Sharp FM 007: Umfang for Carta Nueva & Octave


In a post-pandemic New York that has witnessed an explosion of new DJs, Emma Olson, who goes by the name Umfang, is by now a recognized veteran who is well-respected for her fluency in techno – and not just as a DJ, but also as someone engaged with its political history and contemporary social contexts. Her local all-vinyl sets move the body and mind and are proof that the true skill of the DJ isn’t necessarily what one plays, but how.

Our latest mix for Sharp FM reveals a redrawn horizon line for Brooklyn's finest. It's a blissed-out gradient -- the meeting of her inimitable club sound with her own calming productions plus an array of textural surprises in-between. This new direction is communicated visually by the use of Carta Nueva and Carta Nueva Backward on the cover and tracklist. My-Lan Thuong's spritely script-face takes another virtuosic turn, expanding its potential with a full back slant that appears so matter-of-factly that it belies its technical witchery. 

The music that Umfang makes is often described in contrast to the music she DJs, but the Venn diagram here is less about surface area and more about depth. An expansive psychedelic quality permeates both, and while her own compositions are largely unmoored from any persistent rhythm, the unmistakable human touch that is easily lost in electronic music overlaps these worlds. Perhaps most importantly, they share a fundamental spirit, too.

Umfang’s ethos has always been quietly grounded in accessibility through action — whether it means giving billing to underrepresented DJs, sourcing and recontextualizing unfashionable techno records, or using cheap readily-available gear for her productions. Her approach is refreshing in a time when so many artists unironically lean on the language of identity politics and community as scaffolding for personal distinction and social prestige. 

The design references Hans Rudolf Bosshard's series of covers for 'Typografische Monatsblätter' during the 1980's.
Umfang portrait by Juan Camilo, 2023

In the sprawling world of club music, she is well-known as the co-founder of legendary DJ crew and agency Discwoman, who candidly aimed to offset representational imbalances within the music industry. Their mission dovetailed with the quality of their shows and on-the-fly business savvy, and the visibility has given Umfang the opportunity to play at some of the most revered clubs and festivals in the world, including Berghain Berlin, Contact Tokyo, Dekmantel Amsterdam, and Bossa Nova Civic Club here in New York. She is also a member of 123, a burgeoning artist collective that operates from a storied semi-secret basement club in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedstuy.

It’s a welcome surprise that Umfang was interested in making a mix for Sharp FM, and when we discussed the project, a kindred holistic approach was apparent. She wanted to try something new with this one: “I have been wanting to make a slower mix for a long time which is hilariously challenging for me coming from mostly playing techno. I make subdued sparse music and have had a difficult time closing the gap between soundscapes I'm drawn to and the music I play in the club.” 

The resulting mix is the sound of a bridge. “This is a reflection of some intentional digging for downtempo, a desire to feature the music my friends are making now that excites me, and the one-off ambient tracks from techno artists that often don't find a place in the club.” Umfang and the 123 crew have been quietly hosting monthly “Downtempo” parties, and this mix wouldn’t sound out of place there: considering these new tempos and textures, the variety here is cohesive, and it also feels intimate — the sound of an artist earnestly building out new comfort zones.