Stream: Temple Volant “Daydream Drawings” (exclusive)

26 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Working with an ElecTribe sampler and taking as source material various field recordings and collected drones, Montreal artist Sami Blanco aka Temple Volant evokes faint memories of The Skaters circa 2008, seemingly aimless noise interventions that have become so rare since Ferraro has gone all vapor on us. For all the excitement the radiant artificiality of the cyber underground's younger exegets sparked for a while, it is a sheer delight to revisit the muddy sonic waters of classic hypnagogia. This here is not a Qatari shopping mall, it's your subconscious transmitting. It's interesting to see 1080p mastermind Richard MacFarlane repping the style again, considering his history as one of hypnagogic pop's chief advocates in his Rose Quartz days. Is this some sort of inverse, second-level nostalgia I'm sensing here?

Daydream Drawings is out on 1080p. Get it on cassette or digitally over here and stream it in full below.

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Watch: Mirage “Do You Remember”

26 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

There are quite a few, actually a lot, things to say about Mirage – and avid followers of this publication should be able to recognise the musician from three other past projects that were all written about on No Fear Of Pop. For now however, suffice it to refer to this post about the artist, written by Olde English Spelling Bee's Todd Ledford, to provide you with some of the context that you might or might not find necessary. That aside, what we have here is without doubt one of the most talented pop musicians of the past years, even though despite what others are saying, of course this LA native is not 19 anymore – and his name is not Robin Nydal, either. But really, who cares about the detail if the melody is so compelling. Watch the brand new video for "Do You Remember", a song from Mirage's proper debut album Blood For The Return. Highly recommended stuff.

Blood For The Return is out digitally via Olde English Spelling Bee and Weird World, with a proper vinyl release following in October.

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Boeoes Kaelstigen feat. Name the Pet “Be the Lights (Gabriel Gassi Remix)” (exclusive)

26 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

When Swedish producers Tor Rauden Källstigen and Leo Nathorst-Böös aka Boeoes Kaelstigen dropped their single "Be the Lights" featuring vocals by Name the Pet back in April, Pitchfork expressed astonishment given the duo's evolvement from straight-up minimalist purism towards a more accessible, pop-friendly sound. And as per usual when dealing with pop music from Scandinavia, references were quickly at hand; in this particular case, Robyn and Röyksopp, which is of course as obvious as it is somewhat misguided. As if almost taken aback by the reaction, Boeoes Kaelstigen now follow up with a remix EP of "Be the Lights" that cautio recaptures the dancefloor. Or rather, at least Bjorn Akesson's two trance-infused reworks do, while CANVAS refits the tune for the sultry afterhour, and Stockholm-based producer Gabriel Gssi takes the middle ground with a very compelling Italo Disco version. Out of place neither on the floor nor on your headphones, the latter is the highlight of the bunch, and we're happy to premiere it below.

The "Be the Lights" remix pack will be released by Adrian Recordings on August 29.

Be sure to catch Boeoes Kaelstigen at Nordic By Nature's Our/Berlin Music Week showcase during First We Take Berlin next week on Friday, September 5. Check out our Berlin Music Week preview over here.

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James Vernon “The Actor (feat. Jasiel Berg)” (exclusive)

25 Aug 2014 — Sam Clark

James Vernon is no stranger to an eclectic musical taste. As a founding member of San Francisco’s Li Xi, Vernon has become well-versed in psychedelic explorations, and he’s taking it one step further with his new side project. Recording under his own name, Vernon is set to release Criminals digitally on September 9. The album is already supported by the lead single “Old Ghost”, and today No Fear of Pop premieres its second offering.

“The Actor” draws on Vernon’s psych-pop vernacular as much as his interest in more ambient, dance-based sounds, with gritty synths and processed guitars hitting in tandemed stutter, West Coast post-dub drum loop. Floating over the top is the hazy guest vocal spot from Jasiel Berg, whose delivery immediately transforms “The Actor” into an apt companion for waning summer nights, regardless of geographic location. Stream it below.

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Preview: Torstraßen Festival 2014

25 Aug 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Summer might be on its way out, but luckily that mostly means that the city's live music landscape is getting more interesting again. Last week, we told you what to do and see during the upcoming Berlin Music Week with its attached showcase festival First We Take Berlin, and we also told you that you might not want to spend your money on Berlin Festival (though we want to emphasise that if The Editors really happen to be your thing, you certainly have our blessing too, we're not judgmental – not all the time at least). If new and under-the-radar stuff is what you're looking for – and we assume it is, because why would you even read this website if it were not? – then FWTB will certainly offer plenty for you, but in that case we'd even more warmly recommend the fourth edition of the glorious Torstraßen Festival, happening this Saturday, August 30, in numerous bars and small clubs on and around Berlin Mitte's Torstraße. Especially if you're wondering what's hot among Berlin-based artists at the moment, there's probably no better occasion to find out, considering the organisers' well-informed and aware booking which focuses heavily on the home-grown crop.

Regarding specific recommendations, there are really too many artists to mention, as we think the line-up this year is seriously the best yet. However, let us mention that it would be a real shame if you missed NFOP favourites Alexander Winkelmann, Yohuna, Magic Island, and Fiordmoss. Also, we'd like to point out that our friends at Berlin Community Radio are hosting the stage at St. Oberholz, and the program there looks really compelling, so you might want to check that out, too.

While unlike last year, we won't have our own curated stage this time around, but No Fear Of Pop will be present at the festival in collaboration with our friends and partners of Cartouche magazine:

Happening at Kim Bar (Brunnenstraße 10) and starting at 2pm, we offer DJ sets by Montana-based musician Experimental Housewife and indie pop duo absurd&hanebüchen who will present outré pop tunes from both past and present, followed by a live performance by krautrock outfit Ej Bekot at 8pm. But there are even more reasons for you all to drop by: Cartouche magazin is going to celebrate the release of its fifth issue, which is set to feature pieces on some of the artists performing that day at Torstraßen Festival 2014. Stratosfear, the label curated by the people behind Berlin-based blog No Fear Of Pop, will display and sell its 7″ vinyl singles. And to top it all off, a cherished if forgotten popcultural ritual will be revived: autograph sessions with selected artists of the festival! Finally, your culinary desires will be taken care of by Neukölln café Two Planets, serving their celebrated authentic New York bagels and brownies all afternoon.

Update: Unfortunately, Experimental Housewife had to cancel. In her stead, Robin (aka rkss) and Cory (aka Kohwi), who aready rocked our four-year anniversary party back in February, will play unexpected and underappreciated electronic music for two hours. Should be just as much fun!

Find the details about our event here and about the festival in general over here. Get your ticket now online for the reduced price of 13 Euros. It will be 15 on the day of the festival. Check out the schedule plus an extensive Soundcloud playlist of all performing artists below.

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Schedule

Z-Bar

4pm Susanna Berivan
6pm Miss M.E
8pm Will Samson

Waldo Bar

3pm Lambert
5pm Federico Albanese
7pm Tom Adams
9pm Uri Gincel Trio

Acud

4pm Dylan III
6pm Blindspot
8pm Africaine808

Kim Bar

8pm ej bekot

St. Oberholz

2pm Blackest Ever Black (DJ)
3pm Terekke
5pm Physical Therapy (DJ)
6pm Magic Island
8pm Alis
9pm Bass Gang

Gaststätte W. Prassnik

5pm Alexander Winkelmann
7pm ATMA
9pm Yohuna

Kaffee Burger

3pm Fiordmoss
5pm Banque Allemande
7pm Alexander Geist
9pm Julie Byrne

Bassy

2pm Skiing
4pm Brangelina
6pm Sun Worship
8pm Oum Shatt

Platoon Kunsthalle

8pm Evy Jane
9pm M.E.S.H.

Roter Salon

2pm Susie Asado & Pablo Dacal
4pm Zugezogen / Maskulin
6pm Chris Imler

Grüner Salon

3pm Islaja
5pm Perera Elsewhere
7pm Momus
9pm Siinai

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.