Preview: Berlin Music Week 2014

19 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Brace yourself, Berlin Music Week 2014 is upon us! Still not SXSW, but certainly the closest thing Germany has to a relevant music-industry gathering that attempts to be both global in reach and musically all-encompassing in scope. Mind you: This is a Berlin-based website so we choose to ignore Reeperbahn Festival which otherwise probably would like to have a say in this as well. Apologies, Hamburg. If you manage to sift through all the presumtuously enthusiastic press blurbs you will come to realise that the event has once again gained focus and coherence in relation to both the 'music' and the 'talk' components, which should be acknowledged and lauded. The official press release, to be honest, still remains bulky and somewhat embarrassing in its overstated reliance on Berlin as the place to be, not least as after all is said and done, there's no denying that the German capital is still not the guiding light for contemporary pop music, and will most likely never surpass or even approximate London or New York in that sense. At the end of the day, and despite the standing of techno in general or instutions such as Berghain in particular, the city's attitude remains firmly parochial. Of course, the organisers are having none of it. Nor should they, we assume: "Creativity, innovation, originality and authenticity: This is Berlin. The city’s ubiquitous mix of music and technology, festivals and club events is a big part of the driving force behind it all. Berlin Music Week offers a world stage for all these areas with its two core parts: the WORD! conference for business and SOUND! for live events."

So there you go. And why not? As long as people from all across the world keep thinking that it is here and now where the real stuff is happening, maybe we can turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy and then enjoy it while it lasts. Don't get me wrong: There's still plenty to see and do during those forthcoming September days. The conference prgram looks mostly well-considered, and especially the music section "First We Take Berlin" (FWTB) with its concept of compartmentalized curation and despite its questionable name for sure has a promising future, and should be fun indeed. If we say music section, we shall however spare Berlin Music Week's purported capstone event Berlin Festival, an occurence which in the past years presented itself in such an uninspired manner that it made the impression of being no more than a vapid leftover meal for all those souls who couldn't make it to Melt Festival in July. The change of location from the scenic yet manifestly inept Tempelhof Airport (talking about the sound here, duh) to Arena on the opposite, more hipster-friendly end of Kreuzberg will probably help to reconnect Berlin Festival with the rest of the week's happenings, so we might even have reason to be optimistic about this part as well. For now however, we will not mention it any further, mostly because their promo videos still make us cringe (Sorry, Conny). Instead, below you'll find our selection of the most interesting nights of FWTB, plus some words on WORD! for added credibility.

Oh and if you are in town for BMW 2014, please say hello.

One more thing, is that David Guetta in the video? Seriously?

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SOUND!

Let's get this straight – "First We Take Berlin" sure is a fun two days of music with quite a few interesting artists definitely worth your time and money, but for me it remains unclear what it is exactly that should or will be taken after the musicians are done taking Berlin. Germany? That would seem odd for a music business event that strives to be globally significant, right? Europe? Perhaps, but why have not one but two showcases related to music from Scandinavia then, with artists that are likely already better known up there? The world? That's probably the organisers' intention after all. However, considering last year's line-up, a lot of the performing acts looked already an awful lot familiar to, say, Pitchfork's international target audience. But maybe we're too harsh here, arguing too much from a semi-arrogant music blogger position who thinks they're in the know by default. So let's have an unbiased look at the program for a change; this is cherry-picking of course, so if you want to have a more all-encompassing overview, be sure to check out FWTB's website here.

CTM Festival Presents Berlin Current

The forward-thinking electronic music festival's newest project Berlin Current has been around for almost a year now, and after a successful and compelling first round, it is set to launch its second season with a showcase during FWTB at Urban Spree on Friday, September 5. We've written about the initiative a few times before, and this is probably a good opportunity to mention that this time around, No Fear Of Pop will be one of Berlin Current's official media partners (full disclosure now, full details soon), but here's another quick summary: the project attempts to tap into the undercurrents of Berlin's contemporary pop music scene, looking for the more outré, future-oriented sounds that try to look beyond the beaten path. Broadly speaking, it's the music NFOP covers most of the time as well, which is why we think this collaborative venture is oh so fitting. Accordingly, the artists presented on September 5 hardly need to be further introduced to our readers, as almost all of them have made repeated appearances on our pages before: Lief HallMoon Wheel, Ketev, and Phoebe Kiddo are gonna perform live, followed by DJ sets by Opium Hum and the city's most exciting and exceptional turntable darling Sarah Farina.

We had Berlin via Canada artist Lief Hall on our Berlin Community Radio show in April, where she performed three songs from her most recent (and so far unreleased) material live. Stream the whole show below.

Our/Berlin Music Week Curated by Nordic By Nature

Oh, Scandinavia. Where would we be without your music? Silly question, but that aside Berlin should be happy to have the women at Nordic By Nature who tirelessly scour the nordic countries' inexhaustible source for fresh, mildly adventurous, and always ridiculously talented upcoming musicians. Last year's first edition of their cooperation with the city's finest boutique vodka distillery Our/Berlin was a total success, so it was without doubt a clever decision by the organisers of Berlin Music Week to endorse the off-BMW event and turn it into an official part of FWTB. For 2014, the three-day showcase has again found a home right next to Arena at Oberhafenkantine, where the grass is green and the water is close by, the right combination for anyone looking for a lush afternoon out in the sun (because summer is coming back, we hope). The NBN folks have put together an ample and diverse program of better and lesser known Scandinavian artists, making sure that there should be something for everyone. Plus there's gonna be coffee, Korean specialties, more treats, and oh – yes, also vodka. Check out the schedule below.

Wednesday, September 3

3pm  Hey Elbow
4pm  Sherpa
5pm  The White Album
7pm  Jaakko Eino Kalevi
8pm  Alice Boman

Thursday, September 4

3pm  Lowly
4pm  Aurora Aksnes
5pm  Melkeveien
7pm  Dinner
8pm  DNKL

Friday, September 5

3pm  Henrik José
5pm  Adna
7pm  First hate
8pm  Sandra Kolstad
9pm  Boeoes Kaelstigen

The Rest

Berlin Current and Our/Berlin Music Week are the two showcase events during FWTB that we would warmly recommend in their entirety not only due to personal affiliation but mostly because of their compelling conceptualisation. However, of course there are more artists to see elsewhere, as there are more stages and curated nights that look intriguing, so here's a short, completely arbitrary selection. The Hotflush thing at Ipse featuring L.I.E.S.' Florian Kupfer will certainly not disappoint, as well as the performances by Emika, M.A.N.D.Y., Star Slinger, Tweens, and Ballet School. The fact that Kindness is coming to town is of course particularly exciting and should not be missed under any circumstances. Also, we're sure that the line-up features some truly hidden gems that we're simply not aware of, so just try to get to see as much music as possible and everything should be fine for future boasting. So far we found ourselves unable to find a comprehensive schedule for the whole festival, so make sure to keep checking their website ahead of September 4.

WORD!

As promised, to finish off a few words on Berlin Music Week's more uptight conference program. It's more for you professionally inclined of course and probably not really interesting for most, but allow us to mention that the panel "When Teenage Music Fans Are Your Audience" sounds so menacing that there's absolutely no way that we're gonna miss out on that one, although we dearly hope that it will never happen to us personally. Jokes aside, there's a lot going on that's concerned with the future of the music industry (streaming! copyright! Youtube!) which as usual sounds a bit alarmist and also just like the program of any music-related conference of the past five years, but then again, that's certainly simply the sign of the times and thus ultimately inevitable if you want to be taken seriously. We'll inform you immediately in case someone manages to solve the riddle of how to survive in the music industry today during the conference. Promise. And one last thing, our friend and chief musicologist visionary Adam Harper will be present to talk about "Indie Goes Hi-Tech: The End of Analogue Warmth and Cosy Nostalgia" on Friday, September 5 at 3.15pm, a topic that should sound familiar to anyone following his (highly recommended!) columns on Fader and elsewhere. If there's only one thing you can attend during the conference, consider this one.

NFOP Presents: An Evening with Avalon Emerson, Cherushii & Experimental Housewife

05 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Beyond excited to finally be able to announce a very special occasion coming up here in Berlin, No Fear Of Pop hosting a night with DJ sets by some wonderful friends from the States, Chelsea Faith aka CherushiiAvalon Emerson, and Experimental Housewife. Come to Friedrichshain's Antje Oeklesund next week Friday, August 15, for some dazzling hours of finest technoid beatworks!

Last December, Avalon enthused over Berlin's inspiring professionalism regarding the city's techno scene, which was reason enough to leave the Bay Area. Now calling our town home, she already DJed here a few times in the last weeks but for some reason we always were somewhere else when she did, so it truly was about time to invite her ourselves to get the opportunity to see her set at last – judging from what we've read and heard, there's gonna be some real transcending energy involved. The same goes for the music of San Francisco native Cherushii; as long-standing admirers of Manda Brown's 100% SILK imprint, Chelsea Faith's nostalgia-driven blend of classic 4/4 grooves in a contemporary guise, as showcased on her recent Queen Of Cups 12", is surely something that would get us through any Berlin night. And finally, topping off the event, Experimental Housewife aka our very own Evelyn Malinowski, always looking for ways to fuse the industrial underpinnings of her former adopted home Berlin with the overwhelming sounds of nature that surround her new city of Missoula, Montana; we're sure she'll find a way to unite both influences while spinning the decks next Friday.

Find out more details about the event over on Facebook.

Poster design by the amazing Faye Orlove.

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Girl Band “De Bom Bom”

28 Jul 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Ah right, another group of individuals that by way of appellation suggest a quality they are not. Is that subversive? Clever? Shallow? Wrong? For the time being, we'll leave the question undecided, hanging there in the openness of this post. Because we assume that whatever the motives, young Dublin outfit Girl Band don't mean any harm. For what it's worth, they could call themselves anything really, as the band's forceful sonic revolt which finds its position somewhere between traditional post-punk and more contemporary U.S.-informed noise probably needs no names anyway. This is fresh anger, probably aimless, which renders all upright theorizing essentially futile. I mean seriously, this song is called "De Bom Bom". Further proof necessary? Listen below.

Girl Band are playing at Berlin Mitte's ACUD on September 6, presented by No Fear Of Pop. Check out the event details over here.

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Review: Tasty Morsels, vol. 2

07 Jul 2014 — Henry Schiller

Tasty Morsels, vol. 2 is a compilation album by a “group of best friends” who are also in some vague way all members of an avant-pop music collective called Tasty Morsels. The best compilations tend to revolve around a palpable theme, and though Tasty Morsels 2 is explicitly genre-agnostic there is a definite sense of cohesion in terms of the direction and purpose of what’s been included. Predominant, here, seems to be the idea that what by many might be regarded as musical kitsch is actually capable of being renegotiated into something novel, honest, or even stunningly pretty. Tasty Morsels 2 is a proverbial smorgasbord of novelty tools: faded synthesizers, blunt tearful vocals, over-sexualized disco riffs, and RPG adventure music (not to mention children’s poetry).

Tasty Morsels 2 starts with an experimental composition that sounds like the ‘myths of the ocean’ version of Sciene of the Sea (“Forevertime Journeys pt. 1” by Naran Ratan) and ends with a pun-reliant poem about a shoe whose companion has gone missing (“Lonely Shoe” by Daniel Scott, age 9); it’s a journey from one version of the avant-garde to another. And despite not being an album proper, it is hard to imagine Tasty Morsels 2 opening or closing in any other way. Indeed, Ratan’s whisper of a track sets a tough example to live up to; “Forevertime Journeys” is gorgeous and its atmosphere immense enough to rival the more emotionally exploitative works of people like Vangelis or Angelo Badalamenti. It’s the kind of piece that would make any scene in a film the best scene in that film by virtue of its inclusion.

 

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Other highlights are the Haunted Graffiti-esque funk/disco/Mario Party track “Don’t Be Scared” (Ceefax), the meticulously weird “Secondarny” (Bwengo), and the surprising pop-richness of Laurie Bird’s “Detail Wash”, which sounds like the Fiery Furnaces as fronted by Avey Tare. Truth be told though, this is a consistently awe-inspiring compilation. Songs waver between intellectual kitsch and ridiculous soul sendups, never once coming across as anything less than fun. When Sad Eyes sings “she only loves me for my personality” on the  sleek and mesmerising “The World’s Greatest”, you start to see how heady compositional pieces can be linked to a poem addressed to a shoe.

 

NFOP Recommends: Jylda at Grüner Salon

23 Jun 2014 — Henning Lahmann

For reasons beyond my understanding, straightforward and unashamedly grand pop music from Germany that is not either insignificant or outright cringeworthy still is, apologies for the rather trite proverb, the needle in the haystack – which is just one reason to warmly recommend the rare exception that is Jylda, whose approach to the noblest of pastimes is at once audacious and profound. The former, as the Berlin trio's style openly indulge in unhidden loftiness that would be a remarkable encounter even among people less inhibited than cliché wants 'the German' to be (and who are we to object); the latter, as the music exhibits an undeniable bravura. Singer Gianna Gehlhar's voice is obviously well-trained, with an impressive range and imposing verve, while the whole production of Jylda's songs, detailed and considered is worlds apart from your average indie upstart. Check out the video for the project's signature single "Brainchild" below, and listen to our favourite song from their self-titled debut EP, "Tepid Illusion".

Jylda will perform at Grüner Salon in Mitte this Wednesday, June 25, supported by our very own Yohuna. Check out the event details over here.

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NFOP Recommends: Nils Frahm x UNA CORDA at Michelberger

02 Jun 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Hardly someone to be content with simply sitting at his piano playing some of his intricate compositions, as proven during his latest live performances all across the world, Berlin's own wunderkind Nils Frahm is about to take this one (logical) step further by coming up with his very own, custom-made piano. UNA CORDA, so its name, was conceived by the gifted musician in collaboration with renowned, southern Germany-based piano maker David Klavins, who may claim eminence in his field not least since designing and building the M 370, the tallest piano in the world (aka The Giant, which has even managed to be turned into a virtual instrument and sample library by Berlin-based Native Instruments).

UNA CORDA will be presented at Friedrichshain's Michelberger Hotel next week on Tuesday, June 10. Things will start at 7pm and it's a free event, so make sure to be there early!

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NFOP Recommends: unrender #2

28 May 2014 — Johanne Swanson

Keep your eyes peeled and ears perked this Friday, May 30 at LEHRTER SIEBZEHN. In the second installment of their unrender series, CDM is curating a unique collaboration between audio and visual artists. The show debuts 'Creatures', an AV project between André Uhl and Jem the Misfit. View the haunting teaser below. Joining them is a slew of multidisciplinary experimental artists, including NFOP sweethearts in residence Kohwi and Caroline Rose Whitley. Oh, and did we mention there's installations? Sure to be an evening reeling with the thump thump of Berlin's best (see recent Berlin via Amsterdam transplant Nenad Popov) that will leave you feeling woozy – in a good way! Find the full lineup and more at the Facebook event

Of course if your mood's mellow, our editor Henning Lahmann will be DJing at Das Gift the very same evening. Penny pinchers welcome; both are free events. Wherever Friday takes you, my friends.  

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NFOP Presents: TOYS w/ Dauwd & Trikk at Prince Charles

28 May 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Though sort of last minute, in case you don't have any plans yet for this pre-father day (ugh) night (and in case this here is not your thing), we'd love to guide you towards Kreuzberg's Prince Charles which is going to host another night of TOYS, this time featuring London via Porto upstart Trikk and the highly talented Dauwd, whose recent Kindlinn EP on Cologne's esteemed Kompakt has been on constant rotation over here for the last couple of months, and has already gained a solid, recurring spot in our own DJ sets. As per usual, the line-up will be completed by TOYS founders and mainstays CutOff!CutOffǃ and Asa 808.

Things start tonight at 11pm. Find out more essential details over here.

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