also feel light, more patient and prodding than trunk-rattling. But just as quickly as I ask about these songs, Benjelloun displays his trademark restraint. He feels uncomfortable talking about the tracks, citing the "fallacy of the producer." An idea, he explains to me where, "a producer will always hate his music, even though he secretly likes it."
But whether Benjelloun likes discussing them or not, the 12-inch that followed made it clear that he was just getting started. Null 212 is a combination of Detroit electro and warm breakbeat. It was made for the head and the body, the sort of thing that flits between the warm-up DJ and the afterhours (that said, in the right hands, "Catch A Train," with its robotic vocal, could go off at peak time). These are tracks filled with the soul of vintage Midwest house and electro, but also with the spacey introspection of some of the most interesting contemporary dance music. That this was coming out of Casablanca, a city not typically associated with this groovy, introspective type of dance music, made it all the more exciting.
It wasn't long before the international bookings started piling in. Shortly after his debut EP, Benjelloun quit his job and spent 2019 on a series of whirlwind European tours, turning his hardware-heavy productions into a live set.