Introducing: CTM x NFOP – Berlin Current

22 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

As already mentioned in our Berlin Music Week preview on Tuesday, No Fear Of Pop is proud and happy to be the official media partner of the forthcoming second season of CTM Festival's groundbreaking Berlin Current project. In the coming weeks and months, we will provide interviews with and features on the participating Berlin artists, both here on the website and on our weekly show on Berlin Community Radio, especially in anticipation of specific Berlin Current events in Berlin. We hope to be able to provide you with more profound background on the project and its subject, our city's exciting and ever-changing underground music scene, contextualise the artists and labels that are featured and their impact on Berlin's current musical landscape, and the influence the city has on artists who live and work here, be they from Berlin, from somewhere else in Germany, or part of the continually expanding expat community. Of course, it's a big part of what No Fear Of Pop has been striving for since the start: while focusing on music from UK, the States, or challenging scenes in other countries, this website has been on the constant lookout for interesting things happening around the corner. Despite the mildly critical position we have decided to maintain, we do firmly believe that in all its incoherent weirdness and aimlessness, Berlin is one of the most exciting places to be in 2014, and we think that the city's diverse music scene appropriately reflects this unique and probably finite setting. In this state of illusive utopia that Berlin at times manages to unfold, music seems to play a role so crucial for the city's self-identification that for once it again is more than just another cultural commodity of late capitalism. As fittingly put by musician and NFOP staff writer Johanne Swanson in her piece for Portals this week: "This place knows that art is a social practice." Berlin Current sets out to unearth, advance, and catalyse those undercurrents in the city's contemporary musical landscape that embody this perception of pop as relevant for the progress of culture.

Below, you'll find the list of participating artists and events that are scheduled so far, followed by, in order to properly launch No Fear Of Pop's accompanying coverage of the project, excerpts from an essay I've written for this year's CTM Festival catalogue, which was published in January.

Participating Artists

Ame Zek
Amnesia Scanner
Born in Flamez
Dasha Rush
Golden Diskó Ship
Kathy Alberici
KABLAM
Ketev
Kobosil
Lief Hall
Lotic
Moon Wheel
M.E.S.H.
OAKE
Objekt
Opium Hum
Owen Roberts
Phoebe Kiddo
Reliq
rRoxymore
Sarah Farina
Shapednoise
TCF
These Hidden Hands

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Berlin Current in Berlin

September 5: FIRST WE TAKE BERLIN

Sarah Farina, Ketev, Moon Wheel, Lief Hall, Phoebe Kiddo, Opium Hum
Berlin Music Week, at Urban Spree

October 10: POLYMORPHISM x JANUS

M.E.S.H., TCF, KABLAM, Lotic, with DJ Hvad, Boychild, Jam City, Total Freedom
at Berghain

November 20: ROBERT HENKE "LUMIERE"

Ame Zek, with Robert Henke
at Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz

November 21: POLYMORPHISM x PAN

M.E.S.H., Objekt with Beneath, Visionist, Lee Gamble, Helena Hauff, JM Moser
at Berghain

Berlin Current International

September 6: at DEKOLECTIV

OAKE, Lotic, with Helena Hauff und Christian S.
Presented by Rokolectiv Festival, Halele Carol, Bukarest (RO)

September 24: at STUK KUNSTENCENTRUM

Ketev, Moon Wheel, Dasha Rush, Born in Flamez, Sarah Farina
STUK Arts Centre, Leuven (BE)

September 26-27: at TODAYSART

09/26: Sarah Farina, with Fatima al Quadiri, Planningtorock, The Gaslamp Killer
09/27: Moon Wheel, OAKE, Phoebe Kiddo, with Kiasmos
TodaysArt Festival, The Hague (NL)

October 17-18: at UNSOUND

10/17: Amnesia Scanner, KABLAM, Lotic, M.E.S.H., with Total Freedom + TBC
10/18: TCF
Unsound Festival, Krakow (PL)

October 18: at RIAM

Moon Wheel, Phoebe Kiddo, OAKE
RIAM Festival, Marseilles (FR)

October 23-25: at MUTEK.MX

M.E.S.H., Objekt, rRoxymore, Born in Flamez
MUTEK.MX, Mexico City (MX)

Looking Beyond the Beat: Discontinuities in Berlin’s Musical Landscape

In the preface to “Lost and Sound”, his stocktaking of the Berlin electronic music scene at the end of the noughties, Tobias Rapp suggested that it might be too early for the drafting of a proper historiography of techno and its entanglement with the city. Yet four years later, despite proving its undaunted vitality every single weekend in countless clubs across town, techno nostalgia is in full bloom. In his anthology “Berlin Sampler” from 2012, French journalist Théo Lessour dedicates a whole quarter of his book to the phenomenon, implicitly defining techno as the pinnacle of the city’s musical development. That it effectively amounts to Berlin’s continuing contribution to the world cultural heritage since 1989 has by now become a commonplace.

However, while of course there has always been music made in the city aside from techno, only in recent years a different story began to unfold in the shadows of the overarching club scene, a story not exclusively yet in large part told by Berlin’s ever growing expat community. Distinct from the dance scene, which already started to become more internationally shaped after the turn of the century, those artists may have chosen Berlin as their temporary or permanent home without having been attracted by the city’s reputation as a techno mecca. More prosaically, what almost everyone mentions are the favourable economical conditions that make the German capital still so much more affordable than any other major city in the Western hemisphere.

The work of those newly arrived artists does challenge the dominance of dance music in Berlin. Still, a common denominator is hard to find. What connects the psychedelic soundscapes of Swedish improviser Olle Homberg aka Moon Wheel with the futuristic beats of Houston native Lotic, or in which way does the experimental proto-dance of Australian producer Phoebe Kiddo relate to the fierce noise attacks of Milan’s Shapednoise? If anything, what they create is a broadly understood version of pop, “a multiplicity of artistic practices that derive from and actively participate in certain cultures of the everyday”, as defined on the website of Berlin Current, the project initiated by CTM Festival to unearth some of the artists that represent this ‘new’ strand of Berlin’s diversifying musical community.

For the time being, discontinuity with the prevalent narrative of Berlin as the city of techno is mainly propelled by and channelled through institutions such as the Senate-affiliated Musicboard and the projects funded by it, for instance Berlin Current. By starting to map the newly emerging ‘scene’, thus boosting the visibility of musicians that stand apart from the clubs, those organisations attempt to associate the music with a more broadly outlined notion of Berlin as an international cultural centre. Whether this effort has already come to fruition in the eyes of the wider audience is a different question.

Berlin is attractive as a place to live and work for its perceived ‘otherness’. Thus, appealing more due to what it is not – not as expensive, not as restrictive, not as ‘settled’ or ‘finished’ as other cities – than what it actually stands for. In this sense, it serves as an empty vessel, to be filled with the ideas and expectations of arriving members of the transnational creative class. Whatever the shape of the Berlin musical landscape may look like in the near future, it will most likely remain in a struggle with the image of Berlin as techno capital, a standing now written in stone. This already is evident in the discourses of today. While the fading cohort of natives and first-wave newcomers mourns the lost utopia of early to mid-90s Mitte wonderland, those expats who arrived before the turn of the decade long for a bygone paradise that ostensibly still existed only a few years ago. To see the past in ever brighter colours mirrored against the present’s perceived staleness is certainly not exclusive to Berlin’s musical landscape. But since the fall of the Wall and the subsequent opening of seemingly endless possibilities amidst the city’s ruins and abandoned spaces, feeling stuck in past marvels appears to be a narrative so peculiar to Berlin that by now it may be considered the artistic community’s only true continuity. For the incoming musician, this situation might even provide comfort, for it spares them the subtle obligation to adapt to any predefined and settled scene. However, it ultimately also means that it will be harder if not impossible to leave any significant and lasting mark on Berlin’s musical heritage. Even for the city’s emerging experimental pop undercurrents, transience remains the city’s only persisting feature.

Soft Vision “Feel It Coming On” (exclusive)

21 Aug 2014 — Parker Bruce

Soft Vision aka Kelly Winchester and Bradley Barr, an Austin pair, know how to make quietly stately music. Case in point, their song "Feel It Coming On", which can be found on a debut 7" of the same name that will be out on August 26. The reserved, almost dirge of the tune calls to mind the songs by Computer Magic (i.e. "Victory Gin," "Grand Junction," and "Everyone Feels That Way Sometimes") as it marches and trudges with droning organs yet also a miraculous sense of airiness, brevity, and lightness as if we all had our heads in the clouds.

Get the two songs through Lexington, KY label Acoustic Division's burgeoning subset, Hi-Definition, come next week. Drone on.

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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.

Watch: Lake Daggers “In the Evergreens” (exclusive)

15 Aug 2014 — Johanne Swanson

My favorite hobby at seventeen was putting on my headphones and bombing stretches of Wisconsin county highway on my longboard. I remember relaying this to some scumbag I was dating and getting the reaction, “How are you the biggest stoner without any drugs?” I’ve since learned that it’s because, my friends, life is the craziest trip of them all.

Sit back and take a good hit of “In the Evergreens”, a music video we’re pleased to premiere off the debut Transient from Lake Daggers. It’s organic loopy psych drone and accompanying imagery is indicative of the Midwest, evident by labelmates, most notably longtime NFOP favorite Orchard Thief. Lake Daggers is Bloomington, Indiana, resident Wyatt Montgomery Worcel, and Transient, described by the label as “audio-snapshots”, is out now on Madison, Wisconsin’s Golden Cloud Tapes. It features subtle and lush textural layering, ideal for getting lost in the woods on a humid day. If you dare look up, here’s to hoping you don’t get lost in the maze that is the light shining through the leaves.

Transient is out now on Golden Cloud Tapes.

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Recycle Culture “Drown Me Up”

13 Aug 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

Erik Moline aka Recycle Culture described his creation as "chilled balearic," which is indeed fitting phrasing for this movement. Still, it isn't simply balearic, beachy fun. It encompasses some kind of deep emotions which aren't worth fighting against. In the beginning, it reminds me of Ulrich Schnauss, and then slides into some sounds that remind me of Brian & Chris, a project I've long forgotten about. There's also a touch of Subradial present throughout the piece. The guitar lines shimmer and resonate similarly as they would through either oceanside caverns, or photographs like the one that serves as the album art. I listened to it for the first time the other day over morning coffee, and it still feels like the gem of recent musical discoveries. His early releases that we've liked, such as Puzzle Logic, sound a bit like KC Accidental, which, as I sit here in Toronto in the middle of W Bloor and Spadina, is a perfect connection to draw up.

You can stream Drown Me Up among other releases here.

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Review: Conveyor “Prime” LP

05 Aug 2014 — Henry Schiller

Since I can remember it’s been possible to buy the scores - not the soundtracks, but the scores - Hollywood films. And ever since seeing the original score of Dante’s Peak being sold on CD in the long-since-closed HMV by my parents' house, I have not understood why anyone would want to do this. The music you are buying was deliberately created to accompany things that are happening on film. It is music you are only supposed to be hearing while you look at these things. It was not meant to be listened to by itself.

Furthermore, consider the following: as long as you have been able to buy film scores on CD, you have also been able to buy the films themselves.

Conveyor's Prime is an album of the aforementioned type: it is a film score album. But it is not boring, or unnecessary, and it does not feel as though it has been deliberately removed from its correct context. Prime is excellent. Prime is better than the film it is ostensibly the score of. Prime is a renegotiation of the film score album into a high concept artistic forgery. The tracks on Prime were written and performed alongside two midnight screenings of George Lucas’ THX 1138 at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. THX 1138 is as bold and ridiculous a reinterpretation of 1984 as Nosferatu was of Dracula. Blatantly unauthorized and false to the point of becoming an aesthetic archetype on its own. Visually striking, bizarre, and preserved culturally for most, I think, by the image of white-clad bald men being prodded with electrified sticks (or else the in-theater sound system it inspired).

 

 

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Prime is organized numerically, from “Theme I” to “Theme XIII”, with a melancholy cover of “Words of Love” as something of a coda (probably made for a great end credit sequence). But by the time you get to “Theme VII’, which includes part of a door-closing announcement from the R train, it becomes obvious that you are not just listening to a film score. You are listening to film criticism. Does the R train control the emotions and destiny of its travelers in the same way that the fascist machine of Lucas’ (appropriated) hypothetical future does its citizens? The warbled pounding of “Theme VII” suggests: yes, yes, YES.

“Theme IX” is the closest Prime comes to psychological respite. The track seems to follow the working of gears, the planning of plans – the fall of an empire as seen from the point of view of the bottom-most stone in the imperial palace. Its pebbles happily loosing themselves from the concrete, crumbling to dust. Meanwhile, the subsequent “Theme X” bears a passing resemblance to the backing vocals of a Beach Boys song. But Prime is more of like the devestating crash of ocean on crippled city than it is a righteous Californian wave. Even the most austere tracks on Prime have an implacable sense of tension and urgency. “Theme XI” builds from a series of twitches and jitters into a strike, methodical and precise, but no less fueled by bloodthirst; no less an act of passion. It’s almost off-putting how earthy Prime sounds, how much of the grinding krautrock of Neu! Conveyor seem to inflict their distant futurescape with.

Prime is a reinterpretation; not of THX 1138's original score, but of the film itself. Conveyor seek to evoke the blank-faced, horn-rimmed futurism of Lucas’ dystopian classic; monotony explodes into vengeful angst, which feels itself out as inappropriate, as characters created on swoops of guitar return to their helpless lives.

Prime is out now on Gold Robot Records.

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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Bobo Eyes “Do U Miss Me (Rainstick Mix)” (exclusive)

04 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Take a look at the cover art. Do it again. Close your eyes. Look again. That bed, a fantasy seaside escape, and a rainbow for added authenticity, and an album name to top it off – that's basically all you need to know to aptly file the music of Vancouver's Evelyn Mason and Olivia Meek aka Evy Jane and Regular Fantasy aka Bobo Eyes. Though we should probably mention the handclaps, too: Fifty seconds into signature track "Do You Miss Me (Rainstick Mix)", the lascivious sounds are gently thrown into the mix, and everything suddenly falls into place. This is post-vaporwave for the lovers, velvety vocals and offensively inoffensive synth swirls (look under 'presets > sex'). Appropriate drinks strongly recommended for full listening experience.

"Do You Miss Me (Rainstick Mix)" is part of Midnight Pearl, which is out tomorrow, August 5 August 12 via 1080p. Get it now over here.

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